B/R's MLB 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Catchers in 2020

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2015

B/R's MLB 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Catchers in 2020

0 of 21

    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Baseball is a tough sport to predict on a day-in and day-out basis, and it becomes exponentially more difficult to predict looking years into the future. But that's exactly what we're going to be doing here.

    The following is the first installment in an upcoming series that we've dubbed, "B/R's MLB 20 for '20." In this series, we'll attempt to project the top 20 players at each position five years down the road in 2020.

    We'll kick things off behind the plate with the catcher position, with backstops graded out according to this 100-point scale:

    • Offense (55 points): While defense is certainly important behind the plate, offensive ability is generally the difference between an everyday catcher and a backup catcher. A total of 55 points were awarded for offensive skill set. Contact rate, batting average, approach, on-base skills and overall power were all taken into account.
    • Defense/Speed (40 points): Defense is as important for backstops as it is for any position on the diamond, so 40 points were given for defensive skills. Throwing arm and accuracy, as well as receiving skills, pitch-framing and receiving ERA were all taken into account. Overall athleticism was also factored into this section, as was speed on the offensive side of things.
    • Upside Factor (5 points): On a scale from 1-5, players were given a bonus based on their upside moving forward. A three-point bonus indicated that a player is expected to be at essentially the same level five years from now, while more or less than that indicated expected regression or progression.
    • Tiebreakers: On more than one occasion, players graded out with the same overall point total. In that case, the first tiebreaker was who had the higher upside factor. If that still didn't solve things, the second tiebreaker was overall offensive score.

    All basic statistics come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, while advanced stats were pulled from FanGraphs and pitch-framing numbers come via Stat Corner. Stats are accurate through July 8.

    Hopefully that paints a clear picture of how players were graded and where the information is coming from, so with that out of the way, let's get things started.   

Honorable Mentions and Notable Veteran Omissions

1 of 21

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Next 5

    Christian Bethancourt, ATL
    Andrew Knapp, PHI
    James McCann, DET
    Jakson Reetz, WAS
    Chance Sisco, BAL

    Excluded Due to Age and Expected Regression

    Jonathan Lucroy, MIL
    Russell Martin, TOR
    Brian McCann, NYY
    Yadier Molina, STL
    Stephen Vogt, OAK
    Matt Wieters, BAL

    *Note: Buster Posey will be included with the first basemen in these rankings, as the expectation is that he'll make the full-time move out from behind the plate at some point in the next five years.

20. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

2 of 21

    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    33/55

    Gary Sanchez burst onto the top-prospect scene in 2010 when he hit .329/.393/.543 with 13 doubles and eight home runs in 173 at-bats while reaching Low-A at the age of 17.

    He's tallied double-digit home runs each season since, and he hit .270/.338/.406 with 19 doubles and 13 home runs in a full season at Double-A last year.

    Sanchez doesn't strike out a ton, and he has tremendous raw power, but he does get a bit home run happy at times. A more balanced and controlled approach at the plate will be needed as he makes the jump to the majors.

          

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    22/40

    Sanchez has a strong throwing arm, catching 35 percent of base stealers so far as a minor leaguer, but the rest of his defensive game still needs a lot of work.

    He led Eastern League catchers with 17 errors and 10 passed balls last season, and that will have to change drastically before he's trusted with handling a big league staff.

    An eventual move to first base or designated hitter is a real possibility, but for now, he'll get every chance to play catcher.

          

    2020 Upside Factor

    5/5

    Sanchez has seemingly been among the game's top catching prospects for the past decade, so it's easy to forget he's still just 22 years old. He's moved slowly after a big start to his pro career, but there is still plenty of time for the pieces to fall into place.

             

    2020 Overall Projection

    60/100

    Brian McCann is signed through 2018 with a team option for 2019, but he'll likely move out from behind the plate before that contract comes to an end. That could come sooner rather than later if Sanchez takes a step forward defensively, although his bat figures to carry him to the big leagues one way or another.

19. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

3 of 21

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    33/55

    Injuries have kept Wilson Ramos from ever reaching the 400 at-bat mark, but he's still managed to hit double-digit home runs three different times, including a career-high 16 in just 287 at-bats back in 2013.

    He's getting on base at just a .298 clip since the beginning of the 2013 season, but he hits for a decent average and he put together an impressive 19-game hitting streak earlier this year.

