RANKED: Every MLB Team’s Catcher From Worst to Best

30. Jeff Mathis — Texas Rangers

Catchers have the toughest task in baseball. The position is physically demanding, mentally taxing, and brutally unforgiving. It is also, arguably, the most difficult position to judge. Take Jeff Mathis, for example. He has never appeared in more than 94 games, has failed to hit 10 homers in a season, and has never hit above .240. So why, entering his age-36 season, does he still have a job and the respect of his peers? He calls a great game.

Mathis’ greatest strength is developing good relationships with his pitching staffs. His staffs tend to have better strikeout-to-walk ratios, lower ERA’s and OPS when he is behind the plate opposed to other options. His hitting has always been atrocious, but Mathis’ defense and ability to connect with the staff have kept him around for 15 seasons.

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29. Chance Sisco — Baltimore Orioles

Sisco being ranked ahead of Mathis is more about his potential than anything. Regarded as one of the top prospects in Baltimore’s organization, Sisco backed up his reputation as a strong hitter — .306/.386/.420 in the minors — before being called up to the Orioles. However, after a decent start to the season, Baltimore made a questionable decision and sent Sisco back to the minors.

When the Orioles decided to bring their top prospect back to the big leagues, Sisco seemingly forgot how to hit. He finished the year with a .181 BA. Despite being a massive disappointment in the box, Sisco’s defense was better than expected. He threw out 31 percent of baserunners, and only committed one error. Sisco will have plenty of opportunities to shine in ’19.

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28. Josh Phegley — Oakland Athletics

A career backup, Phegley appears primed for the A’s starting role this year. With the departure of Jonathan Lucroy, Phegley and Chris Herrmann are the only catchers currently on Oakland’s roster. Phegley knocked in 15 RBI in 39 games a season ago, producing a .204/.255/.344 slash line for the year. Defensively, Phegley threw out an impressive 7-of-20 runners, but allowed six passed balls. With highly-touted catching prospect Sean Murphy probably a year away from joining the main roster, Phegley may play the most games of his career this season.

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27. Alex Avila — Arizona Diamondbacks

Avila’s career has been quite odd. He has had a few very good years — in ’11 Avila was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and finished 12th in the AL MVP — and some very bad ones, including last year. Avila finished his first year in Arizona with a .165 BA and an awful .299 OBP. Avila struck out a whopping 38 percent of his at-bats. By mid June, he neared 50 percent. Avila seemed to lose bat speed last season, which is not promising going forward for the 32-year-old. However, his defense was decent enough to illicit a second chance this season. If Avila hits to the ability he’s capable of, he may be a positive figure for the Diamondbacks.

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26. Omar Narváez — Seattle Mariners

This may be the last time Narváez finds himself ranked this low among his peers. A member of the White Sox last summer, Narváez was thrust into the starting role due to Welington Castillo’s 80-game suspension. Narváez was great over the final four months of the season. He hit nine homers and slashed .315/.401/.502. However, for as potent Narváez was offensively, his defense was equally bad.

Making 85 appearances behind the plate, Narváez committed seven errors, allowed 12 passed balls, and only threw out 24 percent of runners — well below the league average. The chance to start in Seattle should help Narváez expedite his road to relevancy. He proved he can hit, now he must prove he can be an adequate backstop.

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25. Sandy Leon — Boston Red Sox

Sandy Leon is the polar opposite of the 26th ranked catcher, Omar Narváez. Leon’s value comes in the form of defense and game management. Leon played 89 games last season while splitting time with Christian Vazquez, and produced little to nothing with his bat. Leon homered five times, but hit .177 overall. Despite his offensive shortcomings, Leon seized his opportunity in the World Series and went 3-for-6. Leon’s impact, however, is felt most when he is behind the plate. Boston pitchers had a 3.28 ERA with Leon catching. His blocking skills continue to improve, and the veteran calls a great game.

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24. Jason Castro — Minnesota Twins

A former All-Star, Castro is set to return to the Twins’ starting lineup after missing the majority of last season with a torn meniscus. While not a huge threat at the plate, Castro is a consistent threat to hit 10+ homers per season. His ability behind the plate isn’t overwhelming, but the 31-year-old is a steady presence. Castro’s pitch framing ability is far and away his biggest asset. It is not a certainty he remains the starting catcher all season with Mitch Garver and Willians Astudillo nipping at his heels, but Castro’s framing prowess should keep him in the mix.

