The 2019 MLB regular season saw an offensive outburst across the league, but perhaps no position benefitted from more breakout seasons than those who are catchers.
Most catchers are not known for their bats, yet several had career years at the plate in 2019, making the position arguably as strong as it has ever been.
As the 2020 season approaches, many will look to see if they can replicate the success with the bat in 2019, as well as continue to build good rapports and chemistry with their respective pitching staffs — which is still the No. 1 priority at the position.
Here's how the best players at the position stack up heading into the season:
1. J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
Realmuto is the full package at catcher. He ranked in the top five in in pitch framing and defensive runs saved last season among those who caught at least 850 innings, according to FanGraphs, and he threw out 47 percent of baserunners. At the plate, Realmuto is coming off his best season yet — slashing .275/.328/.493 with career highs in home runs (25), RBI (83) and runs scored (92) en route to his second consecutive Silver Slugger award. At 29 year sold, Realmuto is in the prime of his career and should be poised for another big year in 2020.
2. Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox
Grandal is the next closest thing to the full package at catcher behind Realmuto. The 31-year-old ranks as the best pitch framer, per FanGraphs, and he too is coming off a career-year at the plate. Grandal posted a slash line of .246/.380/.468 with career highs in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He also hit a career-high 28 home runs and 77 RBI with the Brewers last year, which set the stage for him to ink a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox in the offseason.
3. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
Sanchez undoubtedly has the best power among all catchers in the league. He became the fastest player to reach 100 career home runs in American League history last year in just 355 games, and slugged a career-best 34 home runs — the most among all catchers — in his second All-Star season. Sanchez, however, is incredibly streaky and had just a .316 OBP and struggles defensively. He has made strides in his defense, though, allowing just seven passed balls last season after leading the league in that category in 2018 and ’19.
4. Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
While Sanchez slugged 34 homers last season, it was Twins catcher Mitch Garver who took home the Silver Slugger hardware in the American League. Garver had a career-year, blasting 31 home runs and driving in 67 runners and produced a slash line of .273/.365/.630 in just 93 games in 2019. It is possible Garver’s ceiling is even higher in 2020 if he can stay healthy.
5. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
It sounds like a broken record at this point, but Contreras is yet another young catcher coming off a career-year in 2019. The 27-year-old belted a career-high 24 home runs and posted a slash line of .272/.355/.533. Injuries limited Contreras to just 105 games in 2019, but a healthy Contreras could be a legitimate threat to hit 30-plus home runs in 2020 and will get plenty of run-producing opportunities in the middle of the Cubs lineup as manager David Ross plans to frontload Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the 1-2 spots.
6. Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers
Smith played in just 54 games last season, but he certainly showed he belongs in the conversation as one of the best catchers around. The 24-year-old posted a slash line of .253/.337/.571 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI, which certainly caught the attention of many. While it’s still hard to gauge Smith’s defensive value, he was rated the top defensive player in the minors by MLB Pipeline in 2018.
7. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
Here’s an interesting one as we start to see a falloff in offensive production from the position: Salvador Perez. The Royals catcher missed the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, but the six-time All-Star is expected to be back and healthy this season. Perez will turn 30 years old this season and has a solid track record to back up his standing among the top 10, winning five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and four seasons of 20-plus home runs. That’s enough to give him the benefit of the doubt as he looks to return to form in 2020.
8. Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians
Perez kind of came out of nowhere last season. The Indians catcher belted a career-high 24 home runs despite his previous best being eight in 2017. It was, however, Perez’s first season as the primary catcher behind the plate for the Tribe, and not only did he provide some juice with his bat, but he was also very effective on the defensive side, too, which is equally, if not more, important at the position. Perez threw out 20 of 49 baserunners and led all of MLB with 29 defensive runs saved, per Fangraphs. It is hard to gauge whether last season was an anomaly, or if this is what we can expect from Perez going forward in 2020.
9. Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox
Vazquez is in the same boat as Perez as someone who burst onto the scene after serving primarily as a backup the last few seasons and even put up similar numbers as Perez, hitting .276/.320/.477 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs. The 29-year-old was excellent at pitch framing and threw out 22 of 58 baserunners last season.
10. Wilson Ramos, New York Mets
The Buffalo got off to a slow start with his new team last season, but Ramos still finished with robust numbers, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 73 — the second-most in his career — while slashing .288/.351/.416 for the Mets. His defense is still something left to be desired, though, throwing out just 17 of 121 attempted base stealers last year.