Rockies' Top 5 catchers: Harding'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 Thomas Harding’s ranking of the top five catchers in Rockies history. Next week: First basemen.

1. (2006-09, '13)
Key fact: .805 postseason OPS in 15 Rockies postseason games, .694 career regular-season OPS

Torrealba's Fangraphs 3.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is third in franchise history, but he’s No. 1 on this list for his take-charge work during the 2007 World Series and the '09 postseason run.

“I was tough on pitchers,” Torrealba said. “I want to win no matter what. And I would tell the pitchers, ‘Just throw what I tell you to throw.’ I’m sure some of them were like, ‘What the hell? Who does he think he is?’ But I was confident the signs I put down to be right. I would tell them, 'If I want a pitch in the dirt, I’ll block it,' and when I was wrong, I was the first to say, ‘I should’ve listened to you.’ My offense was secondary.”

Torrealba’s biggest moment was a three-run homer against the D-backs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series sweep of the D-backs in 2007. It came off Livan Hernandez, his mentor from when he broke in with the Giants.

“I went up to bat thinking, ‘Man, this is wild to be up in this situation -- he really took care of me when I broke in with the Giants, and he’s a good friend,’” Torrealba said. “But I fought off a couple tough breaking balls, then got a 3-2 fastball that was a little inside.”

Torrealba admitted hard feelings when the club didn’t retain him after the 2009 season. But he loved the Rockies and was more than happy to answer when then-GM Dan O’Dowd called before 2013, his final season.

“I can’t put into words what the Rockies mean to me,” Torrealba said. “The Rockies were really the first team to give me a chance to play full-time, and I’ll always remember that. There were things with Dan I disagreed with and things with me he disagreed with. But it meant so much to come back. Jim Tracy [who took over in 2009 and led the team to the postseason] is one of my favorite managers, and I respect Dan O’Dowd to this day.”

2. (2006-11, '18-19)
Key fact: Iannetta’s 80 home runs and 252 RBIs are easily club records for catchers

Iannetta was Torrealba’s backup during the 2007 and '09 postseason runs, but he had his turn to be the No. 1 catcher on a playoff team in '18 with a young Rockies pitching staff. Iannetta caught 99 games, a healthy number in an atmosphere that wears on catchers, as the Rox led the league in starter innings pitched. A Rockies fourth-round pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, Iannetta was a creative game-caller even in his youngest day and his knowledge helped the staff during his return to the club. Iannetta is with the Yankees under a Minor League contract.

3. (1993-95)
Key fact: Girardi’s 2,509 innings caught, fourth most in club history, were reduced by the strike-shortened 1994 and '95 seasons

The main catcher the first three years of the franchise, Girardi was at his most durable in 1995 -- when he appeared in 125 of the 144 games of that shortened season. The 0.3 fWAR and 68 Weighted Runs Created-plus (wRC+) aren't eye-popping, but nurturing an expansion pitching staff to what was at the time the earliest playoff berth in history (three years) tramples those numbers. Girardi was also the Rockies’ player representative through the labor discord in '95.

4. (2016-present)
Key fact: Wolters’ 32.8 caught-stealing percentage is highest in club history (minimum 2,000 innings caught)

If Wolters continues making modest gains offensively to assure himself playing time, his often game-changing defensive abilities should push him up this list in future years. Wolters, whose biggest moment was a single to drive in the winning run in the 2-1, 13-inning win over the Cubs in the 2018 NL Wild Card Game, was a waiver claim from the Indians in 2016.

5. Jeff Reed (1996-98)
Key fact: Reed’s 4.0 fWAR is the best in club history

Reed just might be one of the most unsung players in team history. He joined the Rockies a year after the 1995 postseason trip and was on a couple of solid teams that fell short. Reed had the most games at his position just once during his three-year career with the Rockies, but he was effective offensively when he did play, as shown by his .286/.373/.456 slash line in 365 games.