100 Greatest Catchers of All-Time


Baseball's All-Time Greatest Catchers Ranked From 1 to 100

1Johnny Bench

In his prime, it was clear that Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher in the history of the game. It was clear to the people who had seen Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella play. His manager, Sparky Anderson, put it plainly: “I don't want to embarrass any other catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench.” Johnny was confident too. He was proud of his powerful throwing arm. When he was 21 years old he boasted, “I can throw out any runner alive.”

2Josh Gibson

He played 12 full seasons and led the league in homers 11 times. He won three batting titles. In nearly 600 games we have statistics for, Gibson had a slugging percentage over .700 and a .374 batting average. He wasn’t just a right-handed power hitter, he was the best right-handed hitter in the history of the black leagues. Monte Irvin, who played with Willie Mays on the Giants and against Henry Aaron, spent nine years in the negro leagues where he witnessed Gibson in his prime. Irvin said of Mays and Aaron, “They were tremendous players, but they were no Josh Gibson.”

3Gary Carter

Of the great catchers, only Carter and Mike Piazza learned how to play the position in the minor leagues. Carter was drafted as a shortstop, and Piazza was originally a first baseman. Carter was a fantastic athlete (he was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at USC) and worked hard to become a Gold Glove catcher.

4Carlton Fisk

You have to be a great athlete to get noticed when you're growing up in New Hampshire. In college, Fisk was offered a basketball contract by the Boston Celtics, but wisely realized his future was in baseball. One of four Fisk brothers, his family called him “Pudge” because he took a while to shed his baby fat. Carlton's father was a prominent high school athlete who starred in basketball. Once he slimmed, Carlton was an impressive athlete. Even though baseball was not his preferred sport, he took to catching quickly.

5Joe Mauer

Mauer won three batting titles, an MVP award, and two Gold Gloves before his 27th birthday. He’s in an elite group of seven catchers to have at least five 5-WAR seasons: Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Mike Piazza, Mickey Cochrane, Yogi Berra, and Iván Rodríguez.

6Yogi Berra

“He seldom misses a trick. He knows exactly what his pitchers can throw, and when they’re not throwing what he expects, he reacts quickly. It’s sort of a sixth sense.” — Casey Stengel

7Buster Posey

Only three catchers have won both a Rookie of the Year and an MVP award: Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson, and Posey. He was so good that they renamed the Johnny Bench Award, which honors college baseball's top NCAA Division I catcher, the Buster Posey Award.

8Ivan Rodriguez

Pudge II was the best defensive catcher to ever play the game: more agile than Bench and with at least equal arm strength. He was fearless, willing to fire the baseball behind runners and unafraid to block the plate. As a hitter, Rodríguez was somewhat like Mickey Cochrane, though far more willing to swing at balls out of the strike zone.

9Thurman Munson

At his peak Munson was better than Berra, Dickey, and Cochrane, but he didn’t have the chance to finish out the back end of his career. His tentpole skills were: handling his pitchers; hitting the ball with authority to all fields; and releasing throws quickly.

10Ted Simmons

Simmons had a squat body, a lot like Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra, with tree-trunk legs, meaty calves and a thick midsection. He had heavy eyelids and a long mane of hair that surrounded his strong face. He hit well from both sides of the plate, and in the 1970s he batted .297 and made six All-Star teams.

11Bill Dickey1928194657.335.918.126.3
12Mike Piazza

“I still wouldn’t have called him a good catcher. I didn’t see how he could improve, defensively, given the tools he had: he was a tall, lanky guy who was slow.” — Pedro Martínez

13Bill Freehan1961197644.733.718.322.5
14Jorge Posada1995201142.732.916.823.2
15Roy Campanella

Campanella earned a paycheck as a professional catcher when he was 15, and at the age of 17 he was one of the best receivers in the negro leagues. It took nearly a decade for him to play with men of all colors, as the granite backstop of the Brooklyn Dodgers. But once he did, he was awarded the MVP three times.

16Mickey Cochrane

“I don’t know of any catcher who could out-run him.” — Branch Rickey

17Yadier Molina

Jim Sundberg with tattoos.

