MLB State of the Position 2020: Every Team's 5-Year Plan at Catcher

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2020

MLB State of the Position 2020: Every Team's 5-Year Plan at Catcher

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Finding a franchise catcher is extremely difficult, and that makes it one of the most volatile positions on an MLB roster as far as long-term outlook is concerned.

    Simply put, some teams are better positioned for current and future success at the position than others.

    Ahead, we've broken down each team's present and future outlook at catcher, highlighting their current starter and top prospect, followed by a prediction about who will play the position for each of the next five seasons.

    Think of it as the team's five-year plan at the position.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Carson Kelly
    Carson KellyNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Present: Carson Kelly (Age: 25)

    The Diamondbacks acquired Carson Kelly as part of the return package in the deal that sent Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals.

    After playing just 63 games in three seasons with the Cardinals, he impressed in his first full MLB season, posting a 112 OPS+ with 19 doubles and 18 home runs in 365 plate appearances.

    He's under team control through the 2024 season and appears to have the job locked up for the foreseeable future.

        

    Future: Daulton Varsho (Tier 1 prospect)

    Daulton Varsho hit .301/.378/.520 with 47 extra-base hits and 21 steals in 108 games at Double-A last season, emerging as one of baseball's top catching prospects.

    That said, he's athletic enough to handle another position, and he saw some time in center field last year. The 24-year-old will carry added value thanks to his ability to catch, but as long as Kelly can build off his breakout season, Varsho's future home could be out of the crouch.

    Other notable prospects: None

          

    Five-Year Prediction: Kelly (2020-24)

Atlanta Braves

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    Shea Langeliers
    Shea LangeliersMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Present: Travis d'Arnaud (Age: 31)

    Travis d'Arnaud spent time with the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers last season before he landed in Tampa Bay and hit .263/.323/.459 for a 107 OPS+ with 16 doubles, 16 home runs and 67 RBI in 365 plate appearances.

    The 31-year-old turned that strong offensive showing into a two-year, $16 million contract during the offseason, and he'll team with defensive-minded backstop Tyler Flowers in bridging the gap to the next wave of catching talent.

       

    Future: Shea Langeliers (Tier 2 prospect)

    The Braves have two of baseball's best catching prospects in Shea Langeliers and William Contreras.

    Langeliers was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 draft after a standout career at Baylor in which he showed off a rocket arm and strong receiving skills while slugging 31 home runs in three seasons.

    Contreras might get the first crack at the MLB job after finishing last season at Triple-A, but Langeliers is the safer long-term answer thanks to his extremely high floor and polished all-around game.

    Other notable prospects: William Contreras (Tier 2), Alex Jackson (Tier 3), Logan Brown (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: d'Arnaud (2020-21), Contreras (2022), Langeliers (2023-24)

Baltimore Orioles

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    Adley Rutschman
    Adley RutschmanJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Present: Pedro Severino (Age: 26)

    The Orioles claimed Pedro Severino off waivers last March, and he hit .249/.321/.420 for a 95 OPS+ with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and 44 RBI in 96 games.

    However, he struggled defensively (minus 13 defensive runs saved, 24 percent caught stealing) and fits best in a backup role going forward.

    Former top prospect Chance Sisco has yet to carve out a role at the MLB level with a .203/.319/.357 line and 0.1 WAR in 132 games, but he's still just 25 years old.

          

    Future: Adley Rutschman (Tier 1 prospect)

    The Orioles selected Adley Rutschman with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft after he hit an absurd .411/.575/.751 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI and more walks (76) than strikeouts (38) during his junior year.

    A switch-hitting offensive star with the defensive chops to also be a perennial Gold Glove contender, Rutschman looks like the future face of the franchise and a cornerstone piece of the ongoing rebuild in Baltimore.

    Other notable prospects: Maverick Handley (Tier 3), Brett Cumberland (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: Severino (2020-21), Rutschman (2022-24)

Boston Red Sox

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    Christian Vazquez
    Christian VazquezDan Istitene/Getty Images

    Present: Christian Vazquez (Age: 29)

    Christian Vazquez finally separated himself from the catching pack in Boston last season, hitting .276/.320/.477 with 26 doubles, 23 home runs and 72 RBI in a 2.3-WAR season.

    The Red Sox have moved on from Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart, so Vazquez is now the unquestioned starter, and he's signed through the 2021 season with a $7 million club option for 2022.

