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Who Might Play Catcher in the Next Three Seasons?

Comparison of catchers is not clear-cut because they play at different levels, and because they have different skills.

Gabriel Moreno.
Gabriel Moreno.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks’ catcher situation has changed significantly since my Catchers Update written in August of 2022.

Nine Catchers With Possibilities.

Gabriel Moreno. First, let’s look at his catcher skills.

  • 7 runs above average defending against stolen bases (through 17 August per Baseball Savant). He caught 11 runners out of 18 attempts to steal second base. His pop-time is at the 83 rd percentile in the Majors. Building on his excellent pop-time is that data shows one of his strengths is throw accuracy. Overall, his awesome skill adds excitement to watching the Diamondbacks play games.
  • 2 runs above average blocking pitches. His strengths were blocking medium and tough pitches. He prevented runners from advancing, which is great!
  • Negative 3 framing runs. How soon until balls and strikes are called automatically instead of by umpires? I’m not concerned in this area.

Second, let’s look at his batting skill. Note that the following statistics are prior to his Grand Slam against the Padres on 19 August.

His 39% hard hit percent and his 4.9 percent barrels are better than last season. His run values for 4-seam fastballs and curves were better than last season. The following table compares his (and Jose Herrera’s) OBP, SLG, and wOBA to two groups (catchers with 20-99 PAs this season, and catchers with at least 100 PAs this season).

If Carson Kelly had not been injured, then Moreno would likely have been best compared to the second group (catchers with at least 20 but less than 100 PAs). His batting statistics were much better than the averages for that group, which is awesome.

With Carson Kelly injured, Moreno can be compared to catchers with at least 100 PAs. His OBP is higher (.320 vs .299) and his SLG is lower (.369 vs .394). Overall, his wOBA is nearly equal (.301 vs .302).

Data through 16 August. Data from Baseball Savant.

Jose Herrera. First, Let’s look at his catcher skills.

  • 2 runs above average defending against stolen bases (through 17 August per Baseball Savant). He caught 4 runners out of 12 attempts to steal second base. His pop-time is at the 79 th percentile in the Majors.
  • Negative 1 runs above average blocking pitches. This was an improvement on last season’s negative 3 runs above average
  • Negative 3 framing runs. I’m not concerned in this area.

Second, let’s look at his batting. While his OBP is great, his SLG is less than average for the two groups of catchers in the Majors (see previous table).

Ali Sanchez. With only 14 PAs in the Majors (2020 and 2021), there is uncertainty in how well he can play in the Majors. My view is that his defense is potentially excellent, based on FanGraph’s prospect ratings of 55 in throwing and receiving in February 2021, and the following quote:

“While there are questions about his offense, nobody doubts Sanchez’ defensive ability behind the dish. His arm is only average, but he excels at all of the other facets of catching. He is athletic and moves well behind the plate, has a quick transfer, regularly posts good pop times, and has an accurate arm [despite his arm strength maybe being average]. Sanchez is an excellent framer, with TrackMan data in past seasons suggesting that his framing ability is able to save multiple runs over the course of a season. In addition, he possesses catchers’ intangibles, calling a good game and getting positive reviews by his coaches and pitchers.” — Steve Syp, SB Nation, 2020

My view of his batting (only 14 PAs in the Majors), is that in a larger sample size his OBP would improve to about the same as Herrera, and his SLG would fall to about 300 (which would be better than Herrera but not as good as the averages of the two groups of catchers). Optimistically, he has potential to outperform my view.

Adrian Del Castillo. With only 55 PA’s in AAA, and none in the Majors, there is considerable uncertainty in how well he can play in the Majors. My view is that when he arrives in the Majors his best defensive skill will be blocking pitches. He reminds me of the baseball magnet, former Diamondback Tim Locastro.

“He’ll pop in the 1.95-2.00 range, his receiving around the edges of the strike zone is usually quiet and clean, and when Del Castillo moves his feet he’s a suitable ball-blocker, though he still tries to backhand pick too many pitches to his right.” — Eric Longenhagen, FanGraphs

His batting in AA and AAA was excellent (.386/.383 OBP and .505/.388 SLG). He could be considered a bat-first backup catcher.

Juan Centeno. From 2016 to 2019, his catcher defensive skills improved to near average (zero runs above average defending against stolen bases, negative 1 defensive runs above average blocking pitches, and zero runs above average framing). Unfortunately, during those same years his batting steadily declined from .704 OPS to .411 OPS. After 2019, he played in AA and AAA. Nevertheless, he could add value as an emergency depth catcher for the Diamondbacks.

Nick Dalesandro and Caleb Roberts. This season, Nick Dalesandro played 9 innings at catcher and 409 Innings at other positions, while Caleb Roberts played 190 innings at catcher and 367 innings at other positions. Perhaps one of these players could reach the Majors as a utility player whose positions include catcher (similar to Daulton Varsho but different).

JJ D’Orazio and Christian Cerda. These are young prospects with high ceilings. An early look at their strengths shows they have a lot of potential growth. JJ D’Orazio could develop into a defense-first catcher, while Christian Cerda could develop into a bat-first catcher. Their estimated arrival date is 2026 per FanGraphs.

A Comparison of Catchers in Table Format.

The following table is an effort to compare the players who might play catcher. Instead of a mind numbing table of numbers, + and ++ indicate above average skills/performance. The comparison is not clear-cut because they are playing at different levels, and because they have different skills. The rows are organized by their current assigned level. The second column provides their ages to inform the reader about their potential to reach a higher level.

Data from Baseball Savant, Baseball Reference, and FanGraphs. The pluses were based on data and my judgement.

One clear fact is Gabriel Moreno is currently the best catcher of the Diamondbacks.