#19 Chris Stewart
Every great MLB team needs a great back up catcher. The Pirates definitely have that in Chris Stewart, as the defensive guru not only continued his success behind the plate, but he also brought his bat to the lineup when he was in.
Stewart finished the 2015 season with a .289 average, no home runs, and 15 RBI while catching 58 games for the Bucs. Since coming to the Pirates prior to the 2014 season Stewart’s batting average has gone up exceptionally. His 2014 average of .291 went down a few ticks last year, but it was the clutch hits from Stewart that made his bat worth while.
Stewart came through many times including his three RBI performance against the Milwaukee Brewers in late September that helped the Pirates beat the hated Brew Crew.
While his offense shined through, the defense that he has been known for throughout his career came back in 2015. He caught 31 percent of base stealers last season (13 out of 41), and boasted a .976 fielding percentage behind the plate. He is not as good of a pitch framer as Cervelli is but he makes up for it in caught stealing percentage.
The biggest contribution Stewart made to the 2015 season however was his success catching Gerrit Cole. When Chris Stewart was catching Cole, Cole had a record of 14-4. In the middle of the season, manager Clint Hurdle even started using Stewart as what looked to be a personal catcher to Cole.
The two players gelled together and were a big factor in the Pirates reaching the 98 win mark this year. In 2016, The Pirates might want to think about keeping this tandem together as Stewart’s cool and calm nature helps balance out the fiery Cole on the mound.
In 2016, look for Stewart to play a little larger role than he did in prior seasons. I feel that Stewart will be catching Cole more than Cervelli will and it will lead to another successful season for both players.
I look for Stewart to have a .290 average with two home runs and 25 RBIs. With more playing time will come more opportunities for Stewart to show his worth. With free agency looming, look for the 34 year old to put together a solid season to up his value in the free agent market.