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Hot take: 5 best catchers in Angels history

@RhettBollinger
March 23, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Rhett Bollinger’s ranking of the top five catchers in Angels history. Next week: First basemen.

Bob Boone, 1982-88
Key fact: Four-time Gold Glove Award winner with Angels

The Angels acquired Bob Boone in a trade with the Phillies before his age-34 season, but he remained productive late in his career with the Angels. He received American League MVP Award votes and won a Gold Glove Award in 1982, helping lead the Angels to the AL West division title. Boone, the father of former Major Leaguers Aaron and Bret Boone, was an All-Star for the fourth time in his career in '83 and won four straight Gold Gloves from 1986-89. Most of his value was on defense and with his pitch-framing, however, as he hit .245/.297/.323 with 39 homers and 318 RBIs in 968 games over seven seasons with the Angels. He leads all Angels catchers with 968 games caught. Boone, however, fared well offensively in both the '82 AL Championship Series and the '86 ALCS, hitting a combined .368/.390/.526 with two homers and six RBIs in 12 games.

Angels' Top 5: First basemen | Second basemen

Bengie Molina, 1998-2005
Key fact: Two-time Gold Glove winner with Angels

Bengie Molina began his career with the Angels and quickly established himself as one of the best defensive catchers in the Majors. He won Gold Glove Awards in both 2002 and '03, playing a pivotal role in helping the pitchers during the Angels' World Series title run in '02. Offensively, Molina was contact-orientated, striking out just 231 times in 716 career games with the Angels, while batting .273/.309/.397 with 65 homers and 362 RBIs. Molina played in 29 postseason games with the Angels, batting .264/.316/.429 and memorably hitting three homers in the '05 AL Division Series against the Yankees. His brother, Jose, was his backup catcher with the Angels and Jose is now the club’s catching coach. His brother, Yadier, is the long-time catcher with St. Louis, and Bengie now works as a Spanish-language broadcaster for the Cardinals.

Brian Downing, 1978-90
Key fact: Downing’s 38 bWAR is fourth in club history

Brian Downing is one of the best Angels players ever, but he only served as a full-time catcher with the club in 1978 and '79 and in parts of ’80 and ’81 before moving to the outfield and designated hitter. Of Downing's 1,661 games with the club, he served as catcher in only 310. Downing, though, was an All-Star as a catcher in '79 and finished 14th in the balloting for AL MVP that same year. In his 13 seasons with the Angels, Downing batted .271/.373/.441 with 222 homers, 282 doubles and 846 RBIs. He was inducted into the club Hall of Fame in '09.

Mike Napoli, 2005-10
Key fact: His 75 homers are the most by an Angels catcher

Mike Napoli was a full-time catcher with the Angels until seeing some action at DH in 2009 and at first base in '10 because of his bat. Then-manager Mike Scioscia preferred Jeff Mathis' defense and ability to work the pitchers, but it was very apparent that Napoli was the better hitter. Napoli batted .251/.346/.485 with 92 homers and 249 RBIs in 506 games with the Angels. But he struggled in the postseason with the club, hitting .194/.306/.419 with two homers and four RBIs in 14 games from 2007-09. He left the club in one of the worst trades in Angels history, getting sent to Toronto along with Juan Rivera for Vernon Wells.

Jeff Mathis, 2005-11
Key fact: Fourth in club history in games caught

Jeff Mathis was the epitome of an athletic, defensive catcher, as the former star high school quarterback was a favorite backstop of Angels pitchers during his time with the club. Mathis, though, struggled offensively, hitting .194/.257/.301 with 26 homers and 139 RBIs in 426 games. But he saved his best offensive showings for the postseason, batting .450 (9-for-20) with five doubles and two RBIs in 10 playoff games from 2007-09.

Honorable mentions
Lance Parrish caught 371 games with the Angels from 1989-92 and his 61 homers as a catcher is tied for second-most in club history with Bengie Molina. … Chris Iannetta hit 36 homers as a catcher while batting .228/.345/.376 at the position from 2012-15. … Buck Rodgers caught the second-most games in club history with 861 from 1961-69. He was a defensive catcher who caught Bo Belinsky's no-hitter in '62 and later served as the club's manager from 1991-94.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.