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Elias Díaz brought the Rockies some pop

Even though he didn’t get much playing time, Díaz was the best of the Rockies’ catchers

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

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No. 21, Elias Díaz: -0.1 rWAR

Last spring, the Rockies signed 29-year-old Elias Díaz to an MiLB contract after he’d had a grim 2019 with the Pirates. Here’s how Bud Black described the decision:

It’s clear that the Rockies were interested in adding some offensive power to their catching corps. Rockies fans liked the move.

But then, to their frustration, Díaz did not see much on-field action early in the season. (There was also the matter of him violating team COVID protocols when the Rockies were in Houston, being sent back to Denver, and placed on the restricted list.) Ultimately, he caught in 24 games, starting 13 of them. It’s worth noting that Díaz often caught Antonio Senzatela, including his complete game against the A’s.

That said, Díaz was not a remarkable defensive catcher though he was the best of the Rockies. All were average to slightly below average defensively. (Butera had a DRS of 1 while both Díaz and Wolters were 0.)

According to Baseball Savant, Díaz was the Rockies’ best catcher in terms of catcher framing (37th in baseball) with Butera, 39th, and Wolters, 43rd, close behind:

For most of the 2020 season, it appeared the Rockies would be the lone team lacking a catcher-hit home run. And then, Elias Díaz happened, hitting not one but two homers. Actually, that first one was sweet. Let’s take a moment to appreciate it:

As he earned more playing time toward the end of the season, his offense became stronger. He finished the season a triple shy of hitting for the cycle against the Diamondbacks.

Although Díaz did not have a remarkable year offensively, he did compare favorably to Tony Wolters and Drew Butera. Díaz slashed .235/.288/.353 and earned a wRC+ of 58. (For comparison, Wolters was 37; Butera was -11.) He also had better strikeout and walk rates.

There was some jersey confusion on August 6 when Jairo mistakenly put on Elias’s jersey.

It was a light moment in what was mostly a grim August for the Rockies.

Presumably, Díaz will continue with the Rockies. He is arbitration eligible in 2020 and becomes a free agent in 2023.