The Best Catchers in the AL west

josephd10
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I’ve brought you the best infielders in the American League West, with the exception of perhaps the most important position on the diamond.

Some might disagree, but the defensive responsibility and overall leadership qualities usually associated with a team’s catcher put them right up there with shortstop and centerfield for most pivotal position player.

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However, even though the catcher is such an important position the AL west features a cluster of players with limited offensive upside and minimal defensive value.

Continuing in my preview of the best players at each position, I give you the best catchers in the AL west:

1. Jason Castro, Houston Astros – A monster 2013 put Castro among the best catchers in baseball, but he slipped quite a bit last season. With the down year behind him Castro still seems poised to be the best catcher in the division. Defensively he is superior to his catcher counterparts as evidenced by his two defensive runs saved each of the last two seasons. He has thrown out nearly 25 percent of would-be base stealers in his career and has double digit home run power, despite his on-base percentage falling from .350 in 2013 to below .300 in 2014. They key for him in 2015 will be that the Astros prefer his defensive value over proven the offense-only Evan Gattis. Projected wins above replacement courtesy of Fangraphs: 1.7

2. Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics – This one might be the biggest stretch given Vogt’s lack of career playing time behind the dish. He did not catch much in 2013, and hardly at all in 2014, but is expected to start and face right-handed pitching for Oakland. Offensively he offers something similar to the aforementioned Castro, which is 10-14 home runs, close to 50 runs and RBI, and an OBP hovering around .300. But Vogt has the defensive upside to become one of the game’s best backstops. In 2014 he threw out all three runners who attempted to steal against him, and has thrown out 13 of 33 runners over his career. Projected WAR: 2.5

3. Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Iannetta is this high on our list purely because of his offensive numbers. Defensively he has posted a -12 DRS over his career, so I’ll skip over that part of his game (or lack thereof, rather). Iannetta has clubbed 11 or more home runs four times in his career and has a career OBP north of .350 making him one of the best catchers when it comes to reaching base. Projected WAR: 2.2

4. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners – After being the third overall pick in 2012, reaching the major leagues in 2013, and being the Mariners’ full-time catcher in 2014 it is safe to say Zunino has risen through the Seattle catching ranks quickly. He provides power and steady defense despite an abysmal triple-slash line. The advanced metrics don’t value Zunino’s defensive much, but he has a career 25 percent caught-stealing rate, and in 2014 he threw out 28 percent of runners. He also is considered a terrific pitch framer for Seattle’s elite pitching staff. Zunino’s .199 batting average in 2014 couldn’t keep him out of the lineup, and if he can improve on that number 25 home runs might be on his horizon. Projected WAR: 2.8

5. Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers – Chirinos received almost 300 more at-bats in 2014 than any other year in his career and fared quite well. He launched 13 home runs and he racked up 4 DRS. However his career triple-slash line of .231/ .285/ .391 limit his offensive upside even if his defense is strong enough to keep him in the Texas lineup. However, things have gotten bad for Texas with all of the injuries they have sustained Chirinos might be their Opening Day starter, who knows. Projected WAR: 1.6

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