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Astros: How GOOD is Yainer Diaz?

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

We have 39 games left in the Astros Season. One of the best developments of this season has been the development of Yainer Diaz.

Let's pause and ask how good is Yainer Diaz. We need to remember two critical things as we answer this question.

  1. Yainer Diaz is a ROOKIE. Yes, his skill set is going to develop. He may also have ups and downs.

  2. Yainer Diaz is 24 Years Old. He is YEARS away from his prime and I am going to be comparing him to players that are generally older than him.

Buckle up folks. I am about to HAMMER you with data. Maybe I will do a video after the game tonight.

Through the first 122 games this season, Diaz has 271 PA and a 116 wRC+. What if he keeps doing what he has been this season? This is what his end of year stats could look like.

Diaz EOS projection

If you analyze those numbers, you realize that Diaz is delivering NEGATIVE WAR when he is not catching. Diaz has been FAR more productive when he catches than he is when he is at DH. Here is the breakdown YTD.

Diaz by Position

Either this is just a statistical anomaly which would be my guess or perhaps a vet like Brantley can walk Diaz through how he takes on the DH role.

However, once Brantley does return, I suspect Brantley and Alvarez will take 80%+ of the LF AND DH playing time. Since Dusty INSISTS on playing Maldonado 70% of the time at catcher and will not deviate from his pitcher matchups (DO NOT tell me how the pitchers demand Maldy - I have addressed that bogus logic multiple times), Diaz who is one of the Astros top six most productive hitters will be relegated to 40% PT without time at 1B and not the 75% PT I showed above. He needs to play at 1B as I have showed in multiple daily optimal lineup articles.

How big of a deal is this? Well maybe we should pause here and put Diaz in his rookie year into some historical context. Here is a list of Astros rookie catchers for the last 35 years. I have included their age, the games they played, the PA they had, their WRC+, their Defensive WAR, and their overall WAR AS ROOKIES. I then included their CAREER WAR.

Astros rookie catchers

What stands out to you as you look at this table?

  1. The younger a player is when he is a rookie is generally a sign of how good a catcher will be.

  2. There is also a loose correlation between the rookie WAR and the Career WAR.

I know these two things because I did the statistical modelling and could give you all of that detail if you really wanted it (you don't.) Here is what the Model SAYS would have been the WAR for each of these players and the catcher you know so well.

Model C projected WAR

Yes, the model has misses in this data set.

- Taubensee was traded and had several productive years most Astros fans would dream of now. Then he was done. His defense fell off.

- Castro, despite a rough hitting rookie year is modeled to be a VERY GOOD player which is exactly who he was.

- Meluskey was traded (in the Alan Ashby deal) and got hurt and was done.

This is the nature of this type of modeling. We are NOT looking for a precise answer but one to get us in the range of what we might be able to expect.

This Model is showing that Yainer Diaz will have a career better than Jason Castro. If he too moves positions like Biggio, MAYBE he could reach unthinkably high levels.

Yes, folks THAT is the season we are seeing from Yainer Diaz. A player completely full of promise that is being forced to DH where he is clearly not good at that yet. For some reason Dusty Baker refuses to catch him more. I know the reasons and have dealt with them in other articles.

Let's jump back to 2023 and compare Diaz to Maldonado defensively because even today I saw more disinformation on this subject. I am comparing to Diaz to Maldonado in this context because 95% percent of the Astros fan base will swear Maldy was a great defensive catcher 2019-2022. Folks, this is how Diaz compares to the last four full seasons of Maldonado. Share this with any cult member you want. I am so tired of the BS.

Defensive comp

This shows that for the critical defensive aspects of being a catcher that Yainer Diaz is BETTER than Martin Maldonado has been since 2019. Yes, Yainer Diz needs to work on pitch framing. He is better this season at that than Maldy is. Otherwise, Yainer Diaz- IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON AT AGE 24- is a top 11 defensive catcher at blocking and controlling the running game. He has an ELITE arm.

We are playing one of the worst starting catchers in the league seventy percent of the time and putting the above average catcher at DH half the time or just not playing him.

It is insanity.

MLB catchers with less WAR than Yainer Diaz this year

sorted by WAR >77 games in 2023

Danny Jansen

J.T. Realmuto

Kyle Higashioka

Alejandro Kirk

Yan Gomes

Connor Wong

Gabriel Moreno

Christian Vázquez

Matt Thaiss

Blake Sabol

Christian Bethancourt

Nick Fortes

Elias Díaz

Keibert Ruiz

Salvador Perez

Shea Langeliers

Yasmani Grandal

Tyler Stephenson

Eric Haase

and of course

Martín Maldonado

Let me also give you non-rookie season Astros catcher comps for Diaz, In THESE charts I am going to show you catchers with more than 80 PA for the last 10 seasons and Diaz's stats AS A CATCHER. The blue line will be Diaz and Maldy projected 2023 stats while catching this season. The other catchers in this chart should also be their stats WHILE catching.

10 Years C by WAR

This table is sorted by WAR. Maldy already has had the WORST catcher season of any Astros player in the last 10 years. Diaz projects to have the fifth best catching season in the last 10 years - as a 24- year old rookie.

10 Years C by wRC+

This table is sorted by wRC+. Diaz is having greatest hitting Astros catcher season in the last 10 years. It is the greatest hitting season of all time by an Astros Catcher. It is the fourth greatest Astros hitting season behind only Bagwell in 1994 and 1996 and Alvarez in 2022. Yes, it is only 131 PA so far in 2023 so we can't make that comparison BUT the fact that it is only 131 PA at catcher is sort of the point.

10 Years C by Def WAR

This is sorted on defensive WAR. Despite reduced playing time Diaz has average defensive WAR among this group. Maldonado is the worst. See above for the defensive comparison details.

10 Years C by AGE

This is simply sorted by age. Diaz is by far the youngest catcher on this table to have this many PA. Maldy is the Oldest.

How good is Yanier Diaz?

Yainer Diaz is GOLD folks. He is going to be one of the top catchers in franchise history IF he stays healthy and IF he stays at catcher. This is WHY I get so frustrated with the Astros current catching situation.

Play Diaz more. Get ready to play him 80 percent of the time in the postseason - If the Astros make the postseason.

Stats are from

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