    Kevin Plawecki was brought aboard to replace Leon in the backup role.

        

    Future: Connor Wong (Tier 3 prospect)

    Acquired in the Mookie Betts blockbuster, Connor Wong immediately became the top catching prospect in a thin Boston farm system.

    The 24-year-old hit .281/.336/.541 with 24 doubles, 24 home runs, 82 RBI and 11 steals between High-A and Double-A last year, and along with his solid work behind the plate, he also saw time at second base (14 games) and third base (12 games).

    Other notable prospects: Naysbel Marcano (Tier 3)

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Vazquez (2020-22), Wong (2023-24)

Chicago Cubs

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    Willson Contreras
    Willson ContrerasNuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

    Present: Willson Contreras (Age: 28)

    An All-Star in back-to-back campaigns, Willson Contreras posted career highs in OPS+ (125) and home runs (24) last season while topping 3.0 WAR for the third year in a row.

    He's under team control through the 2022 season, and the team could explore a long-term deal before he hits the open market. However, he was also the subject of trade rumors during the offseason, so his future on the North Side is unclear.

    The Cubs also have one of the better backup catchers in baseball in Victor Caratini. He posted a 104 OPS+ with 11 home runs and 34 RBI in 279 plate appearances last year.

        

    Future: Miguel Amaya (Tier 2 prospect)

    A 2019 Futures Game selection, Miguel Amaya posted a .753 OPS with 24 doubles, 11 home runs and 57 RBI in 99 games at High-A last season. He also threw out 35 percent of base stealers, and he did it all before his 21st birthday.

    The Cubs gave Ethan Hearn a $950,000 bonus as a sixth-round pick in 2019, the equivalent of second-round money, so he's one to watch, as well.

    Other notable prospects: Ethan Hearn (Tier 3), Ronnier Quintero (Tier 3)

             

    Five-Year Prediction: Contreras (2020-22), Amaya (2023-24)

Chicago White Sox

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    Yasmani Grandal
    Yasmani GrandalRon Vesely/Getty Images

    Present: Yasmani Grandal (Age: 31)

    On the heels of his fourth straight season with at least 2.0 WAR and his second career All-Star appearance, the Chicago White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal during the offseason.

    A perennial 20-homer threat and one of the game's best pitch-framers, he's a two-way standout, and his leadership will be instrumental in the young pitching staff's development.

    Backing him up is 2019 All-Star James McCann, and the team also has a pair of MLB-ready options in the minors in Yermin Mercedes and Seby Zavala.

        

    Future: Zack Collins (Tier 3 prospect)

    The White Sox selected Zack Collins with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2016 draft on the strength of his polished bat, hoping his catching skills would improve enough that he could stick behind the plate.

    However, MLB.com called it "increasingly unlikely that he'll be a regular catcher" in their preseason scouting report, and he could wind up serving in a bat-first utility role of sorts that includes some time at catcher, first base and designated hitter.

    Other notable prospects: Jefferson Mendoza (Tier 3), Victor Torres (Tier 3)

             

    Five-Year Prediction: Grandal (2020-23), Free Agent (2024)

Cincinnati Reds

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Present: Tucker Barnhart (Age: 29)

    The Cincinnati Reds signed Tucker Barnhart to a four-year, $16 million extension after he won Gold Glove honors during a 3.7-WAR season in 2017.

    However, he's been worth just 1.5 WAR total over the past two seasons while posting an 85 OPS+, and the team could opt to decline his $7.5 million club option for 2022 in favor of a $500,000 buyout.

       

    Future: Tyler Stephenson (Tier 2 prospect)

    Drafting a high school catcher in the first round always comes with a good deal of risk, but it's looking more and more like Tyler Stephenson will make good on his status as the No. 11 overall pick in the 2015 draft.

    The 23-year-old has always been viewed as a plus defender, and his bat is starting to catch up to his glove after he hit .285/.372/.410 with 26 extra-base hits in 89 games at Double-A last year. He also hit .347 with seven doubles over 13 games in the Arizona Fall League, and he'll be knocking on the door in 2021.

