It’s tough to succeed in baseball nowadays without being rock solid at the catcher position.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many top-flight catchers who can be reliable backstops year after year. The teams that have a quality catcher who contributes on both sides of the ball should consider themselves lucky.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top-10 catchers in the majors heading into the 2021 season.
10. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
At age 38, Yadier Molina still qualifies as one of the better catchers in the game.
He’s solid behind the plate and does a great job managing the St. Louis pitching staff. Offensively, there’s no question that his best days are behind him. But he hit .262 last season, so he’s not an automatic out. Plus, his experience and intangibles more than make up for his diminished offensive output.
9. Travis d’Arnaud, Braves
Health has always been Travis d’Arnaud’s problem, but when he stayed healthy in 2020, he hit .321 with an OPS of .919.
Keep in mind he was once considered the top catching prospect in baseball. Of course, health remains a concern for the injury-riddled 32-year-old. But the upside is there if he can stay on the field.
8. Austin Nola, Padres
Austin Nola surely falls under the category of late-bloomer, not making his big-league debut until he was 29.
However, he’s been a revelation over the past two seasons and now looks like a safe bet to be a reliable backstop for the Padres moving forward.
7. Mitch Garver, Twins
Surely Mitch Garver deserves a pass in 2020, as he hit just .167 with an OPS of .511 before ending the season on the IL.
Just a year earlier, he smashed 31 home runs and posted a .995 OPS for the Twins. While skepticism is fair and knocks him down a few places in the catching hierarchy, Garver should be capable of bouncing back in 2021.
6. James McCann, Mets
— GENY Mets Report (@genymets) February 25, 2021
Over the last few years, he’s made huge strides to the defensive part of his game. He’s also been one of the most productive offensive catchers in recent years, averaging 26 home runs from 2016 to 2019 and smashing eight long balls in a shortened 2020 campaign.
5. Yasmani Grandal, White Sox
Offensively, few catchers possess Yasmani Grandal’s upside.
Even at age 32, he has plenty of pop. Based on his 2020 production, hitting eight home runs and seven doubles in just 46 games, he’s got a lot left in the tank.
4. Willson Contreras, Cubs
It’s hard to find a more consistent offensive catcher over the last five seasons than Willson Contreras.
He is a two-time all-star and provides the Cubs with a stable presence behind the plate, performing on both sides of the ball.
3. Salvador Perez, Royals
It’s easy to think of Salvador Perez as one of the older catchers in the league, but he’ll only be 30 on opening day.
— Aaron Ladd (@aaronladd0) February 22, 2021
After missing the entire 2019 season due to injury, he came back strong in 2020, hitting .333 with an OPS of .986. While he probably won’t replicate that production this year, Perez still has plenty of pop and is outstanding defensively, winning five Gold Gloves during his career.
2. Will Smith, Dodgers
Will Smith proved in 2020 that he’s a star on the rise. While he still has fewer than 300 at-bats in the majors, he’s posted a .937 OPS during that time.
He’s easy to overlook considering the rest of the Los Angeles roster. But the soon-to-be 26-year-old is poised to become the best catcher in baseball sooner rather than later.
1. J.T. Realmuto, Phillies
Realmuto is an elite defensive catcher who controls the run game as well as any backstop. Equally important, he has showcased incredible consistency offensively over the last five years and is the closest to a five-tool player as any catcher can possibly be.