2019 MLB Top Five Catchers

Baseball’s catcher is arguably the most important position while playing the field. Also called “backstop,” catchers are similar to football’s quarterback, by which they are leaders and call the plays. They also suffer more literal welts than any other position, from regular foul tips to the rare bat to the head. The top five catchers in Major League Baseball are threats to the opposing teams both offensively and defensively.

There are just 18 catchers in baseball history that have been elected to the Hall of Fame.top five catchers
Just two of those 18 have played in this millennium: Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez has started the last five All-Star games for the American League. He is extremely durable. Since taking over as the Royals primary backstop in 2013, he has been healthy enough to play in no less than 129 games. Unfortunately, a UCL injury will sideline Perez this season. He will not make this list.

Top Five Catchers – 5 – Wilson Ramos (New York Mets) & Yasmani Grandal (Milwaukee Brewers)

Ramos began 2018 as Tampa Bay’s starting backstop. He was named as the American League starting catcher in the All-Star Game, only to miss the game with a hamstring injury. Later that month, the Phillies acquired him at the trade deadline. In 33 games with Philadelphia, Ramos went on a mammoth tear, posting a .396 on-base percentage and a .879 OPS. He is clearly one of the best hitting catchers in the game and will now be calling the signals behind home plate in Queens, New York.

Grandal is a consistent premier starting catcher. He differs from Ramos in that he is more durable and a better defender behind the plate. He has at least 426 plate appearances since being becoming a primary catcher in 2014. Grandal has upped his game in the past two seasons at the plate, eclipsing 100-hit, 50 runs and 20-double-plateaus. In the past three seasons, no other catcher has more home runs than Grandal and only Yadier Molina has more RBIs.

4 – Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)

Before last year, Posey had started three straight All-Star Games for the National League. Posey is a former MVP, three-time World Series champion, and six-time All-Star. With that said, however, he posted his worst slash line as a pro in 2018, with career lows in nearly all major categories. Albeit, he was still named an All-Star. Posey sneaks into the 2019 edition of Top Five Catchers, but another down season could see him ousted by season’s end.

3 – Willson Contreras (Chicago Cubs)

The 26-year-old was a starter for the National League in his first All-Star Game last season. A native of Venezuela, Contreras was signed by Chicago as an international free agent in 2009. He did not blossom quickly, spending seven years in the Cubs farm system. He quickly heated up in the 2015 season for Double-A Tennessee, improving his OPS to .891 from .679 in 2014. Contreras was promoted to Triple-A to begin 2016 and posted a 1.035, which included 43 RBI in 55 games. In June of that year, he was called-up by the Cubs and took over the starting role to begin 2017. In two full seasons, he has hit 31 home runs and knocked in 128 RBI. Contreras is the least established as of the Top Five Catchers, but is viewed as one of Chicago’s most valuable assets and could position himself higher on this list by 2020.

2- Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)

Molina was the only unanimous lock of the Top Five Catchers. He has been an All-Star in 9 of the past 10 seasons and has won a Gold Glove in 9 of the past 11 years, including one in 2018. He is also a two-time World Series champion. Most impressive is Molina’s durability, playing in at least 110 games in every season during his 14-year career. At age-36, he is on his way towards being elected as the 19th catcher in Cooperstown.

1 – J.T. Realmuto (Philadelphia Phillies)

Realmuto was arguably baseball’s best catcher last season with the Marlins. He was named to his first All-Star Game and led all backstops in hits, runs, doubles, batting average, OPS, and WAR. He was traded to Philadelphia in early February for top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, a once touted catching prospect, another pitching prospect and international pool money. Realmuto’s HR, RBI, and OPS numbers have gone up in each of his four seasons. He is destined to continue that trend in 2019 with help from the best supporting cast he has been partnered with as a pro.

Dustin Pedroia – The Next Comeback Player of the Year?

A certain second baseman is making a comeback for the 2019 campaign. This player is entering his fourteen major league season. He is also currently is the longest serving member of the Boston Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia made his Major League debut on August 22nd, 2006 against the Loscomeback Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I doubt that Pedroia would think that a year later he would be on his way to not only win the Rookie of the Year award, but also win his first of many World Series championships.

