D-backs' Top 5 catchers: Gilbert's take

March 24th, 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 Steve Gilbert’s ranking of the top five catchers in D-backs history. Next week: First basemen.

1. Miguel Montero, 2006-14
Key fact: 23.3 fWAR is third highest in club history
Fun fact: Is now a player agent

Montero was 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.

Simply known to teammates and fans alike as “Miggy,” he was signed by the D-backs out of Venezuela as a non-drafted free agent in 2001 for a $13,000 bonus. While coming up through Arizona's system, Montero made it a priority to learn English so that he could better communicate with his teammates, particularly the pitchers. He became a U.S. citizen in 2017.

Montero made his big-league debut with the D-backs on Sept. 6, 2006. Marlins right-hander Aníbal Sánchez no-hit the D-backs that night and Montero joked afterwards that things could only get better from there.

They certainly did as he wound up making a pair of All-Star Game appearances and becoming the club’s main catcher until being dealt to the Cubs after the 2014 season. While in Chicago, Montero helped the Cubs end their 108-year championship drought by winning the 2016 World Series.

2. Damian Miller, 1998-2002
Key fact: Starting catcher on 2001 World Series team
Fun fact: Starred in a This is SportsCenter commercial with Curt Schilling

“D-Train” was one of the original D-backs, having been selected with the 47th pick in the 1997 Expansion Draft off the Minnesota Twins' roster. During the D-backs’ best years, 1999-2002, he was behind the plate most of the time that Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling pitched.

“I think they both enjoyed throwing to him,” said Greg Schulte, the D-backs' radio play-by-play voice since the team’s inception. “He was a hard-nosed, take-charge type of player. He didn’t take any guff from anyone.”

Indeed, during the second half of the 2001 season, Miller played with a strained Achilles and a shoulder strain down the stretch. He also took a painful foul tip just below his midsection during the playoffs, but refused to leave the game.

A native of La Crosse, Wis., Miller still lives in the state and is a diehard Green Bay Packers fan.

3. Chris Snyder, 2004-10
Key fact: Selected by the D-backs in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft
Fun fact: Practiced mixed martial arts as a way of keeping in shape during the offseasons

Snyder was a defensive stalwart for the D-backs during his time in Arizona, quickly gaining the trust of manager Bob Melvin and ace Brandon Webb.

Snyder grew close to Webb and was his primary catcher while the right-hander finished first or second in the National League Cy Young Award voting from 2006-08.

"He’s always prepared,” Webb once said of Snyder. "He studies the hitters a lot and can adjust with them as the game goes along. I think everybody likes having ‘Snydes’ back there calling the game and feel very comfortable with him."

4. Kelly Stinnett, 1998-2000, 2005
Key fact: 65th pick in the 1997 Expansion Draft

Stinnett had two stints with the D-backs, and he and Miller were both catchers the team targeted in the Expansion Draft.

“What we thought we were going to get with both of them, we got,” said Joe Garagiola Jr., the team’s general manager at the time. “Steady, durable, good defenders.”

Stinnett was part of a wild play in team history on Aug. 29, 2005, in San Diego when he collected an inside-the-park homer. Stinnett lifted a deep fly ball to left field that hit a flat concrete surface just behind the padding of the outfield wall. The ball bounced high into the air and came back down onto the warning track.

Left fielder Ryan Klesko thought the ball was a homer, so he took his time retrieving it. Meanwhile third-base umpire Bill Welke was signaling that the ball was in play. Seeing that, Stinnett kept running full speed towards third and continued home. Klesko, not seeing Welke, picked the ball up and flipped it back into the stands.

Since his retirement, Stinnett has been active in youth baseball in Arizona and is the head baseball coach at Park University in Gilbert, Ariz.

5. Carson Kelly, 2019-present
Key fact: Viewed as the D-backs' catcher of the future

Kelly came to the D-backs prior to the 2019 season in the trade that sent Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals. In St. Louis, Kelly was stuck behind Yadier Molina, but given a chance to play regularly in Arizona, he thrived after a tough start.

Despite only playing 111 games in a D-backs uniform, he ranks eighth in fWAR among the franchise’s catchers with a 1.9 mark.

After being selected out of high school by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft, Kelly promised his parents, Traci and Mike, that he would get his college degree. So in the Fall of 2012, he began taking online courses at Oregon State University. He completed his degree in economics in 2018.