         

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    26/40

    The good: Ramos has thrown out 31 percent of would-be base stealers and caught pitchers to the tune of a 3.39 ERA over the course of his career.

    The bad: He doesn't check in as a good pitch-framer, and that aforementioned ERA is probably more telling of the pitching staffs he's had to work with than anything else. He also has legitimate 20-grade speed as one of the slowest players in the league.

          

    2020 Upside Factor

    2/5

    Ramos will be 32 years old in 2020, and with a serious knee injury on his resume and a handful of hamstring issues, he figures to be nearing the end of his peak-production years.

           

    2020 Overall Projection

    61/100

    The Washington Nationals pulled off one of the better moves in recent franchise history when they flipped closer Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins for Ramos at the 2010 deadline. He's given the team a long-term answer behind the plate, and he figures to still be the guy there when 2020 rolls around.

18. Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets

4 of 21

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    34/55

    An advanced college hitter who was taken with the No. 35 pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University, Kevin Plawecki had little trouble making the jump to the pro game offensively.

    After showing middling power his first two seasons in the minors, he hit .309/.365/.460 with 24 doubles and 11 home runs while making the jump to the high minors last year. He has the chance to develop into a solid 15-homer guy in the majors with a passable average and decent on-base skills.

         

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    25/40

    Plawecki was originally drafted as an offensive-minded catcher, but his defensive skills have come along nicely, and he should be at least an average defender going forward.

    His arm was never viewed as anything more than average during his climb through the Mets' system, but he's thrown out 26 percent of base stealers so far this season as a rookie. While he's a decent athlete, speed is not part of his game.

           

    2020 Upside Factor

    4/5

    A 24-year-old rookie this season, Plawecki still has some room to grow offensively as he becomes more comfortable with life in the big leagues, but he was already viewed as an advanced product coming out of college. He has the tools to be a plus everyday guy, though his ceiling is only so high.

          

    2020 Overall Projection

    63/100

    At some point, the New York Mets will need to decide who their long-term catcher is between Plawecki and Travis d'Arnaud. The odd man out figures to be a trade chip at some point, but regardless of where he winds up, Plawecki should be an everyday guy when 2020 rolls around.

17. Max Pentecost, Toronto Blue Jays

5 of 21

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    31/55

    Max Pentecost played just 25 games last season after being selected with the No. 11 overall pick out of Kennesaw State University, but that was enough for him to make a mark with his bat, as he hit .324/.330/.419 with four doubles and three triples in 105 at-bats.

    "He has a steady, quick swing, enabling him to hit line drives to all fields. He has good raw power, but his swing produces more doubles than home runs," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

          

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    27/40

    Pentecost is an elite athlete at the catcher position, and that should allow his throwing and receiving skills to play up as he makes his way through the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system.

    He has a strong throwing arm and is a solid all-around receiver, though he still needs to work on his accuracy when it comes to throwing out baserunners. He caught just four of 20 base stealers during his debut last season.

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    5/5

    Still just 22 years old, Pentecost has as much upside as any catching prospect in the league right now.

    There are some injury concerns, though, as he's already undergone a pair of shoulder surgeries and is currently sidelined as a result. He'll need to put those issues behind him if he's going to reach his full potential.

             

    2020 Overall Projection

    63/100

    The Blue Jays have Russell Martin locked up through 2019 after signing him to a five-year, $82 million deal this past offseason. That should put Pentecost in position to take over as the everyday guy behind the dish heading into the 2020 campaign.

16. Travis D'Arnaud, New York Mets

6 of 21

    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    37/50

    Travis d'Arnaud is still settling in at the big league level, but if his minor league track record (.290 BA, .836 OPS) and performance down the stretch last season (.313 BA, .903 OPS in Sept.) are any indication, there is plenty of offense to come.

    He launched 13 home runs in 385 at-bats last year, and he had a 21-homer season to his credit in the minors, so there's power there. He could settle in as a solid .280 average, 20-homer guy in his prime, but his on-base skills still need work, and his 3.9 percent walk rate so far this season is concerning.

         

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    24/45

    With a 26 percent caught-stealing rate in the minors and a 19 percent mark in his first extended action last season, d'Arnaud is never going to be the kind of backstop who shuts down a running game.

