The catcher’s position is arguably the hardest position on the baseball diamond. Durability, a strong arm, mindset for calling the game, good judgement, positioning for blocking wild pitches- all of which are essential to the role as a catcher. And of course the catcher still has to hit. The game has had its share of great catchers: Yogi Bera, Mickey Cochran, Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett. But looking over the last 20 years and the evolution of the game as we know it, who takes those ranks as being some of the best this generation has ever seen?
10. A.J. Pierzynski
Let’s start with A.J. Pierzynski. Although he caught for several teams and is currently with the St. Louis Cardinals, he’s most notably known in a Chicago White Sox uniform. Pierznski is a two time All-Star (2002, 2006), a World Series champion (2005), and has received a Silver Slugger Award (2012). A.J. wasn’t the most talented catcher during this time frame, but he was consistent. Pierzynski holds the AL record for consecutive errorless chances with 962, breaking Yogi Berra’s previous record of 950, set in 1959.
9. Buster Posey
Buster Posey has had his share of ups and downs with injuries since coming in the league, but he certainly is one worthy of being the best we’ve seen in 20 years. As a rookie in 2010, he finished with a .305 batting average, 18 home runs, and 67 runs batted in. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award that year as well as won the World Series with the San Francisco Giants, catching every inning of that series. After injuries plagued his following season, Posey returned in 2012 with a .336 batting average to win the 2012 NL batting title. He became the second San Francisco Giant to win the batting title and was named the NL Most Valuable Player and NL Comeback Player of the year for 2012. He won his second World Series that year as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in four games.
8. Tony Pena
Tony Pena graced the diamond for 18 years (1980-1997) playing most of his years with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Known for his great defense and unorthodox squat behind the plate, Pena was selected to five All Star teams and won four Gold Gloves. In an 18-year career, Peña played in 1,988 games, accumulating 1,687 hits in 6,489 at bats for a .260 career batting average along with 107 home runs, 708 runs batted in and a .309 on-base percentage. He ended his career with a .991 fielding percentage. He led his league five times in putouts and twice in fielding percentage. Peña’s 1,950 games played as a catcher rank him sixth on the all-time list. He’s currently the bench coach for the New York Yankees
7. Brad Ausmus
Brad Ausmus being on this list may surprise some, but really, he was one of the most underrated catcher in his time. From 1993-2010, Ausmus was an All Star in 1999, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2001, ’02, and ’06), and won the 2007 Darryl Kile Award “for integrity and courage”. A five-time league-leader at catcher in fielding percentage, he also led the league twice in percentage caught stealing, and once each in putouts and assists. His strength as a defensive catcher for such a long period of time is really the reason he should have had more than just 3 Gold Gloves and is also the reason he makes this list.
6. Victor Martinez
New baseball fans may only recognize “V-Mart” as being a power hitting DH. But before he took all the swings (and before injuries put a hault on his career), Martinez was one of the hottest hitting catchers in the majors. From 2002-2009, he caught for the Cleveland Indians. During that stint, Martinez produced some of this greatest seasons, including the 2004 season where Martínez hit .283 with 23 home runs. He set a record for Indians catchers with 108 RBIs, earned his first All-Star selection, and shared the Silver Slugger honor as the top-hitting American League catcher with Iván Rodríguez. Adding his seasons in Boston (2009-2010) and most recently in Detroit (2011-Present), Martinez is a five time All-Star.
5. Joe Mauer
We could be seeing Joe Mauer in an NFL jersey, as he turned down a football scholarship to Florida State to enter the MLB Draft. Looking back, I’m sure he’s glad he did (and the Minnesota Twins may be as well). Maueris the only catcher in MLB history to win three batting titles, and the only catcher to ever win a batting title in the American League. He also won three consecutive Gold Glove awards (2008–2010), and the 2009 AL MVP Award. Mauer has been elected to five All-Stars, but unfortunately the star catcher has had his share of injuries. At the end of the 2013 season, the Twins announced they would be moving Mauer to first base to protect him from the wear and tear of being bend the plate.
4. Yadiar Molina
Drafted in 2000, but not coming into the majors until 2004, Yadiar Molina is arguably the best active pitcher in baseball. Coming from a baseball family, Yadiar has far surpassed the ranks of his brothers Benjie Molina (retired) and Jose Molina (active with Tampa Bay Rays).Molina is a two-time World Series champion and has earned six consecutive selections to the All Star Game, six Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and one Silver Slugger Award. In the first ten years of his career, the Cardinals appeared in seven playoff tournaments. He is known for having one of the strongest arms in baseball and just last season (2013) led all the majors with 48 pickoffs and threw out 45 percent of runners attempting to steal.
3. Jorge Posada
Posada played 17 seasons (1995-2011), all of them for the New York Yankees. He produced strong offensive numbers for a catcher: .273 batting average, 275 home runs, and 1,065 RBIs during his career. Posada was switch hitter and a five-time All-Star. He won five Silver Slugger Awards, and was on the roster for four World Series championship teams.He is the only MLB catcher to ever bat .330 or better with 40 doubles, 20 home runs, and 90 RBIs in a single season.
.2. Mike Piazza
From 1992-2007, Mike Piazza was a sight to see. Known to most as the best hitting catcher of all time, Piazza hit 396 home runs (the most by a catcher in history) and 427 total in his career. Piazza was elected to 12 All-Star Games and won 10 consecutive Silver Slugger awards. There were those at one point who whispered that Piazza using steroid’s; however, no direct evidence was ever found. Mets teammate Tom Glavine called Piazza a “first-ballot Hall of Famer, certainly the best hitting catcher of our era and arguably the best hitting catcher of all time”. Piazza said to reporters that if he got into the Hall of Fame he would like to be inducted as a Met, for whom he played seven-plus seasons. Piazza was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame on September 29, 2013. Only nine other players have ever had over 400 home runs with over a .300 lifetime average while never striking out more than 100 times in a season (Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols and Chipper Jones).
1. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez
This guy is often considered the best defensive catcher of all time, but it wouldn’t be unfair to say maybe even the best catcher of all time next to Yogi Bera. He hold the major league record for most games caught (2,377), most hits as a catcher (2,749), more Gold Gloves than any other catcher (13), and is tied with Yogi Berra for most All-Star appearances as a catcher (14). Pudge has racked in seven Silver Sluggers (only second to Mike Piazza’s 10 among catchers). He lead his league in caught-stealing percentage (45.68 at the highest) nine times and the majors five times. Even though he spent most of his career with the Texas Rangers and eventually retired a Ranger, he’s a World Series Champion with the Florida Marlins in 2003, and actually won the NLCS MVP that year. It’s safe to say that Rodriguez is one of the best to ever do it not just over the last 20 years, but maybe ever!