Let’s look at Diamondbacks catchers, including this season’s 5 who played in the Majors, 5 in AA and AAA who did not play in the Majors, and the newly acquired Christian Cerda. Although we will focus on catchers above High A, Fangraphs’ Roster Resource shows 5 additional catchers of significance at High A and below.
Readers who prefer a summary up front will be pleased with the following table, which was updated from this AZ Snake Pit article. Two catchers were removed from that table:
- In April the Reno Aces released Renae Martinez. In April and May he played for Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League per Baseball Reference. Currently FanGraphs’ Roster Resource showed him in AAA Reno. I do not know whether that is correct because Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and MiLB.com do not show him having playing time with AAA Reno.
- On 1 August, the Reno Aces released Juan Graterol per MiLB.com.
Carson Kelly is the first catcher in 8 years (since Miguel Montera) to have more than 200 PAs in a season for more than 2 seasons. Carson Kelly plays catcher very well - This season his catcher defensive statistics were fantastic:
- 5.6 fielding runs above average was 11th best catcher per Baseball Prospectus (8/17).
- 4.9 Def was 22nd best catcher in the Majors per FanGraphs (8/17).
- 3 DRS ranked 13th best per The Fielding Bible (8/17)
- 5 framing runs were 11th best catcher per Baseball Savant (8/17).
His batting was impacted by injuries. Who can forget that he played with a broken toe! In 2021, after hitting very excellently (OPS of 1.103), an injury impacted his batting in the remainder of the season. In 2022, his batting was impacted by an oblique injury. After he healed, from 6 July to 17 August, his .386 wOBA was much better than the .311 for all catchers in the Majors.
“I’m big on mastery and flow states and a lot of mental side of the game. I’m a big reader as well so I read stuff, read books. I’m always just trying to collect information that might help me be not only the best baseball player I can be, but also the best person off the field and be towards other people.” — Carson Kelly, August 2021
Daulton Varsho’s offense is above average:
- His OPS+ was 103 (8/20).
- His .036 home runs per plate appearance is nearly at my All-Star demarcation of .038 (8/20).
Daulton Varsho’s defense is outstanding:
- 5 DRS in center field per The Fielding Bible.
- 8 DRS in right field ranking 3rd best per The Fielding Bible.
- 9 outs above average ranking in a tie for 3rd to 5th among qualified outfielders per Baseball Savant.
This AZ Snake Pit article covered several good reasons that Daulton Varsho should play catcher. Twenty months later, there is different perspective. He should mainly play in the outfield because his outfield defense makes a huge positive impact. The Diamondbacks’ team 7 DRS in center field ranks a tie for 3rd/4th best in the Majors. The Diamondbacks’ team DRS in right field ranks in a tie for 5th to 7th best in the Majors.
His .950 OPS in AAA is the best of the catchers. From April to July in the Majors, his monthly splits showed his OPS on a downward trend:.703 in April, .583 in May, .452 in June, and .387 in July.
Things changed in August. He started three games as catcher which had not happened earlier in the season. Also, his OPS improved a little to .481 on games through 20 August. Perhaps this was the Cooper Hummel experiment.
Although I lack inside information, it appears he will continue to start games as catcher to see how well he does. And there is a good reason to hope the experiment finds success. If Hummel can adequately play backup catcher, it frees Daulton Varsho to play outfield, where his very excellent defense shines.
Cooper Hummel played little league while he and his family lived in Japan. “The Japanese are all about technique, technique, technique.” Playing there impacted him. “I think it is partially the reason I am the way I am; how focused on fundamentals, and focused on my swing, and focused on what I want to improve on.” — Cooper Hummel
Jose Herrera, age 25, played catcher in 46 games through 9 August, when he was optioned to AAA. His 0.7 throwing runs leads the Diamondbacks’ catchers per Baseball Prospectus.