    Other notable prospects: Jackson Miller (Tier 3), Hendrik Clementina (Tier 3)

             

    Five-Year Prediction: Barnhart (2020-21), Stephenson (2022-24)

Cleveland Indians

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    Roberto Perez
    Roberto PerezJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Present: Roberto Perez (Age: 31)

    Roberto Perez spent five seasons serving as a backup to Yan Gomes before finally getting a chance at the starting job in 2019. He made the most of the opportunity, posting a 99 OPS+ with 24 home runs and 63 RBI in 449 plate appearances while tallying a staggering 30 DRS to win his first Gold Glove Award.

    The Indians signed him to a team-friendly four-year, $9 million contract prior to the 2017 season, and with a pair of club options, he is under control through the 2022 season.

        

    Future: Bo Naylor (Tier 2 prospect)

    One of the best pure hitters among the 2018 high school class, Bo Naylor was chosen with the No. 29 overall pick in the draft that year.

    The 20-year-old has the strong arm and natural receiving skills to stick behind the plate, but the Indians could opt to move him to another position in an effort to maximize his significant offensive upside. For now, he looks like the catcher of the future in Cleveland.

    Other notable prospects: Yainer Diaz (Tier 3)

             

    Five-Year Prediction: Perez (2020-22), Naylor (2023-24)

Colorado Rockies

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    Tony Wolters
    Tony WoltersThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Present: Tony Wolters (Age: 28)

    Tony Wolters has provided the Colorado Rockies with a solid defensive presence behind the plate the past two seasons, tallying 22 DRS and throwing out 31.5 percent of base stealers.

    However, he has an ugly 59 OPS+ in 627 plate appearances during that same stretch.

    Longtime prospect Dom Nunez posted a .921 OPS with 17 home runs in 61 games at Triple-A last year, and he made his MLB debut on Aug. 13. The 25-year-old could potentially play his way into a larger role in the short term.

        

    Future: Drew Romo (Tier 3 prospect)

    The best defensive catcher among the 2020 prep class, Drew Romo was chosen with the No. 35 overall pick and is the only player from Colorado's six-player draft class who is still unsigned.

    Unless he decides to honor his commitment to LSU, he immediately profiles as the catcher of the future in Colorado and has a great chance to be the best homegrown backstop in franchise history.

    Other notable prospects: Ronaiker Palma (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: Wolters (2020-21), Free Agent (2022-23), Romo (2024)

Detroit Tigers

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    Jake Rogers
    Jake RogersMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Present: Austin Romine (Age: 31)

    The Detroit Tigers signed longtime New York Yankees backup Austin Romine to a one-year, $4.1 million contract during the offseason to serve as a stopgap behind the plate.

    There was some hope that Grayson Greiner could take the starting job and run with it last season, but he hit just .202/.251/.308 for a 46 OPS+ over 224 plate appearances in a minus-0.7-WAR season.

        

    Future: Jake Rogers (Tier 3 prospect)

    Defensive-minded Jake Rogers was acquired from the Houston Astros in the Justin Verlander blockbuster, and he has little left to prove in the minors. The 25-year-old posted an .845 OPS with 14 home runs in 76 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year before struggling to a .125 average and 27 OPS+ over 128 plate appearances in the majors.

    He could wind up keeping the position warm for 2020 second-round pick Dillon Dingler, who hit .340/.404/.760 in 13 games this spring and is a rare athlete behind the plate who manned center field during his freshman season at Ohio State.

    Other notable prospects: Dillon Dingler (Tier 3), Sam McMillan (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: Romine (2020), Rogers (2021-22), Dingler (2023-24)

Houston Astros

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    Martin Maldonado
    Martin MaldonadoMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Present: Martin Maldonado (Age: 33)

    The Houston Astros signed Martin Maldonado to a two-year, $7 million contract during the offseason to replace Robinson Chirinos behind the plate.

    With a stacked offense, they can afford to slot the career .218/.289/.355 hitter in an everyday role in which his receiving skills and strong throwing arm will be a significant asset to a young, revamped pitching staff.

            

    Future: Korey Lee (Tier 3 prospect)

    The Astros liked Korey Lee enough to reach for him with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2019 draft after he checked in at No. 173 in Baseball America's Top 500 predraft prospect rankings.

    With a strong arm and intriguing power potential, he has a chance to be the long-term answer behind the plate. But he didn't become a full-time catcher until 2019, so he could take a bit longer to develop than most college players selected in the first round.

