With Opening Day (still, inconceivably, not an American holiday) looming, I will be putting together a list
of each team’s starts by position. We begin the series at Catcher.
30. Matt Wieters, Washington Nationals
29. Jonathan Lucroy, Oakland Athletics
28. Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates
27. Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays
26. Brian McCann, Houston Astros
Well, this already seems like a sad tribute to the stars of yesteryear. Wieters finished 2017 playing under a replacement-level status. Lucroy, a former All-Star, couldn’t even get on track after being traded to Colorado while also playing against some of the most abhorrent defenses in the majors last season. A change of scenery in Oakland should only make things worse. McCann, a former stalwart behind the dish, has seen his defense regress dramatically, but at least he still brings some pop to the plate.
25. Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies
24. Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles
These two young guys have both impressed tremendously in their brief cup of coffee thus far. Sisco gets the slight edge as Alfaro still has much to polish up on defensively after putting up severely negative defensive runs saved and only throwing out 24 percent of base stealers. Both of these players have potential to make a serious jump on this list by season’s end.
23. Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
22. Chris Iannetta, Colorado Rockies
21. Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
We have reached the guys on the list that have become maligned enough to almost be underrated. d’Arnaud is an interesting case. He, deservedly, took lumps from the media for his poor defense, but has steadily improved. While he still isn’t adequate defensively, there are players that are more of a liability on this list than the Mets backstop.
20. James McCann, Detroit Tigers
19. Alex Avila, Arizona Diamondbacks
18. Wellington Castillo, Chicago White Sox
Sabermetrics liked Avila in 2017, but I am interested in seeing a full season of Avila in a more pronounced offensive role. He has never been special defensively, or put up great power numbers. First, he must stay healthy as he has not played 120 games since 2014. Castillo is another player whom I really think is under the spotlight this year. He put up great numbers in hitter-friendly Camden Yards and has now been asked to be a more prominent offensive threat with the White Sox. Another player not known for his defense, Castillo will have to show he can repeat an .813 OPS in the Windy City.
17. Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds
16. Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians
15. Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox
14. Martin Maldonado, Los Angeles Angels
13. Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres
12. Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves
A crop of incredible defensive baseball populates this group, with no catcher currently more impressive than Perez. Despite being a cog in the back of the Indians line-up, Perez is nearly impossible to run on and can change a game in different ways. Maldonado is another strong presence behind the plate, winning a Gold Glove last year. While neither of these players bring much to the table offensively,
Hedges has shown he has some pop and Flowers has bloomed into a decent middle-of-the-lineup producer, slugging at an adjusted OPS of 117.
11. Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers
10. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
9. Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers
8. J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins
Molina is so hard to rank, because if I had one game to win and a choice of all catchers, he is probably the second or third guy I call. But the numbers don’t lie and he is starting to make major regressions on both sides. While still a plus-defender, his defensive runs saved would barely make the top 10 last season. His offensive numbers are deceiving, as his adjusted OPS was under 100. He is striking out at a higher clip, while his walks are down. Barnes, on the other hand, is trending up after being a key player for the pennant-winning Dodgers. It’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain his .289 batting average and decent pop in limited games last season.
7. Jason Castro, Minnesota Twins
6. Manny Pina, Milwaukee Brewers
5. Michael Zunino, Seattle Mariners
Pina and Zunino are two of the best redemption stories in the sport. Pina dealt with injury woes and then bounced around from Minor League organization to Minor League organization until landing with the Brewers and showing a lot of talent in 2017. He vies for the title of best arm to second base and quietly does enough offensively (stats similar to Molina) to keep the Brewers in the hunt late. Zunino spent part of last year in the minors after being labeled as a bust and came back on a tear. The former No. 3 overall pick slugged 25 homers while putting up solid numbers behind the plate. He is a major candidate to really break out this year and make an All-Star team.
4. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
3. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
2. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
There is a major difference in talent from the top four and everyone else. While these three players are all average players defensively, their offensive prowess is incredible. Sanchez certainly exceeded the hype from when he was a young prospect, hitting more than 30 home runs and driving in 90 runs. Perez quietly put up great numbers on a Royals team that struggled around him last season.
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Posey, already a first ballot Hall of Famer, continues to be in a class of his own. Although the Giants really had the wheels fall off last season, none of that can be attributed to Posey. Posey won his fourth Silver Slugger to go along with a Gold Glove and five All-Star Appearances. The three-time World Champion and former MVP hit .320 (fifth in NL), with a .400 OBP (ninth in NL).