Elías Díaz / Capture of MLB Network
Who is the best catcher in the big leagues? The matter is debatable, sure, but right now, given his thunderous offense and Golden Glove defense, a majority would probably say Salvador Pérez.
The Venezuelan just broke the 45-homer mark in a season set by the legendary Johnny Bench in 1970. He has put out 45 percent of the running backs who have tried to steal bases from him. He is jointly responsible, say the Kansas City Royals, for the accelerating maturity of young pitchers like his compatriot Carlos Hernández.
Pérez has the complete package. He’s on his way to 50 home runs, the Silver Bat and another gold accolade for his defense.
But who is the second best catcher in MLB today? Buster Posey? The Puerto Rican insurance Martin Maldonado? The Puerto Rican laureate Yadier Molina? The Venezuelan ascendant Willson Contreras?
It is possible that a survey among fans, of those who only follow their teams and little else, will throw up many names, before doing justice.
Because the second after Pérez, at this moment, is possibly a closely guarded secret. He’s barely hitting .233 this season and playing for one of the underdog squads. sex appeal del Big Show.
We talk about Elijah Diaz, the discreet Zulian who has been living his best moment in baseball for weeks.
Diaz is the mask of the Colorado Rockies. For six seasons he tried to realize in the Big Top what the scouts projected about him when he was in the Minor Leagues. He became one of the best receiving prospects growing up on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farms. Today it is a powerful plunger in the rocky engine.
But why isn’t he talked about more?
Playing for a Midwest squad helps little, in terms of publicity. They are small markets and, therefore, far from the big media, located in cities like New York, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles.
But it was his lousy start that has kept his astonishing evolution covered by a veil of discretion.
Diaz was hitting just .161 / .245 / .242 in late June. I don’t know he was on base, he didn’t show power. Any.
Despite being up since Opening Day, he was a .109 average on May 12 and .123 on June 1.
What has come after that abyss has been surprising. Because Diaz has been one of the most productive cops in the National League since he went 2-1 on June 28, with a walk and home run.
From that day on, he went to hit 211 times, counting through Wednesday. He hit 16 home runs in 193 at-bats. That averages one home run every 12 at-bats, the pace of the most conspicuous home runners.
His averages in those three months rose at a dizzying pace. He has a line of .280 / .341 / .606, with a .947 OPS in that period. He has fired two Grand Slams.
But this Maracaibo native has not only been inspired by the bat for almost three months. His well-known skills behind the plate have blossomed, finally finding the blessing of everyday play.
His power, movement and aim when throwing the ball to the bases has allowed him to make out 44 percent of opposing runners. If his compatriot Pérez is the leader in the American with 45 percent, he is the absolute leader of the National.
They are elite records. The median for major leaguers is 25 percent.
The matter is debatable. Pérez may be number one today, because of his combination of hitting and defense. He is the news man, the hit slugger in a season in which his primary position has been catcher.
But Díaz is stomping. He is one of the strongest bats in the Rockies and a Gold Glove candidate in the National League.