The Cardinals sit atop the chart of the 2017 pre-season NL Central Catcher Power ranking.

Yadier Molina continues to be king while the Cubs and Contreras are coming for his throne. Meanwhile the Pirates are still unbearably average in production but aging fast. The Reds are in limbo between full rebuild and retool but have a promising prospect. The Brewers traded away the best Central catcher of 2016 but now have 2 viable prospects for the future. However, both of them are gambles.

1. Cardinals

Still own the best catcher in recent history. However, their time atop the rankings may end this season.

Yadier Molina

After another very productive offensive year 307/360/427, Molina still reigns supreme as the king of Catchers. ¬†However, the end of his reign is coming closer and closer each year. At 34, his metrics are declining steadily and will continue in that direction. He is projected a WRC+ of 100 next year and a his defensive ratings will slip farther. This may be the last year that Molina sits atop his throne on the field. On the other hand, Molina is still one of the most important players on the Cardinals roster. With the Cardinals since 2004, he has become the face of the franchise and possesses an important leadership role. Molina’s value to the Cardinals off the field and in the clubhouse can not be put into words.

Carson Kelly

The Cardinals #11 prospect, he will be granted the privilege of studying under Molina. At 22 years old, he will not be an everyday starter. However, he will get his fair share of AB’s either on Molina’s days off or he could have a few stints in AAA. Either way, Kelly has the ability to hit and will be the future catcher for the Cardinals.

2. Cubs

In a similar boat as the Cardinals, an experienced catcher is mentoring a prospect. Here though, the Cubs have their prospect starting and their vet on the sidelines. The Cubs have a very good chance of overtaking the Cardinals for the #1 spot.

 

Willson Contreras

Say hello to the most exciting new face in the Catching scene of the central division. Willson Contreras broke onto the Cubs in 2016 with 282/357/488 slash line in 76 games. He split time between C and LF but he will be the Cubs starting catcher come 2017. At only 24, he has a lot of room to grow. With a 37% caught stealing rate shows he has good potential at controlling the running game. The one unanswered question is how he can handle a pitching staff all season. However, Contreras shapes up to be an exciting player.

Miguel Montero

Will be the second string catcher for the Cubs, but his talent is not going to waste. His effectiveness on the field is essentially in the past. However, the former All-Star can provide much needed guidance to a young catcher in Contreras. He may get his fair share of AB’s as Lester’s personal catcher as the new Ross, but that is not a given. In the off chance that Contreras suffers an injury, Montero still has the ability to be a serviceable catcher.

3. Pirates

A long way away from the Cardinals and Cubs but leaps ahead of the Reds and Brewers. Have a good Catching prospect in Diaz, but unsure of if he is ready for the Majors in 2017.

Francisco Cervelli

An average offensive player makes for a pretty good offensive catcher. Cervelli is average in just about all offensive metrics and 2017 projects to be much of the same. At 6 DRS, he is also and average defender. However, he has a good amount of experience and will offer more consistently average performances for a few more years.

Chris Stewart

A 34 year old 6-team journeyman, Stewart provides a little depth to the Pirates. There is not much to say about Stewart because he does not have much to offer to the Pirates. Outside of rest days for Cervelli, Stewart will not see the field much.

4. Reds

Still in full rebuild mode, the Reds will overtake the Pirates if Barnhart continues improving.

Tucker Barnhart

Continues to improve his offense from awful to tolerable. With a 85 WRC+, Barnhart will not be known for his offensive capabilities. However, Barnhart is very solid defensively, so if he can improve his offense from tolerable to serviceable, he can become a good catcher.

Devin Mesoraco

In the last 2 seasons combined, he only has 95 ABs. Mesoraco used to be one of the better up and coming catchers in the league. However, his health has put a roadblock in his career. And when I say roadblock, I mean a wartime military checkpoint. He had a hip surgery in 2015 and a torn labrum surgery in 2016. Speaking from experience with a torn labrum and baseball, his days are coming to a close. If not, he will not be the same player he was.

5. Brewers

A recent trade for Jett Bandy pushes the Brewers into a better position but not enough to overtake the reds. The trade of Lucroy dropped the Brewers to last. However, who knows who will be their catcher at the end of the year.

Jett Bandy

Right now, it looks as if Jett Bandy is the plan for the Brewers right now. Bandy saw his first majr stint in the majors with the Angels. After hitting 234 in 234 ABs, he seemed to be overwhelmed. However, he does have some upside as Bandy had a 116 WRC+ in AAA in 2015, so he has untapped potential. Jett Bandy has a lot of upside right now. Could be a very good catcher going forward.

Andrew Susac

Right now, Susac may take a backseat to Bandy. However, Susac may perform to split playing time between Bandy. Either way, he may have just as much upside of Bandy. In 239 ABs in AAA before being traded to the Brewers mid season, he had a 110 WRC+. The definite question is if Susac’s thumb and wrist can stay healthy (past thumb and wrist surgeries).

Photo Mark Rebilas- USA Today