RANKED: Each Team’s Catcher Going Into 2021

ST LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 12: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after the final out against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 12, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 1 to 0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

For my first post on this brand sparkling new website, I wanted to begin one of the many series’ I will be writing about on this blog. It will cover the position by position ranking for each position in baseball. We will begin looking at the catching position.

The position was once dominated by names such as Posey, Mauer, Molina and others, but recently new names have begun to rise in their play, while some of the previous powerhouses at the position have begun to age, and with the demand of the position, their production has declined.

Also along with the rankings we will keep track of each teams “score” of where their projected starters were ranked, and at the end of the ranking, we will see where each team stands (30th= point, 1st=30 points and so on..)

One more thing, James McCann will be listed underneath the DH section of the rankings, and I went off of the projected 2021 depth charts, in which Higashioka was placed ahead of Gary Sanchez, as he deserves. Lastly, Michael Perez was recently selected off wavers by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and due to the Tampa Bay Rays not currently having any catchers on their Depth Chart, Michael Perez will be the one being analyzed.

30th

Grayson Greiner (DET)

The 2014 third round pick out of the University of South Carolina got his first real shot at consistent playing time in 2019, and squeaked out a .202/.251/.308 slash line with an .559 OPS and a 47 OPS+. Also Greiner was ranked in the lower half in framing metrics in 2020, and his offensive woes continued in 2020, as he mustered a .515 OPS and an even lower 36 OPS+. The Tigers are likely going to be in the market for a low cost catcher this offseason, so this might be the last we see of Greiner in a Tigers uniform unless something drastically changes in 2021.

29th

Elias Diaz (COL)

Diaz, who signed with the Rockies after spending the previous five year of his major league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Diaz saw some success at the major league level in 2018 with the Pirates, hitting .286 with 10 home runs and a .792 OPS. But in 2019 saw his numbers drop and then found himself being signed by the Colorado Rockies. In 2020, Diaz put together a slash line of .235/.288/.353 with an .641 OPS. One of Diaz biggest downfalls is the fact he just does not walk, and ho does not strikeout that much, he just does not find barrel. In 2019, according to BaseballSavant.com, he found only 6 barrels in 303 At Bats, which ranks him 264th in all of baseball. Catching wise, Diaz is middle of the pack in about every category. Looking ahead for Diaz, it is likely that the stagnant Rockies will once again use him and a LHH catcher in a platoon situation.

28th

Michael Perez (TB)

With Mike Zunino’s departure to free agency, and pending the Rays signing someone else, Michael Perez would be the opening day catcher for the defending AL Champions, which is pretty scary to think. Perez is a well below average hitter, with a career batting average of .221 and a career OPS+ of 67, but what Perez does that the previous two catcher don’t, is play strong defense, which pushed him up mildly on this list.

27th

Jose Trevino (TEX)

With Robinson Chirinos hitting the free agent market, after a lackluster 2020 season spent with the Rangers and Mets, it is a good possibility that the Rangers give Trevino his first full time shot of being an everyday catcher. Trevino who just recently turned 28, has shown flashes of being a competent catcher at times in his career, albeit with only having 204 career at bats. Last year with the Rangers, Trevino took over after the Chirinos trade and put together a .250/.280/.434 slash line with a OPS+ at 91. Trevino, who has been an above average hitter against fastballs, struggles against pitchers breakers and off-speed pitches, between 2019-2020, Trevino hit .304 against fastballs, and .182 against everything else. Catching wise, he is a mixed bag, as he is middle of the pack, directly at the 50% percentile for framing, and his caught stealing numbers were terrific in 2019, but took a huge step back in the shortened 2020 season. Trevino will likely never be a star, but he should develop into a serviceable catcher and an even more productive backup catcher.

26th

Danny Jansen (TOR)

It has been a lackluster last two seasons for Jansen, who took over the full time playing load for the Toronto Blue Jays, after showing signs of above average play in 2018. Since that season, his 2019-2020 average slash line has been .195/.296/.359 with an .656 OPS. Obviously these numbers are atrocious, and the other four players have posted numbers either at the same level, or above what Jansen has produced in the last two seasons, but what Jansen has, is youth (being only 25) and being one of the top 20 catchers when it comes to pitch framing, which as Jose Molina has shown in the past, is a significant tool for a team developing pitchers. I expect Jansen to take a small step forward in 2021 and eventually move farther up these rankings.

