Miami Marlins: Who is the Best Catcher in Baseball?

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DENVER, CO - JUNE 24: Yadiel Rivera #2 and J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins celebrate after an 8-5 win over the Miami Marlins at Coors Field on June 24, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JUNE 24: Yadiel Rivera #2 and J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins celebrate after an 8-5 win over the Miami Marlins at Coors Field on June 24, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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Defensively

MIAMI, FL – JUNE 8: J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins throws towards first base on a double play in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Marlins Park on June 8, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – JUNE 8: J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins throws towards first base on a double play in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Marlins Park on June 8, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

On the defensive side of the baseball, things get a little bit more confusing. Defensive statistics are not as much of an exact science as offensive statistics are at this point in time. Baseball Prospectus does a very good job arranging the information that they receive in a way that you can sort through catchers by framing runs, blocking runs, throwing runs and fielding runs above average.

Fielding runs above average or FRAA is our measurement for the catcher’s abilities behind the plate. Just like WAR, FRAA is a good place to start when it comes to looking at a catcher defensively, but there are also many other unquantifiable considerations to take into play. The biggest of these unquantifiable separators is the way a catcher deals with the pitching staff.

Dating back to the beginning of baseball, this is what a catcher was looked at for. His ability or lack thereof when it comes to handling a staff. This is something that can only be measured between the heads of two people, the catcher and the pitcher and not on paper.

Defensive Rankings

Player Framing Runs Blocking Runs Throwing Runs FRAA MLB Rank
Buster Posey 4.8 0.9 0.2 4.9 8th
Yadier Molina 4.3 0.4 0 3.1 17th
J.T. Realmuto 0.3 -0.2 0.1 1.4 28th
Kurt Suzuki -1.7 1.1 -0.2 -0.4 61st
Francisco Cervelli -5.3 -0.6 0.1 -4.6 88th

In this small data set, there is a lot that raises questions about who is the best catcher in baseball. There are two points specifically that stand out to me.

  1. Suzuki and Cervelli have made a name for themselves as very solid defensive catchers. In 2018, they are swinging the bats well, but that may have led to poor performances behind the dish.
  2. Max Stassi who is just outside of our top five so therefore not listed above, deserves some credit. The 27-year-old has one of the more interesting service time dynamics of all time. Stassi has appeared in the big leagues over the last six seasons, yet never collected enough service time so he is still considered a rookie. Rookie or not, some credit needs to go to the guy with a 128 wRC+ who also happens to be the best defensive catcher in baseball with 8.4 FRAA. His lack of experience is the main reason he sits outside our top-five.
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