Chicago Cubs: Ranking the best catchers in the National League

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

There’s a changing of the guard for National League catchers, including the rise (again) of the Chicago Cubs’ Willson Contreras.

With three players representing the Chicago Cubs at this year’s mid-summer classic, including All-Star Willson Contreras, it felt necessary to rank some of the best catchers in the NL up to this date.

This isn’t strictly offensive or defensive. It’s more opinion than anything of what players bring to their clubs as a whole, considering the ‘whole package.’ Here are my top five from the National League.

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5. Wilson Ramos 

Ramos isn’t playing at the OPS .845 OPS he compiled in his 2018 All-Star season, but he’s still a very serviceable catcher. He’s put together a 0.3 fWAR in 281 plate appearances with a 103 wRC+. His .272/.349/.408 slash line is solid production out of the catcher’s spot. The Mets are known to have the great starting pitching and have seen Pete Alonzo emerge as one of the games best young talents, but Ramos has put together a solid 9-year career and isn’t a bad bet behind the plate.

4. Carson Kelly

The only catchers with a higher fWAR than Kelly? Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto and Contreras. Kelly has found a nice role with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his 1.4 fWAR at the All-Star break is a sign of good things for the future. For those who don’t know, he was one of the pieces sent to the Diamondbacks for Paul Goldschmidt this past offseason.

He currently posts a .276/.355/.534 slash line, to go with his 10 home runs. Many thought the Diamondbacks would be one of the bottom 5-10 teams in baseball after trading away their All-Star first basemen and letting A.J. Pollock walk to their division rival in Los Angeles, but Arizona finds themselves just 1.5 games back of the second NL Wild Card spot at the break.

3. Yasmani Grandal

Grandal is putting together a career season. His .525 slugging percentage is a career-high, his .259 batting average is his second-highest since 2012, and his .372 OBP is his highest since 2012, as well. Grandal is putting teams on notice of what they missed out on after a long offseason where free agents didn’t sign contracts until just days before Spring Training.

As the top free-agent catcher on the market, Grandal didn’t sign with the Brewers until mid-January, and he settled for just a one-year deal with the Brewers with a mutual option for the 2020 season. It looks like it’s paying off for Milwaukee so far. This is his second All-Star selection. Only Contreras and Realmuto have a higher fWAR among NL catchers.

2. J.T. Realmuto

There’s not much you can say wrong about Realmuto. The backstop has 10 home runs and 41 RBIs. Only Grandal and Contreras have more runs batted in. He does lead all NL catchers in fWAR, however, at 2.6. No one has more hits (84) or runs scored (55) among catchers. His caught stealing percentage sits at 49 percent, which leads the National League.

Any team would be happy to add Realmuto to their lineup. He’s the final piece removed from what could have been for the Miami Marlins before Derek Jeter cleaned house. That team had Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcel Ozuna and Realmuto on their roster. That’s an elite outfield and elite catcher. Instead, they’re in rebuild mode after their fire sale.

1. Willson Contreras

Where do I start? Contreras has answered every critic this season. After a horrific second half last season, Contreras has bounced back in a big way this year. He’s not just a good catcher, but one of the best catchers in the NL. Only Grandal (19) has more home runs than Contreras (18). Only Grandal (50) has more walks than Contreras (33).

Next. Comparing the National League Central’s first basemen. dark

Only Realmuto has a higher fWAR than Contreras (2.4). But, no one has a higher batting average (.286), on-base percentage (.381) or slugging percentage (.556) in the NL than Contreras. Realmuto probably outranks Contreras defensively as he ranks much higher than Contreras in catcher framing, but you can’t deny no catcher in the NL is playing better offensively than Contreras at this point.

The Chicago Cubs will need him to continue his bounce-back season in the second half if they want to regain the division crown.