COMMENTARY | The greatest catcher in Minnesota Twins history is Joe Mauer. That is not in dispute. What is amazing is to see how much better he has been than any other catcher in Twins history.
This is a continuation of a series I started of the greatest players in Twins history. I've also looked at the greatest first basemen and the greatest starting pitchers in Twins history. This is a comparison of stats players accumulated while playing only for the Twins.
3. Butch Wynegar (1976-1982)
Joe Mauer was not the first Twins catcher to be a high draft pick with a sweet swing to rise quickly through the farm system and become an All-Star at a young age. In fact, Wynegar made his debut a year earlier than Mauer at the age of 20 and completely skipped Class AA and AAA.
Wynegar had no problems with the transition, batting .260/.356/.363 to finish second to the Detroit Tigers' Mark Fydrich for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. The switch-hitter also was the youngest player ever to be an All-Star, although that record has since been broken.
If anything, Wynegar was too good his rookie season. He had another good season in 1977 and even made another All-Star team, but he was never quite as good as he was as a 20-year-old rookie. And, of course, the problem is that fans generally believe a player should only get better when he debuts at such a young age.
Wynegar did have some better seasons later in his career, but not with the Twins. He was traded along with Roger Erickson to the New York Yankees for Pete Filson, Larry Milbourne and John Pacella. As a Twin, he batted .254/.340/.342 with 37 home runs and 325 RBIs in 3,188 plate appearances.
2. Earl Battey (1961-1967)
Battey played catcher during an era when offense was down, so it is easy to overlook how good a hitter he was. However, Battey was the starting catcher for the AL All-Star team three times in four seasons starting in 1962 and was a backup on the All-Star team in 1966. He also won Gold Gloves his first two seasons in Minnesota.
Battey started his career with the Chicago White Sox in 1955, but he could never stay with the team for a full season. He was traded with Don Mincher to the Washington Senators for Roy Sievers at the start of the 1960 season. The Senators moved to Minnesota prior to the next season.
Battey was even better in Minnesota as he batted .302/.377/.470 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs in 522 plate appearances. His best season came in 1963 when he batted .85/.369/.476 with 26 home runs and 84 RBIs while the league offense was trending downward.
Despite another All-Star game appearance in 1966, Battey was starting to show the effects of his age and playing so many games at catcher. Battey couldn't stay healthy while battling a thyroid condition in 1967 and retired after the season at the age of 32.
1. Joe Mauer (2004-present)
Mauer has no peers in Twins history when comparing just catchers. As a catcher, Mauer is already the Twins' all-time leader in home runs, triples, doubles, hits, walks, RBIs, stolen bases, games caught and plate appearances. He also was voted to start four All-Star games as a catcher and was named to two others. He has four Silver Sluggers as a catcher and could add a fifth this offseason when the voting for Silver Sluggers is announced.
Mauer also has won three batting titles and is the only AL catcher to win a batting title. He also has the most batting titles by a catcher.
Mauer's best season so far was in 2009, when he batted .365/.444/.587 with 28 homers and 96 RBIs to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award. That season, he accomplished the rare trifecta of leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He is still the only Twin to accomplish this.
Through the 2013 season, Mauer has batted .323/.405/.468 with 105 home runs and 634 RBIs. He is the active career leader in batting average for all of the major leagues, and he is the Twins' all-time leader in on-base percentage.
Mauer has had a huge amount of expectations heaped upon him since becoming the first overall pick in the 2001 June draft. However, no one should ever be disappointed by his career. He will certainly become the first Twins catcher to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
More from this author:
- Sports & Recreation
- Joe Mauer
- Earl Battey