Elías David Díaz Soto
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 210 lb.
Catcher Elías Díaz made the majors in 2015.
He was initially signed by Pittsburgh Pirates scouts Rene Gayo and Rodolfo Petit. In 2009, he hit .272/.352/.409 for the VSL Pirates and led Venezuelan Summer League catchers with 51 assists, gunning down 45$ of attempted base-stealers. He batted only .218/.280/.310 for the 2010 GCL Pirates but threw out 41% of those who tried to steal. He started behind the plate for the 2011-2012 West Virginia Power but his offensive numbers were poor (.221/.279/.328 in '11, .208/.262/.288 in '12) and his opponent caught-stealing rate was also way down (22% in '11, 27% in 2012). He did lead South Atlantic League backstops with 86 assists in 2012.
In 2013, Díaz lost his starting job to Jacob Stallings with the Bradenton Marauders but hit .279/.382/.399 in his backup role. He made his Venezuelan Winter League debut, producing at a .256/.373/.326 clip for the Bravos de Margarita, backing up Manny Pina and Henry Blanco. He played 100 or more games for the first time in 2014 and performed well, hitting .312/.366/.421 with six home runs and 54 RBI in 101 games between the Altoona Curve (.328/.378/.445 in 91 G) and Triple-A Indianapolis Indians (.152/.243/.182 in 10 G). That was his first taste of Triple-A. In the 2014 Eastern League All-Star Game, he started at catcher for the West. He struck out against Taylor Rogers and Robby Scott before being replaced by fellow Venezuelan Ramon Cabrera. Among Pirates farmhands, only Josh Bell had a higher average. Baseball America named him the best defensive backstop in the EL. At the time of his promotion to AAA, he was third in the Eastern League in average, though he did not qualify at year's end. He was named Altoona's team MVP and the EL All-Star catcher. He was named a MiLB.com Organization All-Star and was named an Arizona Fall League Rising Star (he hit .260/.383/.380 for the Scottsdale Scorpions).
With Margarita in 2014-2015, he hit .163/.321/.256 as Pina's backup. For Indianapolis in 2015, playing time was harder to come by, as former first-round pick Tony Sanchez was also getting regular time behind the plate, sharing the role with Díaz. He was a Futures Game selection in 2015 (Bell was the other Pirate farmhand picked), replacing Gary Sanchez at catcher for the World team in the 6th. He flew out against Sean Newcomb and grounded out against Colin Rea in a 10-1 loss. In the 2015 AAA All-Star Game, the Maracaibo native started for the International League. He fanned against Carlos Pimentel and lined out against Tyson Perez before Austin Romine batted for him in the 7th inning of a 4-3 win. He hit .271/.330/.382 for Indianapolis, playing 93 games. He was named the league's best defensive catcher by Baseball America. He was also picked to the 2015 International League All-Star team as the top catcher.
When rosters expanded in September of 2015, Díaz was called to the majors. He was not used for a couple of weeks, though, as the Pirates were in the middle of a tight pennant race and their regular catchers (Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart) were both playing well. He finally got into a game on September 12th, batting for Neil Walker in the 8th inning of a 10-2 romp over the Milwaukee Brewers. Facing Corey Knebel, he flew out to Logan Schafer in center.
On June 2, 2017, he had a great game subbing for Cervelli against the New York Mets, hitting his first major league homer off Paul Sewald and driving in 6 runs in a 12-7 win. He was only 2 for 12 with 1 RBI in 6 games entering the game. He played 64 games for the Pirates that season and hit .223 with 1 homer and 19 RBIs. He also hit .266 with 2 homers and 27 RBIs in 57 games for Indianapolis.
In February 2018, he became a victim of the growing social breakdown in his home country of Venezuela when his 72-year-old mother, Ana Isabel Soto, was kidnapped by bandits in order to extract a ransom. With the deepening political and economic crisis in the country, criminal elements had taken to kidnapping family members of famous locals in order to extort money. Fortunately, his mother was released three days later, unharmed, in a joint police operation, and six persons were arrested in relation with the crime. Diaz was particularly distraught that a friend of the family had been involved in the kidnapping, another sign of deep the breakdown of society had reached. On may 28th, he was involved in a controversial play at home plate in a game against the Chicago Cubs. In the 8th inning, with the bases loaded, the Pirates attempted to turn a double play via home plate, but after Diaz had tagged home for the first out, Anthony Rizzo hooked his ankle, bringing him to the ground and sending his throw to first into right field. Two runs scored on the play. Manager Clint Hurdle came out to protest the call and was ejected after a video review and concluded Rizzo's slide was legal, a ruling with which Hurdle disagreed vehemently. The Pirates got some measure of redemption the following day when Major League Baseball's Chief Baseball Officer, Joe Torre, said that after further review, MLB considered that the play should have been ruled as interference on the part of Rizzo, although the result of the play would not be changed.
- Adam Berry: "Diaz feels 'reborn' in camp after mom's rescue", mlb.com, February 18, 2018.