MLB: Ranking the Top 30 Catchers Going into 2017

Oct 2, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) bats against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

In the first segment of the 2017 MLB positional rankings, we take a look at how the league’s catchers stack up prior to opening day.

Overall, the catching position has not been where you find MLB’s best players, and this year is no different.

Yes, there are still a couple of up and comers that will b exciting to watch, and there’s your stalwarts that have been at the top of lists like these in the past.

What makes doing a preseason rankings list tough is that it’s nearly impossible to project injuries or other sudden factors that may shake up the list. But, I’m taking every factor into account when breaking down the best of the best.

Part of this criteria is that a catcher needs to get adequate playing time in order to show that they are the superior player. This doesn’t mean that backups won’t find themselves ahead of starters, but there will not be any projecting of minor leaguers who are not likely to see a lot of time in MLB stadiums.

On the whole, I’m looking at all aspects of players including offense, defense, base running and durability. However, I will say that offense is the most important factor when ranking players for this list.

So without further adieu, here is how I think that catchers will project going into the 2017 MLB regular season.

Ages are as of June 1, 2017.

WAR is according to Baseball Reference

Catchers to Keep An Eye On

Feb 27, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly (71) hits a RBI single during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Kelly (St. Louis Cardinals)

Kelly is the top catching prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. However, he’s blocked by longtime St. Louis Cardinal Yadier Molina. Now Molina may be nearing the end of his MLB career, but not quite yet. The former second round pick would probably be in the top half of catchers in the league if Molina were to go down, but that’s something you can’t really project.

Chance Sisco (Baltimore Orioles)

The Baltimore Orioles young backstop might of thought that he would’ve gotten a legitimate chance to start when the team opted to move on from former top prospect Matt Wieters. However, Dan Duquette must have not felt that the catcher was ready given his signing of Welington Castillo. Sisco still isn’t up to bar behind the plate, but the value that he brings with his bat more than makes up for the lack of a defensive skillset. Maybe one more year of seasoning will make Sisco ready for MLB action come 2018.

Andrew Susac/Jett Bandy (Milwaukee Brewers)

Neither of these backstops are ranked in the top 30, but that’s because the situation remains unsettled. The Brewers traded Martin Maldonado for Bandy in a pretty much straight up deal, so obviously the team likes what they see in the former Angel. Susac is younger and has more upside, but it remains to be seen how much of an opportunity he gets to take hold of this role. If he does, he could shoot up this list. But for now, let’s take a wait and see approach.

Austin Hedges (San Diego Padres)

He’s the reason why Derek Norris was shipped out of town. Young, skilled and he’s ready to take the Padres starting catching gig. So why is he outside the top 30 overall? Well, there’s a couple more backups that are slightly more proven and deserve a higher spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if I regret this ranking come October…or even earlier. But it’s just difficult to place a rookie, especially one that struggles in his very limited MLB action last year.

 

30. Carlos Ruiz (Seattle Mariners)

1.2 WAR 62 G 233 PA .264 BA .365 OBP 8 2B 3 HR .348 SLG .713 OPS 33 SO 27 BB 33.9% Hard Contact

Now 38 years old, the longtime Philadelphia Phillie will make his second move since leaving the city of brotherly love. Ruiz is a veteran that was still surprisingly efficient in 2016. He manage to finish with a WAR above 1.0 and had an on-base percentage that was 100 points higher than his batting average. He’s not much of a power threat, but his 33.9 hard contact percentage shows that he’s still making solid contact. His strikeout-walk ratio is also extremely good. Taking all of this into consideration, the veteran should continue to show that he still can play at a somewhat high level when Mike Zunino gets the day off.

29. Martin Maldonado (Los Angeles Angels)

0.8 WAR 76 G 253 PA .202 BA .332 OBP 7 2B 8 HR .351 SLG .683 OPS 56 SO 35 BB 28.2% Hard Contact

As I previously stated, Maldonado was traded to the Angels from the Brewers this past winter. The Angels were most likely looking to get a more stable defender behind the dish. Maldonado will not light it up with bat, but he is good with the glove and did well to walk at a high rate and maintain a low strikeout number. All in all, like most catchers in MLB, Maldonado’s ceiling is low, but he’s also relatively low risk.

