There is almost no speculation among baseball fans as to who in Major League Baseball is the best overall player, or even the best pitcher, or catcher. Unless you are new to Doubledaydoubletalk or MLB talk in general, fans generally agree that those players are, in order: Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Buster Posey. But who are the next of the best? Who ranks closely to Trout, Kershaw, Posey?
Today, I will skip Trout, Kershaw and other player positions, and focus on the Great Catchers in Major League Baseball. In doing so, I have to admit a few things. First, I am a Catcher. My favorite catcher of all time is Johnny Bench. I love the catching position and further admit that I have studied the great MLB Catchers in the history of the game: Johnny Bench, Mickey Cochrane, Gary Carter, Mike Piazza, tragic characters like Roy Campanella and Thurmon Munson, and even the more colorful characters like Carlton Fisk and the late great Yogi Berra even though he didn’t say everything that he said (I couldn’t resist). So I admit finally that I am writing this article more for my enjoyment, then yours, even though I hope you enjoy it more than I do! Shades of Yogiisms just don’t go away!!
So on a more serious note, I admit that I am assuming that Posey is the best. Why? Let’s take a look at why Buster Posey is the best catcher in baseball just in case there are those who disagree…shall we?
Posey won the Rookie of the Year award in 2010 and won an MVP in 2012 when he hit .336 in 610 plate appearances and has since then participated in four All-Star Games, won three silver sluggers, a Gold Glove, and has hit 116 home runs in his 8-year career. He has a career 33.5 WAR and will be a strong contender for the best catcher in MLB for many years to come.
Posey has also caught 3 No-hitters (1 perfect game) and has 3 World Series rings to brag about. On top of all of that, the average WAR for a Hall of Fame catcher is 52 and since he is still young (29) he will have no problem reaching that. Who knows, he just might be enshrined in Cooperstown someday.
Based on the facts above, Posey has been the undisputed best catcher in baseball for a while now, but it has got me thinking, “Who is the best catcher in baseball right now that is not named Buster Posey?” Who is the third, or fourth, fifth or sixth rated catcher? This is where there is a lot of speculation. So today, I am going to analyze six catchers that could be second to Posey. Who is the best of the rest? The best of these six catchers will be analyzed here, and then one of them unofficially crowned (by me) as the “second best catcher in baseball”
Jonathan Lucroy, Texas Rangers
Jonathan Lucroy has been trying to get out of Milwaukee to no prevail until he turned down a contract with the Indians and joined the Rangers in 2016 (ouch!), and now that he is out of Milwaukee, we can expect a lot from Lucroy.
In Lucroy’s 2016, led all catchers in RBI (81) and OPS (.855), while finishing second in WAR (3.9) and home runs (24) which set a career high for him. Lucroy also has a very consistent Strikeout to walk ratio and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) has gone back up to what it was in 2014 when he posted a 6.4 WAR for Milwaukee. One of his problems is he is very on and off, performing better in odd years than even years (like the Giants but switched). Despite that, Lucroy is excellent at calling games and handling pitchers. Lucroy is now at Globe Life Park in Arlington which is a more hitter friendly park which is going to further contribute to his success.
Jonathon is definitely a strong contender for number two in the MLB for catchers.
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
This is a very bold decision considering the fact that he played in just 55 career games and 53 in 2016, but when you take what he has done in such a short amount of time is unprecedented. Sanchez, in 2016, became the only person in MLB history to be called up for his first trip to the Majors prior to August first and hit 20 home runs (let that sink in for a little bit). Also, there has never been a player in baseball history to hit their first 19 career home runs so quickly. In 2016 he also had an OPS of 1.052. This was not enough to win the Rookie of the Year award last year in which he placed second to Tigers’ pitcher Micheal Fulmer, but it was one heck of a statement.
Yes yes, I know Sanchez is not going to hit 60 home runs in 2017, but if he is anywhere close to how good he was in his short 2016 campaign, you can expect to see a multitude of bombs coming off the bat of Sanchez.
1. Sanchez, 19
2. Wally Berger, 17
3. Wally Joyner, 16
3. Jose Abreu, 16
5. Kevin Maas, 15
5. Zeke Bonura, 15
7. Albert Pujols, 14
7. Mike Jacobs, 14
7. Sam Horn, 14
7. Ryan Braun, 14
Sanchez, on top of all the home runs, has a really good eye at the plate and walked 10.5 percent of his plate appearances. Also, Sanchez has a cannon for an arm, throwing out 41 percent of base stealers in 2016, and as a matter of fact teammate Starlin Castro recently said the following about his ability to throw out runners, “I don’t know why they run,”.