25th

Jorge Alfaro (MIA)

Alfaro, who is only 27, and already being a part of two blockbuster trades (traded with a package that brought Cole Hamels to Texas, and traded again in a package that brought JT Realmuto to Philadelphia) has shown flashes of being an above average offensive catcher. Alfaro’s standout season so far came in 2019, when he got his first full time job catching for the bottom feeding Marlins (not anymore), and put together .262/.312/.425 slash line with a .736 OPS. With the glove, he was one of the better defensive catchers in baseball in 2018, but struggled mightily since leaving Philadelphia with the glove, but one tool he has that not many other catchers have is a very plus throwing arm, as he averaged 88.3 MPH on his throws, which ranked second in baseball, and was in the top eight in average pop time. Alfaro has some high ceiling potential, but at this point, he has just shown glimmers of it.

24th

Max Stassi (LAA)

Stassi finally got an opportunity to be a full time catcher during the 2018- 2020 seasons and he delivered at times. After the first five seasons of his major league career, receiving less than 40 at bats in each of those seasons, the last two seasons in 2019 and 2020 he has gotten no less than 100. In 2020, in a limited sample size slashed .278/.352/.533 with an .886 OPS, all well above average for the catching position. Framing is something that Stassi excels at, in 2018, he finished second in Runs Extra Strikes behind framing wizard Jeff Mathis with 10, and has not finished below the top 20 since then. If Stassi can provide a similar type of production at the plate as he showed in 2020, and retain his excellent catching, we could be looking at a top 10 catcher in baseball. That’s all a big “if” though.

23rd

Jacob Stallings (PIT)

Who? Yeah that’s fair when discussing the majority of the Pittsburgh Pirates dwindled down roster. Stallings likely at this point is one of the Pirates top 10 players on there roster, which is not discredit to him. He has taken the starting job and been just a little below league average with the bat, sporting a 90 OPS+ and has been above average with the glove, finishing in the top three for gold glove voting this past season. While Stallings will likely never be an offensive powerhouse, he is a nice fit for a rebuilding Pirates team, who needs a savvy catcher behind the dish that can help progress the young pitching.

22nd

Tucker Barnhart (CIN)

Speaking of savvy veterans who were nominated for a gold glove in 2020, here’s the man who won the award for the National League. Barnhart, who likely will never be even an average hitter in the majors, does much more for his team with the glove than many others do. Sporting a career .698 OPS and beginning to enter the last couple years of his “prime” the bat likely will not take the turn that many were hoping, the glove will likely not take many steps backwards in the coming years. Unlike the previous individuals, Barnhart does not help his team much when it comes to framing metrics, as last year he was 18th in Runs Extra Strikes, 24th in 2019, and was the worst at 60th in 2018. Barnhart goes about being a great defensive catcher in a different way, according to BaseballReference.com and Baseball Info Solutions, the Bill James based company, Tucker Barnhart had 9 Rdrs, which calculates how many runs an individual saves per year above the league average, which is the best he has put up since 2017, where he won his other Gold Glove. Barnhart will likely still receive playing time with the Reds, but with Curt Casali having a good season in 2020, it is likely we begin to see a platoon be put into effect, to try to get more offense out of the position.

21st

Kyle Higashioka (NYY)

With the huge fall off of production by Gary Sanchez, it is likely the Yankees will open the season with Higashioka as their everyday catcher. While Higashioka’s numbers do not jump out of the page at you, I do believe he has potential moving forward for the New York Yankees. The catcher in limited playing time last season put together a .521 SLG in 48 AB’s after taking over for Sanchez, and brought a well polished glove that Sanchez was severely lacking behind the plate. The big knock against Higashioka is the fact he does not get on base at a high enough rate to be an everyday catcher, as evident by his horrible career .221 OBP and walking only 8 times in 204 career at bats. I do believe that with the woes that Sanchez had and the promise Higashioka showed in 2020, that he will take a large step forward in 2021.

20th

Martin Maldonado (HOU)

The aging veteran Maldonado, will enter his 11th season, and has established himself as a defensive minded catcher, only having two seasons in his career with an OPS over .720. Back in 2017, Maldonado led all of baseball by a large margin in Runs Extra Strikes, but recently with age he has fallen to 51st this past season. Maldonado still ranks in the top 15 in pop time and still sports an above average ability to throw out runners and call a game, which is where his true value is. It is likely that within a couple of years, Maldonado will no longer have the same agility that he did when he was a defensive standout in 2017, but as of right now he is serviceable for an Astros team that has quickly turned into a younger pitching staff in need of a veteran that understands how to call a game and that they can trust, which Maldonado does an excellent job of.