    Other notable prospects: Garrett Stubbs (Tier 3)

         

    Five-Year Prediction: Maldonado (2020-21), Stubbs (2022), Lee (2023-24)

Kansas City Royals

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Present: Salvador Perez (Age: 30)

    Somehow still just 30 years old, Salvador Perez missed the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, snapping a streak of six straight All-Star selections in the process.

    His current five-year, $52.5 million contract runs through the 2021 season, at which point the Kansas City front office will have a tough decision to make.

    Despite his age, his 7,472 career innings behind the plate rank fifth among active catchers, and that heavy workload has undoubtedly taken a toll on his body. At the very least, the organization will need to have a contingency plan in place to combat a steep decline.

        

    Future: MJ Melendez (Tier 3 prospect)

    MJ Melendez soared up top prospect lists when he posted a .814 OPS with 26 doubles, 19 home runs and 73 RBI in his full-season debut at Single-A in 2018.

    The 21-year-old crashed back to earth last season, struggling to a .163/.260/.311 line with a 39.4 percent strikeout rate at High-A, and his status as the catcher of the future in Kansas City will hinge greatly on whether he can quickly rebound.

    Other notable prospects: Meibrys Viloria (Tier 3)

              

    Five-Year Prediction: Perez (2020-23), Melendez (2024)

Los Angeles Angels

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    Jason Castro
    Jason CastroMatt York/Associated Press

    Present: Jason Castro (Age: 33)

    The Los Angeles Angels plugged an ongoing void at the catcher position by signing Jason Castro to a one-year, $6.85 million contract during the offseason.

    He posted a 101 OPS+ with 13 home runs and 30 RBI in 79 games while splitting time with Mitch Garver behind the plate in Minnesota last year, and his veteran leadership will serve a young staff well.

        

    Future: ???

    There is not a single catcher to be found on the Angels' 2020 top prospect lists from Baseball America (30 players), FanGraphs (34 players) or MLB.com (30 players).

    Other notable prospects: None

              

    Five-Year Prediction: Castro (2020), Free Agent (2021-24)

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Will Smith
    Will SmithSean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Present: Will Smith (Age: 25)

    Will Smith made his MLB debut last season, and he played his way into the starting catcher job down the stretch, finishing with a 134 OPS+ to go along with 15 home runs and 42 RBI in 54 games.

    The 2016 first-round pick played some second and third base in the minors, and a move to the hot corner is not out of the question depending on what happens with the upcoming free agency of Justin Turner and the impending arrival of another top-tier prospect.

          

    Future: Keibert Ruiz (Tier 1 prospect)

    Keibert Ruiz is a career .299/.351/.420 hitter in five minor league campaigns, and he has ranked among the top catching prospects in baseball for multiple seasons.

    That said, he struggled through a down year at the plate in 2019, hitting .261/.331/.347 with just 15 extra-base hits in 350 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. The 21-year-old is still miles ahead of the developmental curve, and regardless of whether he's the catcher of the future for the Dodgers or a trade chip, he has significant value.

    Other notable prospects: Diego Cartaya (Tier 3), Carson Taylor (Tier 3)

              

    Five-Year Prediction: Smith (2020-23), Cartaya (2024)

Miami Marlins

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    Jorge Alfaro
    Jorge AlfaroMark Brown/Getty Images

    Present: Jorge Alfaro (Age: 27)

    Tasked with replacing J.T. Realmuto behind the plate and acquired in the deal that sent the All-Star to Philadelphia, Jorge Alfaro hit .262/.312/.425 for a 95 OPS+ with 18 home runs and 57 RBI in 2019.

    The former top prospect is under team control through the 2023 season, and he'll be given every opportunity to build off last season's success in the years to come while the Marlins continue to rebuild.

            

    Future: Will Banfield (Tier 3 prospect)

    Despite struggling to a .199/.252/.310 line with a 27.9 percent strikeout rate, Will Banfield remains the closest thing the Marlins have to a catcher of the future.

    The 2018 second-round pick was viewed by some as having the highest defensive ceiling in the 2018 draft, and his $1.8 million bonus represented nearly double slot value. He has a long way to go offensively, but there's some raw power potential and everyday starter upside in his strong 6'0", 200-pound frame.

    Other notable prospects: Nick Fortes (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: Alfaro (2020-23), Banfield (2024)

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Omar Narvaez
    Omar NarvaezNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Present: Omar Narvaez (Age: 28)

    The Milwaukee Brewers acquired Omar Narvaez from the Seattle Mariners during the offseason in exchange for right-hander Adam Hill and a 2020 supplemental round pick.