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23. Roberto Pérez — Cleveland Indians

Pérez may not be the flashiest catcher, but the Indians sure seem confident in their new backstop. With Yan Gomes now with the Nationals, Pérez will finally get his opportunity to be the regular catcher in Cleveland. Pérez has displayed a knack for connecting and leading Cleveland’s talented stable of pitchers. Having never handled a huge workload, the organization will closely monitor Pérez. Also, if Pérez’ struggles at the plate begin to outweigh his handling of the rotation, Kevin Plawecki and the powerful Eric Haase will be ready to step in.

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22. Grayson Greiner — Detroit Tigers

With the Tigers likely staring down another rebuilding year, it will be important for rookie Grayson Greiner to impress. Greiner, who appeared in 30 games last season for the Tigers, will be the everyday catcher according to manager Ron Gardenhire. The 26-year-old accumulated 21 hits and an impressive 17 walks during his 30-game stint. Nothing about Greiner’s game is excellent at this point, but he projects to be a quality starter.

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21. Jonathan Lucroy — Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The days of Jonathan Lucroy being an All-Star are likely behind him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player anymore. Lucroy was once highly regarded as being among the best pitch framers in the sport. Now, he ranks on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. At the plate, Lucroy’s ground-ball-rate has increased dramatically. Moreover, he is hitting the ball far softer than in previous years.

Nonetheless, Lucroy has never hit below .240 and still doesn’t strikeout much. His work behind the plate last year was very disappointing by his standards. 10 errors, 10 passed balls, and a 30 percent caught stealing rate doesn’t elicit confidence going forward.

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20. Chris Iannetta — Colorado Rockies

Chris Iannetta, like most catchers, will never be confused with a masher. Though, he does possess some pop and is capable of hitting upwards of 15 homers. Nearing 36 years of age, Iannetta has done well to improve his defensive game over the years. His framing skills have increased substantially since his first few years in the league, which in turn boosted Iannetta’s value. Iannetta’s inability to throw out runners is a glaring weakness in his game. Last year, 48-of-56 runners were successful against Colorado’s backstop.

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19. Jorge Alfaro — Miami Marlins

One of the key parts of the J.T. Realmuto trade, Alfaro is an exciting young catcher who has the potential to be an All-Star if he reaches his ceiling. In 104 games behind the plate last season, Alfaro committed 11 errors and an NL-worst 10 passed balls. At the plate, Alfaro hit .262 with 10 homers and 16 doubles. His 138 strikeouts are a tad worrisome, but the young prospect has a lot going for him. He has one of the best throwing arms of any catcher, and substantial power in his bat. The finer points of catching — framing, blocking balls, calling a game — need sharpening, but Alfaro is off to a good start.

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18. Danny Jansen — Toronto Blue Jays

Jansen’s ranking in this piece speaks to both his performance at the end of last year, and his immense potential heading into ’19. Only 23, Jansen popped during his 31-game stint with the Blue Jays to close out last season. The bespectacled youngster hit three homers and slashed .247/.347/.432. His defense will need to improve (it should with more time behind the plate), but his bat is already encouraging. Jansen displayed good patience at the plate as a rookie and has enough pop to be a factor at the dish.

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17. Austin Barnes — Los Angeles Dodgers

’19 is a big year for Barnes. Yasmani Grandal has left town, leaving Barnes and Russell Martin to split time behind home for the Dodgers. Barnes is coming off of a really tough year at the plate — .205/.329/.290. However, he has displayed a disciplined approach in the box and has a lifetime .364 OBP. Barnes’ biggest plus is his defense. He rates extremely well in defensive metrics and is highly dependable. By all accounts, pitchers love throwing to him. Nonetheless, Barnes has to improve at the plate this season. Between Martin returning to Los Angeles and Keibert Ruiz/Will Smith closing in on the Majors, Barnes has a lot riding on this season.

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16. Robinson Chirinos — Houston Astros

At 34 years old, Chirinos may be nearing the end of the road. However, despite his advanced age, Chirinos has enjoyed his two best seasons at the plate in consecutive years. Averaging only 100 games per season since ’17, Houston’s new catcher is still producing 18 HR, 52 RBI and a .456 SLG over that stretch. Defensively, Chirinos has some good qualities and one glaring weakness. He is very sure-handed — three errors and five passed balls in ’18 — but struggles throwing out baserunners. Part of the problem can be pinned on the pitching staff, but a 10 percent mark is embarrassing for a big league catcher.

