BY SEAN SCHOONOVER, Couchsideshow.com blogger
Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part two of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!
When identifying the top catchers of the MLB, one must consider a players defensive capability as well as their offensive ability. The catcher position is the most demanding position on the field and offense is usually the last thing on their minds, as these players have to manage full pitching staffs, mull over game plans, as well as rest their aching legs. Offensive focused catchers now days are finding more ways to get into the lineup on a daily basis, whether it is at 1B or DH. Last season only 6 catchers managed over 500 at bats, which is an improvement of only two in 2011 and one in 2010. The following list includes the 10 best catchers going into the 2013 season, starting with players 6-10 and their 2012 statistics. Players left off the list and who most likely make up the 11-15 spots include: J.P. Arencibia, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski, Brian McCann, and Alex Avila. With that here are your projected ten best catchers for the 2013 season:
10. Jesus Montero (SEA)- 135 GP, 134 H, 15 HR, 46 Runs, 62 RBI, .260 AVG, .298 OBP. .386 SLG, -0.2 WAR
– A tall 6’3”, slightly slow footed catcher but has the potential to hit 25 HRS and 80 RBIs
9. Jonathan Lucroy (MIL)– 96 GP, 101 H, 12 HR, 46 Runs, 58 RBI, .320 AVG, .369 OBP, .513 SLG, 3.9 WAR
– Defensively sound catcher with the ability to hit over 20 HRs with a .300 AVG
8. Wilin Rosario (COL)- 117 GP, 107 H, 28 HR, 67 Runs, 71 RBI, .270 AVG, .320 OBP, .530 SLG, 1.9 WAR
– A power hitter, whom needs improvement on the defensive side. but offensively has a lot of up-side hitting behind Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez
7. Salvador Perez (KC)- 76 GP, 87 H, 11 HR, 38 Runs, 39 RBI, .301 AVG, ,328 OBP, .471 SLG, 2.8 WAR
– Only 22 years old and known for his sound defensive ability, but it is his offensive potential that seems intriguing with his limited experience. This is hands down my sleeper for the position this year.
6. Miguel Montero (ARI)- 141 GP, 139 H, 15 HR, 65 Runs, 88 RBI, .286 AVG, .391 OBP, .438 SLG, 3.7 WAR
– Defensively sound, ranking third best in caught stealing rate last year with 42%, he is one of the best overall catchers in the game and yet does not get enough credit.
5. Matt Wieters (BAL) – 144 GP, 131 H, 23 HR, 67 Runs, 83 RBI, .249 AVG, .329 OBP, .435 SLG, 3.2 WAR
The .249 Average and 112 strikeouts are two statistics that bring Wieters down, however he still has shown the last two years that he is a well-deserved starter in one of the toughest divisions. He is one of six catchers from last year that compiled over 500 at bats, with 526 in 144 games played. The last two years have proved that Wieters is a legitimate top five catcher in the league tallying 55 HRs, to go with 151 RBIs. However, it is the defensive side that Wieters excels, being awarded golden gloves both in 2011 and 2012, throwing out an average of 38 percent of attempted base stealers for both years. The defensive piece is in place and I would not be surprised to see his offensive game take off this season.
In part two of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best position player going into 2012, I’ll examine the MLB’s top backstops. A couple of catchers on my top five missed a big chunk of the 2011 season because of injury, but they’re both still considered two of the best in the game.
Here’s a closer look at the best from behind the dish in 2012:
It’s weird to think a 30-year-old wouldn’t reach his prime until his career was almost halfway over, but it appears that’s the exact case for Mike Napoli. The six-year veteran set career highs in home runs, RBIs and batting average last season for the Texas Rangers and he played a key factor to their American League Championship run. The most impressive of Napoli’s personal highs last year had to have been how he hit for average. Don’t get me wrong, his power numbers were very impressive, but before last season, Napoli never hit higher that .273. In 2011, the Florida native hit an amazing .320. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Napoli yet and that’s saying a lot. It will be tough for him to make a repeat performance after an incredible 2011 season, but now that the Rangers are contenders, he’ll play with that bad taste of losing a World Series lingering in his mouth.