The Man Who Wears #15…

When you look at second base, the player that is usually there wears the number 15. The man many fans know as Pedey, Laser Show and The Muddy Chicken, is making a comeback. When Pedroia came into Spring Training this year, he looked like a whole different person. Pedroia signed an eight year contract extension back on July 23rd 2013. This occurred about three months prior to the Red Sox winning another World Series championship, and about a week after playing in his fourth All Star game.

When you look at Pedroia, he’s not your typical second baseman, however, when he’s on the field, he gives everything he’s got. Many Red Sox fans know about his knee injury, and we also know about the slide seen around the world.

Since then, Pedroia underwent another knee surgery. Due to that, his time on the field in 2018 was limited to three games. One can only hope that this will be the year that Pedroia goes out and seeks revenge. If he does pull it off, he could ultimately win the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Can Pedroia Pull Off The Comeback?

The amount and time that he has given to coming back to play in the 2019 season is great, especially for someone as tough as Pedroia.

It was reported on March 18th that Pedroia will be continuing his rehab assignments, while the team is in Seattle for Opening Day. However, that is not stopping him from continuing to work hard and keep getting stronger. From the looks of it, the Pedroia of old arrived in camp back in February. The lingering question, of course, is how many games he will play once Cora puts him into the Red Sox lineup. Well, only time can really tell. That, and Pedroia, the man on a mission.

Martinez Versus Judge: Who Provides More Value?

Major League Baseball’s hottest debate heading into the 2019 season is the battle between Mookie Betts and Mike Trout for being the sport’s top dog. However, it would be hard to leave out two big names receiving a bit less flare in the media. J.D. Martinez and Aaron Judge, two of baseball’s biggest sluggers, deserve some love too. As so, we present Martinez versus Judge: Who Provides More Value?

By the Numbers- Measurements

By now you have heard that Aaron Judge is one of baseball’s biggest stars, but thatMartinez Versus Judge: Who Provides More Value? also applies in a literal sense. Judge is listed at 6’7″ and 282 lbs., a true mammoth in the sport. Martinez is no slouch, countering at 6’3″ and 220, but few players possess the shear mass of Judge. Advantage to the judge’s chambers on this one.

By the Numbers- Contracts

Aaron Judge is a bargain, as he has yet to make more than $650,000 in a season. Martinez is raking in an impressive $23.75 million per year, as he enters year two of his five-year, $110MM contract. Advantage to Judge, and especially the Yankees, at least until it’s time to pay the big man.

By the Numbers- Offense

In a side-by-side comparison, Martinez bested Judge in nearly every offensive category in the 2018 season. It is important to note that Judge was sidelined with a wrist injury that held him to 112 games. Even so, Judge only managed to surpass Martinez in walks (76 to J.D.’s 69). The Red Sox off-season splash put together a historic season for Boston that pushed him past the Yankee star in many statistics including batting average (.330 to .279), home runs (43 to 27), RBI (130 to 67), and OPS (1.031 to .919). Martinez’ 43 homers, in fact, were the most ever for a player in his first season in Boston.

Martinez takes the upper hand, but in a full season for Judge, we can expect closer results in 2019.

By the numbers- Defense

In this side of the Martinez versus Judge debate, Judge surely takes the cake. Martinez struggles in the outfield according to his defensive metrics on Fangraphs, with a Defensive UZR/150 of -4.6 for the 2018 season. That would place him towards the bottom of the list of qualifying outfielders from last season. Judge, on the other hand, posted a UZR/150 of 14.1, which would place him near the very top of the list of qualifiers. Defensive analytics are no perfect science, as it’s quite difficult to make easily decipherable numbers of defensive value. But in this instance, Judge is off the charts compared to Martinez.

