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Pirates spring training catchers: Who are these guys?

Minnesota Twins v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

First of a series. I’ll cover the players who aren’t obviously slated for the 25-man roster, which in this case would be Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz.

Jin-De Jhang (No. 82): Signed out of Taiwan, Jhang has been eligible for the Rule 5 draft for a couple of years and, this year, will be in his last year with the Pirates before becoming eligible for free agency. He’s a very stocky catcher whose primary assets are a good hit tool and arm; he threw out 47% at Altoona last year. He seldom strikes out and has generally hit for good averages, although last year he never seemed to get going after a spring oblique injury cost him nearly two months. He hit just .231, which is a problem for a guy with little power who also doesn’t walk much. He’s better defensively than you’d think, but his physique probably has never endeared him to scouts. He also has yet to reach AAA, apart from a brief cameo back in 2016. Due to the players ahead of him, Jhang is probably slated to return to Altoona.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Christian Kelley (No. 83): Kelley has a non-roster invite for the second straight year, which probably reflects the need for lots of catchers in camp. He hasn’t played above class A yet and struggled at Bradenton last year; after a good start, he hit just 188/274/220 over the last three months. The Pirates like him defensively, but backup John Bormann (he of the legendary midnight ride to Miami) actually did a better job of controlling the running game last year.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Ryan Lavarnway (No. 63): The Pirates signed the former Red Sox prospect to a minor league contract in late January. Lavarnway hit for big-time power on his way up through the minors, but failed in limited chances to get established in the majors and then suddenly, back in 2012, stopped hitting for power. He’s increasingly struggled with the bat over the last two years, during which he’s played only six games in the majors. He’s considered adequate defensively, with an arm that’s accurate although not strong. He’ll probably rank fourth on the Pirates’ depth chart, which is pretty high considering Cervelli’s fragility.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Moderate

Jacob Stallings (No. 58): Stallings has been on and off the 40-man roster several times over the last two years and is currently the only catcher on it besides Cervelli and Diaz. He may be the best defensive catcher of the three. He also suddenly progressed with the bat last year, riding a hot finish and a sharply reduced K rate to a 301/358/431 line in AAA. He’s oddly intriguing for a 28-year-old organizational catcher. Stallings figures to be the main catcher at Indianapolis this year, but a callup is inevitable.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Jackson Williams (No. 79): Williams spent last year as an upper-level depth catcher, getting just 189 at-bats divided between Altoona and Indianapolis. He re-signed a minor league deal for 2018 and figures to fill the same role again. He’s a good defensive catcher who, apart from drawing a few walks, has never shown anything on offense. He’s had brief callups in the past with the Rockies and Giants.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low