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The best catcher in every team’s history

March 24, 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 each player's career with that franchise. First up, catchers. These rankings are

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 each player's career with that franchise. First up, catchers.

These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only, and fans were able to participate in Twitter polls to vote for their favorites. Here are the No. 1 catchers for every club, as chosen by MLB.com's beat reporters.

American League East

Blue Jays: Ernie Whitt, 1977-89
Key fact: He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Whitt, who ranks sixth in franchise history in games played, takes the top spot over Russell Martin. Blue Jays top 5 >

Orioles: Rick Dempsey, 1976-86, '92
Key fact: Franchise-most 1,230 games caught for Orioles; 1983 World Series MVP
There are Orioles catchers with better numbers and more accolades, but Dempsey is the choice here for the full scope of his work. Orioles top 5 >

Rays: Dioner Navarro, 2006-10
Key fact: All-Star in 2008
Navarro doesn’t lead Rays catchers in any offensive categories, but he did help the team win, turning in his best season during the franchise’s World Series run in 2008. And that’s what ultimately puts him ahead. Rays top 5 >

Red Sox: Carlton Fisk, 1969, '71-80
Key fact: Second all-time in games caught (2,226), trailing another player with the same nickname -- Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez.
Jason Varitek was the Red Sox's captain for seven years, but Fisk's all-around excellence on offense and defense and his iconic homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series give him the edge. Red Sox top 5 >

Yankees: Yogi Berra, 1946-63
Key fact: 1,430 RBIs, most among Major League catchers
Lots of options to choose from, but Berra edges out the likes of Bill Dickey, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada. Yankees top 5 >

AL Central

Indians: Victor Martinez, 2002-09
Key fact: First and only Indians catcher to reach 100 homers and holds team’s highest batting average for catchers with at least 500 at-bats.
Choosing between Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr. was not easy, but Martinez trumped Alomar in home runs (103), RBIs (518) and offensive Wins Above Replacement (22.8). Indians top 5 >

Royals: Salvador Perez, 2011-present
Key facts: Six All-Star Games, five Gold Gloves
Perez’s resume makes him an easy choice -- six All-Star Games, five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and the 2015 World Series Most Valuable Player Award. Royals top 5 >

Tigers: Bill Freehan, 1961-76
Key fact: 11-time All-Star
The Tigers have had bigger names behind the plate, but nobody has ever matched the consistency and durability of Freehan. Tigers top 5 >

Twins: Joe Mauer, 2004-18
Key fact: Only American League catcher ever to win the batting title (did so three times)
Who else but Mauer could possibly top this list? The 2001 No. 1 overall Draft pick gave the Twins everything they could have hoped for -- and then some -- in 15 seasons with his hometown team. Twins top 5 >

White Sox: Carlton Fisk, 1981-93
Key fact: Tops all White Sox catchers in homers, doubles, runs scored, RBIs and slugging percentage
When Fisk joined the White Sox prior to the 1981 season on a five-year deal worth $2.9 million, he immediately changed the culture of a franchise that hadn't made a playoff appearance since 1959. White Sox top 5 >

AL West

Angels: Bob Boone, 1982-88
Key fact: Four-time Gold Glove Award winner with Angels
Bengie Molina has a case, but Boone gets the nod because of his Gold Glove-caliber defense and strong AL Championship Series performances in 1982 and '86. Angels top 5 >

Astros: Brad Ausmus, 1997-98, 2001-08
Key fact: Caught most games in club history
Ausmus was the starting catcher on five Astros playoff teams (1997-98, 2001, ’04-05) and a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, making him a relatively easy choice. Astros top 5 >

The most hyped catching prospects of the 2000s

Athletics: Mickey Cochrane, 1925-33
Key fact: 39.8 WAR is highest among catchers in club history
Cochrane, the first catcher to be elected to the Hall of Fame, edges out the likes of Terry Steinbach and Gene Tenace. Athletics top 5 >

Mariners: Dan Wilson, 1994-2005
Key fact: His 1,251 career games are 405 more than any other catcher in franchise history
To date, Wilson remains the only Mariners catcher to have been selected to an AL All-Star team (1996), and he holds the franchise records for most games, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs and walks by a catcher. Mariners top 5 >

Rangers: Ivan Rodriguez, 1991-2002, 2009
Key facts: 11 full seasons with the Rangers, 10 All-Star Games, 10 Gold Gloves, 1999 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner
Was there any doubt? Rodriguez is one of the best catchers ever and went into the Hall of Fame as a Ranger. Rangers top 5 >

