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Monday, December 5, 2022

How Did The Pirates Catching Prospects Perform Defensively In 2022?

There’s a good reason that catching prospects sometimes take a little longer to fully develop when compared to other players in the minors. It’s the same reason why it isn’t always important for them to be great with the bat.

Just on the defensive side of things, catchers have so much going on, giving prospects more stuff to work on in the minors. So while the Pirates have a couple of catching prospects that have been recognized for their abilities with the bat, it will be their work defensively that will allow them to stay behind the plate for the long term.

The Pirates have done a great job building some depth at the catcher position over the last year or so, and now it’s just about developing them. 

I took a look at the catchers in the Pirates’ system and how they did on the defensive side of things, at least when it came to controlling the running game and keeping the baseball in front of them (passed balls).

Progressed

I took every catcher who played regular games among Pirates’ four full season affiliates (if they played in the FCL I used those numbers as well) and compared their caught stealing percentage — both career and 2022 numbers — along with their passed ball per nine inning rate to see who improved this season.

Three players were in the top five of all catchers in the system when it comes to their progression in both caught stealing rate and PB/9 – Endy Rodriguez, Jason Delay, and Eli Wilson.

Player 2022 CS% Career CS% Differential
Endy Rodriguez 31.89% 29.06% +2.12%
Eli Wilson 31.43% 29.63% +1.80%
Jason Delay 38.89% 30.53% +8.36%
Jamie Ritchie 12.5% 26.70% -14.20%
Carter Bins 13.25% 20.28% -7.03%
Geovanny Planchart 23.26% 29.23% -5.97%

Seeing the first two names there shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as Delay was already known as one of the better defensive catchers in the system, making it to the majors this season, and Rodriguez was the breakout star in the minors this year for the Pirates — not just for his offensive work.

Rodriguez saw a 2.12% increase in throwing out runners over his career mark, while seeing one of the best drops in his PB/9 mark.

Even though he spent the majority of the season with the Pirates, Delay still logged 213.2 innings behind the plate in the minors. He threw out runners at an 8.36% rate higher than his career mark, and only committed one passed ball in the minors.

Maybe the name that you wouldn’t have expected to be on the list, Wilson was the primary back up to Endy in Bradenton last year until the Pirates traded for Abrahan Gutierrez. Going into this season, Greensboro started with four catchers on the roster, so on the field, Wilson had been playing some third base. When Henry Davis and Rodriguez moved up to Altoona, Wilson was able to get some increased playing time at his natural playing position.

He was able to throw out runners at a 31.43% clip, nearly a 2% increase from his career mark.

Who Regressed

Three players stood out from the bottom five of the stats above: Taylor Davis, Jamie Ritchie and Geovanny Planchart.

The first two names there are veteran minor leaguers who were around for upper level and MLB depth, and probably won’t be around next year. Planchart is an interesting name, as he was one of the more interesting players that was making the jump from the FCL to Bradenton in 2022. He threw out 42% of would-be base stealers in the DSL back in 2019, but had that mark drop to 19% in 2021 in the FCL.

Planchart really struggled offensively, and ended up playing more games in the FCL than he did in Bradenton in 2022. Technically he did improve when it comes to throwing runners out when looking at his total last year, finishing with a 23.26% caught stealing rate, but that was still nearly six points down from his overall career mark.

Neither Progress, Nor Regressed

Only two catchers didn’t make the top five, or bottom five, in either category, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if a player is still improving. Two of the original Greensboro catchers fall into that category: Henry Davis, and Abrahan Gutierrez.

Davis was of course the number one overall pick in last year’s draft, and in his defense, there still isn’t a lot of data available for him behind the plate. His career innings logged at catcher consist of the 324 frames this season, along with the 46 he caught before his injury last year with Greensboro.

So his numbers are heavily influenced by his performance this year where he split between Greensboro and Altoona.

Davis threw out just 12.82% of would-be base stealers, down from his overall mark of 13.95%. If there is anything positive to come of it, only five catchers actually improved on their career mark and Davis had the lowest decrease from anyone who didn’t.

