Who Are The Best And Worst Catchers in MLB?
There is a thought process that goes: the quickest way to the majors is to be a lefty pitcher (figuring you are half way decent). So what’s the second fastest way? It’s being a good catcher. The trick in that is not just being able to call a good game because that, while important, doesn’t seem to attract a scout the way knocking the cover off the ball.
Every team has a starting catcher but as we all know, not all catchers are created equal. So where does yours rank in this bloggers estimation? I attempted to look at a number of factors but I went a lot with offensive statistics. Take a look.
(By the way: if any of your are actually curious to find out who’s ranked number 1 then you clearly don’t know much about baseball)
30. J.R Towles (Houston Astros) – Gets the vote for my favorite name as he’s the only catcher who you could remotely believe invented a fictional world of hobbits. While he may be a great author, I can’t confirm that he can play baseball. He’s bummed around the majors for the last 3 seasons and sports a robust .188 average. I’m not saying he can’t be a serviceable catcher or better at the major league level, but he’s far too raw and unproven. So he gets the bottom slot and may punch me if our paths ever cross.
29. Nick Hundley (San Diego Padres) – Here’s another guy that makes this ranking for lack of playing time. He’s put in more time than Towles but has never played more than half a season. The Padres are just hoping he will carrying the load and present a consistent playing ability at the position. We’ll see.
28. Lou Marson (Cleveland Indians) – He sounds like he should managing. “And the Cleveland Indians are managed by their hot tempered skipper Lou Marson.” Now, can he play ball? That’s the question. He’s a rookie so there is no way to know how he’ll pan out. So why is he ranked higher than Nick Hundley? Because of his name. Lou Marson. What a name.
27. Dioner Navarro (Tampa Bay Rays) – Got to say I’m not a fan of his name as much. He may be a hell of a good hitter someday but unfortunately we don’t know a thing about him. He was a career .252 hitter in AAA. Doesn’t sound like the numbers you want heading into the majors.
26. Gerald Laird (Detroit Tigers) – Once again this is a player with a simple problem of not enough experience at the major league level. It’s so hard to evaluate. But he gets a bump because he’s playing on a team with a lot of good veterans. But really no other reason.
25. Rob Johnson (Seattle Mariners) – Hey everyone! It’s Rob Johnson, below average catcher for the Seattle Mariners. He has never played a full season and has a career batting average just above the Mendoza line. He doesn’t hit the ball very far or is very fast, but he does have the same name as former NFL quarterback.
24. Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia Phillies) – Here’s a serviceable part of a hell of a lineup. Carlos Ruiz boasts a lifetime batting average of .246 but a respectable on base percentage of .337. He could be ranked higher than this but he won’t be blowing anyone away anytime soon. All he’ll need to do is handle that ace pitching staff this year.
23. John Buck(Toronto Blue Jays) – The more I evaluate the Blue Jays the less good I have to say about them. John Buck keeps that trend going. He had dismal years in Kansas City and is onto Toronto to help out behind the plate. His defensive and game calling skills are solid but it’s not bumping him out of this bottom 10.
22. Rod Barajas (New York Mets) – Here’s the scoop on Rod Barajas: long career. Got some good pop. Can put the ball in play but nothing to write home about. He’s certainly not the worst catcher out there but he’s nothing to write home about.
21. Ramon Hernandez (Cincinnati Reds) – He’s got a pretty good bat for his position, and he’s got pretty good homerun production. But Hernandez is coming off a season in which he limited in his games and below his career average in almost every statistical category. It’s hard to know if last year was a fluke for a respectable catcher or the beginning of the downside. For right now, we’ll play the pessimist and bet on the latter.
20. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Texas Rangers) – Welcome to the current definition of serviceable. Having played 84 games last year(a career high) he does a decent job at his job. According to baseball-reference.com his 162 games average is .251 with 16 dingers* and 63 RBI’s. He makes a contribution in your lineup but not the impact some of the other catchers on this list will make.
19. Gregg Zaun (Milwaukee Brewers) – His bio: Aging pitcher in the twilight of his career who can get on base despite rocking a .251 lifetime average. He’s bounced around from team to team meaning he was never a “lock him down” player. He can handle a pitching staff but leaves a lot to be desired at the plate.
18. Matt Wieters (Baltimore Orioles) – Dugout Doctors blogger Tony Piraro had this to say about Wieters The catcher situation is his, along with the fact he calls a great game for his pitching staff which will aide Dave Trembley if he must make late-game adjustments. Wieters is a powerful-lefty with 25 HR possibility just for 2010. I can’t imagine what his projections will be years from now, scary. But we’ll keep him in the bottom third of this list because he has potential. He’ll move up when he proves it.
