Ranking the Top 10 MLB Catchers is a very subjective task. How each person values catchers varies drastically. Some may value pitch framing and defense while some may value hitting. In the spirit of MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now, here’s Overtime’s Top 10 MLB Catchers.
10. Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yasmani Grandal kicks off this list after a successful 2015 season for the Dodgers. Grandal is a switch hitter with pop that also plays high-quality defense. His 16 home runs, 47 RBI, and .756 OPS profile well for the catcher’s spot in the order, and could have been even better if not for a second half swoon.
Grandal is also known as a world-class pitch framer behind the dish. Grandal is an expert at stealing strikes from the umpires, a very underrated skill. If Grandal can stay healthy, there’s even more room for improvement at age 27.
9. Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
The top prospect in a couple of trades, d’Arnaud cashed in on his potential in 2015. While he only played in 67 games due to injury, he crushed 12 homers and posted a spectacular .485 SLG. In fact, d’Arnaud’s OPS was second-best to only Buster Posey among catchers. To have a catcher that’s as good a hitter as d’Arnaud is very rare and very valuable.
But d’Arnaud also made strides in his defensive game. He is a leader for all of the Mets’ top young pitchers, and his 33% caught stealing rate is enough to deter opposing baserunners. Health is an issue, but d’Arnaud has a world of potential.
8. Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates
Frankie Cervelli finally got his chance in 2015, and he capitalized. The ex-Yankee backup finally played a whole season, and he didn’t disappoint. A .295 avg, .370 OBP, and .771 OPS were figures that look good for any catcher. Cervelli’s defense has improved over the years as well, and he looks to be a steal for the Pirates.
However, Cevelli only caught 22% of base stealers last year, which could use improvement. With Cervelli, health is always a concern, but if he can stay off of the DL, he showed in 2015 that he can be a stud catcher.
7. Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics
31-year-old Stephen Vogt made an interesting transition in 2015 from a utility player to All-Star catcher. He hit .261, clubbed 18 home runs, caught 32% of potential base stealers, and became a cult hero. However, after the All-Star Break, Vogt fell off big time, hitting just .217 with a .629 OPS.
If the Stephen Vogt from the first half of last year shows up, the A’s have themselves a top 5 catcher. However, his short track record and spotty second half hurt his ranking here. Vogt is a great defensive catcher, and if he bounces back, his ranking will rise.
6. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
Salvy Perez just keeps on trucking every day, which led to a dip in tangible on-field production. However, those in Kansas City know how good Perez is. He catches almost every game, plays solid defense, catches 31% of potential base stealers, and comes through with clutch power. His horrific .280 OBP hurts his numbers, and only generating 13 walks will earn you that number.
But Perez does hit 16-20 homers each year, and is always there for the Royals. He is a real team leader, well respected behind the dish, and just does all of the little things right. Another World Series ring could finally get Perez the respect he deserves.
5. Brian McCann, New York Yankees
McCann settled into the New York setting in 2015 after a brutal 2014. 26 homers and 94 RBI are good totals for a corner outfielder and outstanding for a catcher. McCann will never get on base like he did in Atlanta and the combination of Yankee Stadium and the shift have changed his approach, but he is still an elite-hitting catcher.
One aspect of McCann’s game that some overlook is his defense. He is a phenomenal backstop, and throws out 36% of potential base stealers. McCann is the quintessential leader that every club wants with their catcher, even if it costs $85 million.
4. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
Lucroy couldn’t back up his stellar 2014 season, but injuries and poor play around him could have something to do with that. Still, the dropoff from a consistent .285 hitter with 15 home runs and a high SLG to one with a .261 avg, 7 home runs, and a .391 SLG is a big one, one that cost Lucroy a spot in the rankings.
Lucroy is merely average at throwing out runners, but is a solid backstop. Even if Lucroy doesn’t become an .820 OPS player again, he is still more than likely an above-average offensive catcher. Lucroy should have a bounceback 2016.
3. Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
Russell Martin is another guy who does all of the little things right, but he has also come into his own over the past couple of years. He’s in a good situation in Toronto, and his .240, 23-homer, .787 OPS season holds up well when you combine his outstanding defense.
Martin was at first overrated, but is now appropriately ranked for a catcher of his caliber. He gunned down 44% of potential base stealers last year, and while he allowed a lot of passed balls, he is catching R.A. Dickey every fifth day. Martin may never be worth his lofty contract, but he is an important player for the Blue Jays.
2. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
The ultra-consistent Molina endured a disastrous 2015 season from day one. His power dried up, his OBP plummeted, and he got injured near season’s end. The .660 OPS was by far the worst of his career since 2006, and he just wasn’t the same for much of 2016.
But Molina’s one bad year may just be a mulligan. He has always been a model of consistency, and he’s still baseball’s premier defensive catcher. He has caught the most innings of any catcher since 2012, and has thrown out 45% of baserunners since then. Molina had a rough 2015, but let’s hope he can come back in 2016 like we know he can.
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Where do we start with Posey? He is really on a Hall of Fame-level with his offensive statistics for a catcher, and his defense is still above-average. He sees more time at first base now, but he is still a catcher first. He gets on base (.375 career OBP) but can also clear them (.484 career SLG, in a pitcher’s park). Posey is the greatest catcher of this generation, and still the best in the MLB.
He threw out 36% of baserunners last year, and hit 19 homers and drove in 95 runs when batting. There are few more complete players in the bigs than Buster Posey.