National League East

Braves: Brian McCann, 2005-13 and ’19
Key fact: 43.6 fWAR leads all Braves catchers and stands sixth among all players in franchise history
Although Joe Torre was slightly more productive from an overall offensive perspective and Javy Lopez might have had a little more power, McCann gets the nod because he was clearly the superior defender of the three. Braves top 5 >

Marlins: J.T. Realmuto, 2014-18
Key facts: career 108 wRC+, .329 wOBA are the highest among Marlins catchers in history
Realmuto's contributions on offense and defense during his four-plus seasons with the Marlins make him the choice over Charles Johnson. Marlins top 5 >

Mets: Mike Piazza, 1998-2005
Key fact: Piazza is the only Hall of Fame position player with a Mets cap on his plaque
No one who worked primarily behind the plate finished with more home runs, a higher slugging percentage or a better OPS than Piazza, who played a little more than half of his career games with the Mets. Mets top 5 >

Nationals: Gary Carter, 1974-84, '92 (Expos)
Key fact: Carter played outfield early on in his Major League career before becoming a Hall of Fame catcher.
Carter manned the plate for the Expos for 12 seasons, and he leads the Expos/Nationals franchise in WAR (55.8). He's also the only player in history with an Expos cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Nationals top 5 >

Phillies: Darren Daulton: 1983, 1985-1997
Key fact: led the NL with 109 RBIs in 1992
Bob Boone was a brilliant defensive catcher and served longer as an everyday player, but Daulton gets the nod for his offensive prowess and clubhouse presence. Phillies top 5 >

NL Central

Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy, 2010-16
Key fact: 35.3 fWAR is fourth-highest in club history
According to Fangraphs’ version of WAR, Lucroy owns the top four seasons in Brewers history for a catcher. Brewers top 5 >

Cardinals: Yadier Molina, 2004-present
Key facts: Two-time World Series champion, nine-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove winner and four-time Platinum Glove winner.
Although Ted Simmons was recently elected to the Hall of Fame, Molina has the edge. The nine-time Gold Glove Award winner has been a mainstay behind the plate during one of the most successful eras in team history. Cardinals top 5 >

Cubs: Gabby Hartnett, 1922-40
Key fact: 52.7 fWAR ranks eighth in team history (all positions).
There's no question here. Hartnett's 204 homers at catcher are a club record. He appeared in a franchise-record 1,570 games at the position, played in four World Series (1929, '32, '35 and '38) and was named to six All-Star teams. Cubs top 5 >

Pirates: Jason Kendall, 1996-2004
Key fact: Leads Pirates catchers in fWAR (31.2), bWAR (30.7) and homers (67)
While Kendall never played for a winning team in Pittsburgh, he is the franchise’s leader in WAR, hits, homers, steals and OPS among catchers. Pirates top 5 >

Reds: Johnny Bench, 1967-83
Key fact: Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989
There really is no debate here, as Bench is among the best to have ever played the catcher position. The two-time NL MVP Award winner spent his entire 17-year career with Cincinnati. Reds top 5 >

NL West

D-backs: Miguel Montero, 2006-14
Key fact: 23.3 fWAR is third highest in club history
Montero is not just the best catcher in D-backs history, but also one of the best players by virtue of fWAR, ranking only behind Paul Goldschmidt and Luis Gonzalez. D-backs top 5 >

Dodgers: Roy Campanella, 1948-57
Key fact: His 57.4-percent mark for throwing out potential basestealers still stands as the all-time record.
Campanella, Major League Baseball's first African-American catcher and a three-time MVP Award winner, gets the top spot over the likes of Mike Piazza and Mike Scioscia. Dodgers top 5 >

Giants: 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.
Posey's arrival heralded the beginning of the championship era in San Francisco, culminating in a trio of World Series titles in 2010, '12 and '14. Giants top 5 >

Padres: Benito Santiago, 1986-92
Key fact: Santiago won the Gold Glove Award in three straight seasons from 1988-90, the only catcher in Padres history to win the award.
From his 34-game hitting streak in 1987 -- a Major League record that still stands among rookies and among catchers -- to his three straight Gold Glove Awards, Santiago accomplished a lot during his seven years with the Friars. Padres top 5 >

Rockies: Yorvit Torrealba, 2006-09, '13
Key facts: .805 postseason OPS in 15 Rockies postseason games, .694 career regular-season OPS
Chris Iannetta may have the statistical edge, but Torrealba is No. 1 on this list for his take-charge work during the 2007 World Series and the '09 postseason run. Rockies top 5 >