Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. 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. 6, Elias Díaz: 2.2 rWAR
Elias Díaz struggled through the first two months of the season, but as the weather started to warm up, so did his bat. Through May, Díaz was only slashing .125/.193/.188, which had many wondering why Dom Nuñez was not getting more playing time, or why Díaz even had a roster spot.
As the calendar turned to June, the 30-year-old catcher turned it around in a major way, having one of the best stretches in franchise history. Díaz started chasing less pitches and cut his strikeout rate in half. Over 131 plate appearances between June 1 and July 31, Díaz slashed .274/.346/.573, while cutting his strikeout rate from 26% to 11.5%. He hit ten home runs and walked at a 9.9% rate during that time as well. He was selecting his pitches better and hitting it well when he did swing.
Only July 1, Díaz hit a three-run, walk-off home run against the Cardinals. It was part of a four-game home run streak for the catcher from June 29-July 2.
After stellar months in June and July, Díaz remained a solid bat in the Rockies’ lineup for the remainder of the year. He finished the season at .247/.310/.774 with 18 home runs. His strikeout rate stayed down at 16% and still walked at an 8% rate. It would have been impossible to keep up the hitting statistics from June and July, but the remainder of the season was still a positive for Díaz, and the Rockies have a solid solution for behind the plate offensively for next year.
The catcher is important position in the field as well as in the lineup. Behind the dish, Díaz had a similar year as he did at the plate. Díaz threw out 16 base runners in 38 attempts, good for a 42% caught stealing rate. The 42% caught stealing rate was second in the league, only behind Kansas City Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez. His 16 base runners caught stealing was third in the league this season. One negative fielding stat was Díaz’s eight passed balls, which was one of the highest totals this year.
Some defensive highlights:
Rockies Elias Diaz throw out 1.94/84.3 MPH. He leads MLB in throw out %.(43%). Tough pitch down & at his left knee. Catches the pitch with glove on vertical side & comes out of his hip hinge with A+ direction. pic.twitter.com/UxqUzVB8ks— Jerry Weinstein (@JWonCATCHING) September 15, 2021
All in all, Díaz had a solid year behind the plate for the Rockies, which desperately needed production from the position after years of lacking offense. Having a catcher that is not a hole in the lineup, and even key contributor, is a major boost to a Rockies lineup that has struggled. The Rockies will have Díaz under contract for one more year, which helps secure the position for the 2022 season.