The Top 5 C Heading Into the 2019 Season By: Peter Snyder

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When it comes to professional sports, few jobs are as grueling as the Catcher position. A good major league catcher will bend down in a crouch for 3 hours every night, for over 100 games a year. This does a number on your body. As if this is not a daunting enough task in itself, catchers are also called upon to call and facilitate a game, provide offense and be a durable force for the team. The five guys representing this list are absolute warriors. There may be no feeling in their knees, but they could care less, baseball is their life. We kick things off with a player from Venezuela, who over the last decade, has become one of the most likable guys in major league baseball.

5. Salvador Perez – Kansas City Royals

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Salvador Perez may be a top 5 personality in all of baseball. Since he made his major league debut in 2011, Salvy has taken the major leauge world by storm with a smile that is brighter than a full moon. Whenever you see Salvy behind the backstop, it just looks like he is having so much damn fun. Sure, he is making millions of dollars per year and this is his job, but at the end of the day, this is a game and Salvy treats it as such. Personality aside, Perez is a hell of a baseball player. Salvy finished his 2018 campaign with a .266 average, collected 120 hits and led all catchers in home runs with 27. Perez also shined with his glove in 2018 as he caught 25 men stealing and failed to make a single error, earning him his 5th gold glove come seasons end. He also took home his second silver slugger award and made his 6th all star game appearance. At the end of the day, there is no questioning that Salvador Perez is the best catcher in the A.L. He has the best glove, the most pop, and is the most consistent AL catcher by a long shot. The problem for Perez as far as this list goes, is that the N.L. is loaded with catching talent, which ultimately lands Perez 5th on the list. I expect Salvy to continue his pronounced ML career in 2019 and predict that he will finish the season with 25 HR’s, 80 RBI’s and 125 hits; all to go along with yet another, GG award.

4. Yasmani Grandal – Milwaukee Brewers

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One of the most surprising stories of the 2019 MLB offseason came when the Milwaukee Brewers acquired all star catcher, Yasmani Grandal in free agency. It was not a known comadady that the Brewers were in need of a catcher so to pick up a guy as talented as Grandal, was considered a steal (no pun intended). Grandal, a 30 year old catcher from Cuba, made his ML debut in 2012 with the San Diego Padres. After spending 3 season with the Padres and being nothing more then a fly on the wall, Grandal knew he needed to change things up. He worked his ass of in the cage, made changes to his swing and coming into the 2015 season, found himself a new home with the LA Dodgers. This move was the best thing that could of ever happened for Grandal. He was sharper with his glove, more aware in the box and by mid July, was selected to his first all star game. In 2016, Grandal improved even more, hitting 27 home runs to go along with 72 runs batted in. In 2017 and 2018, Grandal slugged a combined 46 homers, drove in 126 runs and had  an average OPS of .791. Along with this gradual offensive improvement, Grandal has also continuously improved with his glove and has slowly started become, a reliable force behind the backstop. So what does this all tell us? Well for starters, it tell’s us that Grandal is a player that has shown consistent growth during every season of his ML carrer and 2019 should be no different. This also tells us that Grandal is very good at adjusting to change and the move from LA and to MIL should, if anything, make him a better player. Grandal may not have the strongest arm in the major leagues and may not be the best hitting catcher in baseball, but he works his butt off to get better, shows growth with every year he plays and for those reasons, he lands as the 4th best catcher in baseball, heading into the 2019 season.

3. Buster Posey – SF Giants

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At just 31 years old, Buster Posey has gone through more in his career than most and could retire tomorrow and walk into the HOF. The 6x all star, 3x world champion and  4x silver slugger winner is about to embark on his 11th season in the majors. The story of 2018 for Buster Posey was a shakey one, as he had to battle the injury bug all summer long and participated in just 105 regular season games, including just 88 behind the backstop. Posey also underwent hip surgery as is expected to make his return somewhere around April. Never the less, Posey still batted for a .284 average in 2018, had a 2.9 WAR and was selected to his six all star game. For the last decade, Posey has been considered as the best catcher in baseball and the argument surrounding that notion, has been slim. The times have changed however, and the old age bug is slowly starting to creep up on Posey. His power numbers are starting to become non existent, he can’t go behind the plate without grimising is some pain and it makes you wonder, how much time does he has left? My prediction for Posey in 2019 is that he will catch for no more then 60 games, will be jumping on and off the DL with a bad hip and will be left with a serious decision to make come years end. This decision being on whether or not he wants to hang up the cleats for good. All that aside, Posey is going to go down as one of the best catchers to ever play the game when all is said and done. There is no way in hell I was ever going to leave him off this list.

2. Willson Contreras – Chicago Cubs

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In 2016, a young prospect named Wilson Contreras made his Major League debut. He was a young catcher that was known to have a electrifying arm to go along with a swing that could pack a thunderous punch. One hot summer’s night at Wrigley field, Contreras stepped into the box for his first Major League at bat. With the first pitch he ever saw at the Major League level, Contreras crushed a ball to deep center field for a home run, sending the Wrigley faithful into a state of euphoria. It was a moment of pure bliss and at that very moment, the Cubs knew they found their catcher of the future. That same year, Contreras and the Cubs won the WS which broke a 108 year drought for the club. Could you have asked for a more magical rookie season for the Venezuelan born product? The next two years of Contreras’ carrer featured much of the same success as he hit for an average BA of .263 hit 31 home runs, stroked 48 doubles and had a average OPS of .792. Contreras can also shine with his glove and has already caught 63 batters stealing in his short Major League carrer. Willie also started in the 2018 All Star game and became one of the youngest catchers ever to start in the summer classic.  What I like most about Contreras, is how electrifying his style of play is. When he gets a hold of a ball, you can hear the crack of the bat from a mile away. When he throws a guy out stealing, you find yourself almost shell shocked of just how strong his arm is.  Very few are wired like this man is. I expect Willie Contreras to have a huge 2019 season and think we are witnessing one of the rising stars in baseball.

1.JT Realmuto – Philadelphia Phillies

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During the 2019 MLB offseason, it was announced that Marlins superstar catcher, JT Realmuto, was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Phillies’ top prospect Sixto Sanchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and lefty prospect Will Stewart. At the young age of 27, Realmuto has yet to reach his full potential and is only going to get better with time. In his 5 years as a major league ballplayer, Realmuto has accumulated over 500 hits, has clubbed 59 career HRs and has driven in a total of 243 runs. In 2018, Realmuto fully solidified himself as an elite player in this league as he finished the year with a .277 batting average, hit 21 home runs while playing in the biggest ballpark in baseball, and drove in 74 runs. He also hit 30 doubles, collected 132 total hits, and was an absolute unit behind the backstop. This breakout year did not go unnoticed however, as Realmuto made both his first All Star game, and earned a Silver Slugger award at the end of the season.  JT Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball, and there is no if ands or buts about it.  And no, I am not just saying that because I am a Phillies fan. The fact of the matter is, JT Realmuto is going to hit 30 home runs next year and the runner-up at the catcher position may not even reach 25. The fact that Realmuto hit over 20 homers last year, while playing 82 games at a sink hole they call Marlins Park, is absolutely astonishing. With a hitters park like CBP becoming JT’s new backyard, I can assure you he is going to be a home run hitting, extra base smashing machine in 2019. Realmuto also led all major league catchers in both extra base hits and total bases in 2018. The sky is the limit for this young superstar in 2019 and the city of brotherly love is going to adore him for years to come.

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