19th

Wilson Ramos (NYM)

The quickly aging Ramos, was arguably once one of the top 10 catchers in baseball, during his rise in 2016-2018, but now, heading towards to other side of 30, he is coming off his worst offensive year since 2015. In 2020, Ramos slashed .239/.297/.387 with an 88 OPS+. It is likely that the “Buffalo” will begin the dreaded regression of being a catcher in the later part of their career, and for some catchers they can stick around because of their defense, but in Ramos case, he is one of the bottom tier defensive catchers in the league, and does not offer basically anything in the framing category or in controlling the run game. Unfortunately, barring a resurgence, it is likely that Ramos (who is currently a free agent) has already seen his best days in baseball.

18th

Yan Gomes (WSH)

The other half of the Nationals platoon for the past two seasons that brought a championship to Washington D.C., Gomes once was a high profile catcher, especially after winning a silver slugger in 2014, has seen his production with the bat go up and down from year to year. 2019-2020 was no different, in 2019, Gomes had a .704 OPS, and in 2020 Gomes had a .787 OPS, which is higher than his silver slugger year in 2014. While Gomes framing metrics have dropped throughout the years, his overall catching has stayed at an above average rate, and his arm has stayed towards the top of the league when it comes to throwing runners out, ranking in the top 15 in baseball. Gomes will continue to be an above average catcher for a little while longer, and the 2020 season with the bat is a good sign moving forward.

17th

Omar Narvaez (MIL)

Narvaez transition to the National League and the Milwaukee Brewers could not have gone much worse, after coming off a career year in 2019, Narvaez had a disastrously bad 2020 with the bat, slashing .176/.294/.269 with a .562 OPS. I believe that Narvaez will bounce back with the bat, and look more like his 2019 form than the horrible offensive player he was in 2020. Defensively in 2020, is a different story, as he ranked first in Runs Extra Strikes, and improved in throwing out runners, and it was a surprise to not see him be a finalist for the Gold Glove. I believe Narvaez will turn it around in 2021 for the Brewers, and we will see him closer to the top 10 of this list.

16th

Carson Kelly (ARI)

Kelly is one of the handful of new faces on the scene when it comes to catching, the Diamondbacks 25 year old, put together a solid 2019 season, but had a tough go of it in 2020, with a .649 OPS. While I don’t know if Kelly will ever be a high batting average type of catcher, who reaches base at an above average rate, he does show at times that he has the potential to be a high power rate profile catcher, which is a rarity. Catching wise, he is above average in basically every category, and will only get better with more experience in the league. Look for big things from Kelly in the future.

15th

Pedro Severino (BAL)

I’m sure the Washington Nationals are rethinking their choice of DFA’ing Severino back in 2019, as ever since then, he has developed into an above average catcher for the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles, with an OPS at or above .710 in both of his first two seasons. Along with the rise in at bats and opportunity, he has maintained his development as a catcher and stayed within the mid to upper level in most catching metrics, besides framing, which is something he still struggles with. Moving forward, the Orioles found themselves a young catcher who is only 27, to hold the spot down until top prospect Adley Rutschman makes his way to the big leagues, then Severino will be a nice get for another team through trade.

14th

Yadier Molina (STL)

One of the greatest catchers of all time, and the greatest catcher of our generation comes in at 14th on my list, because of a few factors. Molina is approaching 40, as he will turn 39 in this upcoming season, and with the age, his offensive production has taken a large dip, as to be expected. The last season he was at least league average with the bat was in 2018, and since then has averaged an 84 OPS+ in 2019/2020 combined. Along these same lines, he was in the lower 7th percentile in barrel percentage, and in the bottom 1 percent in sprint speed, which is a recipe for a horrible offensive year, and years to come. Defense has always been the calling card for Molina throughout his career, and likely it has seen some regression too throughout the years, but it still stays at an above average level, ranking 12th in Runs Extra Strikes, and 24th in average pop time. Molina is a hall of famer already, and will go down as one of the greatest catchers of all time, but even the great ones regress eventually.

13th

Buster Posey (SF)

Another legendary catcher, who has seen a collection of different factors play into his regression. After a career low 2019 season in basically every offensive category for Posey, he decided to sit out the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Posey, the man who has an MVP award, a ROTY award, three rings, and countless other achievements and awards is headed towards 34 years old, and with the top catching prospect Joey Bart coming up in 2020, so it is likely that Posey will either be playing first base, or if the universal DH is implemented, will see a good share there. I believe Posey has enough left in the tank to have a few more good years or this Hall of Fame worthy career, and possibly see the Giants back to contention in a crowded NL West.

