Buster Posey and the Best Offensive Catchers in Baseball
Being a catcher is a tough job.
A lot of catchers earn their jobs on the basis of their defense. If there is one position in the field where a team can not afford weak defense, it is behind the plate. The catcher is involved in nearly every play. He is calling the pitches and reading the offense.
If the catcher loses sight of a ball heading his way, chaos can ensue on the field. It is of the utmost importance that a catcher have rock-solid defense.
That is why a catcher who can produce on offense is invaluable. You hire the guy for his defense and if he shines on offense too, then he is worth his weight in gold.
Here is a list of the top offensive catchers playing today.
2010 Rookie of the Year and 2010's World Series darling Buster Posey easily sets the standard for what it means to be a top offensive catcher. Posey's 2010 campaign was so impressive that he actually finished 11th in the NL MVP voting, the highest ranked catcher to boot.
2011 did not go quite as well for Posey. As anyone who has a television can probably attest to, Posey was taken down in a bang-bang play at the plate by Scott Cousins, effectively ending his 2011 season very prematurely.
Without the anchor of Posey's bat, the Giants offense suffered and the team failed to make the playoffs in their post championship year.
Posey is back in 2012 and proving that his stellar 2010 season was no fluke. In just 33 games played, Posey has already put up 4 home runs—almost exactly on par with the 34 games it took him to hit 4 in 2010.
If playing a full season can improve on Buster's numbers or even closely parallel them, Buster will be one of the game's elite catchers for a long time to come.
Mike Napoli is a member of a very small list of Major League Baseball players. He belongs to an exclusive club of players who hit a home run in their first major league at-bat. With a start like that, Mike Napoli was destined to become a great offensive catcher.
2011 saw Napoli have his best season yet offensively.
On a very strong offensive Texas Rangers team, Napoli was one of their top hitters, perhaps the best in the second half of the season. There were rumblings during the 2011 World Series that should the Rangers win that Napoli, should have a shot for World Series MVP.
Napoli seems to have hit his stride since coming to Texas in a trade for Vernon Wells. Napoli was never utilized as a full-time catcher in Anaheim. As the story goes, Scioscia did not feel that Mike was a strong enough catcher defensively and often preferred to use Jeff Mathis behind the plate.
Napoli was traded to Texas in a move that continues to delight Rangers fans.
Napoli had a slow start in 2012, hitting only .125 over the first seven games with a paltry 2 RBI while putting up 9 strikeouts. There was a fear that perhaps the 2011 season was an aberration and he was not the player they had grown to love.
Napoli has since put those fears to bed, having now hit 7 home runs with 18 RBI over 134 plate appearances, well on his way to matching his spectacular 2011 production.
In 2009, Matt Wieters was lauded by Keith Law as baseball's number one prospect. It may have taken him some time to come into his own, but Wieters has finally arrived and seems to be here to stay.
The Orioles lead the AL East, a feat that is surprising to many, with the American League's best record and that is largely due to Wieters' absolutely stellar start to the year. After having a very good 2011 season, Wieters seems poised to make 2012 his breakout year.
Almost 40 games into the season and Wieters is already leading all Major League catchers with eight home runs. This puts him on pace to out do last season's very respectable 22 home runs. Wieters ranks near the tops in many major offensive categories—including OPS (3rd) and runs (1st).
At the young age of 25, Wieters has finally become the player the Orioles have hoped he would be. Oriole fans should be enjoying one of baseball's best catchers for a long time to come.
Is it even possible to have a list of catchers for any reason at all that does not include a Molina?
It took Yadier 7 full seasons in the major leagues to finally hit his stride at the plate. Now that he has, the four-time Gold Glove winner and youngest Molina brother has taken his brother's place as one of the finest offensive catchers in the league.
The 2011 season saw Molina set career highs in several important offensive categories— including home runs (14), RBI (65), doubles (32) and batting average (.305). These are some excellent numbers for an NL catcher who found himself in 139 games in 2011.
Putting up those kind of numbers while being durable enough to play in that many games is an invaluable quality for a catcher.
Molina is having a great start to his 2012 season as well. Having already crack 13 doubles, he is well on his way to besting his 32 double season as his new career-best. His 4 home runs in 136 plate appearances also puts him on pace to have the best power-hitting season of his career.
If you had to pick a Molina for your squad (and let's face it, most teams do!), then the defensively brilliant and newly offensively solid Yadier Molina is who you go for.
I have no idea how Carlos Ruiz is on this list either.
Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz has always been an excellent defensive catcher and a perfectly acceptable offensive catcher. At the age of 33, Ruiz is in the midst of the best season of his career—a welcome surprise for the Philadelphia Phillies, who are in desperate need of a bright spot on its currently bleak offensive landscape.
Ruiz is currently leading all Major League catchers with a very impressive .363 batting average. He ranks second among catchers with 24 RBI—a number that puts him on pace to easily surpass his previous career high of 54 RBI. Last night's game saw Ruiz put up 4 hits against the Cubs, raising his batting average another .020 in the process.
Ruiz was invaluable to the Phillies during their 2008 World Series championship and remains even more so now in a lineup that is under producing. It would be an enormous surprise to see anyone besides Ruiz as the starting catcher for the National League during this year's All-Star Game.
In only his second full season in the majors, Carlos Santana is making a name for himself as one of baseball's elite catchers. The Cleveland Indians recently signed him to a 5-year deal and there is a good reason they want to keep this kid around.
Santana had a superb 2011 season. He hit 27 home runs, the second most among catchers, and he scored tops among catchers with 84 runs scored. He also drew 97 walks, a nice counterbalance to his 133 strikeouts. Only six catchers have ever hit for at least 25 home runs and drawn that many walks. A 4.1 WAR as a 25-year-old catcher isn't too shabby either.
The Indians may have just scored themselves a steal by locking up Santana. This catcher can hit for some real power, not to mention he is a switch hitter.
Brian McCann has been nothing short of an excellent offensive producer in his eight years as an Atlanta Brave.
Since his promotion to a full time player, he has hit at least 20 home runs every year but one, falling just shy at 18. He has driven in at least 70 RBI every year and has a career batting average of .285.
Those solid numbers prove why 8 years later, the former All Star Game MVP is still a worthwhile choice to have both behind and at the plate.
His numbers may have taken a bit of a slide in recent years, but his track record and proven consistency will keep him on the list for now.
Despite a very rough start for his Minnesota Twins, it would be remiss to leave three-time American League batting champion and former AL MVP Joe Mauer off this list.
Despite coming off an injury-stricken 2011 that marred the first year of an enormous seven year contract, Mauer seems to be back in old form. Having the old Mauer back is an invaluable asset for the Minnesota Twins.
As any of the teams with great offensive catchers will tell you, having a strong bat in a notoriously offensively barren position is nothing short of bonus production.
Nearly 40 games into the 2012 season and Mauer ranks in the top five for catchers in hits (5th), doubles (3rd), walks (2nd) and OBP (4th). With numbers like that, any team would be glad to have him—though maybe not at that price.