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15. Yan Gomes — Washington Nationals

Now a member of the Washington Nationals, Gomes will look to build upon his impressive ’18 season. In making his first All-Star team, Gomes enjoyed his best offensive year since his third professional campaign. The Brazilian slashed .266/.313/.449, and clubbed 16 homers. Primarily known as being one of the better defensive catchers in baseball, Gomes can only enhance his stock with another good season at the plate. It is nearly impossible to run on Gomes. His ability to transfer the ball from his glove to his bare hand — into a throwing motion — is unrivaled. For his career, Gomes has thrown out 35 percent of attempted base-stealers.

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14. Austin Hedges — San Diego Padres

Austin Hedges is an exciting catching prospect in his own right, but he will have to fend off the über-talented Francisco Mejia — San Diego’s No. 3 prospect — to maintain his status as an everyday player. Hedges had by far his best year at the plate in ’18, hitting 14 homers and increasing his batting average to .231, and SLG to a career-high .429. San Diego’s backstop displayed better patience at the dish, and the results were encouraging. More tantalizing than his approach at the plate, however, is Hedges’ defensive ability. Already a solid defender, Hedges has an opportunity to be one of the best the game has to offer behind home.

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13. Francisco Cervelli — Pittsburgh Pirates

Between Cervelli and Elias Diaz, the Pirates have a pair of hard-hitting catchers. In ’18, Cervelli surpassed double-digit homers for the first time in his career, finishing with 12. He also set full-season career-highs in RBI (57), OBP (.378), SLG (.431) and OPS (.809). Cervelli also posted his best WAR (2.6) since ’15, his first year in Pittsburgh. In addition to having a career-year at the plate, Cervelli also had his best defensive season to date. In 94 games, Cervelli only committed three errors and allowed just eight passed balls. Most impressively, Cervelli threw out 23-of-59 baserunners — a 39 percent success rate.

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12. Tucker Barnhart — Cincinnati Reds

Barnhart may not be a familiar name to many fans outside of Cincinnati, but the 28-year-old is a catcher on the rise. Impressive both at the plate, and especially behind it, Barnhart already has one Gold Glove to his name and should be in-line for a few more as his career progresses. Since ’16, Barnhart is hitting .258 for the Reds. He consistently knocks in around 50 runners per season, and is good for nearly 40 XBH’s. However, Barnhart truly shines behind the plate. In nearly 2,000 chances since ’17, Barnhart has only committed three errors — a truly incredible number. He finished the ’17 season throwing out a league-high 32-of-73 runners. In the long run, it is probably a good thing that the Reds didn’t trade for J.T. Realmuto.

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11. Welington Castillo — Chicago White Sox

Two seasons ago, while in Baltimore, Castillo had a career-year both at the plate, and behind it. Last year, Castillo was suspended 80 games after a failed PED test. Despite his suspension, Castillo remains among the best catchers in the game today. While a member of the Orioles in ’17, Castillo slashed .282/.323/.490 while adding 20 HR. He finished the year with a .994 Fld%, and threw out an MLB-best 49 percent of runners. When combining his ability at the plate and his immense arm talent, Castillo still rates near the top when it comes to catchers.

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10. Mike Zunino — Tampa Bay Rays

Zunino’s .201 BA is an ugly sight, but Tampa didn’t bring in the former Mariner to hit for average. The Rays clearly valued Zunino’s power and defensive prowess. Over the past two seasons, Zunino has totaled 45 HR and 43 doubles. In ’18, Zunino threw out 35 percent of baserunners — a mark seven percent better than the league average. Furthermore, Zunino rates well as a pitch-framer. The addition of his power in the lineup, as well as a steady presence behind the plate, should bode well for the Rays. In addition, Zunino will surely enjoy catching Blake Snell and the rest of Tampa’s talented staff.

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9. Tyler Flowers — Atlanta Braves

Though he isn’t the most adept at the plate, Tyler Flowers is the perfect example of what teams value most out of their catcher in ’19. After hitting .281 with 12 HR in ’17, Flowers’ average dropped to .227 last season. However, Atlanta’s catcher finds a way to get on-base — evidenced by his 40 HBP since ’16. Where Flowers’ sets himself apart is his framing ability. Flowers led the league in framing in ’17, and finished third last year. In ’17, Flowers ranked No. 1 in oStr% (number of pitches caught out of the zone, called a strike) — 12.4, +Calls (number of balls that are called strikes) — 211, PerGame (average number of calls a catcher gets per game) — 1.30, and Runs Above Average (estimated number of runs saved due to pitch framing) — 28.1.

