The All-MLB Team, created in 2019, has provided the answers to an oft-asked question following every season: Who were the best players at each position this year?
The All-MLB Team is split into a First and Second Team, with each team featuring one selection at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base and DH, as well as three outfielders (regardless of specific outfield position), five starting pitchers and two relievers.
The teams are chosen through a voting process in which 50% of the vote comes from fans and 50% comes from a panel of experts. The nominees will be announced in November, and the winners will be unveiled in December.
Throughout the rest of the regular season, we will be breaking down the top players at each position and separating them into three groups: favorites, contenders and dark horses. Today, we begin our position-by-position series by covering the catcher candidates.
Here are nine catchers who could make the 2023 All-MLB Team presented by MGM Rewards.
All stats are updated through Saturday.
Sean Murphy, Braves
The Braves had the most All-MLB Team nominees last season with 11. They should have another boatload of nominations this year as an incredible lineup has helped lead Atlanta to the best record in baseball. Murphy, acquired from the A’s as part of a three-team trade in December, has been a key cog in this offensive juggernaut. He has already set a career high with 20 homers and ranks among the top 15 players at any position in barrel rate (17.4%) and xwOBA (.409). Murphy's 149 wRC+ would not only be a vast improvement upon his 122 from last year, it would be the highest by any primary catcher with at least 400 plate appearances since 2012.
Defensively, Murphy has been one of the game’s best catchers for the past couple of seasons, and nothing has changed following his move to the National League. He is no worse than sixth in pop time, framing runs and blocks above average. Overall, his fielding run value of plus-12 runs is tied for third among all players (min. 100 innings played).
Will Smith, Dodgers
Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman are having historic seasons atop the Dodgers’ lineup, but don’t overlook what Smith has accomplished in 2023. Beyond earning his first All-Star selection, the 28-year-old paces qualified catchers with 61 RBIs and a 128 wRC+ (Murphy doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify). An All-MLB Second Team selection last year, Smith owns a 12.3% walk rate and a 16.4% K rate; each sits in the 85th percentile or higher and would be his best over a full season. His .372 on-base percentage also leads the pack and would be the highest from any Dodgers backstop since 2012.
Some of the catching metrics aren’t kind to Smith, but he has worked hard to quicken his pop time, and the results bear that out. He has shaved off a full tenth of a second from his 2020 pop time, and his current 1.91 mark is tied for 10th in the Majors. Smith is also well above average in blocking.
Adley Rutschman, Orioles
At just 25 years old, Rutschman controls the strike zone like a savvy vet. He is among the top 25 players -- and first among qualified catchers -- in walk rate, strikeout rate, whiff rate and chase rate. In other words, he rarely gets himself out. His 86.6% contact rate is tied for ninth in MLB. It would be nice to see him make more damaging contact -- Rutschman’s hard-hit rate and barrel rate are each below the 40th percentile -- but 16 homers and a 121 wRC+ aren’t too shabby. His 193 total bases are the most among catchers, and with good health down the stretch, he could tally the second-most total bases by any catcher in franchise history.
Jonah Heim, Rangers
A recent wrist injury cost Heim 14 games and put a bit of a damper on his All-MLB hopes. But before landing on the injured list, there is no question that he was one of the most dangerous backstops in baseball. Prior to his IL stint, Heim ranked first or second at the position in runs, hits, extra-base hits and RBIs. He was third in OPS and wRC+. Plus, Heim is rated as one of the best defensive players, thanks in large part to his fantastic framing skills. The American League’s starting catcher for the All-Star Game returned to action on Aug. 13 and has time to finish his breakout campaign on a high note.
William Contreras, Brewers
That aforementioned Murphy trade has worked out splendidly for the Brewers, who picked up their catcher of the present and future in the swap. The 25-year-old has a 113 wRC+ and has slashed his strikeout and whiff rates from last year by 26.4% and 19.8%, respectively. He is sporting a .316 average and a .844 OPS in 40 games since July 1, but it’s no surprise that he has added thump to Milwaukee’s lineup. What was perhaps unexpected is how Contreras has gone from being one of the worst defensive catchers to an asset behind the plate in the span of one year.
Willson Contreras, Cardinals
While the younger Conteras has been stellar since the beginning of July, no one has been hotter during that period than the elder Conteras. The first-year Cardinal has rebounded from a dreadful start to the season by registering a .389/.500/.644 slash line since July 1. That’s the highest OPS (1.144) of any batter with at least 100 plate appearances. Contreras’ .371 xwOBA and 35.4% sweet spot rate would be his best over a full season. On Aug. 11, he launched a projected 461-foot dinger against the Royals, tied for the third-longest homer of his career.
Francisco Alvarez, Mets
Alvarez has been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary season for the Mets. The No. 3 prospect in MLB heading into this season, his 70-grade power has been on display all year long, with 21 homers in just 331 plate appearances. That’s just one fewer home run than the rookie leader, the Rangers' Josh Jung, who has 461 PAs. Alvarez has also made big strides on defense (plus-8 framing runs), which was an issue for him in the Minors. There is still work to be done before Alvarez is a well-rounded force, but the 21-year-old has a very promising future.
Cal Raleigh, Mariners
Which catcher has the most home runs this month? Raleigh (six).
Which catcher has the most home runs this season? Raleigh (22).
Which catcher has the most home runs since the start of last season? Raleigh (49).
The third-year slugger doesn’t do a whole lot more in the batter's box than bash home runs, but he does that better than any other player at his position right now. Beyond that, Raleigh continues to provide value behind the plate with his framing.
J.T. Realmuto, Phillies
Let’s finish this list with a player who has made three of the first four All-MLB Teams, including two First Team selections. However, Realmuto needs to make a late run in order to get on this year’s squad. His 45 extra-base hits are the most by a catcher, but his .251 average and .313 on-base percentage are his worst since his early days with the Marlins in 2014 and ‘15. His pop time remains the fastest in the game, but even Realmuto’s usually sterling defense has taken a step back as evidenced by his minus-6 fielding run value.