A Slightly Sabermetric (But Not Really) Ranking of NL East Catchers

Now that we have picked our best pitchers within the NL East, we will be changing our format slightly. As we get into the position players we are going to begin ranking each of the five starters within the division. We start today with the catchers.

*Reminder, we are ranking the player you would want most in 2017 alone, not beyond*

5. Derrick Norris – Nationals – 2016 WAR: -0.4

Anyone that wants to argue that Derrick Norris should not be the lowest rated catcher in this division needs to take one look at his .186/.225/.328 slash line from 2016 and rethink their argument. Even the Nationals don’t want him to serve as Ramos’ replacement as they are reportedly still reaching out to Matt Wieters. While Norris is pretty terrible in the batter’s box, behind the dish is a different story. He gunned down 21% of base stealers in San Diego last season and has thrown out 26% over his career, not great numbers but serviceable. Plus, his pitch framing abilities led him to an Rdrs of 14 last season. There are plenty of offensive weapons around Norris in Washington so his lack of production at the plate will slide under the radar a little bit. Coupled with a good starting rotation that he will likely make better, Norris should feel right at home in the nation’s capital, he is just not the catcher I would build my team around.

4. Tyler Flowers – Braves – 2016 WAR: 1.1

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves

Flowers had the best slash line of his eight year career in 2016 at .270/.357/.420 while playing in just over half of the Braves games last season. With the team’s recent signing of Kurt Suzuki, one can expect Flowers to appear in only about half of Atlanta’s games again this season, although all signs point to him being the “starter”. The Roswell, GA native was initially brought in to bridge the gap, after Christian Bethancourt did not work out, while the Braves tried to replenish at the catcher position in the farm system, and also to alleviate AJ Pierzynski behind the dish. The Braves will be hoping for similar production this year as they look to put a decently competitive team on the field for the first season at SunTrust Park. The 31 year old has a team option for 2018, so if he can produce Braves fans should expect to see him back because there is not a catcher in the pipeline for the foreseeable future. Oh, one more thing about Flowers, he gets ran on, a lot. However, scouts do say the framing ability is there.

3. Cameron Rupp – Phillies – 2016 WAR: 1.6

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The first time I saw Cameron Rupp play, I had two initial thoughts, this guy is big and this guy has a big swing. The 6’1 240 pounder out of Austin, TX played in over 100 games for the Phillies in 2016, the first time doing so in his career, where he slashed .252/.303/.447. Rupp, like many big backstops, has promising raw power and it is beginning to translate in game with his 16 HR’s serving as evidence. What many people like about Rupp’s power is not necessarily balls leaving the ballpark, but his exit velocity. Although it was up and down last year, topping out at a league high 97.5 MPH in May, his .315 BABIP is evidence that he can hit the ball hard in play. For a big swinger, his strikeout rate was not atrocious at 27.2% even though his plate discipline is still developing. It was a close choice for three and four between Rupp and Flowers. What gave Rupp the slight edge was his plus arm as he gunned down 27% of attempted base steals last year. A slight step up from Flowers’ 5%. Overall, the defense was pretty bad though for Rupp at -10 Rdrs, his poor pitch framing could play a role in this. 

2. Travis d’Arnaud – Mets – 2016 WAR: 0.1

I was a big d’Arnaud fan back around 2014/2015 and I want to believe the injuries are the only thing holding him back, but I can’t be certain that is the case. Whether healthy or not, he has slashed at a career rate of .245/.311/.393 with his best season coming in an injury shortened 2015. The defense hasn’t been there either with a career total of -22 Rdrs which stems from him being below average in all four big league seasons. To be honest, d’Arnaud might be the second catcher I would take for my team out of this division, but I think that says more about the lack of depth at the position within the NL East than it does of d’Arnaud’s skill set. Hopefully we can get another 100 game season out of him in 2017, a good sample size, see if he stays healthy, and go from there.

1. J.T. Realmuto – Marlins – 2016 WAR: 3.5

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The Slightly Sabermetric

Category Realmuto Rank Amongst Catchers (minimum 300 PA’s)
BABIP .357 2nd
IFH 22 1st
WRC+ 107 8th
UBR 1.2 1st

Realmuto also batted balls at a “Hard or Medium” rate 79% of the time. Really, it is his ability to get on the basepaths and what he can do once he gets there that makes him so impressive. He posses a skill set different than most catchers in baseball.

The Not Really Sabermetric

One guys opinion here, I think Realmuto is leaps and bounds above the other catchers currently in the NL East. Realmuto had the third highest WAR among catchers in all of baseball last year, ranking behind only Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey (Not bad company). After slashing .303/.343/.428 with 11 HR 48 RBI and 12 SB, he established himself as one of the most offensively well-rounded catchers in baseball. Only three other catchers hit over .300 last year and he led all backstops in stolen bases. Sabermetrically, Realmuto does not rank among the elite in baseball. However, it is impossible to deny his better than average offensive productivity. The defense and a little more power may be the only thing holding him back from coming up in conversation along side Posey and Lucroy.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. I would love to hear your NL East catcher rankings!

Stats Courtesy of: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com

Photos Courtesy of: mlb.com

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