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.

Christian Vazquez is Hugely Important to the Red Sox

Since Christian Vazquez returned from the disabled list, the Red Sox have gone from strength to strength.While no team is flawless, it is incredibly refreshing to finally see this team winning more games than it loses in any given stretch. And although the improvement cannot be solely attributed to the young catcher, he has been a major part of this team’s recent success, which is really fun to watch.

Christian Vazquez

Obviously, Christian Vazquez is renowned for his defensive abilities. The man from Puerto Rico is an elite pitch framer, which will help get more borderline calls for a pitching staff that can really use them. Moreover, Vazquez has a fantastic arm, and is capable of shutting down a running game entirely. He also calls a brilliant game with an assertive manner behind the plate. He isn’t afraid to bark at his pitchers, and frequently gets animated when demanding better mechanics or control from even established veterans. There is a fire to Christian Vazquez that fans truly appreciate. This guy wants to win just as much as anybody, which is huge for a Red Sox team seeking a new culture.

Vazquez established his defensive reputation in 2014, before missing last season due to Tommy John Surgery. However, we’re even beginning to see encouraging signs of life in his bat. Against the Yankees recently, Christian launched a huge home run over the Green Monster off the imposing Dellin Betances. It was just the second long ball of his big league career, and it gave the Red Sox a very important lead. We shouldn’t expect great things from Christian Vazquez at the plate, and this lineup can certainly carry such a strong defensive player, but improvement is definitely being made, and I believe he can be a serviceable hitter at this level. Vazquez knows the game really well, so that should definitely help him in the box.

Christian Vazquez, the Fourth Molina Brother

It’s well known that Vazquez shares a special friendship with the legendary Molina brothers, especially Cardinals stalwart Yadier. In fact, when watching Christian call a game and block pitches in the dirt with sneaky athleticism, the similarities to Yadier are pretty strong. That is a huge compliment, because Molina is one of the very best defensive catchers I have ever seen.

In recent seasons, Yadier has also improved massively as a hitter. He was a .252 career hitter through 2007, and averaged just 6 home runs and 38 RBI per season. But in the last nine years, Molina has hit .298 and topped out at 22 home runs and 80 RBI. As his career has progressed, Yadier has learned more about the game and naturally become a better hitter. In turn, the Cardinals have moved him up in the batting order, to the point where he is an integral cog of their offensive machine.

It would be unfair to expect such a trajectory from Christian Vazquez, but there is certainly cause for optimism about him becoming a complete force behind the plate for many years to come in Boston.

The Blake Swihart Conundrum

Right now, Vazquez seems to have the catching position locked down. His impact on team morale and performance has been exceptional, and the 25-year old looks set to join Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in forming the Red Sox’ new young core. Naturally, that doesn’t bode well for Blake Swihart, the other catching prospect Boston has at its disposal.

After struggling out of the gate, Swihart is currently in Pawtucket, working on his below average defense and playing some left field. In this age of advanced analytics, with increased emphasis on catcher defense, it’s difficult to ever see Swihart usurping Christian Vazquez behind the plate, while prized prospect Andrew Benintendi figures to challenge hard for the left field job in a few years.

Therefore, Swihart may suddenly be expendable. It would be difficult to give up on that bat, which has huge upside, but the Red Sox are playing really well at this point, and one more elite starting pitcher could make this a World Series caliber team. If Swihart is the trade chip that brings another ace to Boston, then perhaps Dave Dombrowski should bite the bullet. After all, he will be safe in the knowledge that, with Christian Vazquez, the Red Sox will have an elite catcher for the foreseeable future.

Christian Vazquez: The Pitcher Whisperer

Hey Dave, are your pitchers struggling early on this season? Let me introduce you to Christian Vazquez, also known as The Pitcher Whisperer.

It’s no secret that the current Red Sox rotation struggled right out of the gate posting an American League worst 7.32 ERA thru the first 9 games of the season. Pitcher WhispererIt’s also no secret that last May the Sox had to rush Blake Swihart to the major leagues after losing both Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan to injury. And now, with a healthy Vazquez returning to form after recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox had no choice but to bring him back to help stabilize this disaster of a rotation.

Pitcher Whisperer Gets Results

In his first major league start since returning from Tommy John surgery, Vazquez showed Red Sox Nation why he’s highly regarded as one of the top catchers in the game today. Not only did he help guide Porcello to his 2nd win of the year (6.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 B and 8 K’s), but he also showed us his cannon of an arm by gunning down Tulowitski in the 1st inning with a nasty pick-off at 1st.

Up next, David Price who is known to get off to a slow start in the month of April (4.70 ERA in April since 2013) looked to have some good chemistry with Vazquez behind the plate. Price only allowed 2 ER in 7.0 IP, while striking out 9 Jays en-route to his 2nd win of the season.

Now I’m not saying Vazquez was 100% responsible for the back-to-back wins against the Jays, but it’s hard not to notice how the pitchers respond to his game calling ability. In my opinion, Porcello looked like a completely different pitcher confidence wise; he was throwing more of his sinker and attacking the strike zone. Nothing against Swihart by any means, but clearly pitchers seem to perform better with Vazquez as their battery-mate.

Back in the winter of 2015, during the Red Sox Winter Weekend, Joe Kelly had nothing but praise for the young defensive catcher, and even went as far to  compare him to his former teammate and catcher in St. Louis, Yadier Molina. “Mini Yadi. That’s his nickname. I call him that”, said Kelly.

Now obviously that’s a pretty big comparison for someone who has only been in the major leagues for less than 2 full seasons, but it’s not far-fetched. Christian is a special talent no doubt about that and as time goes on he will only become that much better. But in the mean time the Sox don’t need him to be “Yadier 2.0” they just need him to be Christian Vazquez, the Pitcher Whisperer for the Boston Red Sox.