AnalysisOpinions

Top 10 Catchers Right Now

Some of the most fun sports fans have with each other is debating which player is better. Player A or Player B. Here at Diamond Digest, we are no different. I have asked our staff to name their top 10 players at each position on the baseball field and we will look to compare ours to The Shredder. Over the course of the next few weeks, Diamond Digest will release our composite lists for each position right now, and later on from the past 10 years.

The scoring system works like this: Each one of our writer’s top player at each position will receive 10 points, their second best 9, third best 8 and so on. The most points a player could receive was 230 points (All 23 first place votes).

My Rankings: 
Jordan Lewin-Skversky
Diamond Digest’s
Staff Rankings
MLB Network’s
“The Shredder”
1J.T. RealmutoJ.T. Realmuto (228)Buster Posey
2Buster PoseyBuster Posey (176)J.T. Realmuto
3Yasmani GrandalYasmani Grandal (165)Yasmani Grandal
4Gary SanchezGary Sanchez (159)Gary Sanchez
5Willson ContrerasWillson Contreras (147)Willson Contreras
6Wilson RamosYadier Molina (107)Yadier Molina
7Yadier MolinaWilson Ramos (91)Kurt Suzuki
8Mike ZuninoFrancisco Cervelli (55)Wilson Ramos
9Salvador PerezSalvador Perez (54)Mike Zunino
10Francisco CervelliMike Zunino (31)Salvador Perez

Other receiving votes: Yan Gomes (21), Tucker Barnhart (16), Jorge Alfaro (7), Kurt Suzuki (5), Willians Astudillo (2), Danny Jansen/Francisco Mejia (1)

Note: As many different opinions go into these different rankings. Both  Diamond Digest and MLB Network had the same top 7 catchers, save for #1-2

10. Mike Zunino- 27, Tampa Bay Rays

2018 Stats: .201/.259/.410, 20 HRs, 84 wRC+, 12 DRS, 18-52 CS, 1.5 fWAR

Usually when a player is considered to be among the top 10 at his position, the argument usually hinges primarily on offensive output, and their defensive contributions are considered a secondary factor. This is not the case with Mike Zunino. Zunino has been among the top defensive catchers in baseball since he entered the league in 2013, consistently putting up above average defensive metrics. He threw out 35% of would be base stealers in 2018, well above league average, as well as saving 12 more defensive runs than league average, and is an excellent pitch framer. His performance as a defender has helped excuse his offensive struggles throughout his career, but as he enters his age 28 season, as a member of a new team, there is a need for him to start hitting. His career .207 batting average looks even worse when you put it next to the fact that he’s struck out in 34.2% of his career plate appearances. Those close to the Mariners believe that he turned a corner in the second half of 2018 and started to see the ball better with the help of hitting coach Edgar Martinez. His batting average bumped after the All-Star game to .215 from .189, and he watched more pitches, recording more walks in the second half of the season despite fewer games played. Zunino is very feast or famine at this point in his career, but if he can couple consistency with his prodigious power, you could expect to see him higher of next year’s top 10. – Nick Tucker

9. Salvador Perez- 28, Kansas City Royals

Perez led the Royals to back to back World Series appearances

2018 Stats: .235/.274/.439, 27 HRS, 89 wRC+, 1 DRS, 25-52 CS, 1.7 fWAR

Perez has been one of the most prominent catchers in the MLB since his breakout 2012 and 2013 seasons, a mainstay in the Royals lineup and a fan favorite in Kansas City. In terms of playing time, Perez is a workhorse like few others, averaging over 142 games played between 2013-2016, and 138 from 2013-2018 despite an injury which delayed his first start of 2018. Perez isn’t a contact hitter, and his batting average has trended downward since his debut, but he still provides average to above average offensive production for a catcher and has increased his home run total in each year of his career. Perez has won five gold glove awards and two silver sluggers in his career, and been an All-Star every year since 2013. Despite a potential downward trend as Salvy continues his career, he has proven himself as one of the game’s best and remains such right now.- Ryan Ruhde