28. Nick Hundley (San Francisco Giants)

0.1 WAR 83 G 317 PA .260 BA .320 OBP 20 2B 10 HR .439 SLG .759 OPS 65 SO 25 BB 37.6% Hard Contact

He is a backup, but he’s a very good back up nonetheless. The San Francisco Giants know the value of having a quality backstop behind Buster Posey. Posey will most likely be seeing more and more time at first base as he gets older and I expect that this will allow Hundley to show his value when compared to other catchers. The former Rockie brings more value with his bat than many other catchers in this area of the rankings. He’ll be in for a downtick in numbers because he is no longer a starter. But his numbers do still show that he is probably a better option than some backstops who will be starting on opening day.

27. Kurt Suzuki (Atlanta Braves)

0.4 WAR 106 G 373 PA .258 BA .301 OBP 24 2B 8 HR .403 SLG .704 OPS 48 SO 18 BB 29.5% Hard Contact

In an interesting move, the Atlanta Braves opted to sign a potential starting catcher to challenge incumbent Tyler Flowers in spring training. I do still think that Flowers will get the most starts at the position, but it won’t be a normal starter/backup situation because Suzuki is a starting caliber player at this position. A slugging percentage over .400 for a catcher is pretty good as well as his 24 doubles in the 106 games he appeared in. He’s not great behind the plate, but he’s good enough to stay a MLB catcher. Once again, he’s another unspectacular option that will not be a liability when the Braves decide to give Tyler Flowers the night off.

26. Derek Norris (Free Agent)

0.3 WAR 125 G 458 PA .186 BA .255 OBP 17 2B 14 HR .328 SLG .583 OPS 139 SO 36 BB 34.4% Hard Contact

At the time when I made this list, Norris was still a member of the Washington Nationals. Now he’s since been placed on waivers and seems primed to move onto another organization. At the onset of the offseason, the Nationals acquired Norris under the belief that he would be the team’s starting catcher and I think that was a reasonable expectation. He struggles in terms of getting on-base and striking out, but he is an above average power hitter at the catching position when looking at what he did in San Diego last season. Fourteen homers and a 34.4 hard contact percentage is nothing to scoff at. There are some potential teams where Norris could start and I assume that he’ll get enough at-bats to show that he is a catcher that still is greatly flawed, but does enough to be profiled as a starter.

 

Feb 28, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud (18) connects for a solo home run against the Miami Marlins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

25. Yan Gomes (Cleveland Indians)

-0.8 WAR 74 G 264 PA .167 BA .201 OBP 11 2B 9 HR .327 SLG .527 OPS 69 SO 9 BB 27.2% Hard Contact

Three years ago, Yan Gomes showed that he had the ability to be an above average MLB catcher. The 29 year-old has certainly regressed since his stellar 2014 campaign. In 2015, Gomes hit around .230 and appeared in less than 100 games. Then the wheels came completely off this past year when the Indians backstop hit below .175 and couldn’t even appear in half of his clubs ballgames thanks to injury. So why is he a top 25 MLB catcher. Well, he’s in his prime and still has considerable upside to buy into. He still delivered 9 home runs in 74 games and should see an uptick in power now that he’s completely healthy. Durability remains a concern with this performance the past few years. But, not many catchers offer the tools and I believe that if he stays healthy he can be much higher on this list. However, Indians fans must temper those high expectations with how the past couple seasons have gone for their starting backstop.

24. Travis d’Arnaud (New York Mets)

-0.8 WAR 75 G 276 PA .247 BA .307 OBP 7 2B 4 HR .307 SLG .323 OPS 50 SO 19 BB 32.4% Hard Contact

Like Gomes, d’Arnaud’s 2016 season was plagued by injuries. This was particularly disappointing especially when considering he well he played in two seasons ago. I rather see his .340 on-base percentage from his 2015 campaign, along with the 12 home runs he hit in the 68 games he appeared in that season. But the reality is that I still have to take into account his 2016 performance in this evaluation. Having just turned 28 in February, d”Arnaud might just be entering the prime of his MLB career and that would make this ranking a little low considering his abilities. Still, the reason why he slots in here is because he has to show the baseball world that he can sustain his 2015 production over the course of a 162 game season.