    In a breakout season, he hit .278/.353/.460 for a 120 OPS+ with 22 home runs and 55 RBI in 482 plate appearances while serving in a platoon with Tom Murphy. He's arbitration-eligible through the 2022 season.

          

    Future: Mario Feliciano (Tier 2 prospect)

    One of the biggest breakout performers among catching prospects, Mario Feliciano hit .270/.323/.473 with 25 doubles, 19 home runs and 81 RBI in 119 games between High-A and Double-A.

    His defensive game needs further refinement, but his hit tool and power potential give him an everyday profile even if he's never more than an average defender.

    Other notable prospects: Payton Henry (Tier 3), Zavier Warren (Tier 3), Jeferson Quero (Tier 3), Nick Kahle (Tier 3)

             

    Five-Year Prediction: Narvaez (2020-22), Feliciano (2023-24)

Minnesota Twins

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    Mitch Garver
    Mitch GarverBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Present: Mitch Garver (Age: 29)

    After a 0.9 WAR-season in 2018 during which he hit seven home runs in 102 games while serving as a backup, Mitch Garver exploded for a 156 OPS+ and 31 home runs in 359 plate appearances last season to win American League Silver Slugger honors.

    His strong hard-hit percentage (97th percentile) and exit velocity (85th percentile) would seem to indicate that his power production is the real deal, and the Twins have him under control through the 2023 season.

    Veteran Alex Avila signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract to replace Jason Castro in the backup role.

            

    Future: Ryan Jeffers (Tier 3 prospect)

    Ryan Jeffers hit .344/.444/.502 with 24 extra-base hits over 64 games in his pro debut after he was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft, and he backed that up with a strong showing in his first full season last year.

    The 23-year-old batted .264/.341/.421 with 16 doubles and 14 home runs in 103 games between High-A and Double-A, and he also threw out a respectable 26 percent of base stealers while showing excellent receiving skills. He has everyday potential if he continues to exceed expectations with his hit tool.

    Other notable prospects: Ben Rortvedt (Tier 3)

         

    Five-Year Prediction: Garver (2020-23), Jeffers (2024)

New York Mets

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    Wilson Ramos
    Wilson RamosJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Present: Wilson Ramos (Age: 32)

    The New York Mets finally moved on from the underperforming duo of Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki when they signed Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $19 million contract prior to last season.

    The two-time All-Star hit .288/.351/.416 with 14 home runs and 73 RBI in his first season with the team, and a similar showing in 2020 would make his $10 million club option for 2021 a tough decision.

        

    Future: Francisco Alvarez (Tier 2 prospect)

    The Mets gave Francisco Alvarez a $2.7 million bonus as part of the 2018 international free-agent class, and he made his pro debut stateside last year.

    The 18-year-old hit .312/.407/.510 with 10 doubles and seven home runs in 42 games over two rookie ball stops, and he showed all the requisite tools to be a standout defender. While he still has a long way to go, the early returns were extremely promising, and a similar showing in his full-season debut would vault him up top prospect lists.

    Other notable prospects: Endy Rodriguez (Tier 3), Ali Sanchez (Tier 3)

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Ramos (2021), Free Agent (2022-23), Alvarez (2024)

New York Yankees

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    Gary Sanchez
    Gary SanchezJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Present: Gary Sanchez (Age: 27)

    Gary Sanchez launched a career-high 34 home runs last season, and he only played 106 games.

    The two-time All-Star has tremendous power, evidenced by his 105 career home runs in what amounts to less than two-and-a-half full seasons' worth of games.

    Health and defense are the big question marks, and if they remain question marks over the next few seasons, the New York Yankees will have a tough decision to make when he reaches free agency after the 2022 season.

        

    Future: Austin Wells (Tier 3 prospect)

    One of the most polished hitters in the 2020 draft, Austin Wells was selected with the No. 28 overall pick after he hit .357/.476/.560 in 71 games at the University of Arizona.

    With a 55-grade hit tool and 55-grade power, he could move quickly through the minors if he shifts to another position, and he's athletic enough to handle first base or a corner outfield spot. For now, he'll be given every chance to prove himself as a catcher, and he has the tools to be an average defender in the crouch and the catcher of the future in New York.

