As the MLB season nears, I decided I would post an article every couple of days breaking down my top players at each position. My last article covered starting pitchers so this one will cover catchers. However, this article will only feature five cathcers simply because there are not many elite catchers in the game today. The catcher’s position is one where a superstar comes along once, maybe twice in a lifetime. Players such as Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, or Carlton Fisk don’t come around everyday. Here we go.
- Yadier Molina- Molina has my vote for the best all-around catcher in Major League Baseball. He is a career .279 hitter, but he is most known for his defense. I tend to be very drawn to players like Molina, because there is literally nothing flashy about him. He is just fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. He consistently calls a great game, he blocks pitches in the dirt better than anyone in the league, and can gun down virtually any would-be base stealer. He is a classy player on and off the field, gets along with his teammates, and is a very coachable star. Basically the only downsides to Molina are his very poor speed and occasional baserunning mistake, but his positives heavily outweigh his negatives.
- 2. Buster Posey- Posey is arguably the best young player in the game today. With less than three years of total big leagues experience, he has already won himself two World Series rings. His 2011 campaign was brutally cut short by a broken leg due to a collision with a runner at home plate. In his short career, Posey has a .316 batting average, and he doesn’t tend to strike out all that much. Similar to Molina, Posey is a very solid fielder. He calls a great game, takes care of the pitching staff, and has thrown out better than thirty percent of base stealers in each year of his career. He also compiles a very small amount of errors every year. Posey’s three-year career has already rewarded him with the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award, and the 2012 Most Valuable Player Award. This may be a bold statement early in his career, but I think Buster Posey will have no problem getting into Cooperstown when he retires, barring any major setbacks.
- 3. Joe Mauer- Over the past six or seven seasons, Mauer has been arguably the most consistent player in the Major Leagues. Having played his entire career with the Minnesota Twins, he has posted a career .323 average, with his lowest being .287 during the 2011 season. Mauer’s career year came in 2009, when he put up a .365 average with 28 bombs. The main reason Mauer dropped to third on my list is because in recent years, Mauer has been switching between catcher, first base, and designated hitter. Albeit small, I think taking days off from catching gives him just a slight advantage over everyone else, as he has a little bit more time to relax and give his body time to rest. He puts together a great balance of aggressiveness and patience at the plate, and is nothing short of a solid defender. Mauer, like Posey, should have a good shot at Cooperstown if he keeps up his game for the next few seasons.
- 4. Brian McCann- Although McCann has dropped off over the last season or two, I still believe he is one of the best in the game. He hit .270 or above every season except for 2012, in which he hit a career-low .230. Since his first full season in 2006, McCann has been a steady complement to Chipper Jones in the middle of the Braves lineup. With 2013 being his first season without Chipper, look for McCann to have a bounce-back year while producing a large portion of the Braves offense. I find McCann to be a mediocre fielder, letting a decent number of passed balls through, and only throwing out about 23% of potential base stealers. That being said, he has made six appearances in the all-star game, proving that he is nothing short of a solid player. Look for McCann to have a good year, assuming the role of the Braves top hitter.
- 5. Matt Wieters- Rounding out my top five is the young catcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Wieters is steadily developing into one of the most reliable catchers in the game today. While his offensive game is still developing, he has already proven himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the pros. He has only let up eleven passed balls in his four years in the majors, and has gunned out an impressive 32% of would be base stealers. Look for Wieters to steadily improve his game. I see him hitting around .300 this season.
This is what the Royals starting rotation looks like:
1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Luis Mendoza
3. Bruce Chen
4. Luke Hochevar
5. Will Smith
With this rotation, it is hard to believe the Royals finished 3rd in the central division. While Jeremy Guthrie pitched extremely well in the later half of the season, he does not deserve to be an ace on any pitching staff. To be honest, Mendoza, Chen, Hochevar, and Smith would be lucky to even be the fifth starter for the Giants or Tigers. To reach the World Series, a team must have quality starting pitching.
Justin Verlander, obviously, is the Tigers’ most dominant pitcher. Also, the Giants rely heavily on Matt Cain in a win or go home game. While both teams have other outstanding pitchers, none make an impact as much as these two aces.
Every time Verlander or Cain step foot on the mound, their respective team knows they should win the game. If either team is
able to score 3 runs, they will win the majority of the time. Another huge aspect of the pitchers’ importance to their teams, besides the mental aspect, is the number of inning they stay out on the mound. Both pitchers are number one and two in innings-pitched for the postseason. This allows the teams’ managers to be able to save relievers for future games. In addition, the pitching rotation in games usually goes in this order, Verlander – Benoit – Valverde OR Cain – Affeldt – Romo. This scenario gives both teams an excellent chance of winning every time.
To compliment these two dominant aces, both teams have strong 2-3 pitchers. The Tigers have Max Scherzer, a right-handed pitcher who won 16 wins in 2012 and is currently 1-0 in the playoffs. Scherzer averages 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings. The Giants also have a strong second pitcher in Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is a lefty that stands tall at 6’5”. Bumgrarner was the second man in the rotationf or the whole season and will now be used in the bullpen. He won 16 games during the regular season but is 0-2 this postseason. With his struggles this postseason, Barry Zito replaces him in the order as he starts game one in the series. If the Royals somehow made it to the World Series, they would have Luis Mendoza as their second pitcher. Mendoza finished the season with a record of 8-10. Mendoza actually surprised people with his solid season and his ERA of 4.23. He will never be a dominant pitcher, but he has had enough success this season to get him a spot on next year’s rotation. While they have Mendoza signed until 2017, Guthrie is a free agent this offseason. The Royals are faced with a hard decision of whether to pay Guthrie, with the risk of him struggling like he has before, or to let him go altogether.
While every team in the 2012 playoffs had a better starting rotation, I still feel the Royals have the strongest bullpen. Crow and Holland have been lights out for two consecutive years. Kelvin Herrera stepped up big this year with a very respectable 2.35 ERA and 77 strikeouts. Another nice surprise was Tim Collins who recorded 93 strikeouts. Collins maintained an ERA of 3.36. The bullpen was the brightest area for the Royals all season long.
In the end, I see the Giants winning because of the momentum they are riding. The fans in San Francisco have been an essential part to the Giants’ success in the postseason. The Giants rally when they are in a hole, and they know how to battle adversity. Also, Buster Posey will jump out of the postseason slump he has been in. A major key is how Bumgarner and Zito pitch.