23. Tom Murphy (Colorado Rockies)

0.6 WAR 21 G 49 PA .273 BA .347 OBP 2 2B 5 HR .659 SLG 1.006 OPS 19 SO 4 BB 48.0% Hard Contact

Murphy performed tremendously in his small sample size last season. He managed to hit fiver homers in 21 games, posted a slugging percentage of over .655 and posted an outstanding 1.006 OPS. This would put him close to the top of the list offensively in terms of catcher sin the league. However, 21 games is 21 games, and we all know that in order to be truly recognized as one of the best at a position sustained success is needed. Murphy is no doubt offensively skilled for his position. He will end up splitting time with Tony Wolters this season, but will should get enough at bats to prove whether he can produce at this rate in a longer amount of time. Murphy has the minor league numbers and early MLB stats to show that he has considerable upside. Let’s see just how much of a step back he takes with more exposure to MLB pitching.

22. Jason Castro (Minnesota Twins)

0.9 WAR 113 G 376 PA .210 BA .307 OBP 16 2B 11 HR .377 SLG .684 OPS 123 SO 45 BB 35.3% Hard Contact

One of the many catchers to switch uniforms this offseason, Jason Castro got a healthy $22 million from the Minnesota Twins to be its starter behind the plate. The primary strength of Castro was his high marks for pitch framing, which is becoming more popular in the age of stat cast and advanced statistics. Stat Corner range him as the fifth best in the league at it last year. However, outside of this , I don’t see why the Twins decided to invest this much money into him. He doesn’t have a solid track record of getting on-base at a high clip, isn’t really that much of a power threat and struck out more times than the number of games that he appeared in. Obviously, he still remains a solid starting option behind the plate, but I’m skeptical that he’s better than many of the catchers earning less than him that are higher on this list.

21. Cameron Rupp (Philadelphia Phillies)

1.3 WAR 105 G 419 PA .252 BA .303 OBP 26 2B 16 HR .447 SLG .750 OPS 114 SO 24 BB 34.4% Hard Contact

At 28 years old, Cameron Rupp was one of the more dynamic hitters at the catching position last season. After Carlos Ruiz was traded to the Dodgers over the summer, the Phillies got a chance to see if Rupp could handle the load for this upcoming year. Obviously, they liked what they saw enough to not acquire a starting caliber option this offseason. Rupp’s 16 homers in 105 games is rather impressive and his 34.4 hard contact percentage solidifies his strong offensive numbers. Like most power hitters, Rupp strikes out at a healthy rate and he’s not a premier defender by any means. Still, expect Rupp to continue to show that he’s a solid starting catcher because of what he brings you with the bat. His defense and strikeouts will hold him back from being in there upper half of catchers in baseball.

 

Sep 29, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (3) celebrates as he runs the bases after hitting a solo-home run against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

20. Tucker Barnhart (Cincinnati Reds)

0.7 WAR 115 G 420 PA .257 BA .323 OBP 23 2B 7 HR .379 SLG .702 OPs 72 SO 36 BB 28.1% Hard Contact

Once thought to be Devin Mesoraco’s to own, Tucker Barnhart soldier himself as the Reds starting catcher last season. The 26 year-old was unspectacular in every area, but he didn’t really show much weakness either. His slugging percentage could be higher and if he wants to continue climbing this list he may need to walk a little more, but overall, Barnhart represents a consistent option behind the plate, which is the exact opposite of Mesoraco. Barnhart had a positive dWAR, but didn’t show good marks in his pitch framing (-4.5 RAA). However, I’m under the assumption that there’s still some room for Barnhart to improve in his overall game. With the uncertainty surrounding Mesoraco, Barnhart should get the opportunity to do just that. He’s not flashy, but his ability to hit for a solid batting average and his relative lack of K’s will serve him well as he continues his MLB career.

