In this series, Brooklyn Beat writers Andrew Young and Justin Worsley will be examining each position. The series kicks off behind the dish.
Who is the top catcher in the game today?
AY: First question we get is a softball in my humble opinion. Buster Posey is a surefire Hall of Famer in his prime. The 2010 Rookie of the Year already owns three World Series championships as the key hitter in his lineup, and has an MVP, a Gold Glove, and three Silver Sluggers. This 2017 season may be his best yet as he is hitting .348 with an OPS of .974. Sure, he could do a better job protecting his pitchers from brawls with Bryce Harper, but no hurler could be too upset with a backstop throwing out 37 percent of potential base stealers. Unfortunately, the Giants have been disastrous around him. Despite having seven home runs thus far this season, Posey has only produced 13 RBIs. Still, absolutely none of the blame on San Francisco’s season lies on Posey.
JW: I agree that Posey is the best catcher in baseball and it is excruciating to watch him play in San Francisco, who’ve seen a huge fall from grace after winning three World Series in five years. But at age 30, I wonder how much longer it will be until San Francisco converts him to first base full time. The Giants play him at first a handful of times per year, so I don’t think he’ll struggle to adjust when he does switch. Since breaking his ankle in 2011, Posey has had a WAR of 4.6 or better each season and already have a WAR of 2.3 in 2017. When it is all said and done, Posey could very well be in the conversation as the greatest catcher of all time.
What under-the-radar catcher do you think could be the next big thing?
JW: St. Louis is aware that Yadier Molina is no spring chicken and they have prepared for their future by converting third baseman Carson Kelly to catcher. The transition has become a seamless one for Kelly. He has tossed out nearly one-third of potential base stealers and owns an eye-popping .953 OPS at the Triple A level. He is ready for the big leagues now, but with Molina signed through 2020, St. Louis may be forced to move one of them.
AY: I do think Kelly is a great talent, but the Molina extension worries me that he may be blocked for a long time. I’m staying in the Midwest though. Although Yan Gomes’ numbers have improved, it’s clear he is the weak link in a contending lineup for Cleveland. That may not change this year, but I expect 2018 to be the year we see Francisco Mejia, currently playing at the AA level in Akron. The 21-year-old had a 50 game hit streak last season and threw out 44 percent of base stealers. He’s a switch hitter and I think he and Francisco Lindor will keep the Tribe in contention for a long time.
Who is the greatest catcher of all-time?
AY: Catcher is one of those positions where I value defense so highly. Johnny Bench is the standard with two seasons in which he threw out over 50 percent of potential base stealers and an additional four seasons at over 45 percent. Add in the fact that he led in NL in home runs twice and RBIs three times and it is almost impossible to deny Bench. There will always be the question of what could’ve been with Josh Gibson, who was relegated to the Negro Leagues, but Bench has a strong enough case to warrant being named greatest ever.
JW: Johnny Bench. Bench wasn’t just a key factor for the Big Red Machine in the 1970s, he literally was the Big Red Machine. Oozing with raw power, he could launch a ball out of a park or gun down potential base stealers with ease. Along with winning a pair of World Series, he was named MVP twice, won 10 Gold Gloves and was named an All-Star 14 times.