I know he has had a rather short career but considering how good he has been so far, he is definitely a strong contender for the second best catcher in baseball title and in coming few years he might just be the best catcher in baseball.
Brian McCann, Houston Astros
This player lost his job in 2016 to the promising rookie Gary Sanchez, whom I just mentioned, and was traded to the Astros for prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Brian McCann was traded this offseason to the Huston Astros after playing three seasons with the Yankees. The three years he played with the Yankees were not what the Yankees were hoping for and he slashed just .235/.313/.418 and his OPS was about 100 points lower in his time in New York than the nine years he caught for the Braves.
McCann is also hoping to extend his 20 home runs per season streak to 10 years in a row. McCann has 245 career long shots and he is now 13th All-Time among catchers in home runs and has a shot at making the top 10 All-Time by the end of 2017. Along with that, over the next few seasons, McCann will most likely join the 300 home run club which will make him the eighth catcher in history to do so. Despite all his home runs, he has never been viewed as a great defensive catcher and he may be converting to a part-time or even full-time DHing job sometime in the future.
Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
Russell Martin has a decent arm, but his real strength comes from pitch framing and pitch handling, in which he excelled at. As a matter of fact, pitcher Francisco Liriano has an ERA of 2.94 in his 248 career innings while Martin is catching, while his ERA is over 4.00 when pitching to everyone else. It is pretty obvious that Martin has some effect there.
His offensive numbers are decent with a .254 batting average, a .350 career on-base percentage, and a .733 OPS. Since moving to Toronto he has had a slash line of .235/.332/.427 so his numbers are not all that bad, but probably not good enough to be my number-two catcher.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Molina is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the St. Louis Cardinals and that is absolutely no surprise. Yadi has been to seven All-Star Games while winning eight Gold Gloves and winning a Silver Slugger Award. He was thought to be a banjo hitter (a weak hitter) in the early years of his career but he has indeed gotten much better with the bat. Since 2009, he has the second best WAR (for catchers) in the MLB to Buster Posey.
Molina’s eight Gold Glove awards are unmatched by any other catchers in history besides the great Johnny Bench and the 2017 Hall of Fame Elect Ivan Rodriguez. This alone establishes him one of the best defensive catchers in history, and on top of that he has one of the best arms in the Big Leagues and is excellent at throwing out runners. Yadi is also approximately four hundred hits shy of 2000 career hits that will further contribute to his Hall of Fame case.
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
I do feel that Perez is very overrated, but I know I will get a major earful if I do not include him so here he is.
In six years, Royals’ fan favorite Salvador Perez has hit a career .272 batting average with 87 home runs. He has participated in four consecutive All-Star Games, won 4 consecutive Gold Gloves, and won one Silver Slugger. The fact that he led all American League catchers in home runs in 2016 with 22 and Slugging Percentage with .438, shows how few quality catchers there are in the American League.
What surprises me more, as I said earlier, is that he has won four consecutive Gold Gloves. However, he is not as exceptional of a fielder as you would think considering his four Gold Gloves. Also, Perez is actually a very poor pitch framer which presents a problem for his pitchers and team.
So Perez is a slightly above average catcher given the circumstances but there is no way that I personally would put Perez as my pick for best catcher besides Posey.
So let’s recap, I have taken six Major League catchers and told you their strengths and weaknesses. My candidates for the second best catcher in baseball were Jonathan Lucroy, Yadier Molina, Gary Sanchez, Salvador Perez, Russell Martin, and Brian McCann. Now, It is time to decide who is the second best catcher in baseball. So without further delay, here are my rankings.
6. Salvador Perez
Deserves to be on the list due to his hitting and 4 Gold Gloves.
5. Brian McCann
On the list because of his bat, which is to say home runs, home runs, home runs.
4. Russell Martin
This catcher has a decent bat and makes his pitchers better with good pitch framing and handling of his pitchers.
3. Gary Sanchez
A catcher with a cannon for an arm, some great defensive skills, and unusually great home run power. While too early to tell, he has great upside potential.
2. Jonathan Lucroy
Great at calling games and handling pitchers i.e. pitch framing. He has great power at the plate (24 home runs in 2016) and is a RBI machine which means he is a clutch hitter at the plate, all on a bad team. What will he do now?
1. Yadier Molina
Great defensively, one of the best arms in baseball, a solid hitter, 8-time All-Star, 7 Gold Gloves, 1 Silver Slugger Award. He is just the real deal! Molina gets the Crown.
Now that you know who I have chosen to be my number two catcher to Buster Posey, I would like to hear what you have to say. I encourage you to put your personal ranking of these six players in the comments section below.