JASON DELAY, CATCHER
|Born: March 7, 1995
Drafted: 4th Round, 118th Overall, 2017
How Acquired: Draft
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|The Pirates drafted Delay as a senior catcher out of Vanderbilt. Baseball America had him ranked 256th in the 2017 draft class and called him an effective pitch framer who does a great job of handling a pitching staff. He’s also effective at blocking pitches in the dirt and his quickness behind the plate helps him control the running game. He had his best season at the plate in 2017 with a .309/.381/.444 slash line; his numbers during his first three collegiate seasons were much weaker. Delay has a similar profile to Jacob Stallings, as a senior catching from a major college with strong defensive skills but a dubious bat. His selection probably had more to do with the fact that the Pirates took prep players with their first four picks and were likely to need some extra bonus pool money to sign them. They saved some by signing Delay for $100,000, which was $350,500 below the slot amount.
With fifth-round pick Deon Stafford at Morgantown, the Pirates sent Delay to Bristol. He just held his own at the plate, with no power but good plate discipline. He threw out 39% of base stealers and had only two passed balls. The Pirates had to do some shuffling with their lower level catchers at the end of the season due to injuries and that got Delay a promotion to Morgantown, where he caught five games.
The Pirates jumped Delay up three levels to Bradenton, where he split time with Arden Pabst until Pabst moved up to Altoona. Delay became the starter after that. Delay had a big month of May, posting a .904 OPS, but didn’t come anywhere close to that in any other month. After May he had only three extra base hits, and no home runs, in 144 at-bats. He hit LHPs well in a small sample size, with an .852 OPS, but he posted only a measly .530 OPS against RHPs. Delay threw out 38% of base stealers.
Delay shared the catching duties at Altoona with Pabst. He had a rather odd season at the plate. Overall, he hit for power for the first time, at the cost of fewer walks and more strikeouts. His hitting, though, came in one stretch. He had a huge month of May, with a 1.077 OPS. He followed that with a .377 collapse in June; in fact, his second best month (July) was just .680. He had significant trouble with LHPs for some reason, posting just a .508 OPS against them. He did well against RHPs, at .755. He showed good receiving skills and threw out 24% of base stealers.
The Pirates didn’t assign Delay anywhere until mid-June. He got limited playing time with both Indianapolis and Altoona, and went out for the season with an injury in early August. He hit well for Indy, not at all for Altoona. He threw out 19% of base stealers on the full season.
Delay’s season turned out very differently from the way it seemed to be headed. He opened as a fill-in catcher for Indianapolis. In late May, the team told him there was no more need for him and he could stay on as a bullpen catcher at Indy. He went over two weeks without playing at all. In mid-June, though, with a need for a doubleheader, the Pirates called Delay up. He was optioned back after that one game, but returned a couple weeks later when Tyler Heineman went on leave. In the end, Delay caught more games for them than anybody else on the year. It wasn’t an unmitigated triumph, as Delay was overmatched at the plate. He also threw out only 20% of base stealers and committed nine errors. Among catchers with at least 20 starts, he was dead last in fielding percentage. He was, however, 20th among catchers in framing, out of 95 who caught at least 50 innings. Because of that, his defense was strong enough for FanGraphs to rate him slightly above replacement level despite the terrible hitting. (Being slightly above replacement level isn’t, of course, much of a standard for anybody but the Pirates.) Delay did have a habit of coming through in clutch situations, batting .300 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Delay made a nice story in 2022, but the fact is that he just doesn’t hit enough for a major league catcher, even a backup. Luckily for him, the Pirates don’t consider hitting important. They had the worst-hitting catchers in MLB in 2022, as well as (by a wide margin) the worst-hitting first basemen. Being 30th of 30 at two of eight positions is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the startling lack of effort by the current front office to put a major league team on the field. The Pirates outrighted Delay after the season and it appears he’ll compete with Heineman to back up Austin Hedges.
|2023: Minor league salary
|Signing Bonus: $100,000
MiLB Debut: 2017
MLB Debut: 6/14/2022
MiLB FA Eligible: 2023
MLB FA Eligible: 2028
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 6/13/2022 (since removed)
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.095
|June 13, 2017: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 4th round, 118th overall pick; signed on June 20.
June 13, 2022: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 10, 2022: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.