12th

Tom Murphy (SEA)

I am a big believer in Tom Murphy’s abilities, after a broken foot left him unavailable for the 2020 season, after an absolute breakout 2019 season. In that 2019 season, Murphy hit .273/.324/.535 with a .858 OPS which ranked third among all catchers (min 250 AB’s). One of the more astonishing things about Murphys 2019, was the fact that he hit 18 home runs in 281 AB’s, which would have put him on pace for close to 35 if he had a full year of constant playing time and maintained his pace. Defensively he is great at controlling the run game and getting extra strikes for his pitcher, as he ranked 16th in Runs Extra Saved in 2019. Look for a huge bounceback year from Tom Murphy in 2021.

11th

Sean Murphy (OAK)

Back to back Murphy’s, that’s pretty cool right? Right?

Sean Murphy is looking more and more like the catcher of the future for the Oakland A’s going forward, since his debut in 2019. Some would say it is way too early to have Murphy this high on the list, as he has only accumulated 200 AB’s at the Major League level. But during that stretch, he has put up similar numbers to some of the best catchers in the league. Through those 200 career AB’s, he has a .846 OPS with an 133 OPS+, and was the 8th best catcher according to OPS in 2020, ahead of the likes of Wilson Contreras and Yasmani Grandal. Along with the bat, Murphy also has an absolute cannon of an arm, ranking in the top six catchers in average throw down velocity with 87.4 MPH.

10th

Roberto Perez (CLE)

Roberto Perez might have the weirdest career out of any catcher on this list, as for most of his career he has been a near Mendoza line hitter. But something changed in 2019, as he posted the best year of his career and took off defensively. In 2020, his numbers took a dive in the shortened season, but just how good he is defensively, makes up for below average numbers, which I think going forward into 2021 he will put together an OPS closer to his 2019 one, when it was .774. Expect more Gold Gloves in Perez future as he establishes himself as the new perennial winner

9th

Mitch Garver (MIN)

After a breakout 2019 season that saw Garver win the Silver Slugger award, 2020 saw Garver take a huge step backwards and slash .167/.247/.264. An uninspiring season for a young catcher who took the league by storm the year before for the Twins. The interesting thing, is that in 2020, Garver’s Hard Hit % stayed the exact same as it was during his stellar 2019 year, but his strikeout % went up nearly double (24.2 versus 45.7). Garver will need to revert back to finding more contact, if he wishes to raise his BABIP and BA. Defensively, Garver is a below average defensive catcher, that does not frame very well, and likely eventually will move to more of a DH role, if his bat can come close to where it was in 2019.

8th

Austin Nola (SD)

Nola likely will be remembered as the biggest piece in the trade that sent Taylor Trammell to Seattle and made Nola a San Diego Padre, last trade deadline. While Nola is surprisingly old, having spent 8 years in the minor leagues before finally making his major league debut with Seattle in 2019. In 2019, Nola played at least 1 game at every position besides shortstop and pitcher, with the majority coming as a firs baseman. When the Padres traded for Nola, their thought was to transition him into a full time catcher, which worked out well in their short time together. Last season, Nola in time with SEA and SD slashed .273/.353/.472 with an .825 OPS. Defensively, in his short time as as full time catcher, already ranks in the top 10% of catchers in framing metrics, and a little above average in controlling runners. The future is bright in sunny San Diego.

7th

Christian Vazquez (BOS)

Constantly, the forgotten man on his own team, as the likes of Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart have taken time from him in the past, but finally in 2019, he earned the full time job, and proved he could handle it. In 2019-2020 he has averaged a slash line of .280/.332/.467 good for a .800 OPS. Along with the offensive tools, Vazquez in 2020 among all qualified catchers had the highest fielding percentage and threw out the most runners of any catcher in baseball. He will continue to progress going into his age 31 season.

6th

Will Smith (LAD)

It is hard to put a young catcher that has not truly proven his numbers this high on the list, but what Smith has managed to do in his short time in the league, has been nothing short of remarkable. In 333 PA, Smith has posted a .937 career OPS, to put this in perspective, Albert Pujols career OPS is .923. It is obviously a long shot to say Will Smith will be anywhere close to how great Pujols has been in his career, but to see this kind of offensive production from a 25 year old catcher is astonishing. It is not farfetched to see Smith being #1 on this list sooner rather than later.

5th

Willson Contreras (CHC)

With all the fanfare that Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant get on this team (deservedly so) Contreras sometimes is the forgotten man. But he has done nothing but preform since he came up with the Cubs in 2016, having a career 113 OPS+ in his time with the Cubs and only having it drop below league average once in 2018. Along with the consistent offensive production, comes one of the stronger defensive catchers, with the second strongest arm behind the plate, averaging a 1.91 pop time to second base.

