Friday, February 22, 2013

Ranking the top 10 catchers in baseball

Reds fans remember this swing all too well.
Posey's grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS
essentially ended Cincy's season.

by: Chase Fitzgerald
Staff Writer

1. Buster Posey
Last season’s stats: HR: 24 RBI: 103 AVG: .336 OPS: .957 OBP: .408 SLG: .549

After having his 2011 end with a horrible injury, Posey came back with an amazing 2012 winning the NL MVP, a Silver Slugger, and the Hank Aaron award. Posey proved to be possibly the most valuable player in all of baseball as the Giants went on to win another World Series. Every year Posey has stayed healthy, the Giants have won the World Series. Just think about that for a second. Posey’s best work came when the Giants needed him the most including him hitting a grand slam in game 5 of the NLDS to seal a victory and completing an incredible comeback from being down 2-0 in the series. Posey led all catchers in OPS, WAR, SLG, RBI, hits, and he led the entire MLB in average. Posey finally took the Molina’s crown as the best catcher in baseball and with him being only 25 and getting better every year, I don’t see that changing for a while.

2. Yadier Molina
Last season’s stats: HR: 22 RBI: 76 AVG: .315 OPS: .874 OBP: .373 SLG: .501

For the past two seasons, Yadier Molina was widely considered the best catcher in baseball and even though his play has improved, Buster Posey is just insanely good. Molina is still the best defensive catcher in baseball winning the past 5 years and is still an All star caliber player. He is now just entering his prime and is the heart and soul of the Cardinals. Molina was second among catchers behind Buster Posey in pretty much every category but Buster’s amazing player shouldn’t discount how great a season Molina had. He posted career highs in average, homeruns, RBIs, OPS, SLG, OBP, runs, and hits while having a 6.7 WAR which is almost 4.0 higher than his previous career high. Even though Molina has his moments, he is still widely considered a great player and any team would be lucky to have him.

3. Joe Mauer
Last season’s stats: HR: 10 RBI: 85 AVG: .319 OPS: .861 OBP: .416 SLG: .446

Despite popular belief, Mauer is still one of the best players in the game and is one of the few players guaranteed to hit over .300 every season. Even with him not being a power hitter, he still manages to post a solid .862 OPS which ranks third among catchers and he hit over 30 doubles for the 5th time in his career. He almost took home his 5th Silver Slugger this year but barely lost out to the power hitting Pierzynski but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t deserving. He doesn’t post the huge numbers he did in his MVP season but he still is one of the top catchers in the game and you could make a good argument that he is the best. Mauer still is only 29 so he has a lot of playing left in him and even though he may not be worth his 23 million dollar salary, he is still a very good player.

4. Jonathan Lucroy
Last season’s stats: HR: 12 RBI: 58 AVG: .320 OPS: .881 OBP: .368 SLG: .513

Jonathan Lucroy was on his way to a major breakout year last season until a broken hand sidelined him for a good portion of the year. The 26 year old catcher has a whole lot of potential and he voters and I agree that next year, he’ll finish what he started. Next year is primed to be the season Lucroy finally breaks out of his shell and gives some protection to Ryan Braun. The reason Lucroy is so high without having a very good year is because the catcher position has never been known for hitting and despite a few guys, it’s the same way now. Lucroy has the ability to hit over .300 and hit 25 homeruns which as a catcher is very rare and with him being only 26, he has a lot of time to reach his potential.

5. Carlos Ruiz
Last season’s stats: HR: 16 RBI: 68 AVG: .325 OPS: .935 OBP: .394 SLG: .540

Ruiz, besides Buster Posey, was the league’s best hitting catcher last season and probably would have received more national attention if he hadn’t missed a month because of an injury. He had an OPS of .935 which was only second to Posey and had a very big distance between the third highest. The reason he is only 5th despite his great season is based on three reasons. First off, this was his first good season out of his 7 year career and it has all the makings of just a fluke year. Second, he is 34. There isn’t much time for him to improve so this season was the peak of his potential. It all goes down road from here. Lastly, Ruiz was busted for using PEDs, which may have been the cause of his fluke year, and has to serve a 25 game suspension to start the season because of it. Before he can get any higher on the list, he must show that last year wasn’t a fluke year and can still put up those numbers without the PEDs and despite his age.

