Each offseason the MLB Network ranks the top-10 players at each position. Throughout the course of their Golden Era, the Astros have had a staple of core pieces make the list. Names like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Justin Verlander have frequently placed among the game's elite, but Houston hasn't had a catcher do so. Until now.
Yainer Diaz placed eighth on their ranking of top-10 catchers. His ranking was well deserved, and with regular playing time and a repeat performance in 2024, it's likely Diaz is even higher on the list next year.
Yainer Diaz ranks among the best catchers in baseball according to MLB Network
Diaz battled irregular playing time in 2023, stuck with a manager that was reluctant to play young talent and a pitching staff that was for the most part adamant about pitching to one of the worst catchers in baseball. When he did play, he was something special.
In only 355 at-bats, Diaz hit .282 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI. His .538 SLG was the highest in the MLB among catchers, and his 127 WRC+ was tied for second. Diaz finished with a 3.2 bWAR on his way to a fifth-place finish for American League Rookie of the Year.
Diaz will receive much more regular playing time in 2024. He is Houston's primary catcher, and will now be backed up by Victor Caratini. As Houston looks to keep the aging José Abreu fresh, it's possible we could see Diaz pick up more than the seven starts he made at first base last year. Whether at 1B or DH, it's safe to say Joe Espada will be keeping Diaz' bat in the lineup on his off-days behind the plate.
The sky is the limit for the young Diaz. He has elite power regardless of position, but he's an especially elite hitter among backstops, and he possesses a cannon of a right arm to neautralize the opponents run game. As Diaz continues to grow defensively and develops better discipline at the plate, look for him to become a staple on this list each offseason.