Royals' Top 5 catchers: Flanagan's 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 Jeffrey Flanagan’s ranking of the top five catchers in Royals history. Next week: First basemen.

1) Salvador Perez, 2011-present

Key facts: Six All-Star Games, five Gold Gloves

Perez has become one of those one-name celebrities in these parts, joining legends like George and Bo and Alex. Perez is simply “Salvy” to Kansas City fans.

Perez, 29, has spent his entire career in Kansas City, emerging as a fan favorite from the moment he broke into the bigs in 2011. 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. Perez’s 129 home runs (141 overall) as a catcher are the most at that position in club history. He has a career .739 OPS.

Perhaps no one admires Perez more than his former skipper, another catcher, Ned Yost.

Yost often tells the story that when he first saw Perez when Perez was just 19, Yost wanted the Royals to call him up immediately.

Yost told a couple of years later, "It took about two days for me to realize he was special. I've been in this game a long time. I've been at the big league level a long time and seen hundreds of catchers come through. And I've never seen one like him. He's a very rare find."

Perez’s teammates feel the same way.

“There’s just a different feeling you have on the mound with Salvy behind the plate,” left-hander Danny Duffy said. “There’s just this sense of confidence. You know he is going to make a big play, whether it’s behind the plate or on offense. There’s just something special about his talent.

“And, of course, he’s Salvy, so you get all that energy along with it for the whole package.”

The Royals have had a number of talented catchers throughout their history who deserve consideration:

2) Darrell Porter, 1977-80
Key facts: Porter led all of MLB in 1979 by drawing 121 walks and hitting 13 sacrifice flies.

Porter had a four-year career in Kansas City that culminated in their 1980 World Series appearance against the Phillies. He had an .809 OPS with the Royals, hitting 61 home runs and driving in 301 runs.

Porter was a three-time All-Star with the Royals. His best season was in 1979, when he hit .291 with a .905 OPS -- he hit 20 home runs and drove in 112.

3) John Wathan, 1976-85
Key fact: Stole 80 bases, most by any Royals catcher

Affectionately known as “Duke,” Wathan was a key component during the Royals’ rise to prominence in their glory years of the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

Wathan brought a new dimension to the catching position: speed. He stole 105 bases overall in his career, and 80 as a catcher. He stole 36 bases in 1982.

Wathan’s best season came in 1980, when the Royals advanced to the World Series against the Phillies. He hit .305 that year, with a .377 on-base percentage, six home runs, 58 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.

4) Mike Macfarlane, 1987-1994, 1996-1998
Key fact: Macfarlane has 78 hit-by-pitches, second most in franchise history

Macfarlane, like many catchers, played through numerous injuries. His 78 hit-by-pitches set a club record that stood for nearly 20 years until Alex Gordon topped it in 2017. Macfarlane also had a .766 OPS and 103 home runs with the Royals.

Macfarlane’s best season came in 1993 when he posted an .857 OPS with 20 home runs and 67 RBIs.

5) Jim Sundberg, 1985-86
Key fact: He hit a double, triple, home run and had six RBIs in the Royals’ ALCS victory over Toronto in 1985.

Sundberg, who won six Gold Glove Awards in his career, was a defensive stalwart with the Royals in his brief two-year stint in Kansas City. Sundberg was also part of Kansas City's 1985 World Series championship team.