MLB Rankings 2013: Top 10 Catchers

Jack GodfreyContributor IIMay 1, 2013

MLB Rankings 2013: Top 10 Catchers

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    Rankings for the top 10 catchers in 2013 is not a topic that many would expect to vary from the top 10 catchers in 2012. However, young athletes at the position such as Wilin Rosario and J.P. Arencibia are off to red-hot starts, while guys like Brian McCann and Alex Avila have been injured or cold to start the year. More in-depth analysis is needed to properly judge the rankings for the top 10 catchers in baseball.

    The catcher position is one of the most vital for a top-tier baseball team. They are field generals and leaders of teams, and unlike many position players, their defense is one of the most crucial parts of their skill set. 

    However, what makes a catcher truly elite and allows him to find himself in the top 10 is the combination of immense defensive talent behind the plate and equal talent in the batter's box. The best catchers in baseball are also some of the best hitters, leaders and play the best defense. They are game changers who posses talent in every facet of the game.

    The following is a ranking of the top 10 catcher in Major League Baseball today based on offensive stats as well as an emphasis on the importance of great stats in the department of defense. 

    Here are the top 10 catchers right now in Major League Baseball.

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    Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

    2013 Stats: .263/.277/.375, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R

    The 22-year-old catcher out of Venezuela turned heads in 2012 by posting a line of .301/.328/.471 and slugging 11 HR and 39 RBI in 76 games. 

    After numbers like that in 2012, it's hard to imagine Salvador Perez simply being average. RoyalsReview.com writer Connor Moylan says that Perez still needs to adjust his approach at the plate before he can truly have a breakout year that will solidify him as a top catcher in the league.

     

    Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

    2013 Stats: .233/.278/.397, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 7 R

    Jonathan Lucroy is coming off of a stellar 2012 campaign where he posted a line of .320/.368/.513 with 12 HR and 42 RBI. At the ripe age of 26 it appeared that Lucroy was breaking into his prime and would be poised for an even better 2013 season. 

    He's gotten off to a decent start to the season at the plate, but it has only been a glimmer of the talent he displayed last season. Lucroy is definitely one of the catchers to keep an eye on as the season progresses due to his natural ability at the plate.

    Much like the other two catchers mentioned so far, Lucroy has the ability to crack the top 10 catchers in the league and demonstrate his full potential.

     

    John Buck, New York Mets

    2013 Stats: .250/.279/.575, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 14 R

    There is no denying that John Buck is slugging with the best of the MLB right now; however, it won't last all season long. Right now, Buck is averaging a home run every 10 at-bats, which is a sensational stat, but it won't last too long. 

    As Yahoo! Sports points out, Buck has already began cooling down, and his home run numbers should take a significant dip in May compared to April. He hit only 12 long balls in 2012 and has never topped 20. He is showing a lot of pop right now, but fans should be weary and not overrate Buck.

     

    Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers

    2013 Stats: .198/.272./.242, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R

    Up until now, Victor Martinez would have found his place ranked highly on this list. He has been an elite hitter for years, as baseball-reference.com shows that he has a career OPS of  .833, meaning he draws walks and can slug with the best of them.

    After tearing his ACL and missing the entire 2012 and stumbling out of the gate in 2013, it appears that Martinez may have some lingering issues with the injury that are stagnating his game. Also, at the age of 34, he is leaving his prime. Those two factors combined don't bode well for Martinez. A return to hitting prowess is still possible from Martinez, but that would likely come as a first baseman or a designated hitter.

    It appears that his days as a catcher are numbered.

No. 10: J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2013 Stats: .253/.267/.566, 8 HR, 16 RBI, 11 R

    Since J.P. Arencibia's major league debut in 2010, he has been one of the best power-hitting catchers the majors has to offer.

    2013 has been no different so far as Arencibia has hit eight long balls and 16 RBI, while slugging .566 and posting an OPS of .833. You would be hard pressed to find more than a few catchers in the majors who can slug at the plate like him, and that is why he finds his place on this list.

    Many would shrug off Arencibia's current production as simply a hot start out of the gate; however, his numbers in the past prove otherwise. Baseball-reference.com shows that in 2011 Arencibia hit 28 homers and 28 RBI in just 129 games played, which is nothing to scoff at. He has demonstrated his pop throughout his short time in the MLB, and he was on pace to repeat his 2011 numbers in 2012, but he suffered a broken hand that set him back. 

