The 2017 MLB Ultimate Free-Agent Tracker: catchers

Jeff Passan
MLB columnist
Jonathan Lucroy split last season between the Rockies and Rangers. (AP)

We ranked 2017’s top free-agent catchers. Overall ranking in the 2017 free-agent class is in parenthesis.

1. (12) Jonathan Lucroy, C: Over his 46 games in Colorado, Lucroy slashed .310/.429/.437, walking 27 times and striking out just 19 in175 plate appearances. He looked every bit the franchise catcher Texas believed him to be when it acquired him in July 2016. Lucroy cratered, leaving teams now with this dilemma: Is he the guy he was before and after Texas, the guy he was in Texas or some amalgamation? At least one team is likely enough to believe in the former that Lucroy gets three years.

2. (15) Welington Castillo, C: A near-.500-slugging catcher with a cannon for an arm whose supposed weakness is in the framing of pitches, which comes fresh with questionable data these days? That sounds like a man who is going to get paid awfully handsomely this winter. Castillo has been underappreciated for years. That’s about to change.

3. (51) Alex Avila, C: While his numbers last year were juiced by an unusually high average on balls in play, Avila’s plate discipline is undeniable, and if he can avoid the concussions that have plagued him in the past, he’s an excellent 100-game-a-year option for teams in need of a catcher.

4. (68) Wilin Rosario, C/1B: Destroyed the Korean league for the past two seasons, though the offensive environment and pitching there are admittedly conducive to such destruction. Won’t find himself with quite an Eric Thames-like offer, but a return to the big leagues is certainly possible.

5. (71) Chris Iannetta, C: Every few years, Iannetta has a BABIP spike that makes his batting average look halfway decent. The difference in 2017 is that a power jump accompanied it, too. There are a lot worse things than a platoon with Iannetta hitting against left-handers.

6. (93) Nick Hundley, C: Lives somewhere in that no-man’s land of not good enough to be an everyday regular but not bad enough that he should spend a vast majority of his time on the bench. He should play a nice tweener role somewhere.

7. (112) Curt Casali, C: Actually has a bit of pop and is decent behind the plate. He’ll be a third guy brought in to spring training looking to unseat a backup.

8. (115) Miguel Montero, C: The Cubs got rid of him after he called out Arrieta for allowing too many stolen bases. The Blue Jays kept him and he was dreadful. Certainly talented enough to keep playing, but talent alone doesn’t play.

9. (117) Geovany Soto, C: Over the last two seasons, Soto has played a total of 39 games. He will get a guaranteed deal anyway because free-agent catchers always do.

10. (118) Chris Stewart, C: The consummate backup catcher. Giancarlo Stanton hit twice as many home runs in August 2017 as Stewart has over the 1,317 plate appearances of his career. Doesn’t matter. He’s got the rep. That’s 90 percent of the battle in the catcher market.

11. (122) A.J. Ellis, C: Until he decides to manage, Ellis shouldn’t have trouble finding work as a backup catcher.

12. (124) Jose Lobaton, C: A guy who slashed .170/.248/.277 generally wouldn’t have much reason to enter the job market with optimism. Lobaton, on the other hand, is a switch-hitting catcher, and those get an exceedingly wide berth when it comes to tolerance threshold.

13. (142) Rene Rivera, C: Aw, yeah. It’s backup catcher time. And coming off a 10-homer season, Rivera will be only slightly less sought-after than Otani.

14. (149) Carlos Ruiz, C: Choooooooooooooooooooooch! (There’s really not a ton to say about a soon-to-be-39-year-old backup catcher, OK?)

15. (151) Christian Bethancourt, RP/C: The whole catcher-who-also-can-pitch experiment with San Diego blew up when it became apparent Bethancourt couldn’t throw strikes. He was wild at Triple-A, too. At just 26, though, he’s well worth a flyer and will continue to get bites for years because of his unique skill set.

16. (163) Ryan Hanigan, C: Backup catcher. Will be employed in some manner or variety.

17. (182) Derek Norris, C: From All-Star in 2014 to released in 2017 to suspended for the remainder of the season after allegedly abusing his girlfriend.

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