COMMENTARY: After looking at the starting shortstops of the National League last time, today we move onto the catchers. While most of the formula in this selection process is based on numbers from 2013, a few may remain slightly higher if there is reasonable expectation for them to return to form in 2014.
15. Devin Mesoraco/Cincinnati Reds- Mesoraco hit nine homers in 103 games and hit .238. His five errors weren’t bad, but much more will be expected of him in 2014.
14. Wilson Ramos/Washington Nationals- This is a guy that hit 16 homers and drove in 52 runs in 78 games, but he’ll have a different platoon partner in new arrival Jose Lobaton from Tampa Bay. Lobaton played in more games for the Rays as he homered seven times with 15 doubles in 100 games. The scary part of Ramos is eight defensive errors while Lobaton had only three.
13. Travis D’Arnaud/New York Mets- The Mets traded away Cy Young winner R. A. Dickey just to get this guy. Injuries are the only thing that kept him from the Big Apple in 2013. In Las Vegas before he was traded in 2012, he hit 16 homers, 21 doubles, drove in 52 runs and hit .333 in 67 games. There is plenty of youth pushing him as Anthony Recker and Juan Centeno are waiting in the wings.
12. Nick Hundley/San Diego Padres- Hundley won the job as Yasmani Grandal served his suspension for PEDs, hitting 13 homers and driving in 44 runs in 114 games. The concern is Hundley’s glove as he was one of only four National League catchers with 10 errors in 2013.
11. Wellington Castillo/Chicago Cubs- Castillo was on his way to a breakout season until arthroscopic surgery on his knee was necessary to end his 2013. To that point, he hit eight homers, 23 doubles and batted .274 in an anemic Cubs’ offense. Like Hundley, it is his 10 errors behind the plate that are concerning to the Cubs. For now, he is pain free coming into Spring Training, according to cubs.com.
10. Jarrod Saltalamachia/Miami Marlins- Salty hit well enough for the Boston Red Sox in 2013 to get a new three year contract in Miami by hitting 14 homers, driving in 63 runs and batting .273. He committed six errors defensively, which is consistent with the last two years before. The Marlins would love to see him get back to his 2012 level of homers with 25.
9. Carlos Ruiz/Philadelphia Philies- Ruiz is another catcher caught in the PED scandal. The Phillies still feel he is good enough for another three years going forward at age 35. In 115 games after returning from his 25 game suspension, he hit .268 with five homers and 37 RBI. Ruiz contended for the batting title in 2012 as he ended with a .325 average and the Phils are hopeful to see him back at full strength in 2014.
8. Miguel Montero/Arizona Diamondbacks- Montero fell off a little on the offensive side of the ball, but kept his error total at five in 116 games, his best when he has played 100 games or more. He only hit 11 homers with 42 RBI and batted .230 in 2013. The D-Backs are hoping for more of a return to form of 2011, when they gave him a six-year, $65 million contract. In 2011, he hit .282 with 18 homers and 86 runs batted in.
7. AJ Ellis/Los Angeles Dodgers-Ellis is not an offensive juggernaut, but rather it is his defense that keeps the Dodgers in games. In the past two seasons, he has thrown 36 (2012) and 28 (2013) runners out trying to advance. That was good enough for second in the NL in both seasons. His three errors in 2013 were second only to former Dodger catcher Russell Martin.
6. Evan Gattis/Atlanta Braves- Gattis was so good in 2013 that the Braves were comfortable letting All Star Brian McCann bolt to the Yankees in the offseason. Gattis hit 21 homers and 21 doubles while driving in 65 runs and batting .243. Along with Martin, he committed two errors behind the plate, but committed five errors between first base and the outfield. Gattis will have former Pirate and Twin Ryan Doumit backing him up in 2014.
5. Wilin Rosario/Colorado Rockies- Rosario didn’t have a sophomore slump after finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2012. He and Gattis were the only catchers to hit 21 homers in the National League in 2013. Along with those homers, he hit 22 doubles, drove in 79 runs and hit .292. He committed nine errors behind the plate and a couple more as a backup first baseman when Todd Helton couldn’t go.
4. Jonathan Lucroy/Milwaukee Brewers- The Brewers are experimenting with the idea of getting Lucroy to play a little more first base and outfield in 2014 because they also have Martin Maldonado, who played as Wily Peralta’s personal catcher in 2013. Both of their bats are better than 2013 first baseman Juan Francisco. Lucroy’s 2013 offense included 18 homers, 25 doubles, 82 RBI and .280 batting average.
3. Russell Martin/Pittsburgh Pirates- Martin is a steady catcher offensively with 15 homers, 55 RBI, 21 doubles, but hit a low .226. It is his defense that makes him complete. In 127 games, he led the National League with only two errors behind the plate. Martin led the American League as a Yankee in throwing out runners with 40 in 2012 and did it again as a Pirate in the NL with 36 this past season. The bigger news for the Pirates was his 40.4% throwing out percentage which took the Buccos team from dead last to fourth overall.
2. Buster Posey/San Francisco Giants- I think the impact of the home plate collision that ended his 2011 season may have finally caught up to him behind the plate mentally. The Giants are trying to play him at first more. Offensively, Posey is comparable to AL catcher Joe Mauer. In 2013, Posey hit .294 with 15 homers, 34 doubles and 72 runs batted in. You have to remember that this is the 2012 MVP that hit an NL leading .336 and drove in 103 runs just two seasons ago. He was also the Rookie of the Year in 2010.
1. Yadier Molina/St. Louis Cardinals- How do you not put the guy who has won six consecutive Gold Gloves behind the plate for the National League at number one? You can’t. Defensively, Molina is looked at by many as the best defensive catcher in the game. His four errors in 2013 rank him fourth overall and the last time Yadi had more than five was in 2008. He was fourth in the NL MVP voting in 2012 and last lost a Gold Glove in 2007. That year, Russell Martin won the award as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So that is the look at the National League catchers. Next time, we’ll look at the outfielders, starting in left field.
Statistics gathered at Baseball Reference.com.