For the first time in franchise history, it looks like the Houston Astros may have an All-Star catcher waiting in the wings. Yainer Diaz has struggled so far in postseason play after such irregular playing time and lacking ABs down the stretch, so it's been easy to forget just how dynamic the rookie backstop was this season.
In 104 games, Diaz hit .282 with an .846 OPS. He racked up 23 home runs, 22 doubles, drove in 60 runs, and was a huge piece of keeping the offense afloat while Yordan Alvarez rehabbed from injury. He's beginning to receive some much deserved recognition for his performance.
Yainer Diaz was named to the 2023 MLB All-Rookie Team after his tremendous rookie season.
As MLB Pipeline points out, Yainer Diaz finished the year with a 128 OPS+. Only two rookie catchers have racked up 300+ plate appearances and finished with a higher OPS+ than Yainer over the last 30 seasons: Buster Posey in 2010 (133) and Adley Rutschman in 2022 (131).
Anytime you find yourself in the company of those two names as a catcher, you're in pretty rare air.
Diaz battled irregular playing time all season, and while many have clamored for him to take over as the everyday catcher, Houston has continually cited Martín Maldonado's game-calling and calming presence as the reason for Diaz' lacking playing time.
Astros GM Dana Brown has raved about Diaz and his bat all season, and with Dusty Baker's status for 2024 unsure and Martín Maldonado on an expiring contract, it's very likely next year is when Diaz takes the step from heir apparent to everyday backstop.
Diaz still has a ways to go to improve as a game-caller, yes, but he has a cannon for an arm, and is already pretty solid behind the plate. But it's his bat that gives him a limitless ceiling.
As he continues to get more regular plate appearances, look for Diaz to pile up monster numbers over the coming years. For now, he can enjoy a well deserved honor and focus on coming through in the clutch in his next pinch-hit opportunity.