MLB Midseason Position Power Rankings: B/R's Top 30 Catchers

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2017

MLB Midseason Position Power Rankings: B/R's Top 30 Catchers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    There's a reason top-tier catchers rarely hit the free-agent market.

    Finding a franchise backstop who can provide a steadying presence for the pitching staff and produce offensively, all while withstanding the wear and tear that comes with playing the toughest position on the diamond, is not an easy thing to do. 

    To put it simply: When a team finds a Buster Posey or a Yadier Molina, they don't let him get away.

    Ahead we've set out to rank the top 30 catchers here at the midway point of the 2017 season.

    A few things to consider before we get started:

    • League averages: For the sake of reference, the league average triple-slash line for a catcher this season is .245/.310/.406 and the average caught-stealing rate was 28 percent.
    • Eligibility: To be considered for inclusion, a player must have played at least 51 percent of his games at the catcher position this season.
    • Preseason Rank: Included is a look at where each player stood in our preseason rankings, which can be found here.

    The other important thing to note is that the goal here was to identify the 30 best catchers for the 2017 season and the 2017 season alone.

    Is someone like Jonathan Lucroy a better bet to produce going forward than Manny Pina?

    Probably, but that's not what this is about—it's about ranking players based on their performance so far this season.

30. Jonathan Lucroy, Texas Rangers (Preseason Rank: 2)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .262 BA, .676 OPS, 56 H, 16 XBH (4 HR), 19 RBI, 19 R

    2017 Defense: 33% CS (12/36), -3 DRS, 6.7 DEF, -15.4 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.0

        

    Player Summary

    Jonathan Lucroy posted an .885 OPS with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 47 games with the Texas Rangers after coming over in a deadline deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

    A .284 career hitter who posted a 3.8 WAR last season and has ranked as one of the game's best two-way catchers for several seasons now, Lucroy has seen his production dip across the board on both sides of the ball this season.

    The 31-year-old will need to pick up his production if he hopes to fully cash in on his upcoming free agency. He's done that to a point after hitting .205 with a .528 OPS in April, but he still has a long way to go.

        

    Honorable Mentions 

    Kurt Suzuki (ATL), Christian Vazquez (BOS), Tony Wolters (COL)

29. Matt Wieters, Washington Nationals (Preseason Rank: 10)

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .257 BA, .702 OPS, 57 H, 18 XBH (6 HR), 30 RBI, 24 R

    2017 Defense: 23% CS (8/35), -3 DRS, 2.3 DEF, -8.2 Framing RAA

    WAR: -0.1

        

    Player Summary

    After accepting a qualifying offer to stay with the Baltimore Orioles two offseasons ago, Matt Wieters didn't find the free-agent interest he was hoping for this past winter.

    The 31-year-old eventually signed a one-year, $10.5 million deal with the Washington Nationals in late February—a deal that includes a matching $10.5 million player option for the 2018 season. Mediocre framing numbers were part of the reason for his cool market, and he's once again ranked near the back of the pack in that category.

    Perhaps more troubling is his lack of pophis current .702 OPS would represent his lowest mark since 2010. However, he does rank fifth in the majors in innings caught (497.2), so he deserves some credit for bringing stability to a position that was a major question mark following the departure of Wilson Ramos.

28. Miguel Montero, Chicago Cubs (Preseason Rank: 27)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .292 BA, .821 OPS, 28 H, 7 XBH (4 HR), 8 RBI, 12 R

    2017 Defense: 4% CS (1/25), -4 DRS, -2.2 DEF, 0.7 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.4

        

    Player Summary

    Miguel Montero has been a pleasant surprise for the Chicago Cubs this season at the plate, hitting .292 with an .821 OPS over 110 plate appearances after batting just .216 a year ago.

    However, it's tough to overlook his complete inability to control the running game and declining pitch-framing numbers.

    The 33-year-old is also earning $14 million in the final year of his current deal, making him baseball's most expensive backup catcher by a wide margin.

27. Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .270 BA, .718 OPS, 34 H, 12 XBH (3 HR), 13 RBI, 11 R

    2017 Defense: 23% CS (7/30), 4 DRS, 1.6 DEF, 3.9 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.8

        

    Player Summary

    Caleb Joseph was a complete non-factor at the plate last season, posting a .413 OPS and failing to drive in a single run over 141 plate appearances.

    His defensive skills have never been questioned, though, and now that he's back to hitting at a respectable clip, he once again ranks as one of the league's best backup receivers.

