Catcher is the position of limited glamour but extreme importance. The backstops typically get ignored, but as the pinnacle of the defensive spectrum, they clearly have a high level of significance. But it’s fairly clear that catching is on a bit of a dry spell. The synopsis of the Catching Position as of 2007 reads as follows: Either your Good, or your really, terribly awful bad. There’s little in between. On to the rankings.
1. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Pretty much a guarantee to be number one, as far as I’m concerned. Mauer is a really good hitter, and defensively he’s no slouch. Vic Martinez might out hit him, and Russell Martin is on par defensively, but neither of them has the total package that Mauer does.
2. Jorge Posada, New York Yankees
Okay, first off, yes, I know it’s a contract year, and a batting average spike. I know. But as of right now, Posada’s number two. He has a 14 point lead in VORP, and he’s at 17 Total Win Shares. He’s also beating Russ Martin and Victor Martinez in WARP1. And for the record, no, I wouldn’t take Posada over Martin or Martinez right now for the next 5 years or whatever. But for the rest of the season? I think I might.
3. Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
I value defense at catcher a lot, and that’s why Martin is third and not Martinez. Martin is 6 runs above average behind the dish, and he’s sitting at 6.2 Fielding WS. That’s good, and don’t forget his bat. He’s EqAing .288, a fine mark.
4. Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians
Martinez can hit, and I mean hit. That’s good too; he really isn’t particularly good with the glove. Win Shares says he’s at 4.7 (better than Posada) but he’s below average in FRAA’s mind. Considering the fact that he’s playing more and more first base, I’d say some of that is just luck.
5. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
I’ll be honest, I don’t love McCann. I think 2006 was above his level, but that’s not to say he can’t play. McCann is a good hitter, but it sure seems like he’s going to live and die with that batting average. Example: 2006, his line was .333/.388/.572. 2007, his line is .267/.317/.452. McCann has power, but the .452 slugging percentage comes nowhere close to making up for the .317 OBP. I think McCann is somewhere in between, with a .280/.360./.500 line a possibility. That’s got value.
6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Texas Rangers
This is, of course, assuming Jon Daniels keeps Salty at catcher. I see no reason not to. Saltalamacchia is a good young hitter, and an average glove. The thing is, with no real Major League experience, he’s living off potential right now (and the minor league career, too.) Salty should be a quality backstop though. His future line is probably just a hair beneath McCann, but with possibly superior defensive results.
7. Kenji Johjima, Seattle Mariners
Here’s where the pickings get slim. Johjima is no star, but he’s certainly more than manageable. His line isn’t particularly good (.275/.315/.450) but he has some pop and both Win Shares and FRAA agree that he’s pretty good with the glove.
8. Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox
‘Tek is hitting .266/.361/.410, and that’s with a .335 BABIP. Oh. Still, Varitek is good with the glove (WS and FRAA both agree) and it seems like every single Red Sox pitcher has a love affair with them. What ever that’s worth.
9. Chris Snyder, Arizona Diamondbacks
Snyder’s hand really fits a glove well. I mean, the dude is awesome at catching the baseball. He’s snappy about throwing the idiot bunters out at first. And honestly, who’s gonna run on Chris Freaking Snyder? (Considering his 24% chance of throwing you out, not enough.) So what’s the problem? Oh. He can’t hit. That’s the problem. Oh-kay. (6.0 VORP, .250 EqA.)
10. Josh Bard, San Diego Padres
Man, it really falls off after number 6. Bard is a decent enough bat, but he forgets to play defense, as evidenced by his 11.7 VORP and his not-quite-good-at-all
1.8 Fielding WS.
The Rest Of The Above Replacements
Ramon Hernandez is a good glove behind the five-sider, but he isn’t much of a hitter. Ivan Rodriguez is OBPing .291, and his defensive skills are finally eroding. A.J. Pierzynski is below average with the bat or with the mitt. Uh, Bengie Molina is…alright? Man, this is hard. John Buck has power, but lacks any other noticeable trait baseball wise. Gerald Laird should lose his starting gig in Texas to Salty. Johnny Estrada isn’t the worst guy you’ll find.
The Really Awful Ones
Dioner Navarro, I guess I don’t have any reason to be saddened by the Yankees trading you, do I? Brad Ausmus is still terrible, but man, his nicknames rock (Zombo, Zombino, Zombeast). Paul Lo Duca walked right the frick off a cliff. Same goes for Michael Barrett. David Ross may have hit 15 home runs, but that’s really all he’s done. Yadier Molina can’t hit, and he’s so good at not hitting, he almost can’t make up for it with his glove. Miguel Olivo, Ronny Paulino, Gregg Zaun, Yorvit Torrealba! They all suck.
There might be some starters that I didn’t mention, but don’t fret; They probably aren’t any good anyhow.
I think my opening paragraph was right. The Top 6 or so is really good, but after that, the quality plummets.