8. Francisco Cervelli- 32, Pittsburgh Pirates

2018 Stats: .259/.378/.431, 12 HRs, 125 wRC+, -6 DRS, 23-59 CS, 3.3 fWAR

Francisco Cervelli has quietly put together a solid MLB career. A career .273/.362/.383 hitter put together another good year in 2018, ending up with a .378 OBP and a career high .378 SLG (min. 50 games) in 2018. He also hit a career high 12 home runs and drove in 57 runs, also the most of his career. In addition, Cervelli’s fWAR of 3.3 finished third in baseball last season, behind Yasmani Grandal and J.T. Realmuto. – Adam Koplik

7. Wilson Ramos- 31, New York Mets

2018 Stats: .306/.358/.487, 15 HRs, 131 wRC+, -5 DRS, 14-48 CS, 2.4 fWAR

Wilson Ramos might just be the best hitting catcher in all of baseball, and he recently turned those skills into a 2 year/$19M deal with the Mets in December. While splitting time with the Rays and Phillies in 2018, he put up a 131 wRC+ and 111 DRC+, good for 1st and 5th among Major League Catchers, respectively. While injuries have been a problem for Ramos over his career, he has proven himself to be a valuable asset when healthy. Ramos is not the best base runner, nor is he an elite framer, but I’m sure the Mets will be more than happy with his average production in those areas, given his elite bat at the dish. Moving forward, Ramos should see success over his two years with the Mets (barring injury), who have long seen stagnant production at the catcher position since Mike Piazza. Could Wilson Ramos be the key piece the Mets were missing all along? Maybe, maybe not, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out! – Evan Alvarez

6. Yadier Molina- 36, St. Louis Cardinals

The ageless wonder continues to be a mainstay in the Cards lineup

2018 Stats: .261/.314/.436, 20 HRs, 103 wRC+, -1 DRS, 12-39 CS, 2.2 fWAR

Yadier Molina always has his doubters, but he keeps producing anyways. After suffering a gruesome groin injury in May that forced him to sit out for a month, he played seemingly every game from then on to finish the season. In his age 35 season, he posted his first 20 HR season since 2012. His slash line of .261/.314/.436 wasn’t the best of his career, but he held his own and anchored his Red Birds to a late-season playoff push. His 31% caught stealing was below his career average of 41%, but he remains one of the elite defensive catchers in baseball. Not many players can be expected to produce this late into their career, but expect the iron man of modern baseball to put up another productive season in 2019. – Reed Zahradnik

5. Willson Contreras- 26, Chicago Cubs

2018 Stats: .249/.339/.390, 10 HRs, 100 wRC+, -2 DRS, 27-79 CS, 2.6 fWAR

Willson Contreras was primed for a big 2018. Labeled by many as Top 3-5 catcher in the game prior to the season, Willson was not himself in 2018. His defense still allowed him to post a 2.6 fWAR, but this was disappointing after seeing a 3.3 fWAR in 2017, a year in which he played 21 less games. Contreras has also proved to be a poor pitch framer, and that really doesn’t help his case. More playing time in 2018 resulted in a decline in his overall offensive production. While his first half numbers (.279 BA, 7 homeruns, 34 RBIs) were enough to get him to the All-Star Game, his second half numbers did not nearly match. His .200/.291/.294 line also met with a higher strikeout rate. I don’t know if it was fatigue, or where the issues arose, but he needs to be better in 2019, and I see no reason why he can’t return to his prior form. The Cubs could certainly use a boost in those power numbers, and should he see them return to normal, we will likely be once again talking about Contreras as one of the best catchers in the game. For now though, his stock is low, and the rankings certainly reflect that. For Contreras to reach his ceiling, he’s going to need some help from the Cubs, a form that gets him more rest. – Jeremy May and Nick Tucker

4. Gary Sanchez- 26, New York Yankees

Can Sanchez bounce-back from his disappointing 2018 campaign?