    The 31-year-old will no doubt be asked to play the role of mentor to top prospect Chance Sisco once he arrives on the scene, and his importance there can't be understated.

26. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (Preseason Rank: 22)

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .224 BA, .666 OPS, 36 H, 14 XBH (4 HR), 19 RBI, 18 R

    2017 Defense: 47% CS (16/34), 1 DRS, 6.5 DEF, -0.7 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.2

        

    Player Summary

    Yan Gomes was my pick for AL Comeback Player of the Year when we made our preseason award predictions here at Bleacher Report.

    After a pair of injury-plagued seasons had robbed him of his Silver Slugger-winning offensive form, he looked poised for a bounce-back at the plate following a strong spring training, when he hit .370 with a 1.122 OPS.

    Instead, it's been more of the same, as his value has been propped up by his strong receiving skills and ability to control the running game while his bat has again been relatively silent.

25. Sandy Leon, Boston Red Sox (Preseason Rank: 16)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .248 BA, .700 OPS, 35 H, 12 XBH (5 HR), 22 RBI, 18 R

    2017 Defense: 41% CS (11/27), 5 DRS, 5.0 DEF, 1.5 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.5

        

    Player Summary

    There was little doubt Sandy Leon was headed for at least some level of regression offensively after he came out of nowhere to hit .310 last season over 283 plate appearances on the strength of a .392 batting average on balls in play.

    While that regression has indeed come to pass (.288), he remains a viable everyday backstop thanks to his above-average defensive production across the board.

    If nothing else, the 28-year-old has allowed the team to ease Christian Vazquez back into action and given Blake Swihart more time to figure things out in the minors. He's not the offensive star we saw in 2016, but he's more than earned a place among the league's top 30 backstops.

24. Evan Gattis, Houston Astros (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .267 BA, .750 OPS, 44 H, 16 XBH (5 HR), 31 RBI, 24 R

    2017 Defense: 17% CS (4/24), -1 DRS, 2.1 DEF, -0.8 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.6

        

    Player Summary

    Evan Gattis is still best described as a designated hitter who can occasionally catch, and as expected, his impressive 46 percent caught stealing mark from a year ago has trended back toward his career norm.

    However, the 30-year-old still swings a dangerous bat and his ability to give veteran Brian McCann a couple days off each week holds significant value to the first-place Houston Astros—even if he is a middle-of-the-road defender.

    While he's actually well behind his offensive pace from a year ago when he slugged a career-high 31 home runs, a slight uptick in his batting average and on-base percentage has helped mitigate the lesser power production.

23 Manny Pina, Milwaukee Brewers (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .280 BA, .765 OPS, 44 H, 17 XBH (3 HR), 20 RBI, 24 R

    2017 Defense: 31% CS (8/26), 7 DRS, 6.1 DEF, -0.2 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.4

        

    Player Summary

    Most expected last year's deadline acquisition and former top prospect Andrew Susac to step into the starting catcher role this season, but a spring injury opened the door for Manny Pina and he's seized the opportunity.

    Still technically a rookie this season at the age of 30, despite spending parts of three previous seasons in the majors, Pina got off to a red-hot start with a .375 average and .986 OPS in April.

    He's since cooled down with a .239 average and .667 OPS since the start of May, and the Milwaukee Brewers' recent waiver claim of Stephen Vogt could cut into his playing time going forward. For now, his hot first month is still enough to earn him a spot in these rankings.

22. Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates (Preseason Rank: 11)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .250 BA, .726 OPS, 42 H, 15 XBH (3 HR), 21 RBI, 20 R

    2017 Defense: 22% CS (8/36), 2 DRS, 2.5 DEF, -3.2 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.0

        

    Player Summary

    After a terrific first season in Pittsburgh in 2015, Francisco Cervelli has had a tough time staying healthy the past two years.

    A broken left hamate bone cost him significant time last season, and this year it's been concussion problems that have kept him on the sidelines.

    When he's healthy, the 31-year-old provides a nice mix of on-base skills, a high contract rate and invaluable leadership for the Pirates' young arms. The pitching staff has a 4.14 ERA with Cervelli behind the plate, compared to a 4.68 ERA without him doing the catching.

