Ultimate catcher rankings: Where does Yadier Molina rank among MLB's greatest?

Mark Townsend
·Yahoo Sports Contributor
·13 min read

The coronavirus pandemic has put Major League Baseball on hold indefinitely. We don’t know when — or if — it will return in 2020, which has made us appreciate the game all that much more.

It has also given us time to go back and appreciate some of the legends who laid the foundation for what baseball is today. Of course, any look back into baseball’s history creates strong emotions and even stronger debates. Particularly when determining which players or era did it best.

We’ve embraced that reality by sifting through the annals of baseball to determine each current franchise’s best ever player at each position. From there, we’ve ranked each team’s best. Hey, the more there is to debate the better, right?

We’ve already done it with each team’s best starting pitcher. Today, we focus on the catcher.

The only caveat being that the selected catcher must come from the current incarnation of each franchise in order to be ranked. But don’t worry, we’ll throw in bonus players when warranted as well.

Without further ado, the catchers.

Yankees' great Yogi Berra tops our list of greatest MLB catchers. (Getty Images)
Yankees' great Yogi Berra tops our list of greatest MLB catchers. (Getty Images)

1. Yogi Berra — New York Yankees

With Yankees: 18 seasons

Best season: 1956 (6.2 WAR, .298/.378/.534, 30 homers)

Over 18 seasons with the Yankees, Berra won three MVP awards, earned 18 All-Star selections and was part of 10 World Series championship teams. Very few in sports history can match that level of individual and team success. Beyond that, Berra’s quirky personality won fame that transcended sports and helped him attain icon status in American history.

2. Johnny Bench — Cincinnati Reds

With Reds: 17 seasons

Best season: 1972 (8.6 WAR, .270/.379/.541, 40 homers, MVP)

Like Berra, Bench's list of accolades is almost too long to mention here. He won every award, from Rookie of the Year to MVP to Gold Glove. Also like Berra, he was a star off the field, appearing on multiple television shows and never looking a bit out of place. Most importantly, he revolutionized the catcher position, making it a legitimate source of offensive production.

3. Iván Rodríguez — Texas Rangers

With Rangers: 13 seasons

Best season: 1999 (6.4 WAR, .332/.356/.558, 35 homers, MVP)

"Pudge" was an absolute monster during his career and has the accolades to back it up. He's a 14-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove winner, MVP and Hall of Famer. The only real question is where he truly ranks among MLB's greatest catchers. We have him third. Let the debate begin.

4. Roy Campanella — Los Angeles Dodgers

With Dodgers: 10 seasons.

Best season: 1953 (6.8 WAR, .312/.395/.611, 41 homers)

MLB's first black catcher was also among the greatest to ever play the position. Aside from Berra, he's the only catcher to win three MVPs. And it wasn't just because of his offense. Campanella threw out 57.4 percent of potential base stealers, which remains the all-time league record.

5. Carlton Fisk — Boston Red Sox

With Red Sox: 11 seasons

Best season: 1977 (7.0 WAR, .315/.402/.521, 26 homers, All-Star)

The Hall of Famer actually spent more time and put up equally good numbers with the Chicago White Sox, but Boston is where it all started and also where his signature moment happened. Of course, we're talking about his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Only Iván Rodríguez has caught more games in MLB history.

6. Mike Piazza — New York Mets

With Mets: 8 seasons

Best season: 1999 (4.3 WAR, .303/.361/.575, 40 homers, All-Star)

Some think of Piazza as a Dodger first because that's where he started and put up his best all-around seasons. He was actually with the Mets longer and had some monster seasons there, hitting 220 of his 419 career home runs en route to the Hall of Fame. Piazza won NL Rookie of the Year in 1993, earned 12 All-Star selections and won 10 Silver Slugger awards.

(Bonus) Gary Carter - Montreal Expos

With Expos: 12 seasons

Best season: 1982 (8.6 WAR, .293/.381/.510, 29 homers)

We couldn't let our technicalities omit 'The Kid' from this list. He's a Hall of Famer. An icon. Some might even say he was the heart and soul of baseball in Montreal. Certainly, he was one of a kind.

7. Joe Mauer — Minnesota Twins

With Twins: 15 seasons

Best season: 2009 (7.8 WAR, .365/.444/.587, 28 homers, MVP)

There's no other choice. Mauer's list of accolades is endless. He earned six All-Star selections, five Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove Awards and an MVP. He's also the only AL catcher to win a batting title — a feat he would pull off three times, for good measure. His next stop might be Cooperstown.

