How do the National League East Catchers shake out? There can be a lot of debate on this list, and by mid-season this list may be completely different – but let’s take a look and see how they currently rank…
1. Wilson Ramos (Nationals) – Ramos is the best catcher in the East. He gunned down 38% of would be base stealers in 2014 while hitting .269 with 27 HR and 106 RBI over the last two seasons. He just has to stay on the field after tearing his ACL in 2012, a hamstring injury in 2013, and a broken hand in 2014.
2. Carlos Ruiz (Phillies) – As catchers go, Chooch is getting long in the tooth entering his age 36 season. He’s also steady behind the plate. He threw out 27% of baserunners and 27% for his career. Over the last 8 seasons, he’s averaged 114 games with a .272 batting average, .358 OBP, 24 doubles and 8 home runs. As a solid veteran on a rebuilding team and two years (+ a team option) with $17.5 million guaranteed heading his way, will he be traded to a contender that needs a solid backstop?
3. Travis d’Arnaud (Mets) – This is a big season for TDA with Kevin Plawecki knocking on the door in AAA, just waiting for his chance. Last year was a tale of two seasons for d’Arnaud – are we going to see the player who hit .272 with 19 doubles and 10 HR in 69 games after he was recalled from the minors, or will we see the player who hit .180 with 3 doubles and 3 HR in 39 games before being banished to Vegas? He threw out only 19% of base runners last year, and only threw out 13% after being called up. The Mets are going to need to win this year with pitching and defense. Travis is going to need to step up this year for the Mets to contend. Given his improved offensive production in the latter half of 2014, I’ll rank him ahead of the next man on the list, but depending on his start, he can find himself sliding either up or down on the list very easily.
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins) – There’s nothing particularly exciting about Salty. He’s a career .242 hitter who threw out 19% of runners last season (well below the 28% league average). He has some pop, hitting 11 in 2014 and averaging 16 over the last 4 seasons. But hey, he’s owed $15 million by the Marlins through 2016 – not bad work if you can get it.
5. Christian Bethancourt (Braves) – The 23 year old rookie backstop enters the season as tops on the depth chart after trading away Evan Gattis. While A.J. Pierzynski and John Buck were veterans that were signed in the offseason that can mentor the young catcher and possibly step in if he needs more seasoning, the job is Bethancourt’s to lose. He has some pop in his bat, is a career .269 hitter in the minors, and has thrown out 36% of would be base stealers in the minors. The Braves feel he’s their catcher of the future – he’ll just have to show if his promise lives up to his potential. As he’s completely unproven at the MLB level, he’s number 5 on the list, but with production, he may find himself moving up the list.