19. Tony Wolters (Colorado Rockies)

1.0 WAR 71 G 230 PA .259 BA .327 OBP 15 2B 3 HR .395 SLG .723 OPS 53 SO 21 BB 21.2% Hard Contact

 

Wolters made the jump to the major league game from Double-A, effectively skipping a crucial level of development. Despite this, the 24 year-old held his own during his 71 game MLB tenure. What’s surprising is that all os his numbers were better than what he had done at the minor league level. His batting average stayed in a good place in what I would say his a relatively good sample size. His 15 doubles was a nice touch as well. I’m not surprised by his low home run total because he never was much of a power threat coming through the Rockies farm system. His 21.2 hard contact percentage is also potential warning size that his 2016 production is unsustainable. I did like what I saw from the Rockies young backstop. There are some clear drawbacks in his overall game, but for him to play the way that he did without any Triple-A experience puts him in the top 20.

18. Tyler Flowers (Atlanta Braves)

0.3 WAR 83 G 325 PA .270 BA .357 OBP 18 2B 8 HR .420 SLG .777 OPS 91 SO 29 BB 43.8% Hard Contact

Tyler Flowers will still probably be the Brave starting catcher even with veteran Kurt Suzuki coming to down. The 31 year-old probably deserves the spot based on how he performed in 2016. There’s a lot of good to point out from last season’s campaign. He hit for a .270 batting average, posted a .777 OPS and had an outstanding 43.8 hard contact rate, which was actually the highest of anybody who played more than 80 games on this list. Flowers is certainly a competent offensive backstop, but his defensive metrics were not as kind (-0.8 dWAR). One should like that he walked at a solid rate as well, even though he struggled with the strikeout last year. In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if Flowers ended up slightly higher than this. There were just a couple of players that either had more upside or a longer history of production.

17. Mike Zunino (Seattle Mariners)

1.8 WAR 55 G 192 PA .207 BA .318 OBP 7 2B 12 HR .470 SLG .787 OPS 65 SO 21 BB 35.0% Hard Contact

Last season showed us the first glimpse of what many pundits thought he could be when he was drafted third overall in 2012. Granted his batting average and K rate leaves a lot to be desired, but his other numbers indicate that a breakout could be coming. His plate discipline improved last season as his on-base percentage was significantly higher than his batting average. His hard contact numbers were above average when looking at the rest of MLB catchers as well. What perhaps is the most encouraging number is the 12 long balls he hit in just 55 games in 2016. That’s close to a home run for every four games. Zunino is still young and learning and I would expect that he will continue to develop with a backup like Carlos Ruiz mentoring him and a clear role as the Mariners starter entering opening day.

16. Brian McCann (Houston Astros)

0.9 WAR 130 G 492 PA .242 BA .335 OBP 13 2B 20 HR .413 SLG .738 OPS 99 SO 54 BB 35.5% Hard Contact

Many might say that this is a little low for a player with the track record that McCann has. However, I’m thinking that we’re really going to start to see a decline in his ability both behind the plate and in the batter’s box. At 33 years old, McCann has slowly been regressing for the past couple years now. It goes without saying that catchers usually don’t last as long at the position than other places around the diamond. McCann is slow, doesn’t move very well and is seeing his defense abilities decline as he gets longer in the tooth. This doesn’t mean that the veteran still can’t be a productive player. He will give the Astros above average power for the position and his K-BB rate is still pretty impressive, especially for the approach that he has at the plate. However, this shouldn’t distract people from the clear signs that his best baseball is becoming farther and farther behind him.

 

Feb 18, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) poses for a photo during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

15. Matt Wieters (Washington Nationals)

1.7 WAR 124 G 464 PA .243 BA .302 OBP 17 2B 17 HR .409 SLG .711 OPS 85 SO 32 BB 33.0% Hard Contact

Wieters was not the MLB free agent market for much longer than expected. Despite the wait, he was able to land decent contract for a slightly above average catching option. The longtime Oriole has not come even remotely close to meeting his lofty expectations coming into his rookie season. Don’t let this take away what Wieters does do well. He has good power for the catching position and has done a solid job of handling a subpar Orioles pitching staff. He isn’t the best pitch framer according to the metrics, but just by watching him, he’s a natural behind the plate. He hasn’t been real durable over the past three seasons, but he was able to make it through 2016 without many problems. Now in his thirties, don’t expect for Wieters to show anything new, even though he’s one of the safest catchers in baseball if he stays healthy.