8. Gabby Hartnett — Chicago Cubs

With Cubs: 19 seasons

Best season: 1930 (5.1 WAR, .339/.404/.630, 37 homers)

Known best for his 'Homer in the Gloamin,' which helped propel the Cubs to the NL pennant in 1938, Hartnett was the toast of Chicago for nearly two full decades. Hartnett was a six-time All-Star, which is impressive considering there were no All-Star games until his age-32 season. He won the NL MVP in 1935 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.

9. Buster Posey — San Francisco Giants

With Giants: 11 seasons

Best season: 2012 (7.6 WAR, .336/.408/.549, 24 homers, MVP)

Despite the Giants long and illustrious history, Posey is the only possible choice. His 52.7 WAR is the most among Giants catchers. He owns an MVP and a batting title, the latter being the first for a NL catcher in 70 years. Most importantly to Giants fans, he was the backbone of World Series championship teams in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has a fascinating Hall of Fame case. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has a fascinating Hall of Fame case. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

10. Yadier Molina — St. Louis Cardinals

With Cardinals: 16 seasons

Best season: 2012 (7.2 WAR, .315/.373/.501, 22 homers. All-Star)

In terms of longevity and consistency, few can match Molina. The nine-time All-Star is still putting together quality seasons for St. Louis when his health allows. The question now is whether he'll be Hall of Fame bound.

11. Bill Freehan — Detroit Tigers

With Tigers: 15 seasons

Best season: 1968 (6.9 WAR, .263/.366/.454, 25 homers, All-Star)

Mickey Cochrane and Lance Parrish are also in the discussion, but Freehan was a star for a long time in Detroit. In fact, he earned 11 All-Star selections over his career while blasting 200 home runs and winning five Gold Gloves. Freehan might be one of the most underrated backstops in MLB history.

12. Ray Schalk — Chicago White Sox

With White Sox: 17 seasons

Best season: 1914 (4.2 WAR, .270/.347/.314, 24 stolen bases)

After giving Carlton Fisk the nod for Boston, another Hall of Famer slides into the top spot for the White Sox. Though Schalk hit few homers (only 11 for his career) he was a consistent force behind the plate, throwing out 52 percent of base stealers over his career.

13. Brian McCann — Atlanta Braves

With Braves: 10 seasons

Best season: 2008 (5.5 WAR, .301/.373/.523, 23 homers, All-Star)

It was a tough choice between McCann and Javy López. McCann's 24.5 career WAR with Atlanta edged out López 23.4. That proved to be the ultimate tiebreaker. Joe Torre was in the conversation as well, but his peak actually came in St. Louis. McCann was a seven-time All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger for the Braves.

14. Terry Steinbach — Oakland Athletics

With A's: 11 seasons

Best season: 1996 (3.4 WAR, .272/.342/.529, 35 homers)

Steinbach was never the "star" while playing alongside Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, but he was a darn good player. Some would call him the glue that held the high-powered A's together during the late 80s and early 90s. Steinbach was a three-time All-Star and a World Series hero, driving in seven runs in 1989's sweep of the San Francisco Giants.

15. Salvador Pérez — Kansas City Royals

With Royals: 8 seasons

Best season: 2013 (4.2 WAR, .292/.323/.433, 13 homers, All-Star)

Still only 29, "Salvy" has been a franchise cornerstone for Kansas City throughout his career. He's already a six-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner and a World Series champion.

16. Gus Triandos — Baltimore Orioles

With Orioles: 8 seasons

Best season: 1958 (3.0 WAR, .245/.327/.456, 30 homers, All-Star)

Some people might favor Rick Dempsey here because of his long tenure in Baltimore (12 seasons) and MLB in general (24 seasons). We favor Triandos due to his impact. He earned three All-Star selections and hit 107 home runs over his first five seasons with the O’s. Dempsey was never an All-Star and hit 96 homers for his entire MLB career.

The late Darren Daulton is an all-time Phillies favorite. (Photo by Getty Images)
The late Darren Daulton is an all-time Phillies favorite. (Photo by Getty Images)

17. Darren Daulton — Philadelphia Phillies

With Phillies: 14 seasons

Best season: 1992 (6.9 WAR, .270/.385/.524, 27 homers)

A true fan-favorite in Philadelphia, "Dutch" put the Phillies on his back in the post-Mike Schmidt era and nearly led them to a World Series title in 1993. His peak was short, but impactful. In 1992, he became one of only four catchers to lead the league in RBIs.

18. Victor Martinez — Cleveland Indians

With Indians: 8 seasons

Best season: 2005 (5.2 WAR, .305/.378/.475, 20 homers)

It's a tough decision between Sandy Alomar Jr. and Victor Martinez. Indians fans favor Alomar. We like Martinez because his 19.3 WAR in eight seasons with Cleveland is higher than Alomar’s 13.3 over 11 seasons. Both were good. Martinez made a stronger impact.