By the numbers- Awards won

In fairness to Judge, who has only played full seasons in 2017-2018, we’ll consider hardware won the last two years. In 2018 alone, Martinez amassed an All-Star selection, 4th place in MVP voting, and a historic benchmark: two Silver Slugger awards, for both outfield and designated hitter, an unprecedented feat. Judge, meanwhile, collected AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, a Silver Slugger, has two All-Star selections, and finished second in MVP voting in 2017. Both have decorated their trophy cases, but there is one achievement that separates the pair, and that is Martinez’ 2018 World Series ring. We’ll give the slight edge to Martinez, but both are in great position to expand their winnings in 2019 as well. Provided both mashers can stay healthy in 2019, they should be the focal points of their offenses.

The Verdict

Judge’s ability on both sides of the ball, plus his pay rate, makes him more valuable going forward. Ultimately, Martinez Versus Judge is going to be a treat for us to watch in the battle for first place.

Betts Versus Trout: Who’s Better?

Mookie Betts versus Mike Trout as baseball’s best player? That seems to be one of the top questions heading into this season. Let’s start with what the two have in common.

Both were born in the early-90s, play the outfield, and are right-handed. They have been named to the All-Star Game in each of the past three years and both hit the free agent market in 2021.

How do they differ, generally speaking? Trout was a first round pick, has a much larger frame (6’2″, 235 lb.). He has played seven full major league seasons.

Betts was drafted slightly later, in the fifth round, is sized similarly to the average Joe (5’9″, 180 lb.). He has played four full major league seasons.

While speaking from a statistical stance, the question of favoring Mookie Betts versus Mike Trout is where this conversation really heats up.

The next great one?

Trout has been regarded as the ‘Mickey Mantle’ of this generation of ball players. He spent just one full season in the minors before being promoted to the majors for his major league debut in July 2011. He started 2012 at Triple-A and was called up to the majors in late April for good. As a rookie, he plated 639 appearances and led the American League in stolen bases (49) and runs scored (129). He was named an All-Star, honored with AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in MVP voting.

In the six seasons since, he has started 6 All-Star Games, won 2 MVPs, and averaged 107 runs, 34 homers, 91 RBIs, 22 steals, and a 1.011 OPS.

From unknown to stardom

Tough to decide without knowing how far Betts has come in four years. After an unimpressive first season in the minors (292 plate appearances, 0 home runs, 20 steals, .658 OPS), he responded mightily while playing for two of the Red Sox’s Single-A affiliates in 2013, posting 15 home runs, 38 steals, and .923 OPS in 551 plate appearances. In 2014, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A (464 plate appearances, 11 home runs, 33 steals, .960 OPS) before being promoted to the big leagues in late June. Betts has been the Red Sox’s leadoff hitter ever since.

From 2015-2018, he has started 3 All-Star Games, won 3 Gold Gloves and 1 MVP. His averages look like this: 111 runs, 26 homers, 93 RBIs, 25 steals, and a .899 OPS.

It may seem as if Trout’s track record is more attractive. Do not discount Betts, however, as number 50 is the more durable player at this stage of his career (35 more starts than Trout in past two seasons). Betts also owns outclasses Trout in the most important department: World Series rings. Betts 1, Trout 0.

The Underappreciated Mitch Moreland

Mitch Moreland is an all-star. Yep, that is right. Whether that says more about the lack of first-base production in the A.L., or not, you can’t discredit what Mitch has done for the Red Sox thus far. Moreland’s numbers aren’t ungodly by any means, but he is incredibly consistent. Moreland currently sits at a very respectable .282, with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Looking around the league, he more than deserves to be wearing that American League jersey next week.

Time and time again, when Boston needs a clutch hit, its often “Mitchy 2bags” thatMoreland delivers. While batting 4th, Alex Cora can count on him to drive in runs routinely and expect him to have game-altering at-bats. Moreland also is a great team leader, very durable and plays gold-glove defense, somewhat anchoring the infield with his almost non-existent errors.

Players and coaches acknowledge Moreland’s humble, yet steady baseball approach and awarded him with his first appearance. Around the league, Moreland has always been just a decent hitter with a stellar gold-glove. Now playing every day, he is putting up the numbers he is capable of. He will back up White Sox first-baseball Jose Abreu for the American League next week in the summer classic.

