Ranking the Top 25 Catchers of the 2022 MLB Season

Joel ReuterNovember 11, 2022

Ranking the Top 25 Catchers of the 2022 MLB Season

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    J.T. Realmuto
    Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

    It's time to put a bow on the 2022 MLB season with Bleacher Report's final positional rankings.

    Throughout the year, we released monthly updates to our position-by-position power rankings, selecting the top 10 players at each spot. Now it's time to finalize those rankings while expanding the list to the 25 best at each position.

    Just like the regular-season rankings, past production and future expectations played no part in deciding the order—this is simply a rundown of the best and brightest of 2022.

    To qualify for inclusion, a player simply had to have at least 200 plate appearances. Each player was only included at the position where he played the most innings. That notably excluded Tyler Stephenson (183 PA) and Daulton Varsho (more innings in OF) from our catcher rankings.

    Now let's dive into the top 25 backstops of the 2022 season.

    Catch up on the Top 25 in 2022 series: First basemen.

Nos. 25-21

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    Martín Maldonado
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    25. Martín Maldonado, Houston Astros

    The Astros continue to overlook Maldonado's offensive shortcomings, instead valuing his ability to handle the staff and control the running game. That said, he did set career highs in home runs (15) and RBI (45) while splitting time with Jason Castro in 2022.

    24. Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants

    Viewed as the heir apparent to Buster Posey from the moment he was taken No. 2 overall in the 2018 draft, Bart hit .215/.296/.364 with 11 home runs in 291 plate appearances in his first full season in the majors. The 25-year-old will need to improve on a 38.5 percent strikeout rate to further tap into his offensive upside.

    23. Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers

    One of the best backup catchers in the league, Barnes signed a two-year, $7 million extension in July to continue flanking Will Smith on the Dodgers depth chart. He posted a 94 OPS+ with eight home runs and 26 RBI in 62 games and nabbed 30 percent of base stealers behind the plate.

    22. Austin Nola, San Diego Padres

    While the Padres would no doubt take a do-over on the 2020 deadline deal to acquire Nola that sent Ty France and Andrés Muñoz to Seattle, he was a passable starting catcher this past season, tallying 2.0 WAR in 110 games. With team control through 2025, he'll likely be the guy in San Diego once again in 2023.

    21. Gary Sanchez, Minnesota Twins

    Sanchez continues to be more of a power producer than most catchers, tallying 24 doubles, 16 home runs and 61 RBI in his first season in Minnesota. He hit just .205/.282/.377 for an 89 OPS+, but he also put together one of the stronger defensive seasons of his career. Now he's a free agent and an intriguing buy-low target for teams.

Nos. 20-16

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    Keibert Ruiz
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    20. Nick Fortes, Miami Marlins

    A fourth-round pick in 2018, Fortes hit .230/.304/.392 for a 96 OPS+ with nine home runs and 24 RBI in 72 games in his first extended MLB action. That represents above-average production for the position, and he wound up taking on a bigger role than expected with newcomer Jacob Stallings struggling. The 25-year-old looks like the best in-house option for the Marlins behind the plate.

    19. Seby Zavala, Chicago White Sox

    With Yasmani Grandal stumbling through the worst season of his career, Zavala was a bright spot for a fraction of the price. The 29-year-old posted a 107 OPS+ with 16 extra-base hits in 205 plate appearances, and coupled with his solid defensive work, he was a 1.0-WAR player in 61 games. Meanwhile, Grandal logged minus-1.4 WAR in 99 games while earning $18.25 million (compared to Zavala's $442K).

    18. Christian Bethancourt, Oakland Athletics/Tampa Bay Rays

    A top prospect in the Atlanta Braves system once upon a time who briefly stopped catching to try to develop as a relief pitcher, Bethancourt had the best season of his career in 2022. The 31-year-old posted a 100 OPS+ with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 34 RBI in 333 plate appearances, and he was the starting catcher for both of Tampa Bay's playoff games.

    17. Keibert Ruiz, Washington Nationals

    Ruiz was one of the prospect headliners of the deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers at the 2021 deadline, and he looks like a keeper for the rebuilding Nationals. The 24-year-old hit .251/.313/.360 with 22 doubles, seven home runs and 36 RBI, and he caught 28 percent of base stealers en route to a 1.7-WAR season.

    16. MJ Melendez, Kansas City Royals

    Melendez posted a 1.011 OPS with 41 home runs in the upper levels of the minors in 2021, and he made his MLB debut on May 3, 2022. He wound up splitting his time between catcher and the corner outfield spots, and while his work behind the plate left a lot to be desired, his bat was clearly MLB-ready. The 23-year-old finished with a 99 OPS+ while tallying 21 doubles, 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 129 games.

