With rosters expanding in a little over a week, this would be the perfect time for Elias Diaz to emerge and show that he can catch in the majors. A call-up in September would allow him to emerge as the number three catcher in the organization, and a Major League-ready option if Francisco Cervelli were to go down with an injury in the future.
The one downside is that Diaz is in a bit of an offensive slump at the moment. He had a slow start to the year, with a .559 OPS in April. He hit a groove in May and June, combining for a .783 OPS. However, he has slumped a bit the last two months, with a .680 OPS.
It’s late in the year, but Diaz isn’t blaming fatigue on the slump.
“I feel great,” Diaz said. “I am just trying to calm myself down. I know that the results are going to come. I just want to finish the season strong.”
Offense does not tell the whole story for the catcher. One main focus this season for Diaz is working with the pitching staff and taking care of business behind the plate. He is pleased with his progress so far. He has one of the strongest arms of any catcher in the system, throwing out 31 percent of attempted base stealer. He also gets a lot of praise from his pitching staff for the work he does with game calling and working with the staff.
Despite the strong defense, Diaz realizes that his job is a two-way endeavor and he looks to close on a strong note offensively and achieve his life-long dream.
“I want to finish strong on both sides,” Diaz said. “My defense and my hitting. My goal is to finish in Pittsburgh. I want to be there one day and I work every day to achieving my dream in Pittsburgh.”
Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar thinks that this could be part of the issue for Diaz.
“He is trying to do too much,” Wynegar said of Diaz. “I have seen him when he is good, and it is an everyday battle with him to stop him from trying to do too much. He thinks that if he hits home runs and does certain things, it will be a quicker call to the big leagues. I’m trying to explain [that is not the case].”
In order to get his point across to Diaz, Wynegar has the catcher looking ahead to expectations at the next level.
“I ask him what he thinks Clint Hurdle wants from him,” Wynegar said. “He is giving me all of the right answers — to handle the bat, have a good approach, use the whole field, line drives. I tell him that Clint is not going to expect him to hit 25 home runs in September, so quit trying to do it here.”
Wynegar said that they have been working on cutting Diaz’s swing down to accomplish this, and he is stressing to just try to hit hard line drives. While he sees flashes of success, Wynegar said that Diaz continues to revert back to some bad habits that he is looking to flush out.
“He’ll do it for a few days,” Wynegar said. “Then all of the sudden, you see a totally different swing and he tries to hit it out of the ball park.”
While there are some frustrations for Diaz, Wynegar knows that he is a good kid and sees the potential that is completely undeniable.
“In my honest opinion, if this kid does not play for ten years in the big leagues, I will be very surprised,” Wynegar said. “He’s a super make up kid, but he just tries too hard sometimes. I hope that he gets called up in September and gets a taste of it up there. I think that going through the scouting meetings and everything up there would be really good for him.”
Diaz may have already passed Tony Sanchez on the catching depth charts in the eyes of the Pirates’ brass, and he could very well be the catcher called up when the rosters expand. Either way, Wynegar certainly has one thing correct: Seeing time at the big leagues can do nothing but help Diaz in the future.