Are Yainer Diaz's struggles leading Astros into tough catcher debate?

Is there a controversy brewing behind the plate in Houston?
Houston Astros catcher Yainer Diaz
Houston Astros catcher Yainer Diaz / Logan Riely/GettyImages

This wasn't supposed to be that complicated. After the Houston Astros parted ways with longtime backstop Martin Maldonado this past offseason, Yainer Diaz was going to supplant the veteran as the Astros everyday catcher.

Diaz started just 47 games behind the plate in 2023 while also logging time at first base and as the Astros designated hitter. Diaz hit .282/.308/.538 with 23 home runs and a wRC+ of 127, which reveals why Houston desired to get his bat in the lineup on an everyday basis this season.

But Diaz has struggled since the calendar flipped to May. While Diaz was one of the Astros best hitters during the first month of the season — hitting .287/.328/.435 — he's fallen on tough times since May 1. Diaz has just 16 base hits in his last 83 plate appearances and a paltry 1.2% walk rate. Diaz's batting average is just .202 during the month of May and he owns a 34 wRC+ over his last 23 games.

Should Yainer Diaz still be the Astros everyday catcher?

While Diaz is scuffling at the dish, Victor Caratini is holding his own. Caratini has fewer at-bats on the season than Diaz does this month, and yet the former Milwaukee Brewers backstop is hitting .261/.307/.420 with a wRC+ 107. Over his last nine appearances, six of which have come behind the dish, Caratini has a .304/.346/.391 slash line with four of his seven hits going for extra-base hits. Caratini has also come up clutch for Houston with two walk-off hits already this season.

Do the Astros have a catcher controversy on their hands? Not exactly. While Diaz has certainly struggled to handle the rigors of being Houston's everyday catcher, he would still seem to be the Astros long-term answer behind the plate. Diaz does not become a free agent until after the 2028 season while Caratini is only locked up through 2025.

The Astros signed Caratini to a two-year contract this winter for this very reason. Being a starting catcher in Major League Baseball is a grind. While Diaz had the benefit of playing alongside Maldonado on a part-time basis in 2023, the Astros are counting him to be the primary catcher this season and into the future.

Diaz's OPS has dropped over 200 points from the end of last season until now. While the Astros early-season struggles may have them contemplating shaking things up, Houston should stay the course and keep Diaz in his starting role unless things really go south.

Having Caratini on the roster is nice insurance option, but Diaz is the future and needs to work through his struggles or else he won't be able to overcome adversity.

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