Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at the best players at each position. Much like the shows airing on MLB Network, there are many different ways to rank players. Mick and I both will look at different stats as well as what we have seen to come up with our lists. The first position that we will be taking a look at is Catcher.
10. Yan Gomes, CLE 3.7 fWAR, 131 wRC+, .294/.345/.481, 40.8% CS
Though only playing in 88 games last year, Gomes was extremely productive, ranking seventh among catchers with a 3.7 fWAR. Serving as the back up to Carlos Santana during the first half of last season, Gomes took over the primary catching duty during the second half of the season. Cleveland has decided to go into 2014 with Gomes as their number one guy behind the plate, and I expect another strong year from the 26 year old.
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, MIA 3.6 fWAR, 117 wRC+, .273/.338/.466, 21.2% CS
Saltalamacchia had a strong year for the world champion Red Sox last year. Though he struggled a bit during the ’13 playoff (with the exception being the walk-off hit in the dramatic game two versus Detroit in the ALCS), Saltalamacchia was a key part to the Red Sox offense last year, especially during the middle of the season when David Ross was sidelined with a concussion. Saltalamacchia led the American League with 40 doubles, but struggled in the running game, only throwing out 21% of base stealers. Saltalamacchia has taken his talents to South Beach, where he will be asked to take on a bigger role with the Marlins.
8. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL 3.6 fWAR, 118 wRC+, .280/.340/.455, , 21.6% CS
I think Lucroy is one of the more underrated offensive players in the National League. In the last two years, Lucroy has hit 30 HRs and is fourth among catchers in slugging. One downside is that Lucroy has a problem controlling the running game, where in 2013 he threw out 21.6% of attempted base stealers, allowing the second most stolen bases in the national league (80).
7. Matt Wieters, BAL 2.4 fWAR, 86 wRC+, .235/.287/.417, 35.3% CS
Wieters struggled in 2013, posting a sub .300 OBP for the first time in his career. Though he was below league average at the plate for his position, Wieters is very strong defensively. With below average offense, he still ranked 13th among catchers with a 2.4 fWAR. I think the two-time all-star rebounds from his rough 2013 from an offensive standpoint and gets back into the discussion for top catchers in the game.
6. Salvador Perez, KC 3.7 fWAR, 105 wRC+, .292/.323/.433, 35.5% CS
When I first saw Perez play, I thought he was too big to play catcher. But as I began to watch him more, you could easily see that the 6’3”, 245-pound Perez could handle the position. The kid had a nice 2013, earning his first all-star appearance and winning the Gold Glove award in the American League. I expect Perez, who doesn’t turn 24 until May, to continue to improve, though his walk rate (4%) is alarming.
5. Brian McCann, NYY 2.7 fWAR, 122 wRC+, .256/.336/.461, 24.2% CS
McCann is a premier bat at the catching position. Since 2011, McCann has hit 64 HRs with a .441 slugging percentage. Those numbers should only increase this year with half of his games coming in the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. The short porch and the DH position might allow McCann to hit 30-35 HRs. I expect McCann to have an outstanding season in the Bronx.
4. Jason Castro, HOU 4.3 fWAR, 130 wRC+, .276/.350/.484, 24.7% CS
Castro had a breakout year in 2013 for the Astros, earning his first all-star appearance. The 26 year old was able to play over 100 games for the first time in his career, and put his name in the discussion for top catcher in the American League. The one thing that Castro has had a hard time doing is staying healthy. Castro missed all of 2011 with an ACL tear, and only played in 87 games in 2012. In 2013, Castro missed the final month with surgery on his right knee to remove a cyst. If Castro can stay on the field, I expect him to have a good year, putting himself right in the middle of the Astros core going forward.
3. Russell Martin, PIT 4.1 fWAR, 101 wRC+, .226/.327/.377, 40.4% CS
Last year, the Pirates got a steal when they were able to sign Russell Martin to a 2 year, $17 million dollar deal. Martin was vital to the turnaround in Pittsburgh. Watching him in the playoffs, you could really appreciate just how good Martin is behind the plate. He handled the pitching staff, was tremendous blocking balls in the dirt, and was able to control the running game. Though the low batting average, Martin still was able to get on base at a .327 clip because of his 11.5% walk rate. Martin’s place on this list does not necessarily come from his statistics, but instead by what you can see by watching him on an everyday basis.
2. Buster Posey, SF 4.8 fWAR, 133 wRC+, .294/.371/.450, 30.0 % CS
Even though I have him number two on my list, I would take Posey over any catcher if I had my pick. I think Posey has the chance to be the Jeter of this era. When you look at what Posey has done in his career already, it makes you wonder what his resume will look like at the end of his career. Two-time World Series champion, NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, two time all-star. Most players would love to have a resume like this at the end of their career, and Posey has done this before his age 27 season. I expect Posey to lead the Giants offense and guide the pitching staff in 2014.
1. Yadier Molina, STL 5.6 fWAR, 134 wRC+, .319/.359/.477, 43.5% CS
Like Posey, Molina has quite the resume and may be on his way to the Hall of Fame when his career is complete. Two-time World Series champion, six-time Gold Glove award winner, 5-time all star, and one-time silver slugger. The guy is the ultimate competitor and is one of the best defensive catchers that I have ever seen. The way he handled last years pitching staff, with how young that staff was, was remarkable. On top of his defense, he has turned himself into an above average hitter over the past couple of years, making him on of the most valuable players in all of baseball. I expect Molina to continue to play at a very high level in 2014, leading one of the best teams in the National League.
Added by Mick:
Personally, I would have had Perez higher on my list. I think he is a terrific young talent, and I believe he has the strongest arm of all the catchers in the big leagues. He showed last year that he can hit for average and provide some power.
I would have added Miguel Montero to the list. He had a down year in 2013 as he dealt with an injury, but I fully expect him to get back to being a run producing catcher. In 2012, he hit .286 and drove in 88 runs and produced a 4.6 fWar. When he is healthy, he is definitely a top 10 catcher.