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8. Gary Sánchez — New York Yankees

Sánchez has had quite the start to his big league career. As a rookie, in ’16, Sánchez hit 20 HR in only 53 games. He followed that up by hitting .278 with 33 HR and 90 RBI in ’17. Last year, however, Sánchez was atrocious. The 26-year-old hit .186 and was just as bad behind the plate. Sánchez committed six errors in 76 games and allowed 18 passed balls — leading the league for the second year in a row. Sánchez has a good arm, but otherwise struggles fielding. However, despite having an awful season, Sánchez has tremendous upside. He has shown he can hit for average and power. He has the arm strength to throw out a high percentage of baserunners. The pressure will be on Sánchez this year, let’s see how he handles it.

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7. Salvador Pérez — Kansas City Royals

Aside from Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, there isn’t a more accomplished catcher in baseball today. Pérez continues to produce for the Royals. In ’18, Pérez captured his sixth All-Star nod, fifth Gold Glove, and second Silver Slugger. For the second-straight year, the Royals’ backstop totaled 27 HR and 80 RBI. Despite his impressive Gold Glove collection, the advanced metrics don’t paint a pretty picture of the All-Star. His framing is suspect (109-of-117), but numbers don’t always tell the complete story. Last year, Pérez committed zero errors, allowed only four passed balls, and threw out 25-of-52 runners. Only 28, Pérez has plenty of time to build his case for the Hall of Fame.

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6. Willson Contreras — Chicago Cubs

Like Gary Sánchez, Contreras is coming off his worst year as a professional. Despite making his first All-Star team, Contreras saw his production drop across the board. He hit 11 fewer HR, had 20 less RBI, his BA dropped 27 points down to .249, and his SLG went from .499 to .390. Contreras caught more innings than any other catcher last season, and his defensive numbers weren’t promising. Baseball Prospectus ranked him last with -17.8 framing runs. Despite his shortcomings in ’18, Contreras is still only 26. He can hit for average, power, and is the most athletic catcher in the league.

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5. Yadier Molina — St. Louis Cardinals

Molina’s career is likely coming to an end. The future Hall of Famer turns 37 in July, and has a ton of miles on his body. Nonetheless, he remains an elite catcher. Playing through knee problems in ’18, Molina still slashed .261/.314/.436 with 20 HR and 74 RBI. He was elected to his ninth All-Star Game and won a ninth Gold Glove — his first since ’15. Molina remains incredibly reliable behind the plate — both defensively and from a leadership standpoint. The Cardinals appear primed to make a push this season, and Molina will likely be at the center of it all.

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4. Wilson Ramos — New York Mets

When healthy, Ramos has been one of the best catchers in baseball. His last two full seasons, ’16 and ’18, Ramos has hit .307 and .306 — garnering two All-Star bids. Ramos’ biggest issue, however, is staying healthy. Since debuting in ’10, Ramos has failed to reach 100 games four times. Defensively, Ramos is solid but not spectacular. He has a good track record throwing out runners — 32 percent — and has a career .994 Fld%. Handling deGrom and Syndergaard won’t be easy, but Ramos should be up to the task.

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3. Yasmani Grandal — Milwaukee Brewers

As a result of his shoddy play in the postseason, Grandal has been the recipient of a fair amount of flak. Regardless of his October struggles, Grandal is easily one of the top backstops in baseball. Over the past three seasons, Grandal has averaged 24 HR and 66 RBI while hitting .239. He has posted his three highest SLG and OPS marks in the same span. Grandal sports a lifetime .994 Fld%. His ability at the plate and elite pitch-framing result in a No. 3 rank for the new Brewer.

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2. J.T. Realmuto — Philadelphia Phillies

Realmuto was the talk of the offseason. Well, other than Machado and Harper. All of the fuss about Realmuto is warranted. Philadelphia’s new catcher is the most likely candidate to become a perennial All-Star in the National League. Nearing 28 years of age, Realmuto is a legitimate threat in the middle of an order. He has 38 HR, 139 RBI, and a .278 BA since ’17. While not elite defensively, he does have a good CS%. Realmuto threw out a career-high 38 percent of runners last year in Miami. Playing half of his games at the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park should lead to even more impressive numbers for the All-Star.

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1. Buster Posey — San Francisco Giants

Posey is a legendary figure. A certain Hall of Famer, Posey has the highest career-WAR among active catchers. One concern heading into the new season is the status of Posey’s health. The word coming out of San Francisco’s camp is that Posey is ready to go, and is not having any problems with his repaired hip. The Giants’ legend remains an elite hitter — .306 BA for his career — and is seemingly always on-base. It is uncertain how much time Posey will spend at first, but as long he remains the Giants’ No. 1 catcher, it will be hard to unseat the three-time World Series champion from his spot.

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