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Pirates All 40: Jason Delay Found Role as Backup, Keller’s Personal Catcher

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Jason Delay, Pittsburgh Pirates

This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster.

The Pittsburgh Pirates seem to believe they have found their catcher or catchers of the future in Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez. While both are still young, the Pirates still need a ‘veteran’ as a backup option. 

As of right now, that option is Jason Delay after a steady 2023 season. After nearly retiring before getting a shot in 2022, he served as the Pirates’ backup catcher to Austin Hedges and eventually Endy Rodriguez this past season.

The 28-year-old was originally drafted in the 11th round of the MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants, but he elected to still attend Vanderbilt. 

During the 2017 season at Vanderbilt, Delay slashed .309/.381/.444 with an OPS of .826. In addition, Delay drove in 41 runs, hit two homers, and scored 31 times. Delay’s 2017 season was by far his best in college, and the Pirates took him in the fourth round of that year’s draft. 

The Texas native stayed in the Pirates’ minor league system through the 2021 season and even in parts of the 2022 season until he made his debut on June 14. In the minors, Delay managed a .231/.301/.334 slash line in 236 games (784 at-bats).

From a hitting perspective, Delay isn’t anything special. At least, he isn’t anything special as of yet. During the 2023 season, Delay slashed an unspectacular .251/.319/.347 with an OPS of .666 in 167 at-bats. On the year, he drove in 18 runs, hit one home run and crossed the plate 20 times. 

In the field, Delay struggled to throw out runners. Out of 55 total base stealing attempts, Delay managed to throw out just six (10.9%). He finished positive in defensive runs saved (two) and wasn’t charged with a passed ball. 

In terms of a bench option, Delay wouldn’t make a bad choice; I’m curious how often he would even get a chance to play on the 2024 Pirates’ team. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Delay essentially became the personal catcher for Mitch Keller this past year after Hedges was traded to the eventual World Series champion Texas Rangers. Delay caught eight of Keller’s final 10 starts to end the season.

Injuries, of course, happen, and the Pirates want to experiment with Davis in right field. It’s just a matter of how often the coaching staff wants to divide the workload between the three, plus Keller’s comfortability with the other two.  

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