14. Welington Castillo (Baltimore Orioles)

2.4 WAR 113 G 457 PA .264 BA .322 OBP 24 2B 14 HR .423 SLG .745 OPS 121 SO 33 BB 39.8% Hard Contact

In my estimation, the Orioles made the right move by swapping Wieters for Welington Castillo. In doing so, they got a much more dynamic hitter to add to an already powerful lineup. His hard contact percentage is vey good and he’s been able to show both gap and home run power. He strikes out a little more than you would like. However, he is a top 10 offensive catcher in the league. What will hold him back is his defense. He’s not a great receiver and isn’t as steady behind the plate as a player like Wieters. His offensive game keeps him in the upper half of MLB catchers and he should produce even more playing in a stadium like Camden Yards where balls tend to fly a little bit more.

13. Sandy Leon (Boston Red Sox)

2.7 WAR 78 G 283 PA .310 BA .369 OBP 17 2B 7 HR .476 SLG .845 OPS 66 SO 23 BB 31.3% Hard Contact

Perhaps the surprise of the position in 2016, Sandy Leon came out of nowhere to have a great season for the reigning AL East champs. Although he only appeared in 78 games, Leon posted impressive numbers across the board. Stats that would in fact make hime a top five catcher in baseball. But we all know that many players can go on special runs, but only the elite can put up numbers like these over a long period of time. Leon posted a career minor league batting average of .244 and wasn’t really a potent power hitter as well during his time down on the farm. Nevertheless, it’s tough to discount what the 28 year-old did this past year. I’m a but cautious placing him here, but I’m also buying that he can somewhat repeat his stellar 2016 performance.

12. Francisco Cervelli (Pittsburgh Pirates)

1.6 WAR 101 G 393 PA .264 BA .377 OBP 14 2B 1 HR .322 SLG .699 OPS 72 SO 56 BB 27.0% Hard Contact

Cervelli is a fun player to analyze. He brings absolutely no power to a batting order and doesn’t really hit the ball all too hard when looking at his career 28.8 hard contact percentage. What he does do quite well is get on-base. Cervelli has posted an on-base percentage of .370 or above in the past four seasons, which not only shows consistently, but also reliability, which is crucial when trying to rank these players. His ability to get on-base places him here on this and while he isn’t an overly dangerous hitter, his track record and plate approach make him a top 15 option at the catching position.

11. Wilson Ramos (Tampa Bay Rays)

3.3 WAR 131 G 523 PA .307 BA .354 OBP 25 2B 22 HR .496 SLG .850 OPS 79 SO 35 BB 35.4% Hard Contact

Ramos would have been a top five catcher without question if he didn’t tear his ACL at the end of last season. Still, Ramos should be able to recover and suit up by June at the latest. This will give him enough time to certify himself as an above average catcher in the league. I have to push him back on this list because of the uncertainty that comes with the injury, but he can do it all at the position. He hits for average, power and is a capable defensive backstop. There is a scare that Ramos only put up these types of numbers for one year, but when watching Ramos, it’s clear that the former National is a physically superior player for this position that has easy power to all fields and a good approach at the dish as well.

10. Russell Martin  (Toronto Blue Jays)

Oct 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (55) hits a single during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in game four of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 34

1.7 WAR 137 G 535 PA .231 BA .335 OBP 16 2B 20 HR .398 SLG .733 OPS 148 SO 64 BB 33.5% Hard Contact

Russell Martin certainly didn’t have is best season in 2016. He’s been at the top of his game offensively over the past few seasons, so it doesn’t feel good that the veteran took  slight step back at the age of the 34. Still, Martin did still put up 20 homers, and managed an OPS over .730. It was good to see him continue to walk at a high rate last year, which was ultimately his saving grace from having a season that he should completely forget.

I would say that Martin is one of the safest bets of any catcher in the majors. He’s got the track record, maintains a good approach at the plate and still has as much power potential as pretty much any catcher in MLB.