    Other notable prospects: Anthony Seigler (Tier 3), Josh Breaux (Tier 3), Antonio Gomez (Tier 3)

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Sanchez (2020-22), Wells (2023-24)

Oakland Athletics

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    Sean Murphy
    Sean MurphyRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Present: Sean Murphy (Age: 25)

    Productive when healthy, Sean Murphy was limited to 98 games in 2017 and 73 games in 2018 before missing two months during the first half of the 2019 season.

    He returned strong in July and finally made his MLB debut on Sept. 4, 2019, posting a 137 OPS+ with five doubles and four home runs in 60 plate appearances down the stretch in the midst of a playoff push.

    He'll be joined by fellow rookie Austin Allen in holding down the catcher position in 2020. The offensive-minded Allen hit .406/.441/.656 with two doubles and two home runs in 34 plate appearances during spring training.

        

    Future: Tyler Soderstrom (Tier 3 prospect)

    The top prep catcher in the 2020 draft and one of the best all-around hitters in the class, Tyler Soderstrom has enough offensive upside that his bat will play anywhere on the field.

    The No. 26 overall pick was added to Oakland's 60-man roster pool for the 2020 season shortly after he agreed to terms on an above-slot $3.3 million bonus, and he has a chance to quickly ascend to the top of the organizational prospect rankings.

    Other notable prospects: Jonah Heim (Tier 3), Kyle McCann (Tier 3)

             

    Five-Year Prediction: Murphy (2020-24)

Philadelphia Phillies

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    J.T. Realmuto
    J.T. RealmutoMitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Present: J.T. Realmuto (Age: 29)

    Will the Philadelphia Phillies be able to lock up J.T. Realmuto long-term?

    An All-Star and Silver Slugger winner in back-to-back seasons, he added a Gold Glove Award last season when he threw out 47 percent of base stealers. The 29-year-old also hit .275/.328/.493 with career-high marks in home runs (25) and RBI (83).

    He reportedly has his sights set on becoming the highest-paid catcher in MLB history in terms of average annual value when he hits the open market this winter, which would mean eclipsing the $23 million per year Joe Mauer earned from 2011 to 2018, according to Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

        

    Future: Rafael Marchan (Tier 3 prospect)

    The Phillies have a handful of intriguing low-level catching prospects, with Rafael Marchan currently viewed as the best of the bunch.

    The 21-year-old hit .261 with a .333 on-base percentage and 20 doubles in 351 plate appearances between High-A and Single-A last year, and he also threw out 36 percent of base stealers. No one from their prospect group is close to the majors, so they'll need a short-term replacement if Realmuto walks.

    Other notable prospects: Deivy Grullon (Tier 3), Rodolfo Duran (Tier 3), Logan O'Hoppe (Tier 3)

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Realmuto (2020-24)

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Jacob Stallings
    Jacob StallingsDustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Present: Jacob Stallings (Age: 30)

    With Francisco Cervelli now gone and Elias Diaz non-tendered, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to turn starting catcher duties over to Jacob Stallings.

    In his first extended MLB action last season, he hit .262/.325/.382 with six home runs and 13 RBI in 210 plate appearances during a 1.5-WAR season. He'll be flanked by Luke Maile, who signed a one-year, $900,000 deal to serve as his backup.

        

    Future: ???

    Grant Koch checks in at No. 35 on FanGraphs' list of the top prospects in the Pirates' system. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, and he hit .202 with a .591 OPS at Single-A last year. He's the closest thing the Pittsburgh organization has to a legitimate catching prospect.

    Other notable prospects: None

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Stallings (2020-21), Free Agent (2022-24)

San Diego Padres

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    Francisco Mejia
    Francisco MejiaHunter Martin/Getty Images

    Present: Francisco Mejia (Age: 24) and Austin Hedges (Age: 27)

    The San Diego Padres currently have a balanced platoon of offensive-minded Francisco Mejia and defensive-minded Austin Hedges.

    Mejia had a 98 OPS+ with 21 extra-base hits in 244 plate appearances. Hedges tallied 21 DRS and threw out 33 percent of base stealers.

    While Mejia is under team control through the 2024 season and Hedges is arbitration-eligible through 2022, the team could eventually make a move to a more well-rounded everyday starter.

        

    Future: Luis Campusano (Tier 1 prospect)

    Luis Campusano fits the bill of the aforementioned well-rounded starter.