On the other hand, just a day prior to being sent down, Jim McLennan’s AZ Snake Pit Game Preview showed that his OPS was the lowest in franchise history for players with at least 188 PAs projected for a season.
“Keep your head up. Stay true to the process. Keep working hard for what you want. Keep chasing the dream until you cannot anymore. There will be hard times but don’t give up or put your head down. When the good times come, take advantage and learn, grow. Stick to the process.” — Jose Herrera, May 2022
Grayson Grainer is an experienced veteran catcher with 139 games in the Majors (which includes his two games this season). In May, he played two complete games as catcher for the Diamondbacks before being sent back to AAA Reno. In AAA Reno, he hit RBIs in June and July per Michael McDermott’s Minor League Recaps. Although he is a defense-first catcher, this season his OPS in Reno improved from .651 to .708.
“Since I started catching, I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on my defense. A lot of people think that catcher is the most important position on the field, so I try to be flawless back there. I put a lot of time into working my craft back there, so offense is just a bonus to me. As far as being a catcher goes, I want to be perfect and help my pitchers out as much as possible. I will always be a defense-first catcher in my mind.” — Grayson Greiner
His .917 OPS in AAA is nearly as high as Cooper Hummel’s OPS in AAA. On 5 August, he hit well (4 RBIs and triple short of the cycle). “He has great makeup & a high energy personality,” per Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook. Perhaps the Diamondbacks value him highly for those traits.
“I attribute a lot of my work ethic to my time at USF [University of San Francisco]. They taught me a lot about what It meant to have a routine everyday. That has helped me a lot, especially in professional baseball, since we play every single day. Little things like showing up early, getting your work done to help me have the best chance for success that night.” — Dominic Miroglio
Juan Centeno is an experienced veteran catcher with 118 games in the Majors. This season, his OPS in Reno improved from .695 to .851. At age 32, he is the oldest catcher in the group.
“He’s [Juan Centeno] the veteran presence behind the plate for our pitchers. Does a great job. He’s played at a high level. I mean seven years in the big leagues he knows what it’s about, so to see what he did there and to see him swinging the bat well was nice to see.” — Shawn Roof, Sod Poodles Manager, April 2022
His 11 home runs in AA show he could be a power hitter in the Majors. This season he played more innings at first base than catcher (365 vs 213). Perhaps he will become a first baseman instead of a catcher.
What does he think when he is in a batting rut? ”For one, believing you’re better than the rut you’re in. And just simplifying and sticking to your game plan, which for me is to barrel a ball in the air through the middle of the field.” — Andy Yerzy, July 2018
Most surprisingly he plays both relief pitcher and catcher per Baseball Reference. This season he played more innings at first than catcher (198 vs 69).
This season he played 3 positions (305.2 innings at catcher, 181 innings at left field, and 54 innings at right field). He was one of 97 college catchers listed on the 2018 Johnny Bench Award Watch List per College Baseball Daily.
“It’s just awesome just to be focused on baseball day in and day out.” — Nick Delesandro, June 2018
The Diamondbacks traded David Peralta to acquire Christian Cerda. Mike Hazen’s thoughts about the trade were provided in this AZ Snake Pit article.
My view is that after Mike Hazen had previously expressed thoughts that indicated the team was looking for Majors-ready prospects, trading David Peralta for Cerda, a 19 year old catcher who was far from the Majors, indicated that Cerda’s high ceiling likely provided more value than an available Majors-ready player. I am very hopeful that Christian Cerda becomes the primary catcher for the Diamondbacks when he is ready!
The Diamondbacks have an outstanding primary catcher, Carson Kelly. They have choices for the backup catcher (Varsho Hummel, Herrera, and Greiner). They have prospects developing in the minors who may develop into catchers, including Dominic Miroglio, Juan Centeno, Andy Yerzy, Shane Muntz, Nick Dalesandro, and Christian Cerda. Although at age 19 he is years away from the Majors, Christian Cerda might become the primary catcher when he is ready.