Now he is getting older, so I wouldn’t be surprised to continue to see him fall off slightly in 2017. I just think that he’s does enough to maintain his top ten level production at the very least. He’s playing in a ballpark that helps boost offensive numbers. This should keep him in the 20 home run range as well. It also should be noted that he’s an above average pitch framer. According to Stat Corner, Martin posted an over 2.0 RAA, which ranks as 25th in the league. This is better than it looks because a lot of backup catchers inflate that ranking on a general scale.

Overall, Martin gets high marks for his power and steadiness. There are some concerns with his age and strikeouts. But in my opinion, his positives outweigh the negatives.

9. Stephen Vogt (Oakland Athletics)

Oct 2, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Stephen Vogt (21) celebrates with third base coach Ron Washington (38) after hitting a home run against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 32

2.2 WAR 137 G 532 PA .251 BA .305 OBP 30 2B 14 HR .406 SLG .711 OPS 83 SO 35 BB 26.8% Hard Contact

First things first, this Oakland Athletics slugger is not only a catcher, he frequently appears as the club’s DH as well. But for all intent and purposes, we’ll grade him as a catcher for this list. Vogt has been an all-star the past two years and for good reason. Not only is he a high level offensive catcher, he’s really just dangerous with the bat overall. Putting up 30 doubles and 14 home runs would get attention regardless of position and he does this without racking up the K’s or posting a low average.

His primary weaknesses are his defense and walk numbers. Starting with the glove, there is a reason that Vogt is not really the typical everyday catcher in Oakland. He’s not really bad, but he just doesn’t show the capabilities to throw at runners at a high rate. He only threw out 28 percent of hitters last season. What’s a little more disappointing is that he barely got over the .300 mark in terms of his on-base percentage. He was around the .340 line in this category in 2015.

He is an aggressive hitter no doubt, but he also uses that aggressiveness effectively. I’m valuing his breadth of hitting ability, which makes him one of the elite options behind the plate. Once again, having a track record matters, but it helps when that track record shows that he is a reliable middle of the order hitter throughout his time in the major leagues.

8. J.T. Realmuto (Miami Marlins)

Sep 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto (11) hits a home run during the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 26

2.6 WAR 137 G 545 PA .303 BA .343 OBP 31 2B 11 HR .428 SLG .771 OPS 100 SO 28 BB 29.9% Hard Contact

Admittedly, Realmuto is one of my favorite catchers in major league baseball. I not only believe that he is severely unknown by the casual fan, but that he will break out as one of the true stars of the position based on how he played last year.

Posting a 2.6 WAR for a catcher is an impressive feat, especially at just 25 years old. His WAR is on the higher end for backstops because his batting average sat above .300 and he collected over 30 doubles in the process. Realmuto displayed balance at the plate as he has the ability to hit the ball any on the field. i’m very encouraged in how he continues to project because a lot of the time when a younger player hits a fair amount of doubles that means that there is some room to grow in terms of home run ability.

I expect that at some point Realmuto will be a 20-22 home run hitter in the future. I don’t know if that season is in 2017, but I don’t think that he is a one year wonder by any means. His power isn’t elite just yet, but he should at the very least put up average power numbers at the catching position.

Defense is not his strength, but he is not nearly bad enough where that is a real distraction from his offensive abilities. I like his steady approach at the plate and his ability to put the bat on the ball. I also don’t think he’s done climbing this list either.

7. Willson Contreras (Chicago Cubs)

Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) hits a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning of game six of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 25

1.8 WAR 76 G 283 PA .282 BA .357 OBP 14 2B 12 HR .488 SLG .845 OPS 67 SO 26 BB 32.3% Hard Contact

One of many young dynamic Cubs hitters, Willson Contreras is a player that sometimes gets overlooked because of just how good the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez are.

Nevertheless, Contreras deserves to be in that conversation. Not only did the soon-to-be 25 year-old produce right away for the reigning World Series champs, but he did so without getting regular at bats because veteran team leader David Ross was still on the club.

