Mariners' Top 5 catchers: Johns' take

March 23rd, 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 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 Greg Johns’ ranking of the top 5 catchers in Mariners history. Next week: First basemen.

1. Dan Wilson, 1994-2005
Key fact: His 1,251 career games are 405 more than any other catcher in franchise history

There’s a reason Wilson is the only catcher to have been elected to the Mariners Hall of Fame to date. He was the starting backstop on all four Seattle teams that have advanced to the playoffs (1995, ’97, 2000 and ’01), and he is regarded as the glue that helped keep together clubs that were headlined by bigger names like Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez.

Wilson remains the only Mariners catcher to have been selected to an American League All-Star team (1996) and he has the franchise record for most games, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs and walks by a catcher. His .995 fielding percentage was the highest of any qualified catcher in AL history at the time of his retirement, while posting a .262/.309/.382 slash line with 88 homers.

"He had a great career," teammate Raúl Ibañez said when Wilson announced his retirement. "He's been a great player for a long time, and he's one of the greatest human beings I've ever known. If there is one person I would want my son to turn out like, it would be Dan Wilson."

Mariners' All-Time Around the Horn Team: 1B | 2B

2. Mike Zunino, 2013-18_
Key fact: Owns Mariners' record for most homers by a catcher with 95 in 587 games_

Zunino’s six years in Seattle were viewed by many as disappointing given his .207 batting average after being selected with the third overall selection in the 2009 MLB Draft. But the young backstop was an excellent defender with good power and he posted the second-highest fWAR (13.6) of any Mariners catcher, behind only Wilson’s 14.2 despite playing less than half the number of games.

Zunino hit .251 with 25 homers and an .840 OPS in 124 games in 2017, but saw those numbers drop in ’18 before being traded to the Rays prior to '19 along with Guillermo Heredia and Michael Plassmeyer for outfielders Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley.

3. Dave Valle, 1984-93
Key fact: Second behind Wilson in most games caught as well as hits and RBIs

After being drafted in the second round in 1978 out of Holy Cross High in Flushing, N.Y., Valle developed into a solid and durable backstop who spent the first 10 seasons of a 13-year MLB career in Seattle. Valle has the third-highest career fWAR among Mariners catchers at 10.7, and while he wasn’t regarded as much of an offensive threat, his OPS of .682 is tied with Wilson’s career mark.

4. Kenji Johjima, 2006-09
Key fact: First Japanese player to become a full-time MLB catcher

Johjima spent just four seasons in Seattle, but put up good offensive numbers with a .268/.310/.411 line and 48 homers and 198 RBIs in 462 games before returning to Japan to close out his career. He finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2006 and set a rookie record for most hits by a catcher with 147 while batting .291 with 18 homers.

5. Bob Stinson, 1977-80
Key fact: Caught the first game in franchise history

Stinson was Seattle’s first starting catcher after being selected from the Royals in the 1976 Expansion Draft as a 30-year-old veteran and he wound up handling the backstop duties for much of the next four years, posting a .253/.341/.372 line in 372 games before retiring at age 35. While he ranks sixth among Mariners catchers in career fWAR, he’s No. 1 in the nickname category with his “Scrap Iron” moniker.

Honorable mentions
Tom Lampkin
was primarily a backup to Wilson from 1999-2001, but the local native of Blanchet High in Seattle has the third-best slugging percentage among Mariners’ catchers at .444 and played an important role on the team’s last two playoff squads. … Scott Bradley caught the first no-hitter in club history by Randy Johnson in 1990 and his 562 career games behind the plate is fourth most by a Mariner.