Today, The Junkball Daily will start a continuing series of top ten Major League Baseball players at each position. Each weekend, I’ll select the current top tens for each position. Today, we start with the first half of our top ten catcher list, with the top five presented tomorrow.
Included in the evaluations will be the last three seasons of both offensive and defensive prowess, along with several advanced metrics to determine the rankings. Players with less than 700 plate appearances will not be included in our evaluations. So, health will play a factor in the rankings as well. A player with, say, 1500 plate appearances will be weighted more than one with 1000.
#10- Nick Hundley, San Francisco Giants
A backup in the top 10?!? Yep, you read that right. You can’t blame Hundley for having to play second fiddle to one of the best catchers of this era. Regardless, Hundley could start for several other teams. His career .323 wOBA sits at 14th among catchers fitting the criteria for this list. Defensively, he throws out a little better than one out of every four baserunners. He averages -1.9 defensive runs saved; not bad but not great, either. Hundley’s a very balanced catcher who won’t wow you with his bat or glove, but he’s a stable backstop who can get the job done.
#9- Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
Considered the leader of the new era catchers, Sanchez exploded on the scene in 2016. He rocked 20 home runs in his first 55 big league games. He’s amassed a 7.6 WAR through 756 plate appearances; more than some players can achieve in an entire career. Sanchez is going to be a mainstay in the Yankees’ modern-day murderer’s row, along with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. There are some questions with his defense, mostly due to his inconsistencies. He’s got a rocket for an arm with great accuracy to throw out any baserunner in the league. The main gripe is his instincts; he doesn’t react as quickly as an elite defensive catcher should. Offensively, his .384 wOBA speaks volumes. Sanchez can rake and should continue to do so into the next decade.
#8- Wellington Castillo, Chicago White Sox
Castillo has bounced around in the last three years, playing for his SIXTH team in that stretch after being signed in the offseason by the White Sox. He’s been an expendable asset for reasons I can’t quite understand. Castillo has shown some pop for the last few teams he’s played for (.192 ISO). He’s only a .259 hitter for his career but he brings some prowess behind the plate; 15 defensive runs saved in his career. He’s slightly above average in terms of his instincts controlling base runners and works well with pitching staffs (remember, six different teams). Castillo gets the edge over Sanchez for now because of experience.
#7- Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
Our next catcher also hails from the Windy City, this time on the southside. Contreras has accomplished a lot in his two-year MLB career; a world champion in his rookie year, for instance. Contreras openly predicted he’d become a better player than that one catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. With one of the strongest arms on this list, Contreras has the ability to pick runners off first and third better than any catcher in the league. His dynamic ability to play several different positions makes him a valuable asset to the Cubs. He’s got power (.216 ISO) and can hit for average (.278 BA). Below is his spray chart for barreled hits:
Contreras will be in the top ten catchers list for a variety of stats for the next several years.
#6- Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
At number six, we have one of the most feared and respected catchers to come along in quite some time. Molina single-handily neutralizes any team’s running game. And while his career is on the decline, it’s a decline that still measures up to any average catcher in the league. Molina’s plate discipline isn’t what it used to be (36%-36%-38% O-swing rate) and his wOBA has dropped off considerably the last few years. Yet, he is still elite when it comes to his defense; a big reason why he still sits as high as he does on this list. With an incredible 129 defensive runs saved over his career, he’s also thrown out 45% of runners trying to steal. Not too shabby. Molina has three seasons left before he retires. Catch him while you can, just don’t try to steal second when you do.
There you have it, the first half of the list. Check back tomorrow, as we’ll pick up with the top five.