4th

Salvador Perez (KC)

People for some reason have forgotten about Salvador Perez, there wasnt much talk surrounding his return in 2020, and he came back onto the scene with the strongest season he has had as a pro. His unreal 2020 season featured a slash of .333/.353/.633 with a .986 OPS. The new face of the Royals with Alex Gordons retirement, he will look to build on his strong 2020 season going into his age 31 season. While he has never been a terrific framer, he has gotten better with more and more exposure, and his pop time will remain ass on of the best in the game at 1.98, along with his savvy knowledge of pitch calling and ability to block, Perez has a great chance at returning to the catcher that was a 6 straight all-star game worthy player.

3rd

Travis d’Arnaud (ATL)

d’Arnaud is a prime example of how a change of scenery can help a player significantly, as his time with the New York Mets from 2013-2018, he had a career OPS of .684, and since leaving, he has an OPS of .832. In his time with Tampa Bay and Atlanta, d’Arnaud, he has increased the rate in which he walks by almost a whole 2 percent, and in 2020 with the Braves increased his hard hit percentage by more than 20 percent. He is striking out at a higher rate (almost 10% higher than his highest total with the Mets min 150 AB’s) but he is sacrificing striking out in exchange for more power, as his SLG and xSLG have gone through the roof. Catching wise, he will not win nor lose you the game behind the plate, but he is a little bit above average. Turning 31 recently, it is not too late to make the Mets regret this deal even more than they already do.

2nd

Yasmani Grandal (CHW)

Grandal truly burst on the scene with the Dodgers back in 2015, earning his first all-star selection, and since then has put up great numbers. Surprisingly, even through Grandals first seasons with the Padres back in 2012-2014, when he seemed to be a below average player, averaging a .246 batting average, he still has never posted a OPS+ below 100 in his nine year major league career. Along with a powerful and steady bat, Grandal is considered one of the best framing and game managing catchers in baseball, never finishing below 4th in Runs Extra Saved, and being #1 in 2015.

1st

J.T. Realmuto (PHI)

What is there to say about Realmuto that isn’t currently being said? With him being one of the three main pieces of the 2020-2021 free agents, money will likely be thrown at him in buckets this offseason. And it should be, the 2019-2020 Philadelphia Phillies catcher maintained an OPS above .820 for the last three seasons, has the best arm of any catcher (not named Francisco Mejia) and the fastest average pop time (1.89). Also he has progressed from one of the worst framing catchers in the league, to the second best, finishing behind Omar Narvaez. He is the closest thing to a complete package as there is when it comes to catchers, and your team should be trying to get him regardless of their record.

Team Rankings So Far

1.) Philadelphia Phillies- 30

2.) Chicago White Sox- 29

3.) Atlanta Braves- 28

4.) Kansas City Royals- 27

5.) Chicago Cubs- 26

6.) Los Angeles Dodgers- 25

7.) Boston Red Sox- 24

8.) San Diego Padres- 23

9.) Minnesota Twins- 22

10.) Cleveland Indians- 21

11.) Oakland A’s- 20

12.) Seattle Mariners- 19

13.) San Francisco Giants- 18

14.) St. Louis Cardinals- 17

15.) Baltimore Orioles- 16

16.) Arizona Diamondbacks- 15

17.) Milwaukee Brewers- 14

18.) Washington Nationals- 13

19.) New York Mets- 12

20.) Houston Astros- 11

21.) New York Yankees- 10

22.) Cincinnati Reds- 9

23.) Pittsburgh Pirates- 8

24.) Los Angeles Angels- 7

25.) Miami Marlins- 6

26.) Toronto Blue Jays- 5

27.) Texas Rangers- 4

28.) Tampa Bay Rays- 3

29.) Colorado Rockies- 2

30.) Detroit Tigers- 1

Published by riskomatt

I am a 23 year old college baseball player at Cumberland University. In the past I have worked for Baseball Info Solutions, I have coached at varying levels, ranging from youth, to collegiate. I am a sports management major in college, entering my senior year, with a minor in journalism. I love to write and I love baseball, so a blog seemed once again a great place to start. Former owner of Its Always Baseball Season sports blog.

One thought on “RANKED: Each Team’s Catcher Going Into 2021

  1. Great writing!! If I was a GM, I would be interested in all of the good and all of the bad that is written about each player!!!

    Like

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