    Arencibia's fielding came into question early in his career; however, Fangraphs.com demonstrates that he has been steadily improving behind the plate and is developing his defense behind the plate.

    He has the talent to produce big numbers with his bat, and he has also came out of the gate hot while showing no signs of slowing down. That is why he is the No. 10 catcher in baseball right now.

No. 9: A.J. Pierzynski, Texas Rangers

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    2013 Stats: .295/.325/.474, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R

    A.J. Pierzynski discovered the fountain of youth in 2012 and earned a Silver Slugger award for AL catchers. He managed to hit .278/.326/.501 with 27 HR, 77 RBI and 68 runs, which were his best numbers since 2008.

    Pierzynski may leave something to be desired behind the plate defensively, but he has a proven pedigree of an ability to hit the ball and be a tremendous asset in the batter's box. However, defense is very important at the catcher's position, and that is what has held Pierzynski back—and it will continue to in 2013 with the Texas Rangers. 

    Despite being 36 years old, Pierzynski still presents great potential to explode offensively as he has often done throughout his career. That is why he finds himself where he is on this list.

No. 8: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves

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    2013 Stats: he has not played, still on the disabled list.

    Due to recovery from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, McCann has yet to take his rightful place behind the plate for the Atlanta Braves in 2013. The six-time All-Star is no doubt one of the best there is behind the plate.

    However, because of the nature of his injury, there is a likelihood that there will be lingering problems with his batting ability and the strength and accuracy of his arm behind the plate.

    That being said, McCann is elite and has the talent and capability of absolutely tearing up the league when he is back in Atlanta. He finds himself ranked No. 8 due to his age and his recovery from an injury that could potentially be detrimental to his performance as one of the best catchers that the majors has to offer.

No. 7: Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies

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    2013 stats: .350/.373/.650, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 12 R

    Wilin Rosario finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2012 after showing his talent to the majors. He manged to his 28 HR and 78 RBI in just 117 games while posting an OPS of .843 in 2012, which aptly demonstrate his tremendous power and potential. 

    At the age of 24, Rosario is one of the centerpieces on the red-hot Colorado Rockies. He will continue to produce at the plate, and barring injury, he should surpass his 2012 numbers in 2013. He is one of the most disciplined and powerful hitters at the catcher position, striking fear into the eyes of pitchers as they take their spots on the hill. 

    The one area where Rosario could stand to improve is with his defense behind the plate; however, he is far from a liability. Baseball-reference.com shows that Rosario had a 32 percent caught-stealing percentage behind the plate in 100 games started in 2012. Through 19 games started behind the plate in 2013, Rosario has a 50 percent caught-stealing percentage, which bodes well for his defensive potential.

    Rosario may have a small sample size, but he is still one of the top catchers in baseball right now and is continuing to prove his worth in 2013. Playing in Coors Field helps his bat, but it's a long season, and he has performed elsewhere as well. That combined with his defense behind the plate warrants Rosario's ranking as the No. 7 catcher in Major League Baseball.

No. 6: Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox

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    2013 stats: .269/.321/.529, 4 HR 27 RBI 14 R

    No, that is not a typo. Through just 26 games this season, the hard-hitting Mike Napoli has managed to slug his way to 27 RBI, leading the Red Sox in that department and being third in the AL.

    Napoli is off to one of the hottest starts in all of baseball this season, and due to his pedigree at the plate, there is reason to believe that he will continue to be more than just a serviceable hitter this season.

    In 2012, Napoli earned All-Star honors due to his offensive production while he was playing for the Texas Rangers. Much like this season, last year Napoli had a knack for driving in runs as he had 56 RBI in just 108 games.

    There is no doubt that Napoli is one of the most powerful hitters at the catcher position; however, there are concerns about his defensive ability behind the plate. At the age of 31, there is not a tremendous amount of room for improvement. There was a slight drop-off in Napoli's defensive ability from 2011-12 as baseball-reference.com proves.

    The 31-year-old Napoli is in the midst of his baseball prime and will continue to slug homers and RBI as we have become accustomed to when from him. Napoli is a superior batter in baseball and not just for those who squat behind the plate; this is why Napoli is the No. 6 catcher in the majors.

No. 5: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

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    2013 stats: .389/.476/.722, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 14 R

    Unlike his 2012 campaign, Carlos Santana has started off blazing hot in the 2013 MLB season and is showing no signs of slowing down.