21. Chris Iannetta, Arizona Diamondbacks (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .236 BA, .833 OPS, 26 H, 16 XBH (8 HR), 21 RBI, 16 R

    2017 Defense: 18% CS (2/11), 1 DRS, 1.1 DEF, 2.9 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.6

        

    Player Summary

    The Arizona Diamondbacks made a commitment to improving the pitching staff through the catcher position when they non-tendered Welington Castillo and replaced him with a platoon of Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis.

    Mathis remains the better defensive catcher of that tandem, but he's provided next to nothing offensively. On the other hand, Iannetta has made an impact with the bat while also grading out as an above-average defender.

    It won't take much for the 34-year-old to provide a solid return on the one-year, $1.5 million deal he signed in the offseason, and right now his .833 OPS represents a stark improvement over the .630 mark he posted the past two seasons.

20. Jason Castro, Minnesota Twins (Preseason Rank: 15)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .222 BA, .697 OPS, 40 H, 17 XBH (6 HR), 26 RBI, 19 R

    2017 Defense: 35% CS (9/26), 7 DRS, 4.9 DEF, -4.8 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.3

        

    Player Summary

    More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Minnesota Twins signed Jason Castro to a three-year, $24.5 million deal in the offseason.

    It was a move motivated by his ability to handle a pitching staff and his stellar pitch-framing numbers—an area where he has actually graded out below average this season.

    Still, there's little doubt the pitching staff has performed significantly better than it did a year ago when it ranked last in the AL and 29th in the majors with a 5.09 ERA. If he can pop double-digit home runs and the staff continues to show marked improvement, he'll have done his job.

19. Rene Rivera, New York Mets (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .268 BA, .728 OPS, 33 H, 9 XBH (5 HR), 19 RBI, 11 R

    2017 Defense: 38% CS (8/21), 2 DRS, 3.5 DEF, 1.6 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.4

        

    Player Summary

    The New York Mets plucked Rene Rivera off the scrap heap last April after he was released by the Tampa Bay Rays and he wound up emerging as the team's primary catcher down the stretch.

    With Travis d'Arnaud once again failing to seize the starting role and former top prospect Kevin Plawecki playing in Triple-A, Rivera has again been the team's primary catcher in the early going this season.

    The 33-year-old has never been much of an offensive threat aside from his surprisingly 2014 season with the San Diego Padres. If he can maintain anything close to his current .728 OPS while posting strong defensive numbers across the board, he'll more than warrant a spot inside the top 20 in these rankings.

18. Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays (Preseason Rank: 8)

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    Colin E. Braley/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .220 BA, .764 OPS, 35 H, 13 XBH (7 HR), 16 RBI, 28 R

    2017 Defense: 17% CS (6/35), -3 DRS, 2.1 DEF, -3.4 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.0

        

    Player Summary

    Russell Martin is earning $20 million this season and each of the next two seasons as part of the back-loaded five-year, $82 million deal he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    While the batting average hasn't been there since he made the move north of the border, he has reached the 20-homer and 70-RBI marks in his first two seasons with the team. Those numbers might be out of reach this season, due in part to a lesser supporting cast.

    More concerning is his diminished ability to control the running game. After leading the AL with a 44 percent caught stealing rate in 2015, he saw that dip to just 15 percent last season and he's at 17 percent so far this year. He knows how to handle a staff, but the 34-year-old's not the same defender he once was.

17. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds (Preseason Rank: 24)

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .250 BA, .859 OPS, 25 H, 12 XBH (6 HR), 12 RBI, 15 R

    2017 Defense: 24% CS (5/21), -1 DRS, 1.9 DEF, -6.2 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.7

        

    Player Summary

    There was a time not all that long ago when Devin Mesoraco looked like one of the best young catchers in the game as he posted an .893 OPS with 25 home runs and a 4.8 WAR while earning a spot on the NL All-Star team in 2014.

    However, he made a grand total of 106 plate appearances the past two years while dealing with a significant hip injury and then a torn labrum.

    Back healthy this season, he's been splitting time with Tucker Barnhart, who actually checks in above him in these rankings. However, with 12 extra-base hits in 117 plate appearances, it's clear he's still capable of making an impact with the bat.

16. Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .242 BA, .943 OPS, 23 H, 13 XBH (10 HR), 23 RBI, 21 R

    2017 Defense: 21% CS (4/19), 2 DRS, 1.1 DEF, -1.7 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.2

        

    Player Summary

    Robinson Chirinos has been a steady performer in a part-time role the past three seasons for the Texas Rangers, posting a .745 OPS and averaging 14 doubles, 11 home runs and 31 RBI over 260 plate appearances per season.