    However, he's been one of the better pitch-framers in the league the past two seasons, and he moves well behind the plate because of his solid all-around athleticism. He's not going to be a stolen-base threat, but he doesn't clog up the bases either.

         

    2020 Upside Factor

    3/5

    The 26-year-old d'Arnaud will still technically be in the prime of his career in 2020, but one can't help but wonder how he'll hold up long term with what is already a lengthy injury history. If he can stay on the field, he has the bat to be one of the better offensive catchers in all of baseball.

           

    2020 Overall Projection

    64/100

    d'Arnaud will be eligible for free agency for the first time prior to the 2020 season, so it will be interesting to see what direction his career is heading when that time rolls around. If he can put the injuries behind him, he may have already earned himself a long-term deal by then.

15. Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies

7 of 21

    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    34/55

    Power is a rare commodity around the major leagues these days, and that goes double for the catcher position. But that is one thing Tom Murphy figures to bring to the table once he reaches Colorado.

    A physical specimen at 6'1" and a chiseled 220 pounds, Murphy launched 22 home runs in his first full minor league season in 2013, and he already has 17 doubles and 13 long balls in 265 Double-A at-bats so far this year.

    He may never hit much higher than .250, but he can draw a walk and he should make enough contact for his plus power to play.

           

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    26/40

    Murphy may be best known for his powerful bat, but he also profiles as a plus defender across the board. So don't expect the next Wilin Rosario once he arrives in the majors.

    "Behind the plate, he has a strong arm and does a good job receiving and working with pitchers. He has the natural leadership skills teams want from a catcher," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

    He's not fast by any means, but Murphy is a solid baserunner.

          

    2020 Upside Factor

    4/5

    A third-round pick out of the University of Buffalo, Murphy needs to prove he can make enough consistent contact to tap into his power. If he can do that, there's no reason the 24-year-old can't develop into an All-Star-caliber backstop.

           

    2020 Overall Projection

    64/100

    Nick Hundley is nothing more than a stopgap option behind the plate for the Rockies right now, as he's essentially keeping the position warm until Murphy is ready to step into the everyday role. That could come in 2017, with Hundley set to hit free agency after the upcoming season.

14. Jorge Alfaro, Texas Rangers

8 of 21

    Elsa/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    35/55

    Jorge Alfaro has long been viewed as the Texas Rangers' catcher of the future, dating back to the 2011 season, when he hit .300/.345/.481 as an 18-year-old at Low-A Spokane.

    His power has developed nicely during his slow climb through the system, as he's had at least 20 doubles and 15 home runs each of the past two seasons. His approach at the plate still needs a lot of work, though.

    A 29-to-123 walk-to-strikeout (BB/K) ratio last season is good evidence of that, and he's walked just nine times in 207 plate appearances so far this season for Double-A Frisco.

            

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    24/40

    Alfaro has an absolute cannon behind the plate, but he's still working on honing his overall receiving skills.

    He allowed 23 passed balls last season while only throwing out 28 percent of base stealers, and while his overall athleticism is a plus, it remains to be seen if he'll be able to stick behind the plate long term.

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    5/5

    There is a ton of upside here, but the 22-year-old comes with a high risk factor as well. If Alfaro can take a couple of steps forward with his defensive game, he has a chance to be an All-Star-caliber producer behind the plate.

            

    2020 Overall Projection

    64/100

    One way or another, Alfaro figures to be making an impact with his bat in the middle of the Rangers' lineup by the time 2020 rolls around. Whether or not he's doing it as the team's everyday catcher is still up in the air, and Jose Trevino may soon press him for that role.

13. J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins

9 of 21

    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    33/55

    A third-round pick out of high school in 2010, J.T. Realmuto enjoyed a breakout season at the Double-A level last year, hitting .299/.369/.461 with 25 doubles, six triples, eight home runs and 62 RBI.

    Perhaps his most impressive stat was a 41-to-59 BB/K rate, as he brings an advanced approach to the plate and makes consistent contact.

    He may never hit more than 10 home runs in a season, but he should hit plenty of doubles and develop into a decent average/on-base threat as he settles in as the Miami Marlins' everyday catcher.

          

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    28/40

    Realmuto might already be the fastest catcher in baseball, as he had six triples and 18 stolen bases in the minors last season and already has four triples and two stolen bases in 2015, his rookie year.