    The 21-year-old hit .325/.396/.509 with 31 doubles, 15 home runs and 81 RBI in 110 games at High-A last season to emerge as a top-tier catching prospect. He has always been viewed as a plus defender with a strong throwing arm since he was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft, and he now has the offensive profile to match.

    Other notable prospects: Blake Hunt (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: Mejia (2020-21), Campusano (2022-24)

San Francisco Giants

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    Joey Bart
    Joey BartRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Present: Buster Posey (Age: 33)

    Buster Posey is no longer the All-World catcher he was in his prime.

    For the first time in his career last year, he posted a sub-100 OPS+, hitting .257/.320/.368 for an 84 OPS+ with seven home runs and 38 RBI in 114 games.

    The San Francisco Giants still owe him $22.2 million in 2021, and he has a $22 million option that carries a $3 million buyout in 2022. A passing of the torch is coming as a Hall of Fame talent wraps up his storied career.

        

    Future: Joey Bart (Tier 1 prospect)

    Joey Bart immediately became the heir apparent at the catcher position in San Francisco when he was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

    He hit .278/.328/.495 with 16 home runs and 48 RBI over 79 games in a 2019 season that was shortened by a fractured hand, and he suffered another hand injury during the Arizona Fall League after going 10-for-30 with four home runs and 10 RBI in his first 10 games.

    As long as he can avoid fastballs to the hand going forward, he looks like a potential middle-of-the-order force and a perennial All-Star talent.

    Other notable prospects: Patrick Bailey (Tier 3), Ricardo Genoves (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: Posey (2020-21), Bart (2022-24)

Seattle Mariners

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    Tom Murphy
    Tom MurphyStephen Brashear/Getty Images

    Present: Tom Murphy (Age: 29)

    No player benefited more from a change of scenery in 2019 than Tom Murphy.

    A strong performer in the minors who was never given an extended look with the Colorado Rockies, Murphy landed in Seattle and hit .273/.324/.535 for a 129 OPS+ with 18 home runs and 40 RBI in 281 plate appearances.

    The front office saw enough to trade his platoon partner, Omar Narvaez, to the Brewers during the offseason, and Murphy is under club control through the 2023 season.

        

    Future: Cal Raleigh (Tier 3 prospect)

    The Mariners may have gotten a steal when they selected Cal Raleigh in the third round of the 2018 draft.

    The 23-year-old hit .251/.323/.497 with 25 doubles, 29 home runs and 82 RBI in 121 games between High-A and Double-A in his first full season, and he already profiles as a solid defensive catcher with plus receiving skills.

    Other notable prospects: Carter Bins (Tier 3)

           

    Five-Year Prediction: Murphy (2020-22), Raleigh (2023-24)

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Yadier Molina
    Yadier MolinaJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Present: Yadier Molina (Age: 37)

    How much longer is Yadier Molina going to play?

    The 16-year MLB veteran has indicated that he's open to exploring free agency if the St. Louis Cardinals do not bring him back following the final season of a three-year, $60 million contract in 2020.

    It's hard to envision anyone else manning the position for the Cardinals at this point, but they do have some intriguing catching talent in the minors.

        

    Future: Ivan Herrera (Tier 2 prospect)

    Andrew Knizner is the current catcher-in-waiting in St. Louis. The 25-year-old spent the bulk of last season at Triple-A, hitting .276/.357/.463 with 22 extra-base hits in 66 games.

    However, Ivan Herrera looks like the true catcher of the future.

    He reached High-A at the age of 19 last season, hitting .284/.374/.405 with 19 extra-base hits in 87 games at that level and Single-A, and he shined in the Arizona Fall League with a .324 average and .439 on-base percentage in 41 plate appearances.

    Other notable prospects: Andrew Knizner (Tier 2), Julio Rodriguez (Tier 3)

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Molina (2020-22), Herrera (2023-24)

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Present: Mike Zunino (Age: 29)

    The catcher position has been a revolving door in Tampa Bay since the franchise's inception in 1998.

    Mike Zunino began the season as the starter but eventually lost the job to scrapheap pickup Travis d'Arnaud. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Zunino hit an ugly .165/.232/.312 for a 44 OPS+ in 289 plate appearances, and he'll be a free agent for the first time in his career following the 2020 season.

        

    Future: Ronaldo Hernandez (Tier 2 prospect)

    Signed for $225,000 back in 2014, Ronaldo Hernandez established himself as a top-tier catching prospect with a breakout 2018 season in which he posted an .832 OPS with 21 home runs at Single-A.