    The 33-year-old signed a one-year, $2.35 million extension during the offseason that includes a $2.375 million option for 2019—a rare multiyear pact for a backup catcher.

    That already looks like a wise move, as he's slugged 10 home runs in 108 plate appearances (his previous career high is just 13) and outperformed starter Jonathan Lucroy at the plate to this point.

15. Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres (Preseason Rank: 17)

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .222 BA, .689 OPS, 47 H, 20 XBH (11 HR), 36 RBI, 22 R

    2017 Defense: 32% CS (12/38), 0 DRS, 4.2 DEF, 9.8 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.3

        

    Player Summary

    The San Diego Padres cleared a path to the starting catcher job for Austin Hedges after he hit .326/.353/.597 with 20 doubles, 21 home runs and 82 RBI in Triple-A last season.

    That offensive breakout was huge for a longtime prospect who had always been viewed as a standout defender that would need to prove he could hit enough to warrant everyday playing time.

    While the batting average hasn't translated yet, all the other pieces are there. He's slugged 11 home runs, thrown out runners at an above-average rate and shown pitch-framing abilities beyond his years to rank third in the league in that department.

14. Martin Maldonado, Los Angeles Angels (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .261 BA, .759 OPS, 55 H, 19 XBH (8 HR), 24 RBI, 23 R

    2017 Defense: 38% CS (13/34), 4 DRS, 5.8 DEF, 4.2 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.4

        

    Player Summary

    Martin Maldonado was a career .217/.299/.342 hitter over five seasons as the Milwaukee Brewers backup catcher, but the Los Angeles Angels saw enough in his defensive abilities to acquire him this past offseason to be the team's starting catcher.

    Those defensive tools have once again been on full display as he's thrown out 38 percent of base stealers while showing off his usual stellar pitch-framing skills.

    However, his offensive contributions have been a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

    The 30-year-old has never seen more than 256 plate appearances in a season and he's at 236 so far. He's already established career bests in doubles (10) and runs scored (23) and should blow past his previous highs in hits (62), home runs (eight) and RBI (30) before the All-Star break.

13. Welington Castillo, Baltimore Orioles (Preseason Rank: 13)

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .284 BA, .778 OPS, 48 H, 14 XBH (8 HR), 25 RBI, 20 R

    2017 Defense: 46% CS (11/24), -3 DRS, 4.9 DEF, -5.8 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.7

        

    Player Summary

    After he allowed a league-high 10 passed balls and graded out as a below-average pitch-framer last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks made the somewhat surprising decision to non-tender Welington Castillo during the offseason.

    The Baltimore Orioles scooped him up as a short-term replacement for Matt Wieters on a one-year, $6 million deal that includes a $7 million player option for next season, and he's produced as expected.

    He provides plus power and a strong throwing arm to control the running game, and his batting average is also up 20 points this season. He's the definition of a free-swinger, though, with just eight walks in 177 plate appearances.

12. Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .285 BA, .747 OPS, 45 H, 17 XBH (1 HR), 11 RBI, 11 R

    2017 Defense: 55% CS (16/29), 11 DRS, 8.4 DEF, -7.3 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.6

        

    Player Summary

    Tucker Barnhart was never viewed as more than organizational depth and a future backup during his time in Cincinnati Reds minor league system.

    However, he wound up playing in 115 games last season in place of the injured Devin Mesoraco and he held his own in that expanded role with a .257/.323/.379 line that included 23 doubles, seven home runs and 51 RBI and solid defense.

    Playing on a semi-regular basis once again this season as Mesoraco is eased back into the mix, Barnhart has once again posting rock-solid offensive numbers and he leads the NL with a 55 percent caught stealing rate.

    The 26-year-old could wind up being the long-term catcher for the rebuilding Reds.

11. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners (Preseason Rank: 21)

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .247 BA, .802 OPS, 42 H, 21 XBH (10 HR), 34 RBI, 23 R

    2017 Defense: 23% CS (7/30), -2 DRS, 4.6 DEF, -9.0 Framing RAA

    WAR: 0.8

        

    Player Summary

    Rushed to the majors after going No. 3 overall in the 2012 draft, Mike Zunino spent a good portion of last season in Triple-A trying to make up for some of the developmental time he missed out on early in his pro career.

    Demoted once again this season, he's returned with a vengeance after spending most of May in Triple-A, hitting .329/.385/.757 in June with nine home runs and an MLB-high 30 RBI.