17. Ivan Rodriguez (Washington Nationals) – The only slam dunk hall of famer on the list(assuming no pesky steroids talk muddle things up). He’s certainly at the back end of his career but he ranks high because even in his later years he’s able to bat .250 and still has a cannon of an arm that keeps the base paths clear.
16. Ryan Doumit (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Oh, finally! Pittsburgh finishes better than the bottom 10! And you could make an argument for that. He’s a switch hitting catcher who batted .318 in 116 games in 2008. But he doesn’t rank as high on this list because it was one solid season followed by a shortened year in 2009. Ryan Doumit may be the real deal but he’s going to need to do it again.
15. Chris Iannetta (Colorado Rockies) – The reason he makes the middle 10: a career .361 OBP and .446 SLG. The reason he isn’t higher: a lifetime .242 avg and a dismal ’09 campaign where he batted .228 in hitter friendly Coors Field. Not a top 10 guy.
14. Geovany Soto (Chicago Cubs) – Here’s hoping the slim fast diet worked for him. Fat and lazy could be words used to describe Geovany Soto’s sophomore season. The rookie of the year in 2008 is certainly hoping to rebound. But even in the wake of a dismal season he retains a career OBP near .350 and a slugging percentage in the upper 400’s.
13. Miguel Montero (Arizona Diamondbacks) – This is a catcher on the rise. After his first full year as catcher for the Diamondbacks he hit .294 with a .355OBP and a .478 SLG. This kid could be the real deal and his stock is on the rise. He’s a player to watch this season.
12. Mike Napoli (LA Angels) – Now the Angels full time catcher, Mike Napoli put up strong numbers last year including 20 home runs and a solid 56 RBI’s. He isn’t the best in his division but he’s young with a lot of room to grow.
11. John Baker(Florida Marlins) – Here’s the stat that impresses me about John Baker: 66 walk average over 162 games. It’s not Barry Bonds impressive but for a catcher it shows a patience that should make Marlins fans happy. He’s young and with a huge upside. In that solid lineup he’s poised to good things in 2010.
10. Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals) – Here’s what Yadier brings you: He’s a good catcher with a decent average. He’s a nice piece of a puzzle but he doesn’t solve the puzzle. I swear that makes sense. I swear. He gets bonus points for handling a good pitching staff that often has unattractive parts to it.
9. Kurt Suzuki (Oakland Athletics) – What you see from Kurt is consistentcy. In his 3 seasons in Oakland you know exactly what your were getting from him each and every day. He’s a solid hitter for average with a little pop to his bat. He also handles a really good pitching staff. Makes him a top 10 guy in my book.
8. Bengie Molina (San Francisco Giants) – Here is another mark of consistent performing year after year. Molina stays healthy, has a career average of .276 and averages about 18 home runs a year. He’s stable behind the plate and also handles one of the better pitching staffs in the majors.
7. Jason Kendall (Kansas City Royals) – 14 season and a .290 average. He had an off year last year but has a career OBP of over .360. This guy doesn’t strike out, draws an equal amount of walks to balance out and he’s done it with some bad teams like Pittsburgh where he was certainly one of the only tough outs on the lineup card.
6. A.J Pierzynski(Chicago White Sox) – The guy everyone loves to hate is good at his job. He’s a career .286 hitter, calls a great game, and averages 70 plus RBI’s a season. Sure, his only downfall is he couldn’t throw out your grandma going to second, but he’s also got some of the best baseball instincts for his position.
5. Jorge Posada (New York Yankees) – Correction, this is the other sure fire hall of famer on this list. Posada has been nothing but a stud throughout his entire career. He’s got a .379 OBP and a .480 SLG. He strikes out more than he should but who can hate him for that when he’s averaging 20 plus homeruns every year?
4. Russell Martin (L.A. Dodgers) – What don’t you love about a high on base guy with a good average handling an excellent staff and a knack for driving in runs? I don’t know either. This is the reason why he is a top 5 catcher in these rankings.
3. Brian McCann (Atlanta Braves) – Here’s why he gets the nod over Martin and Posada: he’s young. He plays almost every single game so you know he isn’t much of an injury risk. He has a lifetime average of .293 and he’s good for 24 dingers a year.
2. Victor Martinez (Boston Red Sox) – This guy just hits the cover off the ball. Last season alone he hit .336 with a .507 slugging percentage. He’s belts an average of 21 homeruns a season and is now a center piece of one of the best offenses in baseball. He’s still young and ready in his prime. There is but one catcher I’d rather have on my team….
1. Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins) – Raise your hand if you thought a catcher could win the batting title? I didn’t think so. But Joe did it with a modest .365 average last year. There isn’t a part of the plate he can’t hit the ball from. He’s head and shoulders the best catcher in the game and better than anyone could have hoped for. He’s been locked up long term and Minnesota fans are going to enjoy watching him play for a long time. You think the Twins regret passing on prior?
*Anyone else noticing I’m running out of ways to say Homerun?