    The 27-year-old catcher is demonstrating patience and vision behind the plate with his .476 OBP while simultaneously slugging .722 and hitting five bombs. This is when great hitters' potential comes to fruition, when they attain discipline at the plate. That's all it is: see the ball and hit the ball. Santana is doing both and at an incredible level. 

    Despite a slow start last season, Santana rebounded as it progressed. Baseball-reference.com illustrates how Santana finished with numbers that demonstrated his ability at the plate, finishing with 18 HR, 76 RBI and 72 runs.

    However, baseball-reference.com also demonstrates Santana's biggest flaws, which is his struggles behind the plate. It is the only measurable area where Santana is lagging. With the right coaching and work ethic, Santana has the potential to improve behind the plate at the age of 27.

    This season, Santana appears to be poised to get his first All-Star appearance by slugging his way to the top. Santana may have the most upside at the catcher position in the majors, but unlike other players who are described as having "upside," Santana has already reached some of his potential and is showing the talent to capture all of it in 2013 and coming years.

    Defense aside, Santana remains the No. 5 catcher in baseball.

No. 4: Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2013: .200/.296/.256, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 9 R

    Miguel Montero of the Arizona Diamondbacks boasts one of the most well-rounded games behind the dish in the major leagues. He has a more-than-capable bat, and his defense has improved nearly every year since his first full season in 2009.

    Montero came out of the gate in 2012 much like he is doing in 2013 by putting up good, but not great, numbers to start the season. However, Montero found his momentum in 2012 and finished with 15 HR, 88 RBI and 65 runs by season's end.

    Baseball-reference.com illustrates not only Montero's production behind the plate, but also his steady improvement behind the plate and his 42 percent caught-stealing percentage, which ranked third in all of baseball in 2012.

    At the age of 29, Montero is in his prime and should continue to improve and produce at the plate and behind it. These reasons are why Montero is ranked as the No. 4 player behind the dish in all of baseball.

No. 3: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

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    2013 stats: .287/.356/.404, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 11 R

    Joe Mauer has been one of the best players in baseball since his debut in 2004. The three-time batting champion puts on a clinic at the plate season after season, hitting for average and with power—which is the most sought-after combination for hitters in the majors.

    After an injury-stricken 2011 season, Mauer rebounded in 2012, posting a .319 average and driving in 85 RBI all while earning his fifth All-Star selection.

    Unlike many of the best hitting catchers, Mauer is far from a liability behind the plate. As baseball-reference.com illustrates, Mauer has come back to full health and is showing his defensive ability early with a 57 percent caught-stealing percentage.

    Mauer's combination of prowess at the plate and defensive ability are what make him one of the best players baseball has to offer and the No. 3 catcher in the majors today.

No. 2: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2013 stats: .313/ .347/.448, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 8 R

    The unquestioned best defensive catcher in baseball has been the St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina, and he has been for many years. Fangraphs.com proves Molina's tremendous value behind the plate with a WAR of 6.2 in 2012 and similar numbers as his career has bloomed.

    However, since 2007, Molina has made incredible improvements with his bat and has rounded his game to earn truly elite status.

    Just last season, Molina was a legitimate NL MVP candidate: finishing with a line of .315/.373/.501, 22 HR, 76 RBI and 65 runs. These numbers combined with his defensive prowess earn Molina the honors of being the No. 2 catcher in baseball; however, he remains the No. 1 defensive catcher.

    You would be very hard pressed to find a better catcher in baseball than Molina, but there is one who comes to mind.

No. 1: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

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    2013 stats: .280/.388/.488, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 9 R

    There is not enough that can be said about the reigning NL MVP Buster Posey. He is just 26 years old, and after missing an extended period of time in 2011, he rebounded to perform well enough to earn the honors as the National League's best player.

    Posey has solidified himself as one of the top talents in all of baseball and has done so while demonstrating the poise of a seasoned veteran. In just his fourth year in the majors, Posey led the San Francisco Giants to a World Series victory. 

    If numbers never lie, then Posey is truly a top player in baseball and the top catcher as baseball-reference.com shows. He had a .2012 line of .336/.408/.549 with 24 HR, 103 RBI and 78 runs combined with a 30 percent caught-stealing percentage, which demonstrates the widespread impact that Posey has when he sets foot on a diamond.

    There is no reasonable doubt that Posey is one of the best players that the game of baseball has to offer today, and he solidified his role as the top catcher in baseball after his incredible 2012 season. He is an elite impact player in baseball and the No. 1 catcher in all of baseball.