    That athleticism has allowed him to make a quick transition to catching after playing shortstop in high school. His former position has given him plus arm strength and a quick release, and he profiles as a plus defender long term.

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    4/5

    The 24-year-old Realmuto has been thrown into the fire this season after just a handful of games in Triple-A, and he's held his own to this point. The numbers he put up in the minors last season figure to be his ceiling in the majors, but there's nothing wrong with that.

            

    2020 Overall Projection

    65/100

    A struggling Jarrod Saltalamacchia opened the door for Realmuto to take over behind the plate in Miami sooner than expected. That puts him in line to reach free agency immediately following the 2020 season, so he'll potentially be playing in a contract year five years from now.

12. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners

10 of 21

    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    33/55

    After a standout career at the University of Florida, Mike Zunino moved quickly through the Seattle Mariners' minor league system with impressive offensive numbers.

    However, he's struggled to make enough contact to tap into his plus power so far during his time in the majors, posting a .191 average and a 32.6 percent strikeout rate.

    The good news is, his walk rate has nearly doubled this year (3.6 percent to 6.5 percent), so he's moving in the right direction. His power is for real too, after a 20-double, 22-homer season a year ago.

            

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    30/40

    The best pitch-framer in the American League last season and among the leaders once again this year, Zunino has kept his spot in the everyday lineup, while struggling offensively, thanks to his defensive skills.

    He's thrown out 32 percent of potential base stealers so far this season and leads all catchers with a 1.5 dWAR. The Mariners' staff has also pitched to a noticeably better ERA with Zunino behind the plate (3.45 ERA with vs. 5.39 ERA without).

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    3/5

    When the Mariners took Zunino with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, he was more or less viewed as a finished product. That doesn't mean the 24-year-old does not still have room to improve, but at this point, expecting him to ever be more than a plus-plus defender with solid power numbers might be wishful thinking.

             

    2020 Overall Projection

    66/100

    As things currently stand, Zunino would be headed for free agency prior to the 2020 season, but there's a good chance the Mariners lock him up with a long-term deal once he reaches arbitration eligibility. Even with his abysmal average, 20-plus-homer catchers with terrific defensive skills don't come around all that often.

11. Andrew Susac, San Francisco Giants

11 of 21

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    36/55

    A second-round pick in 2011, Andrew Susac began his pro career at High-A San Jose, with 16 doubles and nine home runs in 361 at-bats.

    His power has continued to develop since, and he hit .268/.379/.451 with nine doubles and 10 home runs in 213 Triple-A at-bats last season, posting a 34-to-50 BB/K ratio.

    Double-digit home runs, a decent average and plus on-base numbers figure to be par for the course once Susac finally works his way into the everyday lineup.

            

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    26/40

    After throwing out 35 percent of would-be base stealers during his time in the minors, Susac has not been as effective controlling the running game in the majors. He's caught just four of 31 runners so far this season.

    However, he should develop slightly above-average tools across the board with more time behind the plate, and his pitch-framing has already improved drastically in his second taste of big league action.

    Susac is not a base-clogger, but he's not going to run much either.

             

    2020 Upside Factor

    4/5

    It remains to be seen whether or not serving as the backup to Buster Posey much of last season and again this year will inevitably hurt Susac's overall growth, but all of the tools are there for the 25-year-old to be a plus everyday option behind the plate once he's finally given the chance.

           

    2020 Overall Projection

    66/100

    One has to think that at some point in the relatively near future, and certainly by 2020, Posey will have moved to first base on a full-time basis. Otherwise, the team likely would have already used Susac as a trade chip.

10. Reese McGuire, Pittsburgh Pirates

12 of 21

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    33/55

    Reese McGuire was taken No. 14 overall in the 2013 draft as a relatively polished high school backstop, thanks to his time with Team USA.

    His hit tools and smooth left-handed stroke have a chance to be plus-plus, and even if he doesn't develop into anything more than a 12- to 15-home run guy, he should still be able to make a significant impact offensively.

            

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    28/40

    Considering where his offensive tools are already at, it's somewhat surprising to say that McGuire may actually be a better defensive catcher in the early stages of his career. But it's the truth.

