Elias Diaz has always been well-regarded for his defense. Baseball America named him the best defensive catcher in the Florida State League in 2013, and the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League in 2014. Even before that, he was getting regular playing time in the GCL and the South Atlantic League from the Pirates due to his defense. The problem was that his bat didn’t match his defense — at least not until last year.
Diaz posted some poor numbers in the lower levels from 2010-2012. Despite that, he was promoted to Bradenton in 2013, and was given a good amount of starting time. He had always shown potential with the bat during batting practice, and his size, ability to drive to the gaps, and good plate patience suggested he would eventually be a good hitter. It started to come together during the 2013 season. He was inconsistent the first four months of the year, but showed some good signs. He caught fire at the end of the year, hitting for an .892 OPS in 48 plate appearances.
In 2014, Diaz was promoted to Altoona, where his big breakout campaign took place. He carried the late-season hitting over from Bradenton, and hit for an .823 OPS in 367 plate appearances. By the end of the year, he was promoted to Indianapolis, and was starting behind the plate over Tony Sanchez, which was a sign that he had moved to being the top catching prospect in the upper levels.
Diaz enters the 2015 season as the “catcher of the future,” with the only person who could eventually unseat him being Reese McGuire. But McGuire won’t be ready until at least mid-2017, and most likely it is going to be later, since the 2017 timeline would require him to have a huge breakout season at the plate this year. That gives Diaz a window of a few years to be a starter, and possibly longer if his bat turns out to be legit.
He will start the 2015 season back in Indianapolis, and could be an option for the Pirates in the second half, depending on their need for catching in the majors, and depending on how Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart perform.
I talked to Diaz for today’s video feature, discussing his strong defense, what went well for him offensively last year, and what he is doing to prepare for the majors. I also talked to Tyler Glasnow about Diaz, since Glasnow got a chance to work with him for the first time during the Arizona Fall League. Finally, Clint Hurdle discusses what the Pirates like about Diaz, and whether he could be an option for the 2015 season.