Giants' Top 5 catchers: Guardado's take

March 24th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans. 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. We also asked fans to weigh in on Twitter:

Here is Maria Guardado’s ranking of the top five catchers in Giants history. Next week: First basemen.

1. Buster Posey, 2009-present
Key fact: One of three players to catch three no-hitters and win three World Series titles, joining Bill Carrigan and Yogi Berra.

This one wasn’t much of a debate. The fifth overall pick in the 2008 Draft out of Florida State, Posey has been worth 52.7 Wins Above Replacement since debuting with the Giants in '09, the most of any catcher in franchise history, according to FanGraphs. His arrival heralded the beginning of the championship era in San Francisco, culminating in a trio of World Series titles in '10, '12 and '14. Posey quickly established himself as a franchise cornerstone for the Giants, winning the '10 National League Rookie of the Year Award and emerging as a steadying influence in the clubhouse.

Posey was limited to only 45 games in 2011 after a home-plate collision left him with a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his left ankle, but he came back to win the NL MVP Award in '12 after batting a career-high .336 with a .957 OPS, 24 home runs and 103 RBIs. His resume also includes six All-Star selections, four Silver Slugger Awards, a Gold Glove Award and the '12 NL batting title. Posey’s 961 starts behind the plate are the most in Giants history, and he ranks within the top 10 in several offensive categories in the San Francisco era, including batting average (.302), games played (1,258), hits (1,380), doubles (270) and RBIs (673).

2. Buck Ewing, 1883-89, 1891-92
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.

Widely regarded as the greatest catcher of the 19th century, Ewing batted .306 with a 146 OPS+ over nine seasons with the New York Giants. He helped steer the Giants to back-to-back NL pennants in 1888 and '89 and is believed to be one of the first catchers to begin using a padded mitt behind the plate. Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack has called Ewing the greatest catcher of all time.

3. Roger Bresnahan, 1902-08
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945.

Bresnahan began his career as a pitcher, but he switched to catching in 1901, one year before he moved from Baltimore to New York to play for the Giants. A batterymate of fellow Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, Bresnahan became one of the most famous catchers of the Dead Ball Era, batting .293 with a 139 OPS+ over seven seasons with the Giants. He led the Giants to the '05 World Series, where he hit .313 out of the leadoff spot to help topple the Philadelphia Athletics in five games. Like Ewing, Bresnahan helped revolutionize catching gear by becoming the first player to wear shin guards behind the plate in '07.

4. Tom Haller, 1961-67
Key fact: Accrued 19.2 WAR with the Giants, the second-most among catchers in the San Francisco era, according to FanGraphs.

Signed out of the University of Illinois, Haller debuted with the Giants in 1961. He spent the first seven seasons of his Major League career in San Francisco, where he batted .248 with a 114 OPS+ over 761 games and earned two All-Star selections. Haller holds the single-season home run record for San Francisco catchers with 27 in '66. He was the centerpiece of a rare Giants-Dodgers trade in '68, when he was dealt to Los Angeles in exchange for Ron Hunt and Nate Oliver. After his playing career ended, Haller returned to the Giants organization and served as the club’s vice president of baseball operations from '81-85.

5. Chief Meyers, 1909-15
Key fact: Finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in three consecutive seasons from 1911-13, placing as high as third in '12.

After trading Bresnahan to the Cardinals in 1908, the Giants installed a 28-year-old Meyers as their primary catcher. A Native American and member of the Cahuilla tribe in California, Meyers emerged as one of the premier offensive catchers of the Dead Ball Era, batting .301 with a 121 OPS+ over seven seasons with the Giants. He led New York to three consecutive NL pennants from '11-13.

Honorable mentions

• Wes Westrum spent his entire 11-year career with the New York Giants and ranks second in franchise history with 902 games at catcher. He later managed in San Francisco from 1974-75.

• Bob Brenly enjoyed a career year with the Giants in 1984, earning his first All-Star selection and drawing down-ballot MVP votes after batting .291 with a 131 OPS+ and 20 home runs.

• Kirt Manwaring became the first Giants catcher to win a Gold Glove Award in 1993.