Mitch Moreland Is More Than Earning His Paycheck

This winter, Moreland became a free agent. Many thought that Dave Dombrowski would stay away from offering him a contract considering Hanley Ramirez was slated for first-base. Additionally, the inevitable mega J.D. Martinez contract was looming. Dombrowski acted quickly, however, and signed Mitch to a two-year 13 million dollar contract. Considering the lack of first base production around the league, the fact that Hanley was cut from Boston and his ability to be an underrated cleanup hitter for this potent offensive club, that contract is an absolute steal.

Moreland is making 6.5 million a year. When 2017 free agency opened, it seemed nobody had him in the same upper echelon of free agents in the likes of say Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. San Diego shelled out an immense 144 million dollar contract to Hosmer. Hosmer is hitting .253 this year, that seems underwhelming for that deal. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has to pay Santana 20 million annually for the next 3 years. Santana is currently hitting .214  I would have to say that the Red Sox like their underappreciated first-baseman just fine.

Chris Sale is Creeping Back Into the Cy Young Conversation

Believe it or not, but Chris Sale has never won a Cy Young award. Since entering the league, Boston’s ace has been nothing short of dominant year in and year out. His highest earned run average came in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox, when he posted a 3.41 with 13 wins and 11 losses. And he still messed around and placed fourth on the Cy Young ballot and earned an All-Star selection.

In his eight seasons as a starting pitcher, Chris Sale has appeared on the Cy Young ballot Chris Salesix times and finished as the runner-up last year in his first season with the Red Sox. He’s been named to the All-Star team in each of those seasons as well, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes home the most coveted pitching award in the MLB. On Sunday, Sale was announced as an All-Star for the seventh straight year. While he came out of the gates a bit shaky this year, Chris Sale’s recent performances has him right back where he belongs: firmly in the conversation for the best pitcher in the American League.

Last season, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians took home the honor, and he deserved it. He went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and led his club to a first place finish in the AL Central. Kluber had the lowest WHIP (0.869) of any starter on the ballot, and the second most strikeouts (265). Who had the most strikeouts you ask? That would be Chris Sale, whose 308 punchouts comfortably led the entire MLB. The next closest was NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer with 268.

Chris Sale’s Competition

Sale’s competition this year will feature some familiar, and talented, names. Yankee ace Luis Severino, who placed third in voting last year, is building a strong case with his 14-2 record, 143 Ks, and 2.12 ERA, the second-best in the American League. Justin Verlander is emerging as an early favorite to take home his second career Cy Young with his 2.15 ERA and 154 strikeouts. Kluber, at 12-4 with a 2.49 ERA, will likely return to the ballot as well.

In comparison, the Red Sox ace leads the American League in strikeouts with 176, 18 ahead of Gerrit Cole’s tally of 158. His 2.36 ERA ranks fourth in the American League, and his WHIP of 0.89 is good for third, with Kluber (0.88) and Verlander (0.84) just edging him out. Lastly, Sale leads the AL in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.0, and if it holds this would be the fourth season he has done so.

Where Chris Sale will falter to his competition will be his record, as he is just 9-4 on the year. However, his wins and losses serve as a poor reflection of his performance this year. The Red Sox seemingly hate giving their ace any sort of run support. On the year, the Red Sox average 4.65 runs in games started by Sale, and it’s reflected in his four losses and an additional six no-decisions. Granted, I’m not saying Chris Sale has been perfect, but I am saying some more runs would go a long way.

Back in Form

Sale truly returned to form in June, striking out 60 and going 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA. The Red Sox scored a combined three runs in those two losses. His lone start in July follows the same positive trend, as he punched out 12 and secured a win behind 10 runs from his offense. He has won his last three starts, and, in those games, the Red Sox have scored 26 total runs.

Chris Sale still has some work to do if he wants to take home the honor this year. His slider is still one of the deadliest pitches in the league. He must sustain his recent dominance to keep pace with his competition. This offense has shown they are more than capable of providing run support, and if they simply do so when Sale is on the bump, his case for the American League Cy Young will continue to strengthen.