In this week’s installment of The Nine we’re ranking the best catchers for the 2013 season. The top of this list was easy, but the backend was a bit tricky. Several very good players were left off the list.
Apologies to: Carlos Santana, Alex Avila, AJ Ellis, Jonathan Lucroy, and AJ Pierzynski.
9. Ryan Hanigan (Reds)
Hanigan may seem like an odd choice if you don’t follow the game closely. He doesn’t hit for power, even in one of the great hitters’ parks in the sport, but his .365 OBP was ninth best in 2012 and he’s consistently proven his ability to post that type of number while some of the other contenders have shown more fluctuation. However, Hanigan is on this list for his glove. No catcher posted a higher UZR (11.2) than Hanigan in 2012 and his ability to lead pitchers and receive certainly makes him a top five defensive catcher in baseball.
8. Brian McCann (Braves)
McCann had a down year in 2012, but I’m banking on him having another solid season before his decline gets into full swing. He’s been a top flight offensive catcher and his defense is average or better. His biggest asset is his power, which should be back for 2013.
7. Carlos Ruiz (Phillies)
Ruiz has developed into one of the better offensive catchers in baseball over the last couple seasons and posted a career best 5.5 WAR in 2012. Pitchers have generally raved about his defense and his leadership skills behind the dish. The only reason he’s near the bottom of this list is because he’ll miss the first 25 games with a suspension.
6. Matt Wieters (Orioles)
Wieters is a very good defensive catcher who seems to just be arriving at the offensive potential that most scouts saw in him. He’s been over 4.0 WAR in each of the last two seasons and will start his age 27 season in 2013. The power is finally showing up and with a little more in the average column, he could become one of the game’s best.
5. Salvador Perez (Royals)
Perez is extremely young and incredibly talented. He won’t be 23 until May and has already demonstrated superb defensive skills and a great swing in just parts of two seasons. He made the big leagues late in 2011 and tore up September. An injury kept him out for the first half of 2012, but he picked up right where he left off after the break and hit like crazy. The only hole in his game is his low walk rate, but he does pair it with a very low strikeout rate. If he can learn to walk, he’ll be at the top of this list in no time.
4. Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks)
Montero has quietly become one of the better catchers in the game over the last couple seasons. He’s a solid defender who hits for average and power and is improving his plate discipline. He reached base fourth most among catchers last year and while he’s probably at his ceiling, he looks capable of maintaining this level for a few more seasons.
3. Joe Mauer (Twins)
Mauer will turn 30 this season and is among the game’s best pure hitters. He’s probably never going to display the power he did in that 28 homerun season again, but his great batting average and on base percentage make him one of the best catchers there is. His defense is pretty average at this point, but the bat is very good. The key with Mauer is his health and ability to stay behind the plate, but this is a list for 2013, so I’ll still be on him over some of the younger guys.
2. Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
Molina nearly missed the top spot for 2013. His defense is elite, top notch stuff. Quantifying catcher defense is tricky, but by all measures he’s near the top and by most subjective measures he is the best. He’ll be 31 this year and has always had a good average and on base, but the power is new over the last year and a half. I’m not as confident in his power to remain as I need to be to put him at the very top of this list, but darn it, he’s very close.
1. Buster Posey (Giants)
Not much of a surprise here. The reigning NL MVP enters 2013 as the game’s best backstop. He plays a very good defense, even if he’s probably not in the same league as Molina and Hanigan. He’ll be 26 this year, which is about the time hitters tend to peak and he’s coming off one of the best offensive season in all of baseball. He hits for average and power and mixes it with plate discipline nicely. Posey is not only one of the game’s best catchers, he’s among the game’s best players period.
What does you list look like? Sound off in the comments section.
81-81, 3rd in the NL East
After years atop the NL East, the Phillies stubbed their toe in 2012. Picked by many to head back to the playoffs, they finished the season .500 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
The disappointment comes in two phases. The offense problems were predictable. Carlos Ruiz (5.5 WAR) had a very strong season behind the plate before his offseason suspension and Jimmy Rollins (4.4) provided a lot of value at short. Chase Utley (3.2) was very good, but only played half a season. Shane Victorino’s 2.2 WAR in 101 games was also a good showing, even if he isn’t the player he used to be.
Other than that, the Phillies didn’t get a lot of great offensive contributions and were very average as a team.
Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels had down-ballot Cy Young Type seasons, but Roy Halladay had an injury plagued campaign. Halladay was a solid starter in 2012, but that’s a far cry from his “best in the game” credentials. Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick, and Joe Blanton combined to fill out the remaining rotation spots and did a respectable job doing so.
Jonathan Papelbon had a good season in the first year of his too-big contract, but the rest of the bullpen struggled. The rotation was top ten, but the bullpen was mediocre.
Collectively, the Phillies were just an average team in a tough division. They played better later on in the season and got some top flight performances from their stars, but not enough to live up to their high expectations.
The rotation is still great heading into 2013 and Ben Revere in center and the-maybe-upgrade of Michael Young at third should give them a boost. Ryan Howard is still a serious problem at first. The corner outfield is still up in the air.
The Phillies should be better in 2013, but they played below their potential in 2012.
2012 Grade: C
Early 2013 Projection: 85-77