    "It's just trusting the routine, trusting the process," Zunino told Josh Horton of MLB.com. "I'm in the cage trying to do the same routine every day, trying to be as disciplined as I can with the bat as I can in practice, just to drive the ball the other way, and it's paid off."

    He'll storm into the top 10 and higher next time we update these rankings if he can keep it up.

10. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (Preseason Rank: 3)

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .268 BA, .722 OPS, 64 H, 19 XBH (9 HR), 29 RBI, 28 R

    2017 Defense: 32% CS (11/34), 3 DRS, 6.7 DEF, 0.0 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.0

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    Yadier Molina is still going strong in his age-34 season and he won't be hanging it up anytime soon after signing a three-year, $60 million extension that runs through the 2020 season.

    He's enjoyed a nice power resurgence this season with nine home runs—already surpassing the eight he hit a year ago in more than twice as many plate appearances. His caught stealing rate has also bounced back after he threw out runners at an uncharacteristically low 21 percent clip last season.

    It's as much about intangibles as it is about on-field performance with Molina, though. Simply put, he remains as integral to the success of his team as any player in baseball.

9. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs (Preseason Rank: 7)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .252 BA, .751 OPS, 53 H, 22 XBH (8 HR), 35 RBI, 25 R

    2017 Defense: 34% CS (16/47), 6 DRS, 9.0 DEF, -6.3 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.7

        

    Player Summary

    The retirement of David Ross and declining production of Miguel Montero meant the Chicago Cubs were going to see a healthy dose of Willson Contreras behind the plate this season, making him one of the biggest X-factors on the roster.

    That's a lot to ask of a 25-year-old entering his first full season in the majors, but so far he's been up to the task.

    His receiving skills are steadily improving, his throwing arm is one of the strongest in the game and he has the offensive tools to be a true impact bat at the position.

    He hasn't quite matched the .282 average and .845 OPS he posted over 283 plate appearances as a rookie, but he's been swinging it well of late and should rank among the offensive leaders at the position when all is said and done.

8. J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins (Preseason Rank: 9)

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .288 BA, .804 OPS, 68 H, 23 XBH (7 HR), 30 RBI, 30 R

    2017 Defense: 29% CS (14/49), -2 DRS, 5.5 DEF, -10.7 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.6

        

    Player Summary

    After taking over as the starting catcher midway through the 2015 season, J.T. Realmuto enjoyed a breakout season for the Miami Marlins last year.

    The 26-year-old hit .303/.343/.428 with 42 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases, hitting throughout the lineup and providing a real spark offensively for a team that had sorely lacked stability at the catcher position for a number of years.

    It's been more of the same this year, as he's proved his batting average was at least somewhat sustainable and is also well on his way to surpassing last year's home run total of 11.

    His defensive game is still a work in progress, but as one of the better athletes at the catcher position, there's plenty of potential on that side of the ball as well.

7. Brian McCann, Houston Astros (Preseason Rank: 12)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .268 BA, .826 OPS, 49 H, 18 XBH (10 HR), 40 RBI, 26 R

    2017 Defense: 19% CS (7/36), -1 DRS, 2.7 DEF, 3.6 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.6

        

    Player Summary

    Brian McCann has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past nine seasons and he's well on his way to reaching that mark again.

    His offensive numbers are actually up across the board from the .235/.313/.418 line he posted over three seasons with the New York Yankees, and that's given the Houston Astros one more weapon in an absolutely stacked lineup.

    He's not the same defender he was in his prime with the Atlanta Braves and he'll get plenty of days off and the occasional start at DH to keep him fresh in his age-33 season. He's still an impact bat, though, and he does as good a job handling a pitching staff as anyone.

6. Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .325 BA, 1.032 OPS, 50 H, 21 XBH (10 HR), 27 RBI, 23 R

    2017 Defense: 40% CS (10/25), -1 DRS, 0.3 DEF, -11.1 Framing RAA

    WAR: 2.4

        

    Player Summary

    Let's just get this out of the way: Alex Avila is not going to maintain a .440 BABIP or a 57.3 percent hard-contact rate for the entire season.

    These rankings are not about what's going to happen though; they're about what's already happened, and so far this season he's been nothing short of an elite offensive catcher.

    The 30-year-old has raised his OPS 300 points from a year ago and he's nearly matched his home run total from the past two seasons combined.

