In 2022, all but 14 games saw either Elías Días or Brian Serven suit up behind home plate. That’s unlikely to change in the new season as Colorado’s backstop options remain limited at the major-league and upper-minors levels. There are some intriguing prospects in the organization’s lower levels that could factor into things in campaigns to come, but in 2023 it’ll likely be a retread of what we saw last year.
That isn’t to say there’s no chance for improvement or progression — after all, this will be Serven’s first full MLB season, and Díaz has room to grow. We’ll have to see, though, if that progression takes form or if the catching position remains a pain point for the Rockies.
Of the two pitch-callers, Díaz will likely be the true starter.
Entering his ninth MLB season and fourth with Colorado, the 32-year-old Díaz will attempt to bounce back from what was a largely sub-par 2022. A fairly impressive 2021 saw him break out for 18 home runs to go along with a career-high 18 doubles. His slash line wasn’t exactly All-Star calibre, but he did a serviceable job in the second half of the lineup to back up the boppers at the top.
In 2022, less so. After signing a three-year extension prior to the start of the season, Díaz regressed in almost every offensive category beyond RBI, and at this point in his career, it bears asking whether he can show significant improvement. His defense remains in question, too, as his glove work rates poorly compared to the league’s catchers overall. Díaz does throw out runners at an elite clip but that’s just one part of a backstop’s game.
He’s likely to be around for the length of his extended contract, and it’ll be up to him to make sure it’s one that doesn’t age poorly.
Brian Serven will again serve as Díaz’s co-star.
Serven’s sort of an inverse of his partner — a solid catcher with very little offensive upside thus far. “Thus far” is relevant because 2023 will be his first full MLB season after making his big league debut in May of last year.
The Californian is the more likely progression candidate of the two, as he’s only 27 and could improve upon the groundwork laid last season. If his comments last season are anything to go on, Serven is excited to get back to work and continue to grow at the big league level.
And if catching doesn’t work out, he could always try pitching again?
With Dom Nuñez having departed to Chicago, there isn’t an immediately obvious next man up if Díaz and/or Serven falter. The most likely candidate is Jonathan Morales, who performed very well with Triple-A Albuquerque last season and could be called upon for his first taste of MLB action. The 28-year-old Morales doesn’t have the pop that Díaz does but is solid in the squat, and while it’s impossible to say how well he would transition to the highest level of baseball, his .308/.385/.432 slash line last season gives reason for hope.
Willie MacIver represents another depth piece, though less likely than Morales due to his struggles at Triple-A last season. It’s probable that he’ll start the season there to get his groove back and progress rather than set him up for failure at the major league level. MacIver is certainly a name to keep an eye on as the Rockies likely see him as a long-term option. The former PuRP is just 26 years old -- he’s got time to figure things out.
On the Farm
This is the Drew Romo Show, bro.
He’s one of the highest-ranked prospects in Colorado’s system -- ranked number four on both MLB Pipeline and Purple Row’s own PuRP -- and arguably the Rockies’ most anticipated catching prospect since Chris Iannetta.
Just 21 years old, Romo looked great in 2021 and finished ‘22 at Double-A Spokane. That’s probably his starting place for ‘23 as he continues his progression, but don’t be surprised if he heads to Albuquerque before long. He’s certainly turning heads in Spring Training and has lived up to the hype that he generated when he was drafted 35th overall in 2020’s First Year Player Draft. The speedy catcher (18 stolen bases last season) slashed .254/.321/.372 last year -- the best is yet to come.
Beyond Romo, things are fairly light. His coworkers at Spokane include Jose Cordova, Ronaiker Palma, and Colin Simpson, but respectfully they don’t have the resume and expectations that he does. That’s not to say that they are completely out of the running for an opportunity (it’s the Rockies, so anything can happen!), but Romo is clearly the priority.
In Case of Disaster
Can I get crazy? What if Colorado were to sign Gary Sánchez as a depth option?
I know the last thing Rockies fans want to see are aging veterans taking ABs away from young stars, and I’m not advocating for that (I promise). But Sánchez is a free agent and could be fun to see launch balls into actual orbit at Coors if Díaz or Serven struggle. He could act as an interesting bridge between the current and future catching situation.
If the Rockies aren’t likely to compete in 2023, may as well have some fun, right?