Over the next few weeks, I plan on writing a running series which ranks the top players at each position in the AL East. Each team’s starter will be ranked one through five, and while I may be a little bit biased, this could be an excellent indication of the best teams in the division. Today, I will start by ranking each team’s starting catcher, then I’ll move across the infield and outfield and finally on to pitching. Here’s to hoping that the Red Sox come out favorably!
1. Matt Wieters- Baltimore Orioles: Catching is not exactly the strong suit of the AL East, but there’s no doubt that Wieters is one of the up and coming stars in the game of baseball. Just 26 years old, Wieters has four years of experience under his belt and set careers highs in home runs, RBIs, and games played in 2012 along with winning his second consecutive Gold Glove. Offensively, Wieters’ .249/.329/.435 slash line with 23 home runs and 83 RBIs was impressive. His true value comes from his defense, however, as defensive metrics rank him as among the best at his position. Mixed in with the other catchers in the division, Wieters is clearly the best in the AL East and it’s not particularly close.
2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia- Boston Red Sox: It’s a sad day when Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the second best catcher in his division. However, that’s what this has amounted to. Saltalamacchia got off to a strong start to the season, but he started falling in midsummer and never really came back up– finishing with a lackluster .222/.288/.454 slash line to go with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs. The power is certainly there for Saltalamacchia, but at the age of 27 he is still unproven with his glove and at hitting for average. Still, Salty projects to be the Red Sox’ starting catcher in 2013.
3. Jose Molina- Tampa Bay Rays: A journeyman backup catcher for much of his career, Molina finally grabbed a starting job with the Rays in 2012. The results were less than spectacular as Molina hit only .223/.286/.355 with 8 home runs and 32 RBIs. That mixed in with his below average defense and likely inability to improve (at age 37) makes for a pretty sad situation for a team’s starting catcher.
4. Josh Thole- Toronto Blue Jays: Like several others on this list, Thole was a once highly rated prospect who never really panned out. Although he’s shown the ability to hit for average and play decent defense behind the plate before, it was never on display in 2012. In 104 games for the Mets, he batted .234/.294/.290 with average defense before being traded to the Blue Jays with R.A. Dickey. It appears that Thole will have to channel all of his potential in 2013 to even keep the starting catching job though.
5. Chris Stewart- New York Yankees: I must admit, it feels pretty great to put the Yankees last on this list and it feels even better that they wholeheartedly deserve to be last on it. When Russell Martin signed a two year deal with the Pirates, the Yankees were left with a very sticky situation behind the plate. They’ve done nothing to improve the position, leaving Chris Stewart, who batted .241/.292/.319 in 55 games as a backup in 2012. At 31 years old and 2012 being Stewart’s best season, optimism shouldn’t be too high behind the plate in New York.