19. Benito Santiago — San Diego Padres

With Padres: 7 seasons

Best season: 1987 (3.4 WAR, .300/.324/.467, 18 homers, Rookie of the Year)

What a fascinating career. Santiago's best all-around season came first. His 34-game hitting streak set a rookie and catcher record. He won three Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers in San Diego, which secured his spot on this list. After San Diego, he played for eight different teams over 13 seasons.

20. Ernie Whitt — Toronto Blue Jays

With Blue Jays: 12 seasons

Best Season: 1983 (3.4 WAR, .256/.346/.459, 17 homers)

Whitt was with the Jays during their inaugural season in 1977. He remained through 1989, playing the sixth-most games in franchise history. His best season was 1983. His lone All-Star appearance came in 1985, which was also Toronto's first division championship season.

21. Charles Johnson — Miami Marlins

With Marlins: 7 seasons

Best season: 1997 (4.4 WAR, .250/.347/.454, 19 homers, All-Star)

One more season in Miami may have tipped the scales in J.T. Realmuto's favor. As it stands, Charles Johnson's role in the Marlins' first World Series championship in 1997 is the difference-maker. That was Johnson's best season in MLB.

22. Bob Boone — Los Angeles Angels

With Angels: 7 seasons

Best season: 1982 (3.5 WAR, .256/.310/.337)

It's not an impressive group to choose from. Boone was going on 34 when he arrived from Philadelphia and his best seasons were behind him. But his 12.1 WAR with the Angels beats out fan-favorite Bengie Molina's 7.4.

23. Jason Kendall — Pittsburgh Pirates

With Pirates: 9 seasons

Best season: 1998 (5.6 WAR, .327/.411/.473, 12 homers, All-Star)

Manny Sanguillén had a longer tenure and was part of some memorable teams in Pittsburgh, but Kendall was a shining light during dark times. Kendall was a three-time All-Star and is the franchise’s leader in WAR (30.7), hits (1,409), homers (67) and steals (140) among catchers.

Jonathan Lucroy had a strong peak with the Brewers. (Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images)
Jonathan Lucroy had a strong peak with the Brewers. (Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images)

24. Jonathan Lucroy — Milwaukee Brewers

With Brewers: 7 seasons

Best season: 2013 (6.4 WAR, .280/.340/.455, 18 homers)

It's tough to leave a Hall of Famer like Ted Simmons off this list. Unfortunately, during his years in Milwaukee he didn't match his production while in St. Louis or the production of Lucroy some three decades later. In fact, Lucroy owns the top four seasons in Brewers history for a catcher, according to FanGraphs.

25. Dan Wilson — Seattle Mariners

With Mariners: 12 seasons

Best season: 1996 (3.4 WAR, .285/.330/.444, 18 homers, All-Star)

Wilson was a stalwart for Seattle, spending 12 of his 14 MLB seasons with the Mariners. He was the starting catcher on all four of their playoff teams (1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001) and his 1,251 games are the most for a Mariners catcher.

26. Miguel Montero — Arizona Diamondbacks

With D-backs: 9 seasons

Best season: 2012 (4.5 WAR, .286/.391/.438, 15 homers)

Would you believe only Paul Goldschmidt and Luis Gonzalez have posted a higher career WAR in Arizona than Montero? It's a limited pool of players, sure, but that speaks to the impact he made between 2006-2014.

27. Wilson Ramos — Washington Nationals

With Nationals: 7 seasons

Best season: 2016 (3.0 WAR, .307/.354/.496, 22 homers, All-Star)

Ramos has been the Nationals' lone catching standout since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005. He reached double-digit home runs in five of seven seasons while serving as a strong defensive backstop.

28. Alan Ashby — Houston Astros

With Astros: 11 seasons

Best season: 1981 (2.2 WAR, .271/.356/.369)

Brad Ausmus seems to be the sentimental favorite among Astros fans, but he also had a negative WAR in four of 10 seasons with Houston. Ashby, while never an All-Star, was more consistent.

29. Chris Iannetta — Colorado Rockies

With Rockies: 8 seasons

Best season: 2008 (3.2 WAR, .264/.390/.505, 18 homers)

Rockies fans will side with Yorvit Torrealba because he was part of several big moments in 2007 and 2009. However, Iannetta's 3.2 WAR in 2008 was higher than Torrealba's entire Rockies career (1.0). Iannetta was the better player, even if he ultimately fell short of expectations.

30. Toby Hall — Tampa Bay Rays

With Rays: 7 seasons

Best season: 2005 (2.8 WAR, .287/.315/.368)

The Rays haven't been around long, but Hall was the main man during most of their early existence. He leads the franchise in games caught (586) and ranks top 10 in hits (538), RBIs (251) and doubles (112).

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