He ever so slightly improved his passed ball rate, although his 2022 number was the fifth worst in the system.

For Gutierrez, he threw out a respectable 25.93% of would-be base stealers for Greensboro this season, it just happened to be 1.29% lower than his career mark. He also had one of the lowest PB/9 marks in 2022, and even improved upon his overall career mark, it’s just that others had a more significant jump.

Final Analysis

The Pirates really put a focus on the catching position over the last year, and it’s starting to show. You can make a strong case that two of them are among their top three or five prospects overall in the system, but the focus goes as far down as some of the depth guys. 

Players like Dylan Shockley and Wyatt Hendrie may never be major league prospects, but show strong enough defensively they could hang around in depth situations.

The key to any prospect is to get better, and if they struggle, learn from it so that they may improve. This is why catchers take so much longer than any other position because of these added things they need to work on.

Those who take the next step put themselves in a position to hang around longer, and we saw that pay off with Delay this past season finally getting a shot in the majors.

+ posts

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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James_Robert5

I would prefer for neither Endy nor Henry to play catcher in the majors. The position is too taxing and it will take away their ABs and health

Catch_22

You’re kidding, right? The reason they’re highly rated prospects is due to them being catchers.

robertkasperski

If all goes well and Hank can avoid balls that are thrown at him, They will be splitting time and possibly a 3rd quality catcher getting time too and they will both get plenty of at bats and stay reasonably healthy for a lot of years.

roberto

Catching defensive metrics are even worse than other defensive stats. What measures the 100 pitches that you call, based on scouting reports and how the pitcher is throwing right now? A filthy slider usually demands a catcher who can reliably block balls in the dirt. What measures this? I could go on insufferably, but will just note that MiLB should not be discussed in polite company.

roberto

MiLB caught stealing rates

robertkasperski

Let the table pounding for Endy Begin!!!!!!!

docdon385

“We want Endy!” “We want Endy!” We want Endy!” So much for the pounding.

The Pirates and all of those who defend them will have their answer. “He’s not ready.” People just accept that bit of foolishness despite no one being able to specify what it even means. He might magically become “ready” come June when coincidentally the whole service time issue has passed, but I seriously doubt you’re going to see him or any other prospect in Pittsburgh to begin the year. They’re just not ready, don’t you know?

Anthony

You and this service time thing. After being proven wrong all season, you keep beating this dead horse.

Catch_22

Let’s lose a year of control and millions of dollars to have a catching prospect who has played less than 40 games above A ball make an Opening Day roster for a team that will lose 90 games.

That is the dumbest of all the dumb suggestions on here. Well, almost as bad as wanting to pencil in 12 marginal rookies into the daily lineup.

Anthony

But, but…it’s service time manipulation 🤡

roberto

Remember to use the irony font. An emoji flashes by too quickly.

robertkasperski

Yes I am excited about the future with Endy and joke about pounding the table for him. I do realize that he is still very young and went from high A to AAA over the course of 1 year. He shouldn’t break camp with the Bucs or any team this quickly. No team will bring a top prospect up unless they are the absolute best option for a team that is built to compete that season and they need the young player to make the team work. The Bucs, unless they make about 5 huge moves this off season may be competing to win more than they lose this year but are not primed to compete in the post season yet. No point in rushing the kid and forcing him to the show when he just hit AAA for a couple of weeks this last season.

roberto

Thanks for explaining the GIF. Normally I would agree with your argument 100%, but Endy looks like a huge talent. Those guys create their own rules.

robertkasperski

I believe that he will arrive sooner than later. It would not shock me that he keeps playing well in winter ball and goes crazy in ST and makes the opening day roster. Can really see him start in Indy and if he picks up where he left off, will be brought up fairly quickly. For them to compete post season wise in 2024 they do need him up and comfortable with the MLB game going into 2024. Will be fun to watch.

roberto

Cool, but I don’t get the image

robertkasperski

Try clicking it…….

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