#29 Francisco Cervelli
After the loss of fan favorite Russel Martin, the Pirates were looking for a player to fill the big void left by his absence. They got their man when they traded left handed pitcher Justin Wilson to the Yankees for catcher Francisco Cervelli.
For Cervelli, coming into Pittsburgh was a big opportunity. He had never been a starter in the majors before and now he finally had his chance to shine on the big stage. He took that chance and ran with it having a breakout season for the Pirates. He finished 2015 with a .295 average, seven home runs, and 43 RBI.
That .295 average was good for second best among catchers only behind Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants (.318). The 29 year old also set career highs in both home runs (7) and RBI’s (43).
While Cervelli was good at the plate, it was his defense that really stood out last season. He was a master at framing pitches for the Pirates. He lead all of major league baseball in that category getting 10.7% of pitches outside of the strike zone called strikes.
It was this pitch framing and game calling ability that lead to the great seasons that guys like Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett had. Cervelli was able to manage the game and he knew when to go out and calm down his pitchers when they were stuck in tight spots.
In 2016, I look for Cervelli’s success to continue behind the plate. He has gotten better with more playing time and if he can stay healthy look for that trend to continue in 2016.
In 2016, I believe Cervelli will have a .285 average with 13 home runs and 65 RBI. With a full season as a starting catcher under his belt, Cervelli will have more experience and will be able to mature as a player. Look for his defense to be as good if not better than last season.
For Cervelli, the key will be staying healthy for an entire season. If he is able to catch 120-130 games again this season he will be just fine and will be able to lead the Pirates to more success in the 2016 season.