Now that Ross is retired, the Cubs starting catching job is solely Contreras’. He’s got the ability to hit the long ball at a high rate and he showed well in both his batting average and on-base capabilities. He hits the ball hard and can drive the ball to the opposite field effectively as well. A .488 slugging percentage should not be overlooked.

The youngster could still improve defensively, but he has room to grow. He’s an athletic player for the position and he will now have the full time frame to show that he can put up great numbers throughout a 162 game season, which I expect he should.

There’s only a few backstops better than him and it’s only a matter of time until Contreras reaches that elite of the elite of MLB catchers.

6. Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals)

Sep 29, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) laughs in the dugout before the game against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 27

2.8 WAR 139 G 546 PA .247 BA .288 OBP 28 2B 22 HR .438 SLG .725 OPS 119 SO 22 BB 33.8% Hard Contact

It seems the Royals catcher has been in the league for much longer than his age would suggest. Salvador Perez has played better than he did in 2016, which is the reason why he’s ranked this high on the list. If I were just ranking based on last season, Perez would not be placed here.

Perez is an outstanding defender, that’s the first thing that you should know about him. that’s also the reason why his WAR was still relatively high given that his on-base percentage didn’t even reach .300.

In addition to his defense, he showed hit over 20 bombs for the second consecutive year, but the lack of walks and high volume of strikeouts should concern Royals fans everywhere. This has been a pattern for the Royals backstop throughout his career, the only reason why it was more problematic in 2016 was because his batting average just wasn’t as high as it’s been int he past. In fact, Perez has seen his average dip every season since he entered MLB in 2011.

He’s a regular all-star and is widely known for his energy and leadership on a young Royals ballclub. There are some serious drawbacks to Perez as a player. In the end, his elite defense and overall power does enough to shield his lack if walks and fairly high strikeout totals.

5. Yasmani Grandal (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Oct 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal (9) reacts after hitting two run home run during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 28

2.8 WAR 126 G 457 PA .228 BA .339 OBP 14 2B 27 HR .477 SLG .816 OPS 116 SO 64 BB 38.9% Hard Contact

Grandal is another player that gets frequently overlooked when he clearly shouldn’t be. He hit more home runs than any catcher in major league baseball last season. In addition, he was also graded by as the second best pitch framer, according to Stat Corner.  This is a rather deadly combination and one that all baseball fans should take note of.

Obviously, Grandal isn’t the perfect player. He’s struggled with maintaining a high batting average and has racked up his fair share of K’s. This is to be expected if you watch the nasty uppercut of a swing that the 28 year-old possesses.

He does offset that lower average by having a distinct ability to take pitches when need be. He’s more of a one dimensional power hitter as he doesn’t really rack up extra base hits outside of the homers. I’m sure Dodgers manager Dave Roberts isn’t complaining about that.

He’s come from irrelevance to becoming one of the most deadly hitters at his position in the entire game. In his age 28 season, I don’t expect his abilities to suddenly change in 2017.

He’s got the power and uses it to walk when he’s not hitting the ball over the fences. The high marks as a pitch framer is a nice touch as well.

4. Gary Sanchez (New York Yankees)

Mar 10, 2017; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) on deck to bat against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 24

3.0 WAR 53 G 229 PA .299 BA .376 OBP 12 2B 20 HR .657 SLG 1.032 OPS 57 SO 24 BB 41.8% Hard Contact

Wow! That’s really all you can say about Gary Sanchez’s 2016 campaign. He was instantly one of the best hitters in the American League. He did it all, but the most impressive was his 20 home runs. That’s more than all but four catchers in the league, and he did that in just 53 games. It’s pretty outrageous. The 24 year-old would have lapped the field if he continued on that pace for another half a season.

Think about it this way, Sanchez was called up around the trade deadline and managed to make the AL Rookie of the Year race close despite Michael Fulmer having outstanding year up to that point.

I’m not expecting the second-year catcher to continue on the this type of pace as he could not even do this at the Triple-A level. But it did show everyone associated with MLB that this is a player that you could build around.

I see Sanchez as a 25-30 home run player that will sit around a .270 batting average and walk enough to make his on-base very respectable as well.