    "McGuire is very advanced behind the plate. He's a natural leader who works with pitchers well and already understands many of the nuances of game-calling. He has an above-average arm and gets rid of the ball quickly. He runs well for a catcher, with that athleticism helping him behind the plate," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

              

    2020 Upside Factor

    5/5

    McGuire is the youngest player on this list at 20 years old, and he may just be scratching the surface of his overall potential five years from now.

           

    2020 Overall Projection

    66/100

    The 66/100 grade is a very conservative estimate for where McGuire might be five years from now, and it's a number that will come with a big upward-pointing arrow. By 2022, he could be pushing for a spot in the top five on this list.

9. Derek Norris, San Diego Padres

13 of 21

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    35/55

    An All-Star for the first time last season, Derek Norris was one of the breakout players at the catcher position in 2014, as he hit .270/.361/.403 with 19 doubles, 10 home runs and 55 RBI.

    He's already set new career highs this season with 20 doubles and 11 home runs in just 308 at-bats, but his triple-slash numbers have fallen to .240/.287/.419.

    The most troubling development has been the precipitous drop in his walk rate (12.2 percent to 5.6 percent). He'll need to go back to being a more selective hitter if he's going to be an elite-level offensive option.

           

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    29/40

    Norris has improved his pitch-framing significantly this season, and he's more than doubled his caught-stealing rate from 17 percent last year to 36 percent so far in 2015.

    From an overall defensive value standpoint, FanGraphs currently ranks him as the top defensive catcher in the National League.

           

    2020 Upside Factor

    3/5

    At 26 years old, Norris probably won't improve much over the next five years, but he's young enough that he profiles to still be in his prime when 2020 rolls around.

             

    2020 Overall Projection

    67/100

    Norris will reach free agency as a 30-year-old in 2019, and with Austin Hedges looking like the long-term catcher in San Diego, he'll likely be playing elsewhere when we reach the 2020 season.

8. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds

14 of 21

    Elsa/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    40/55

    After sitting behind Ryan Hanigan for two years, Devin Mesoraco finally took over as the starting catcher in Cincinnati last season, and that promotion was accompanied by an offensive explosion.

    He hit .273/.359/.534 with 25 doubles, 25 home runs and 80 RBI for a 147 OPS+, earning a spot on the National League All-Star roster and even a few MVP votes.

    That home run total was aided by an excessively high 20.5 percent HR/FB rate, but Mesoraco still has the offensive tools to be one of the better producers at the position going forward.

          

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    24/40

    Mesoraco is never going to win a Gold Glove, but as an offensive-minded catcher, he really only needs to be passable defensively to warrant everyday playing time.

    That being said, he was one of the worst pitch-framers in the league last year, and he threw out just 26 percent of base stealers. 

    A hip impingement earlier this season led to the team kicking around the idea of using him in the outfield, before he eventually underwent surgery.

           

    2020 Upside Factor

    3/5

    We probably saw the best Mesoraco has to offer during his breakout performance last season. Now it's a matter of the 27-year-old getting healthy and settling in as a consistent big league producer.

           

    2020 Overall Projection

    67/100

    Depending on how quickly this year's first-round pick Tyler Stephenson moves through the Reds system, Mesoraco could be pushed out from behind the plate by 2020. He could also be playing elsewhere, as he'll reach free agency prior to the 2019 season.

7. Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres

15 of 21

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    30/55

    Austin Hedges was known more for his defensive polish than his bat when he was taken out of high school in the second round of the 2011 draft, so he surprised some people when he posted a .785 OPS with 28 doubles and 10 home runs at the Single-A level in 2012.

    His bat has been slower to catch up as he's made his way through the upper levels of the minors, but he kicked off this season with a .324/.392/.521 line in 71 Triple-A at-bats before earning the call to San Diego.

    He'll probably never hit for a high average, but there is some decent power in his 6'1", 200-pound frame, and 15 home runs is not out of the question. 

            

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    35/40

    Hedges was viewed as the best defensive catcher in the minors throughout his development, and he should be a perennial Gold Glove candidate once he establishes himself as the everyday starter.

    "Hedges is the complete package behind the plate, with quiet hands, good footwork and a strong arm," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

             

    2020 Upside Factor

    4/5

    Defensively, Hedges is already a finished product. At this point, it's simply a matter of how much better he gets offensively. The 22-year-old may never contend for a Silver Slugger, but he does have some potential at the plate.