    He hit .265/.299/.397 with 31 extra-base hits in 103 games at High-A last year, and his hit tool remains a work in progress, but the 22-year-old has tremendous potential and a chance to be a star if everything clicks.

    Other notable prospects: Logan Driscoll (Tier 3)

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Zunino (2020), Free Agent (2021), Hernandez (2022-24)

Texas Rangers

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    Sam Huff
    Sam HuffCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Present: Robinson Chirinos (Age: 36)

    Robinson Chirinos returned to the Texas Rangers on a one-year, $6.5 million contract during the offseason after spending 2019 with the Houston Astros.

    He had spent the previous six seasons in Arlington, and after posting a 105 OPS+ with 22 doubles and 17 home runs last year, he returns to the Rangers and will split catching duties with glove-only veteran Jeff Mathis.

        

    Future: Sam Huff (Tier 1 prospect)

    The Rangers found a diamond in the rough when they selected Sam Huff in the seventh round of the 2016 draft out of Arcadia High School in Arizona.

    After flashing some intriguing pop with 18 home runs at Single-A in 2018, he was one of the breakout prospects of 2019 when he hit .278/.335/.509 with 22 doubles, 28 home runs and 72 RBI in 127 games between Single-A and High-A.

    He's a big guy at 6'4" and 230 pounds, but he moves well behind the plate and should develop into a quality defender.

    Other notable prospects: David Garcia (Tier 3), Randy Florentino (Tier 3)

            

    Five-Year Prediction: Chirinos (2020-21), Huff (2022-24)

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Danny Jansen
    Danny JansenJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Present: Danny Jansen (Age: 25)

    After trading Russell Martin last offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays turned catching duties over to the rookie duo of Danny Jansen (384 PA, 70 OPS+, 1.1 WAR) and Reese McGuire (105 PA, 130 OPS+, 1.0 WAR).

    While he provided the bulk of his value on the defensive side last year, Jansen has a solid track record as a hitter in the minors. He hit .275/.390/.473 with 34 extra-base hits in 88 games at Triple-A in 2018, and he could take a step forward at the plate in the years to come.

    Jansen is under team control through 2024.

            

    Future: Alejandro Kirk (Tier 2 prospect)

    With a 60-grade hit tool, Alejandro Kirk has a bright future at the MLB level in some capacity, but he's a below-average defensive catcher and might wind up moving out of the crouch in the big leagues.

    Gabriel Moreno is a notch below him on the current organizational prospect rankings, but he may ultimately wind up being the catcher of the future. The 20-year-old hit .280/.337/.485 with 17 doubles and 12 home runs in 82 games at Single-A last year.

    Other notable prospects: Gabriel Moreno (Tier 3), Riley Adams (Tier 3)

         

    Five-Year Prediction: Jansen (2020-23), Moreno (2024)

Washington Nationals

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    Yan Gomes
    Yan GomesMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Present: Yan Gomes (Age: 32) and Kurt Suzuki (Age: 36)

    The platoon of Yan Gomes (78 OPS+, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 1.3 WAR) and Kurt Suzuki (102 OPS+, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 0.3 WAR) handled catching duties for the World Series champions last season.

    That duo is back for the 2020 season, and Gomes is under contract through 2021.

    The team might need a stopgap option in 2022 with no MLB-ready starting-quality backstops in the upper levels of the minors.

        

    Future: Israel Pineda (Tier 3 prospect)

    Israel Pineda hit .217/.278/.305 with 12 doubles and seven home runs in 411 plate appearances at Single-A last year, and while those numbers don't jump off the page, there's reason for optimism regarding his long-term outlook.

    The 20-year-old has a good approach at the plate and some playable power, and he showed excellent catch-and-throw skills in nabbing 44 percent of base stealers last year. He's ahead of the curve and has the upside of an everyday starter.

    Other notable prospects: Tres Barrera (Tier 3), Raudy Read (Tier 3), Jakson Reetz (Tier 3)

         

    Five-Year Prediction: Gomes (2020-21), Free Agent (2022), Pineda (2023-24)

            

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. Contract information via Spotrac. Prospect tiers refer to each player's status in B/R's most recent farm system rankings.

    Catch up on past State of the Position articles: Shortstop, Third Base