Nos. 15-11

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    Jonah Heim
    Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    15. Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox/Houston Astros

    Vazquez hit .282/.327/.432 for a 109 OPS+ in 84 games with the Boston Red Sox before he was traded to Houston at the deadline. He moved into a part-time role following the trade, but he won a ring, and he was behind the plate for the team's combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series.

    14. Eric Haase, Detroit Tigers

    The best offensive player on a disappointing Detroit roster, Haase logged a 115 OPS+ with 17 doubles, 14 home runs and 44 RBI in a 2.1-WAR season. He split time with Tucker Barnhart behind the plate while also seeing some sporadic action in left field once again, and with team control through the 2026 season, he looks like a long-term piece for the Tigers.

    13. Jonah Heim, Texas Rangers

    With Jose Trevino traded to the Yankees and newcomer Mitch Garver limited to DH duties while battling a forearm injury, Heim was given a clear path to the starting catcher job, and he made the most of it. The 27-year-old finished with 20 doubles, 16 home runs and 48 RBI in a career-high 127 games, and his 2.5 WAR ranked sixth on the Texas roster.

    12. Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays

    Jansen spent time on the injured list with a strained oblique and a fractured hand in 2022, but in between he had the most productive season of his career. In 72 games, he hit .260/.339/.516 for a 141 OPS+ that ranked first among all catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. He had 10 doubles, 15 home runs and 44 RBI, and his 2.9 WAR was more than double his previous career high.

    11. William Contreras, Atlanta Braves

    An unexpected source of power production, Contreras posted a 138 OPS+ with 14 doubles, 20 home runs and 45 RBI in 376 plate appearances. The 24-year-old earned an All-Star selection with an .877 OPS and 11 home runs during the first half, and he joined Travis d'Arnaud to form one of the best catching tandems in baseball.

10. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 22: Salvador Perez #13 of the Kansas City Royals hits against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on August 22, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    It would be fair to call Salvador Perez's 2022 performance a disappointment on the heels of a record-setting 2021 campaign when he had 48 home runs and 121 RBI in a 5.3-WAR season.

    However, he was still one of baseball's most productive offensive backstops, posting a 110 OPS+ with 23 doubles, 23 home runs and 76 RBI in 114 games.

    He missed 10 games in May with a thumb sprain and then most of July after undergoing surgery on that same thumb, but he came out the other side far more productive, hitting .297/.329/.505 with 12 home runs in 57 games after the All-Star break.

9. Jose Trevino, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)  Jose Trevino #39 of the New York Yankees in action against the Cleveland Guardians during game two of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 14, 2022 in New York, New York. The Guardians defeated the Yankees 4-2 in ten innings. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    There is a solid case to be made that Jose Trevino was the best defensive catcher in baseball in 2022.

    He led the majors in pitch framing metrics, paced all catchers in defensive runs saved (21) and defensive value (29.1), and led the AL with a 33 percent caught-stealing rate en route to his first career Gold Glove.

    The fact that he also posted a 90 OPS+ with 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 43 RBI was just icing on the cake in a 2.3-WAR season.

8. Travis d'Arnaud, Atlanta Braves

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    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 15: Travis d'Arnaud #16 of the Atlanta Braves is congratulated by teammates following a home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the seventh inning in game four of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 15, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
    Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

    An All-Star for the first time in 2022, Travis d'Arnaud hit .268/.319/.472 for a 119 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 18 home runs and 60 RBI in 107 games.

    It was an up-and-down season overall, with strong performances in June (75 PA, .304 BA, 1.041 OPS) and August (57 PA, .333 BA, 1.031 OPS) sandwiched around a dismal July (64 PA, .190 BA, .473 OPS), but the result was the best all-around campaign of his career.

    His 2.9 WAR was a personal best, and splitting catcher duties with William Contreras no doubt helped keep him fresh in his age-33 season.

7. Cal Raleigh, Seattle Mariners

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    HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh (29) watches the pitch in the top of the eighth inning during the MLB ALDS Game 2 between the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros on October 13, 2022 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Cal Raleigh led all catchers with 27 home runs in 2022, putting together a breakout season and emerging as a key contributor for an upstart Seattle Mariners team that reached the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

    The 25-year-old hit just .180 with a 48 OPS+ in 148 plate appearances in his MLB debut in 2021, and he entered the year expected to battle for playing time behind the plate with incumbent starter Tom Murphy.

    Instead, his power production and strong defense made him a 3.8-WAR player, and his arrow is pointing straight up heading into 2023 after he logged a .959 OPS with eight home runs and 18 RBI over the final month of the season.

6. Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics

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    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JUNE 25:  Catcher Sean Murphy #12 of the Oakland Athletics loses his mask as he throws toward third base during the 8th inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 25, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Sean Murphy was far and away the best player on an Oakland Athletics roster that was stripped to the studs last offseason.

    The 28-year-old led the team in OPS+ (120), hits (134), doubles (37) total bases (229) and WAR (3.5) while hitting .250/.332/.426 with 18 home runs and 66 RBI in 148 games, and the 2021 Gold Glove winner was a finalist at the position once again.

    With Shea Langeliers also vying for time behind the plate in Oakland and Murphy set to become more expensive in his first year of arbitration, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if he was the next homegrown standout to hit the trade block.

5. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs

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    CINCINNATI, OHIO - OCTOBER 03: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs looks on from the dugout in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on October 03, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    The Chicago Cubs shocked the baseball world when they held on to free-agent-to-be Willson Contreras at the trade deadline, and he's poised to be one of the most sought-after players of the 2022-23 class.

    The 30-year-old had another solid all-around season in 2022, hitting .243/.349/.466 for a career-high 128 OPS+ while tallying 23 doubles, 22 home runs and 55 RBI in a 3.9-WAR season.

    It was the fourth 20-homer campaign of his career, and he was also voted to start the All-Star Game for the third time. His athleticism should help him age better than most at the position, and he'll be an impact addition for whoever signs him this winter.

4. Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays

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    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 30: Toronto Blue Jays Catcher Alejandro Kirk (30) bats during the regular season MLB game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays on September 30, 2022 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Lauded for an elite hit tool during his time in the minors, Alejandro Kirk was a bit of a letdown at the plate in his first extended MLB action in 2021, hitting .242/.328/.436 with 16 extra-base hits in 189 plate appearances.

    Those numbers climbed in a major way in 2022, and he emerged as one of the season's biggest breakout stars. The 24-year-old hit .285/.372/.415 with 19 doubles, 14 home runs, 63 RBI and more walks (63) than strikeouts (58) in 541 plate appearances.

    He split his time between catcher (78 games) and designated hitter (51 games), and the DH role may wind up being his long-term home with Danny Jansen and top prospect Gabriel Moreno also vying for time in the crouch in Toronto.

3. Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith (16) waits for the pitch during game 1 of a doubleheader against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 20, 2022, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The fact that Will Smith hits cleanup in an absolutely stacked Los Angeles Dodgers lineup should tell you all you need to know about his offensive abilities, and he took a significant step forward defensively in 2022.

    The 27-year-old hit .260/.343/.465 for a 120 OPS+ with 26 doubles, 24 home runs, 87 RBI and 4.2 WAR in 137 games, and his 1.3 dWAR was more than the first three seasons of his career combined.

    He hit .330/.426/.736 in 25 games as a designated hitter, compared to .242/.320/.404 in the 108 games he spent behind the plate. With top prospect Diego Cartaya rising the ranks in the minors, the Dodgers might consider lightening his defensive load in the near future.

2. Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles

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    SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 21:  Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles in action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Bowman Field on August 21, 2022 in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    In almost any other season, Adley Rutschman would be a slam dunk for AL Rookie of the Year honors, but he's likely headed for a runner-up finish to Julio Rodríguez in the balloting.

    That said, he put together one of the best rookie seasons by a backstop in MLB history, racking up 5.2 WAR in 113 games to join Carlton Fisk (7.3 in 1972), Mike Piazza (7.0 in 1993), Thurman Munson (5.5 in 1970) and Johnny Bench (5.0 in 1968) as the only rookie catchers with a 5.0-WAR season.

    It's no coincidence his MLB debut lined up with the Baltimore Orioles taking a massive step forward, and he wrapped up his rookie campaign hitting .254/.362/.445 for a 128 OPS+ with 35 doubles, 13 home runs and 42 RBI to go with elite defense behind the dish.

1. J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 30: J.T. Realmuto #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the Atlanta Braves during a game at Citizens Bank Park on June 30, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Is there any debate over who should be No. 1?

    In 2022, J.T. Realmuto led all catchers in hits (139), total bases (241) and WAR (6.5) while batting .276/.342/.478 with 26 doubles, 22 home runs, 84 RBI and 21 steals in 22 attempts.

    It was just the second 20/20 season in MLB history by a catcher, joining Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez (35 HR/25 SB) during his AL MVP campaign in 1999.

    Realmuto also took home his second Gold Glove Award, leading the majors in innings caught (1,131.2) by more than 100 frames over the next-highest player and nabbing 30 of 68 would-be base stealers.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.