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NL Rookie of the Year: Buster Posey and the Top 10 Rookie Catchers Since 1990

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2010

NL Rookie of the Year: Buster Posey and the Top 10 Rookie Catchers Since 1990

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The National League Rookie of the Year announcement was made earlier today, and Giants catcher Buster Posey deservedly took home the honor. He received 20 of the possible 32 first-place votes, and beat out fellow phenom Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves.

    Posey helped lead the Giants to the World Series title, and he could also be considered an NL MVP candidate for his contributions.

    With Posey's great season, this is a good time to look back at some of the other great debut seasons posted by catchers recently, as catcher may be the toughest position to man as a rookie.

    So here are the top 10 seasons from rookie catchers in the past 20 years, including this year's phenom, Buster Posey.

10. Jason Kendall, 1996

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Statistics: .300 BA, 3 HR, 42 RBI, 54 Runs in 130 Games

    Accolades: Third in NL ROY, All-Star

    Not since Craig Biggio had there been a catcher with the type of offensive game Jason Kendall brought to the Pirates in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    An All-Star in his first season, Kendall went on to steal 140 bases in nine seasons with the Pirates while posting a .306 average in the process, as he hit leadoff for much of the time.

9. Charles Johnson, 1995

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Statistics: .251 BA, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 40 Runs in 97 Games

    Accolades: Seventh in NL ROY, Gold Glove

    It is not often that a rookie catcher is able to come in and handle a pitching staff in his first season, but it is even more rare that a rookie backstop is good enough to take home a Gold Glove.

    Johnson was one of the best defensive catchers of the 1990s, but he was also a capable hitter with a decent amount of power, and he was stellar throughout his 12-year big league career.

8. Sandy Alomar, 1990

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Statistics: .290 BA, 9 HR, 66 RBI, 60 Runs in 132 Games

    Accolades: AL ROY, All-Star, Gold Glove

    Alomar, who came to the Indians along with Carlos Baerga in the deal that sent Joe Carter to the Padres, spent 11 seasons as the Tribe's starting backstop, and he made three straight All-Star games to open his career.

    He also took home the only Gold Glove of his career in that rookie season, tossing out 34 percent of would-be base stealers and getting the most out of a less-than-stellar staff led by Greg Swindell, Tom Candiotti and Buddy Black, as all three won at least 11 games.

7. Russell Martin, 2006

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Statistics: .282 BA, 10 HR, 65 RBI, 10 SB in 121 Games

    Accolades: Ninth in NL ROY 

    After seven seasons relying on a former 25th-round pick in Paul Lo Duca, the Dodgers again turned to a late-round selection in Martin, who was a 17th-round choice in the 2002 draft.

    Martin tallied 10 homers and 10 steals in his first season, and he was nearly a 20-20 man the following year. While he has fallen off a bit lately, he was one of the top backstops in the NL for a short time.

6. Mitch Meluskey, 2000

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Statistics: .300 BA, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 47 Runs in 117 Games

    Accolades: Fifth in NL ROY

    Unless you are an Astros fan, there is a good chance that you have never heard of Mitch Meluskey. But for one season, he was the catcher of the future in Houston.

    Ranked by Baseball America as the 43rd best prospect in baseball, Meluskey proved BA right with a fantastic rookie season. Injuries struck, however, and he was dealt to the Tigers for Brad Ausmus before the 2002 season and then fell out of baseball altogether by 2004.

5. Bengie Molina, 2000

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Statistics: .281 BA, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 59 Runs in 130 Games

    Accolades: Fourth in AL ROY

    Molina shored up a position that had been a problem area for the Angels for years, with guys like Matt Walbeck, Todd Greene, Jorge Fabregas and Chad Kreuter manning the position in the seasons leading up to Molina.

    Not only was he immediately one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, but he was also a great defender with a cannon arm, and he would play a key role in the team's 2002 World Series run as well.

4. Kenji Johjima, 2006

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Statistics: .291 BA, 18 HR, 76 RBI, 61 Runs in 144 Games

    Accolades: Fourth in AL ROY

    An eight-time All-Star in Japan, Johjima made the move to the United States prior to the 2006 season, signing a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Mariners to become a 30-year-old rookie.

    Johjima spent four seasons with the Mariners, averaging 12 home runs and 50 RBI, although his rookie season was his best. He returned to Japan last season, playing for the Hanshin Tigers and again making the All-Star team.

3. Buster Posey, 2010

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Statistics: .305 BA, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 58 Runs in 108 Games

    Posey began the season in Triple-A, but by season's end he was batting cleanup for the Giants as they made their way to the playoffs and an eventual World Series title.

    As the No. 7 prospect on Baseball America's list heading into the year, there was little question who the best rookie in all of baseball was last season, as Posey immediately gave the offensively challenged Giants a legitimate middle-of-the-order run-producer.

2. Geovany Soto, 2008

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Statistics: .285 BA, 23 HR, 86 RBI, 66 Runs in 141 Games

    Accolades: NL ROY, 13th in NL MVP, All-Star

    After earning a late-season call-up at the end of the 2007 season and taking over as the starting catcher during that season's playoffs, Soto was more officially given the Cubs' full-time catching job to start the 2008 season.

    He responded by edging out Joey Votto as the NL Rookie of the Year, becoming the first catcher in National League history to start an All-Star game in the process.

1. Mike Piazza, 1993

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Statistics: .318 BA, 35 HR, 112 RBI, 81 Runs in 149 Games

    Accolades: NL ROY, ninth in NL MVP, All-Star, Silver Slugger

    Originally drafted in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft, Piazza went on to become the best offensive catcher in baseball history, and he established himself as one of the game's top hitters immediately upon his arrival in the league.

    With 427 home runs and 1,335 RBI, Piazza is a surefire Hall of Famer, and it all started with one of the best rookie seasons in baseball history, and the best ever by a catcher.

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