2018 Stats: .186/.291/.406, 18 HRs, 89 wRC+, -6 DRS, 23-60 CS, 1.4 fWAR

2017 Stats: .278/.345/.531, 33 HRs, 129 wRC+, -5 DRS, 12-40 CS, 4.4 fWAR

Gary Sanchez had, in simple terms, an atrocious season. From continued defensive issues to shoulder and groin problems to not hustling down the first base line, 2018 was a lost season. But most of his struggles can be contributed to bad luck, as his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was .197. His BB% was 12.3%, up from 7.6% in 2017. Speaking of past seasons, it seems that everyone has forgotten how Gary Sanchez tore up the league in just 229 plate appearances in his rookie year. This is the same Gary Sanchez that proceeded to hit .278/.345/.531 with 33 homers in 2017, solidifying his status as a great offensive catcher. Defensively, despite the passed balls, Sanchez has actually been serviceable at the position in his career (1.6 dWAR, 10 DRS) and still has a cannon for an arm (36% CS). With that all said and the fact that the catcher position is the weakest in the game, this solidifies Gary Sanchez as a top five catcher in baseball. — Payton Ellison

3. Yasmani Grandal- 30, Milwaukee Brewers

2018 Stats: .241/.349/.466, 24 HRs, 125 wRC+, 9 DRS, 20-72 CS, 3.6 fWAR

Even with his highlighted struggles in the postseason, Grandal is about as steady a regular season performer as they come. Although his batting average remains low, he consistently finishes with an on base percentage around .340, and has finished with 20+ home runs in each of the past 3 seasons. At a weak position, Grandal is one of the premier offensive, and defensive, catchers in the game – Brian Schlosser

2. Buster Posey- 31, San Francisco Giants

Will Posey continue to catch into his mid 30s?

2018 Stats: .284/.359/.382, 5 HRs, 106 wRC+, 2 DRS, 22-58 CS, 4.2 fWAR

2017 Stats: .320/.400/.462, 12 HRs, 127 wRC+, 10 DR, 17-59 CS, 2.0 fWAR

After being, for the most part, the consensus best catcher in baseball for years, Buster Posey’s stats declined in 2018. Even so, he still was able to make it to Washington for the All-Star Game last summer. He was also, only playing in 105 games. As he gets older, he will be increasingly relegated to first base and spend less time behind the plate. However, he caught in 88 of those 105 games, so at this point, he is certainly still a catcher. He didn’t qualify for the batting title in 2018, so his statistics are somewhat incomparable. If we look at 2017, we see the Buster Posey we’re used. He only trailed Gary Sanchez in OPS among catchers with a .861 mark. Even in his injury-riddled 2018 campaign, he posted an above-average offensive year. Only 3 catchers finished with a higher OPS than Posey did in his 105 games. Posey hasn’t been great, but catcher is probably the weakest position in baseball. Defensively, Posey can still play and it’s more a matter of his knees than the quality of his play that is moving him to first base. He had a higher fWAR in 2018 than the three guys who finished ahead of him in OPS, and there’s no doubt he is still a viable catcher in this league. Is Posey declining? Yes, but with such a shallow position, he remains one of the top catchers in baseball. – Peter Khayat

1. J.T. Realmuto- 27, Miami Marlins (for now)

2018 Stats: .277/.340/.484, 21 HRs, 126 wRC+, -7 DRS, 21-55 CS, 4.8 fWAR

The biggest question for JT Realmuto is where he will be spending the 2019 season, after he demanded a trade. The Padres, Reds, Braves, Dodgers, and others have shown interest, but whoever ends up with him will be landing the best in the business. At the plate, Realmuto is a consistent hitter who had his best year at the plate last season, hitting .277/.340/.484 with 21 hope runs and 74 RBI. Realmuto’s fWAR of 4.8 topped all catchers last year, and his wRC+ of 126 was the most among qualified catchers. While the case can be made that he is not the top backstop at the plate nor defensively, he has the best mix of offense and defense, which gives him the top spot in our rankings. – Adam Koplik

Diamond Digest’s #1 Catcher!!!

Watch out for The Top 10 Right Fielders Right Now later this week!

Feel free to debate any of our rankings on twitter @diamond_digest or my personal account @JordanSkversky

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