            

    2020 Overall Projection

    69/100

    As long as he's not a liability at the plate, Hedges figures to push Derek Norris to first base or turn him into a trade chip by next season. Once Hedges settles in, he could be the San Diego Padres' backstop for the next decade.

6. Justin O'Conner, Tampa Bay Rays

16 of 21

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    28/55

    A 22-double, 17-homer season in 2013 represented a breakout of sorts offensively for Justin O'Conner, and he took another step forward last year when he improved his average by 52 points (.226 to .278) and his OPS by 130 points (.652 to .782).

    He has struggled a bit making the jump to Double-A this season, and there is a lot of swing-and-miss to his game (27.6 percent strikeout rate in minors), but he's proven capable of making adjustments in the past.

            

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    36/40

    It's borderline impossible to believe that O'Conner did not start catching until his senior year of high school. Now that Austin Hedges has graduated to the majors, he's undoubtedly the best defensive catcher in the minors.

    He has an absolute rocket for an arm, throwing out 45 percent of would-be base stealers during his time in the minors, including 24 of 48 last season. 

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    5/5

    O'Conner has come a long way since struggling to hit .200 in his first two pro seasons in rookie league ball, and he's still just 23 years old. He'll need to find a way to make consistent contact against upper-level pitching, but there is legitimate star potential here.

           

    2020 Overall Projection

    69/100

    The catcher position has been a mess for the Tampa Bay Rays throughout their existence as a franchise, but they may finally have their long-term answer in O'Conner.

5. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians

17 of 21

    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    34/55

    After posting an .826 OPS with 11 home runs in 293 at-bats as a part-time player in 2013, Yan Gomes took over as the Cleveland Indians starting catcher last season.

    He proved to be more than up to the task, hitting .278/.313/.472 with 25 doubles and 21 home runs to win Silver Slugger honors in 2014.

    A knee injury has him off to an abysmal start offensively this season, and he doesn't have the best plate discipline (24-to-120 BB/K in 2014), but there's no reason he can't return to being a plus offensive option. 

         

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    33/40

    A 3.1 dWAR over the past two seasons puts Gomes fifth among all catchers during that span, and he's thrown out an impressive 36 percent of potential base stealers during his time in the big leagues.

    He was also a well-above-average pitch-framer last season, and as long as his knee injury this season does not prove to be a bigger issue moving forward, he should continue to be one of the better defensive backstops in the league.

    Gomes is a solid athlete and decent baserunner, but he's not a threat to steal.

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    3/5

    At 27 years old, Gomes is what he is at this point. That being said, even if he winds up somewhere between his 2014 production and his early-season struggles here in 2015, he'd be an asset behind the dish.

          

    2020 Overall Projection

    70/100

    The Indians signed Gomes to an extremely team-friendly six-year, $23 million deal prior to last season that includes a $9 million team option in 2020 and an $11 million team option in 2021. So as of now, he figures to still be around five years from now.

4. Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers

18 of 21

    Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    40/55

    Injuries and a 50-game performancing-enhancing drug (PED) suspension derailed Yasmani Grandal's progression a bit, but he finally saw a full slate of at-bats last season and responded by posting a .728 OPS, with 19 doubles and 15 home runs in 377 at-bats.

    Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason, Grandal has an impressive 14.3 percent walk rate for his career, and he's posted a .390 on-base percentage this season with 14 home runs in 206 at-bats.

    Terrific on-base skills and plus power should make him one of the better offensive producers at the position for the foreseeable future.

         

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    27/40

    Grandal does not have the best throwing arm, with a career 20 percent caught-stealing rate, but that number is up to 26 percent so far this season. He also led the NL in passed balls last season with 12, so it's fair to say that defense is not a strong point of his game.

    However, he is one of the best in the league at framing pitches and actually has the second-best frame rate of any catcher in baseball this season.

           

    2020 Upside Factor

    3/5

    Grandal has taken off since finally getting healthy and seeing regular playing time, but we may be seeing his ceiling here in 2015. That's not a bad thing; just don't expect the 26-year-old to get a whole lot better in the years to come.

          

    2020 Overall Projection

    70/100

    After enduring A.J. Ellis' middling offensive talents the past several seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally have a catcher capable of making a real offensive impact in Grandal. A free agent after the 2018 season, he has a chance to establish himself as one of the best in the league over the next few seasons.

3. Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs

19 of 21

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    46/55

    Regardless of where he winds up defensively, Kyle Schwarber is going to make a serious impact with his bat once he reaches the big leagues on a full-time basis.

    Since being selected No. 4 overall in the 2014 draft, Schwarber has hit .335/.429/.616 with 35 doubles, 34 home runs and 102 RBI in 516 professional at-bats.

    The Cubs called him up for a week to serve as their DH last month, and he went 8-for-22 with one triple, one home run and six RBI. You're looking at a legitimate middle-of-the-order run-producer.

            

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    20/40

    Whether or not Schwarber can stick behind the plate long term is one of the biggest questions surrounding the Chicago Cubs' outlook right now. His bat will play anywhere, but it would be huge at the catcher position.

    "He moves well for his size and has some arm strength, but his throwing and receiving need a lot of work, and most scouts outside the organization don't think he can make it as a backstop," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    5/5

    The 22-year-old Schwarber has all the makings of a perennial .280-.300 hitter with legitimate 30-homer, 100-RBI run-production ability. The rich get richer, as the Cubs look to have another impact young bat on the cusp.

             

    2020 Overall Projection

    71/100

    It will be interesting to see how patient the Cubs are with Schwarber's development defensively, because his bat is ready right now. Regardless, his offense should make him a star wherever he ends up in the field.

2. Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox

20 of 21

    Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    40/55

    With Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan both landing on the disabled list, Blake Swihart made the jump to the majors after just 38 games in Triple-A.

    He took his offensive game to another level last season, hitting .293/.341/.469 with 26 doubles and 13 home runs, and that could be a taste of what he's capable of in his prime at the big league level.

    The switch-hitting Swihart has legitimate plus hit tools, and while his swing is geared more for line drives, he has the power to be a 15-homer guy to go along with what should be a consistently good average.

          

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    27/40

    Swihart is more athletic than most players at the position, stealing 22 bases during his time in the minors thanks to his above-average speed.

    That athleticism translates well behind the plate too, and aside from his plus receiving skills, he also threw out 39 percent of base stealers prior to making the jump to the majors. His pitch-framing is still a work-in-progress, but he has the baseball IQ to improve in that area as well.

           

    2020 Upside Factor

    5/5

    The top catching prospect in baseball heading into 2015, Swihart has as high an overall ceiling as any young catcher in the league. The 23-year-old has been a bit overmatched in his debut so far, but he's as safe a bet as anyone at the position to become a star.

            

    2020 Overall Projection

    72/100

    The Boston Red Sox were unwilling to even entertain the idea of including Swihart in a trade package for Cole Hamels during the offseason, and that was the right decision. He'll lock down the position for the foreseeable future.

1. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

21 of 21

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Offensive Outlook

    34/55

    Salvador Perez has improved his power numbers each season since debuting as a 21-year-old in 2011, setting new career highs with 28 doubles and 17 home runs last campaign.

    He's well on his way to doing that again in 2015, as he already has 12 doubles and 13 home runs in his first 286 at-bats.

    While he makes consistent contact and doesn't strike out much, Perez also refuses to take a walk, drawing a grand total of 67 free passes in 1,883 career plate appearances. That left him with a .289 on-base percentage last season.

           

    2020 Defensive/Speed Outlook

    37/40

    Perez has won the AL Gold Glove the past two seasons, and it wouldn't be wise to bet against him winning the award every year for the foreseeable future.

    He's thrown out 33 percent of baserunners in his career, he's done a fantastic job handling the pitching staff, and he's a born leader. He has everything you look for in a franchise catcher, aside from the fact that he's among the worst at pitch-framing.

    Perez is one of the slower players in the league, though he has managed two steals and seven triples in his career.

            

    2020 Upside Factor

    3/5

    Even though he's only 25 years old, Perez probably won't get much better in the years to come due to his approach at the plate. That's really not an issue, though, as he's already the best catcher in the American League.

    An absolute horse, he's caught 283 of 324 games for the Royals over the past two seasons, so he may age a bit faster than most.

            

    2020 Overall Projection

    74/100

    The Royals got the steal of the century when they signed Perez to a five-year, $7 million deal back in 2012. And with three option years totaling $14.75 million tacked onto the end, he's currently locked up through 2019. Expect the team to renegotiate at some point soon, rewarding their All-Star and tacking some years onto that deal.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!