6. Miguel Montero
Last season’s stats: HR: 15 RBI: 88 AVG: .286 OPS: .829 OBP: .391 SLG: .438

Montero put together another great season for the Diamondbacks and continues to prove that he is one of the most reliable catchers in the game. Even though he isn’t elite at any part of the game, he is a solid all around player that continues to contribute in the Diamondbacks lineup. Montero has continued to progress every season posting career highs in RBIs, BB, OPS, and OBP while being pretty much the Diamondbacks only form of offense. With Justin Upton gone, Montero may be asked to carry this Diamondbacks lineup which may be a lot to ask but, I’m confident Montero is up for the task.

7. Wilin Rosario
Last season’s stats: HR: 28 RBI: 71 AVGL .270 OPS: .843 OBP: .312 SLG: .530

Wilin Rosario was the most un-talked about rookie this year and was actually my choice as the NL rookie of the year. Despite getting close to half the at-bats as most players, he still managed to lead all catchers in homeruns as a rookie with 28 and if he would have gotten let’s say 530 at bats instead of 396, he had more than a very good shot at hitting 40. He is a power hitter but he still managed to post a solid average of .270 and has an OPS of .843. Rosario is one of my favorite players in the game and I expect great things for him. The one big flaw in his game was his defense which was truly awful leading the league in passed balls with 21. The one thing to remember though is that he is only 23 and his defense will get better. Rosario has more potential than anyone on this list and someday could end up leading the league in homeruns. He adds another piece to the nice young core the Rockies are putting together and I can’t wait to watch him improve year after year.

8. A.J. Pierzynski
Last season’s stats: HR: 27 RBI: 77 AVG: .278 OPS: .827 OBP: .326 SLG: .501

A.J. Pierzynski somehow found his power last season and hit a career high 27 homers despite being 36-years-old. Pierzynski has never been anything special always being a solid 5th or 6th hitter but this year he turned it to another level and became a power hitter. He slugged over .500 for the first time in his career and earning himself his first ever Silver Slugger. Pierzynski has always performed his best during his contract seasons, this year being one, with his play earning him a 1.5 million dollar raise with a new deal from the Rangers. Something similar happened in 2003 when he had the best season of his career which earned him a deal with the Giants. I am very interested in watching Perzynski’s 2012 because it is very rare for a player of his age to show the power he did and it’s going to be fun to see if he can keep it up.

9. Carlos Santana
Last season’s stats: HR: 18 RBI: 76 AVG: .252 OPS: .785 OBP: .365 SLG: .420

Since Santana plays in Cleveland, not many people are too familiar with his play but the 26 year-old has earned your attention. He is one of the best young catchers in the game and even though this season his OPS went down from last year, he still had a better year than his stats show. He posted the highest WAR of his career as he became a better hitter becoming more patient at the plate this year taking more pitches and raising his OBP 15 points. Santana also improved his defense by posting a positive defensive WAR which is a good sign of improvement for the young switch hitter. I think That Santana will continue to improve slowly but efficiently and will rise up this list very soon.

10. Yasmani Grandal
Last season’s stats: HR: 8 RBI: 36 AVG: .297 OPS: .863 OBP: .394 SLG: .469

Grandal didn’t get much time to showcase his talents last year, but he definitely made the most of his limited opportunites. After he was called up in June, Grandal quickly took control of the starting catcher spot in San Diego impressing quickly as he hit two homeruns in the first start of his career. Despite playing only a third of the season, Grandal still managed to post a WAR of 2.7, which if he kept the pace, would have been a 7.3 WAR if he had played an entire season. Grandal came to San Diego in the Mat Latos trade and even though he was a high rated prospect, he certainly was not supposed to be this good this fast. The reason he is so far down on this list is because he was busted for using PEDs and got hit with a 50 game suspension. This could have affected his play so the voters and I have to wait and see him perform without the PEDS and prove that it was actually him putting up these numbers.

Honorable Mentions go to Brian McCann (ATL), Victor Martinez (DET), Matt Wieters (BAL), and Mike Napoli (BOS).

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