    However, he's a below-average defensive catcher at this point and one of the league's worst pitch-framers, which is enough to keep him out of the top five. Still, he's been a tremendous value on a one-year, $2 million deal.

5. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (Preseason Rank: 4)

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    Tom Olmscheid/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .290 BA, .849 OPS, 73 H, 30 XBH (15 HR), 43 RBI, 31 R

    2017 Defense: 32% CS (14/44), 0 DRS, 4.1 DEF, -13.3 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.5

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    Salvador Perez is enjoying perhaps the best offensive season of his career.

    The 27-year-old hit a disappointing .247 last season with a .288 on-base percentage, albeit while hitting a career-high 22 home runs and driving in 64 runs.

    This season, he's batting .290/.321/.528 and his home run (15) and RBI (43) totals put him on pace to set career highs in both categories.

    Everyone knows about his stellar workhorse defense behind the plate. With an uptick in his offensive production, he could be on his way to the No. 2 spot in these rankings by season's end.

4. Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves (Preseason Rank: 30)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .327 BA, .898 OPS, 54 H, 12 XBH (6 HR), 25 RBI, 26 R

    2017 Defense: 19% CS (7/36), -6 DRS, 1.3 DEF, 17.0 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.8

        

    Player Summary

    Tyler Flowers occupied the final spot in our preseason rankings, so his climb to No. 4 has been a surprising one, to say the least.

    The 31-year-old is baseball's best pitch-framer this season and that's helped improve an otherwise below-average defensive profile.

    It's his offensive numbers that really jump off the page, though.

    His .327/.425/.473 line is undoubtedly propped up by a .400 BABIP, but Flowers has also trimmed his strikeout rate considerably (28.0 to 20.2 percent) and his line-drive rate (18.6 to 25.4 percent) has spiked as well.

    He deserves an All-Star nod.

3. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (Preseason Rank: 5)

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .292 BA, .932 OPS, 50 H, 18 XBH (13 HR), 37 RBI, 35 R

    2017 Defense: 29% CS (7/24), 0 DRS, 2.8 DEF, 1.4 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.9

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    Gary Sanchez missed 21 games earlier this season with a right biceps strain, yet he still ranks among the offensive leaders at the catcher position in a number of categories.

    Among catchers with at least 150 plate appearances, he ranks third in OPS (.932), second in home runs (13), third in RBI (37) and first in runs scored (35).

    He's also throwing out runners at a league-average rate and doing a rock-solid job of pitch-framing, as he continues to show the tools to be a two-way standout and one of the cornerstones of the New York Yankees' retooling efforts.

2. Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (Preseason Rank: 6)

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    Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .263 BA, .763 OPS, 61 H, 25 XBH (9 HR), 29 RBI, 27 R

    2017 Defense: 39% CS (16/41), 7 DRS, 9.5 DEF, 10.4 Framing RAA

    WAR: 1.8

        

    Player Summary

    Yasmani Grandal leads all catchers in DEF (9.5) and ranks second only to Tyler Flowers in pitch-framing (10.4) and Tucker Barnhart in DRS (7) while also throwing out runners at a 39 percent clip.

    Even if he was hitting .200 with no power production, he'd still be challenging for a spot inside the top 15 on the strength of his defense alone.

    We're talking about a guy who hit 27 home runs with an .816 OPS a year ago, though, and he's made plenty of noise at the plate once again this season.

    Buster Posey is still the easy choice as the best catcher in the NL West...for now.

1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (Preseason Rank: 1)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .347 BA, .959 OPS, 83 H, 25 XBH (10 HR), 33 RBI, 32 R

    2017 Defense: 34% CS (12/35), -1 DRS, 3.8 DEF, 1.1 Framing RAA

    WAR: 2.8

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    Buster Posey began the season as our No. 1 catcher and he's backed it up.

    The 2012 NL batting champ looks poised to make another run at the batting title as his .347 average currently leads the majors, ahead of Ryan Zimmerman (.344) and Daniel Murphy (.340) on the NL side of things.

    His .959 OPS would also represent a new career high as he looks to record the third 20-homer season of his career.

    Posey has not graded out quite as well as a pitch-framer this season, but he's still an above-average defender across the board, which is really just gravy considering his elite offensive game.

    He's the best around until further notice.

        

    Standard stats and WAR totals courtesy of Baseball Reference. Other advanced stats (DRS, DEF, BABIP, etc.) courtesy of FanGraphs. All pitch-framing stats come via StatCorner.

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