Cleat Geeks

Top 10 Thursdays: Top 10 MLB Catchers Today

So, with the season coming to an end, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming off-season. To do that, we’re going to break down the top 10 players at each position over the next several weeks. I’ll start with the position I played my whole life- the catchers. These guys play one of the most critical positions in all of sports. I used a model by CBSSports.com, then came up with my own list. Here are the 10 best catchers in baseball for the 2017 off-season and I will start with number 10 all the way down to the best.

 

  1. Francisco Cervelli- Pittsburg Pirates

Francisco Cervelli’s follow-up to his breakout 2015 seasons didn’t go quite that well. Hit .264/.377/.322 (90 OPS+) in 2016 while missing time with a hand injury, and also threw out only 19 percent of attempted base-stealers. 2017 was an injury played season but the pitch-framing numbers still love him though, and with a healthy hand in 2018, the Pirates backstop should return to being a solid catcher who plays with a ton of energy.

Contract Status: Cervelli is signed with the Pirates for 2 more seasons for a total of $22 Million.Image result for Yadier Molina

  1. Yadier Molina- St. Louis Cardinals

This has personally been my favorite player to watch when I played. I always watch videos to almost copy-cat his catching style. Two years ago it seemed Yadier Molina’s days as an elite catcher had ended. The longtime Cardinals backstop authored an 80 OPS+ at the plate in 2015, his worst offensive season in a decade, and he did it during his age 32 season, when many catchers begin to decline. Especially catchers who have been workhorses like Molina.

In 2016, Molina rebounded to hit .307/.360/.427 (110 OPS+) with 38 doubles and eight home runs, which answered any questions about his possible decline. He also remained a top of the line pitch-framer. Interestingly enough, last season was Molina’s worst at throwing out base-stealers. He threw out only 21 percent, far below his career 42 percent rate. Runners stole more bases against Yadi in 2016 (67) than they did in 2014 and 2015 combined (60). But Yadi came back down to earth in 2017 hitting .273/.312.

Contract Status: Yadier has made $94, 998,500 all with the Cardinals since 2005. He is signed with the Cardinals for 3 additional years at $30,000,000 per year.

  1. Wellington Castillo- Baltimore Orioles

Castillo had his best season yet since coming into the league in 2010 with the Cubs. Castillo never had a fair shot with the Cubs and was bounced around to the Seattle Mariners, to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and now has found a home in Baltimore. Castillo hit .282/.323/490 for Baltimore and was their most consistent hitter with improved game calling, with better defensive skills. Let’s see if Castillo can be consistent in 2018 to cap off a great 2017 season.

Contract Status: He made $6 Million last year with Baltimore and has a $7 Million player option for the 2018 season.

Image result for jonathan lucroy rockies

  1. Jonathan Lucroy- Colorado Rockies

Injuries hampered Jonathan Lucroy back in 2015, though he rebounded very well in 2016, hitting .292/.355/.500 (123 OPS+) with a career high 24 home runs. He was good with the Brewers and Rangers (121 OPS+) before being traded to the Rockies at the deadline, where his performance ticked up (128 OPS+) despite being thrust into a postseason race. Like Posey, Lucroy grades out as an excellent pitch-framer and has also thrown out close to 40 percent of attempted base-stealers the last few years. The league average is 28 percent. Lucroy did have a disappointing season and is looking for a new team for next season. I believe he will bounce back with any team that signs him this off-season.

Contract Status: In his 7 year MLB career he has made a total of $15.9 Million. He is a free agent for the upcoming 2018 season.

  1. J.T. Realmuto- Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins had another disappointing season 2017 but another position player has been developed in J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is another Johnathan Lucroy kind of catcher with great game calling and defensive skills. From the past couple of seasons, the bat has gotten better and better. Realmuto hit .278/.322/.783 which isn’t the greatest but this is a player very much underrated that can be on a different team by the 2018 season. Realmuto will only get better as a player in the next coming years.

Contract Status: Made $562,500 in 2017 with the Miami Marlins. Arbitration Eligible in 2018, free agent in 2019.

Image result for yasmani grandal 2017

  1. Yasmani Grandal- Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers’ catcher Yasmani Grandal doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the game’s top catchers, probably because he doesn’t hit for a high average. His 27 home runs led all full-time catchers in 2016, however, and he drew enough walks to put up a .228/.339/.477 (121 OPS+) overall batting line. Add in outstanding pitch-framing and a league average arm and you’ve got yourself a sneaky good backstop.

Contract Status: Made $5.5 Million with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017. Arbitration Eligible in 2018, free agent in 2019.

  1. Gary Sanchez- New York Yankees

Normally, ranking a player with only 55 big league games under his belt among the top 10 players at his position is unheard of. Then again, most players don’t come up and club 20 home runs in one-third of a season — at a position as demanding as catcher, no less — like Yankees youngster Gary Sanchez did a year ago. Sanchez has long been a top prospect with big power potential. Add in a cannon arm and it’s entirely possible Sanchez will still be atop our catcher rankings list in a year or two. The offensive in 2017 was as good as advertised hitting .278 with 33 home runs. The defense was compromised in 2017, but with a few mechanical issues Image result for salvador perezthat will be resolved this off-season, Sanchez is still in the top-5.

Contract Status: Made $557,900 with the New York Yankees in 2017. Arbitration Eligible in the 2020 season not a free agent until 2023

3. Salvador Perez- Kansas City Royals

On paper, Royals catcher Salvador Perez doesn’t do much well. He has power, swatting 43 home runs over the last two years, but he’s been a below-average hitter overall (89 OPS+ in 2016 and 2017) and the defensive stats say he is just okay behind the plate, if not below-average. And yet, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Perez definitely seems like someone who would benefit from a “works with pitchers” stat.

Contract Status: Signed with the Kansas City Royals until 2021 with $48.3 Million left on his current contract

2. Willson Contreras- Chicago Cubs

This was tough because Contreras and Salvador Perez are almost the same kind of catcher but Contreras is the one that has been improving year by year. Two years ago Willson Contreras broke out as a top catching prospect, and when he reached the big leagues in 2016, he put up a .282/.357/.488 (125 OPS+) batting line with 12 home runs in 76 games while also seeing time in the outfield. In 2017, had a .276/.356/.855. But was a major key to Joe Madden’s line-up, silicifying the clean-up spot. Both his caught stealing rate (37 percent) and pitch-framing metrics were better than the league averages too. Contreras shared time with David Ross and Miguel Montero behind the plate last summer. He’s now poised to take over as the No. 1 catcher for the Cubs for a long period of time.

Contract Status: Made $544,500 in the 2017 season with the Chicago Cubs. Arbitration Eligible in the 2020 season not a free agent until 2023

Image result for buster posey 2017

  1. Buster Posey- San Francisco Giants

Although the 2016 season was Buster Posey’s worst offensively, 2017 was a resurgence year for Posey. He was still a force and far better than the league average catcher, hitting .288/.362/.434 (112 OPS+) with 33 doubles, 14 homers, and nearly as many walks (64) as strikeouts (68). On top of the offense, he also grades out as an exceptional pitch-framer, and over the last two seasons he’s thrown out nearly 40 percent of all attempted base-stealers. Posey will turn 31 in March and is still very much a dominant two-way presence at the catcher position. He remains the cream of the crop and the Giants owe much of their success in recent years to him.

Contract Status: Signed through 2021 with the San Francisco Giants for $21.4 Million per season

 

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