His hard contact rate was over 40 percent in 2016, which explains why Sanchez had so much success during his 50+ game tenure as a big league player. His strikeouts are going to hold him back and pitchers should figure out new ways to attack him. But he’s the complete package when it comes to catchers.

3. Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)

Aug 23, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) reacts after New York Mets third baseman Jose Reyes (7) scored during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. The Mets won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 34

2.9 WAR 147 G 581 PA .307 BA .360 OBP 38 2B 8 HR .427 SLG .787 OPS 63 SO 39 BB 31.1% Hard Contact

He’s been one of the best at the catching position for the past ten years and he deserves respect even as he gets older.

Molina is most well known for his great work behind the plate, and while he’s not good as he was in his prime, the 34 year-old can still hold his own. But overlooking his ability with the bat, even at this point in his career, would be a grand mistake.

While he doesn’t flash that much over the fence power, his 38 doubles ranked first among all catchers in MLB. He was also only the third catcher that hit for a batting average above .300 on this list. Combine this with the fact that he his strikeout-walk rate is very good, he’s as stable as they come at this position.

You always wonder how long these frequent all-stars like Molina can continue to sit atop of these rankings as the years go by, but you shouldn’t expect an absolute falloff considering how consistent he’s been over the course of his career.

At this point, there’s really not much to say about Molina. He continues to be one of the safest bets to keep his top five spots come seasons end than pretty much anyone at the catching position.

2. Jonathan Lucroy (Texas Rangers)

Mar 5, 2017; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (25) hits a single against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 30

2.1 WAR 142 G 544 PA .292 BA .355 OBP 24 2B 24 HR .500 SLG .855 OPS 100 SO 47 BB 35.4% Hard Contact

Jonathan Lucroy has been absolutely criminally underpaid over the past few seasons with the production that he has put up. Now after the whole Indians fiasco, the former Brewers catcher finds himself with one year left before free agency until he makes up for all the money he missed out on.

Lucroy might be the most complete offensive catcher outside of the number one player on this list and that includes rookie phenom Gary Sanchez. This is because not only does Lucroy hit for power, but he’s an all-around quality hitter as well.

He doesn’t strike out at an overly high rate and he maintained an above average hard contact rate throughout 2016. Now that he’s in Texas he will be surrounded by much better talent in the batting order, which should continue to help him put up good numbers.

People should not overlook the fact that he’s playing in a contract year in 2017. This means his motivation will be at an all-time high to continue his high level of play so he can enter the offseason with his stock as high as possible.

Offensively, last year was his best to date. He’s a steady hitter who should continue to be productive in a year where motivation should be at an all-time high.

1. Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)

Oct 8, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) reacts after striking out against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning during game two of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 30

4.7 WAR 146 G 614 PA .288 BA .362 OBP 33 2B 14 HR .434 SLG .796 OPS 68 SO 64 BB 36.1% Hard Contact

It’s hard to believe that this coming season will represent Posey’s age 30 campaign. He’s accomplished so much in his MLB career to date, but it feels just like yesterday that he was a top prospect bursting onto the scene.

A lot has changed since then. Posey is now not a full-time catcher as he dabbles at first base to preserve his offensive capabilities. It won;t be long until he goes the way of Joe Mauer and completely abandon the position for good.

But that time isn’t now, and there’s not much debate on who reigns supreme as major league baseball’s best catcher. Yes, Gary Sanchez is exciting and Yadier Molina is a classic. However, neither of these guys are the player that Posey is at this point in their respective careers.

In all, the Giants backstop managed a high batting average with an absolutely stellar strikeout-walk rate. It’s pretty incredible to see Posey’s approach at the plate.

His home run numbers were down in 2016, but overall that doesn’t really mean too much when you’re still getting extra-base hits and maintaining a status as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.

This wasn’t Posey’s best season, but as his 4.7 WAR signals, he’s still an incredibly valuable asset in this league.

Placing Posey as the top catcher was one of the easier decisions of all these positional previews and I expect that many would agree with his spot on this list.

How would you rank catchers going into the MLB season? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Also, be on the lookout for more positional rankings as opening day approaches.

This article originally appeared on