The catcher the player behind the plate the coach on the field. So much of the game revolves around this position. Catcher is the only position on the field that touches the ball for 90% of the plays over all nine innings. It's also one of the few positions left where defense is a premium. When evaluating catchers, statistics do not tell the entire story. Creating the list of top five catchers in Major League Baseball going into the 2014 season is not as easy as it looks. A couple notes before getting to the list. Joe Mauer is no longer a catcher as of 2014. Mike Napoli did not catch a single inning last year, so he is ineligible. This list is comprised of current catchers going into the 2014 season.
Players having more innings at the catcher position will receive a better ranking than a player who splits time between catcher and another position. This is not a list of the hitters who also play catcher. This is not a list based on potential. This is a list of catchers that will be the best overall at their position at the end of the 2014 season barring injury. Debates will fly. Opinions will flow. Thought will be provoked. Most importantly, fun will be had.
5. Russell Martin (Pittsburgh Pirates):
Russell breaks the top five after an MVP worthy 2013 campaign. He caught the sixth most innings in the league last season with 1051. His overall WAR was third in the league for a catcher at 4.1. Russell is more of an asset defensively than offensively, but is no liability with the stick. His .703 OPS was even with league average for catchers. He leads the league by throwing out 36 would be base stealers and had the third best percentage for throwing runners out at 40.4%. Lastly, Russell was a true team leader the entire season for a young Pirates team that made the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years.
4. Matt Weiters (Baltimore Orioles): '
Matt Weiters was an iron man last year logging in a league leading 1201 innings caught and had the most games played, 140, and games started, 134, at catcher. With that many innings, one might think that Weiters tired out and had a dip in production. His .704 OPS was just slightly above the league average. Where Weiters really shined was defensively. He threw out 35.3% of base runners and was tied for second in the league with a .997 fielding percentage. Watching Weiters catch is a thing of beauty as his large frame receives the ball like a feather. He handles his staff with the best of them and gives his pitchers confidence to throw anything at any time. This type of defensive prowess that will be behind the dish day in and day out is only beat out by the best of the best.
3. Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals):
Perez is a case of potential meets real life. He has every tool a catcher needs to be an all time great. While he is not looking to get on base for free by walking, his ability to put the bat on the ball makes you forget about his low walk rate. His .757 OPS last year was fifth among catchers. That OPS was with a lower batting average than his first two years in the league and with only 13 home-runs. He also had 79 RBIs on a Royals team that struggled to get on base in front of him. Salvador is poised for a breakout year. And a breakout year from a career .301 hitter could vault Salvador to the best catcher in the league argument. All this talk about hitting makes people forget that Salvador is an above average catcher with no limit. His strong throwing arm already has him fifth in the league in throwing out runners. He is also top ten in fielding percentage and caught an amazing 1115 innings last year, tied for second. Salvador is a at the top of the heap now, and for years to come.
2. Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants):
It is hard to rank the two-time World Series and former MVP number two on any list. Unfortunately, Buster falls just short of the number one spot. Buster had the second best WAR, 4.8, of all catchers last year. His OPS of .821 was third. The strongest part of Buster’s game is leadership and his ability to control any and every situation. Think about just for a second his career this far. In a little under four seasons, he has earned Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, a Silver Slugger, two All-Star appearances and two World Series titles. One of those years was cut to just 45 games because of a broken leg. When you look up leader in the dictionary it says, “see also: Buster Posey.” If you talk to any of the pitchers on the Giants staff, they all talk about Buster’s ability to receive the ball and call a game. He is also the face of a franchise that is extremely fan friendly. With all that weight on his shoulders, Buster is able to perform year in and year out at the top level in his position. This earns him the number two spot for the games best catchers.
1. Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals):
How do you outperform a player like Buster Posey? Maybe we should ask Yadier Molina. To start, you become the baseball equivalent of a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. Yadier had the second best caught stealing percentage in the league last. Not so impressive right? Considering he had 27% less base runners even attempt to run on him compared to the number one caught stealing percentage catcher speaks volumes of what Yadier does behind the plate. Players just do not even try to steal on him. In the 1115 innings Yadier caught last year, he only had 46 attempted stolen bases. By the way, those 1115 innings caught were second in the league. We all know Yadier is the best defensive catcher in the league, but can he hit? Simply put, yes. He does not walk much. With that said he lead all catchers in batting average, slugging percentage and on base plus slugging (OPS). Remember that Buster has won two World Series rings? Well, Molina has two as well. Add to that six straight Gold Gloves, five straight All-Star appearances and the current silver slugger and you have the best catcher in Major League Baseball.
Now it is time to debate. Who are the top five catchers in the league going into the 2014 Major League Baseball season?
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