Now that we’re done with the pitchers, it’s time to move on to the offense. And, we’ll take defense into consideration as well. Catchers are going to be a little unique from the rest of the field of players, which is part of the reason I decided to go over them next. Part of their defensive statistics that matter is their ability to throw out base-runners. So, we’ll include that among the 9 categories to consider. Let’s start with MLB Network’s list, with 2011 stats:
1. Mike Napoli (.320, 30 HR, 75 RBI, 1.046 OPS, .996 FLD%, 36% CS)
2. Joe Mauer (.287, 3 HR, 30 RBI, .729 OPS, .987 FLD%, 30% CS – 82 games in 2011)
3. Miguel Montero (.282, 18 HR, 86 RBI, .820 OPS, .989 FLD%, 40% CS)
4. Buster Posey (.305, 18 HR, 67 RBI, .862 OPS, .991 FLD%, 37% CS – 2010 stats, just 45 games in ’11)
5. Alex Avila (.295, 19 HR, 82 RBI, .895 OPS, .995 FLD%, 32% CS)
6. Carlos Santana (.239, 27 HR, 79 RBI, .808 OPS, .989 FLD%, 24% CS)
7. Brian McCann (.270, 24 HR, 71 RBI, .817 OPS, .987 FLD%, 30% CS)
8. Yadier Molina (.305, 14 HR, 65 RBI, .814 OPS, .995 FLD%, 29% CS)
9. Matt Wieters (.262, 22 HR, 68 RBI, .778 OPS, .995 FLD%, 37% CS)
10. Carlos Ruiz (.283, 6 HR, 40 RBI, .754 OPS, .996 FLD%, 23% CS)
My list doesn’t look like it’s going to vary much from MLB Network’s list. I used 9 offensive & defensive categories and compared stats over the last two seasons. I also factored in that Posey and Mauer both missed significant time due to injury in 2011. The categories are batting average, home runs, rbi’s, OPS, wRC+ (weighted runs created plus, which shows how much better or worse the player is compared to league average at creating runs), ISO (isolated power, which measures a players ability to get extra-base hits), WAR, fielding pct., and rSB (stolen base runs saved – a defensive category specifically for catchers & pitchers). Here’s how I rank ’em:
1. Mike Napoli – while most know of his big surge at the end of 2011, he actually has put up very impressive stats the last two years. Top-3 in six offensive categories (and 10th in the only other one), and isn’t a liability behind the plate.
2. Buster Posey – even when missing more than 2/3 of last season, Posey ranks in the top 3 in 3 offensive categories (and w/out injury, he would project into the top 3 in two more). He’s also top-5 in rSB.
3. Joe Mauer – I put Mauer behind Posey because of his defense. Posey isn’t elite, but he’s better than Mauer, who is middle of the pack at best.
4. Brian McCann – the highest WAR among catchers in the game over the last two seasons, he ranks in the top-5 in five offensive categories, and is above average behind the plate.
5. Matt Wieters – he’s starting to look like the big-time player everyone said he was going to be. At the young age of 25, he won his first Gold Glove (has the highest rSB in the game the last two years), and ranks in the top 10 in 3 offensive categories as well.
6. Miguel Montero – top-10 in six of the nine categories, and ranks 11th & 12th in two more. His fielding percentage is below average (.991), but that’s about the only knock on this 28-year-old.
7. Yadier Molina – a pretty one-dimensional player, but he’s certainly improved his offense the last couple seasons. He still is below average, though, in OPS, wRC+, and ISO.
8. Carlos Ruiz – very similar to Molina in that his offense is overshadowed by his defense. His defense is slightly below Molina, though, and his offense may have a few brighter spots than Molina’s, but ultimately they’re about the same value. And, Ruiz is already 33.
9. Alex Avila – not sure why MLB Network is as high on him as they are. Good numbers across the board, but nothing that really stands out. Top-10 in only 4 categories, and near the bottom in rSB.
10. Geovany Soto – my only diversion from the names on MLB Network’s list. He’s below-average behind the plate, but ranks in the top 10 in 5 offensive categories the last two seasons.
Honorable mention goes to Carlos Santanta. It was incredibly close between Soto and Santana. They’re both relying on their offense, rather than defense. And, Soto ranked in the top 10 in 5 categories, while Santana only in 4, and Soto’s WAR was a bit higher.