18Joe Torre

Joe Torre is the only major leaguer to win 2,000 games as a manager and also collect 2,000 hits in his playing career. The Baseball Gods like to even things out: Torre never played a postseason game, but he managed more postseason games than anyone.

19Gene Tenace1969198346.834.916.325.4
20Jim Sundberg

Sundberg was the first player to catch 130 games in a season ten times, something Tony Peña and Jason Kendall later also accomplished. He's the only player to catch 90 percent of his team’s games six times. Sundberg wasn't in the lineup because he was healthy, he was a hell of a catcher. “Sunny” won six straight Gold Gloves while Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson were in the league, which says something about his reputation.

21Gabby Hartnett1922194156.931.015.120.6
22Jason Kendall1996201041.730.414.620.0
23Darrell Porter1971198740.929.015.718.3
24J.T. Realmuto

Had his first 5-WAR season in 2022, and fourth of at least 4 WAR. Only 13 catchers have had as many as five 4-WAR seasons, and 10 of them are in the Hall of Fame.

25Lance Parrish1977199539.528.414.319.5
26Russell Martin2006201938.826.715.016.7
27Biz Mackey

Like Pudge Rodríguez and Mickey Cochrane, Mackey was a strong leader. He won a negro league title as a player and as a manager, and also won a championship in the Cuban League.

28Salvador Perez2011202232.324.113.115.2
29Brian McCann

Four catchers have had at least ten seasons with 20 or more homers: Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza (11 each), Yogi Berra, and McCann.

30Mickey Tettleton1984199729.424.714.920.7
31Roger Bresnahan1897191542.130.516.022.9
32Elston Howard1955196827.126.616.020.7
33Wally Schang1913193147.925.212.317.5
34Manny Sanguillen1967198027.626.413.718.9
35Tony Pena

Peña was guided to the big leagues by his mother, a professional softball player in the Dominican Republic. According to family legend, Rosalia Peña was as good or better than most of the men she played against. She was known for having a strong arm and being a good contact hitter.

36Javy Lopez1992200629.724.815.115.3
37Ernie Lombardi1931194739.525.012.317.7
38Louis Santop

When Santop died five days after his 53rd birthday in 1942, sportswriter Red Smith attended his funeral. Smith, who had covered Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Joe Medwick, said: “When [Santop] passed away, I got on a train, and I went to Philadelphia for his funeral, because I had seen him play and knew what he could do.”

39Victor Martinez2002201831.928.315.017.1
40Del Crandall1949196628.224.613.617.3
41Tom Haller1961197229.324.012.217.6
42Chris Hoiles1989199823.522.313.318.6
43Tim McCarver1959198028.321.512.817.3
44Terry Steinbach1986199928.021.510.915.6
45Darren Daulton1983199723.022.215.818.3
46Smoky Burgess1949196733.323.010.614.6
47Ed Bailey1953196627.
48Mike Scioscia1980199226.121.712.115.7
49Butch Wynegar1976198826.522.811.815.4
50Willson Contreras2016202220.820.911.915.3
51Walker Cooper1940195727.323.012.415.0
52Sherm Lollar

“Triandos may swing a slightly heavier bat, but he still isn’t the catcher Lollar is today. Right now, Lollar is the best all-around catcher in the league, maybe even the majors.” — Al Lopez, 1959

53Ray Schalk1912192933.022.010.518.0
54Terry Kennedy1978199121.619.311.617.0
55Jonathan Lucroy2010202117.719.213.717.6
56Charles Johnson

Johnson ranks second in Fielding Runs per season behind Yadier Molina, and sixth in career Fielding Runs nestled between Bob Boone and Johnny Bench. He was a fine catcher: quick with his feet and blessed with a strong arm. He was regarded highly in his prime, so much so that he was included in a trade for Mike Piazza, and he won four straight Gold Gloves.

57Bob Boone1972199027.420.210.512.2
58Mike Stanley1986200020.919.411.315.4
59Mike Napoli2006201726.322.712.716.6
60Jason Varitek1997201124.218.710.914.4
61Johnny Bassler1913192721.319.710.918.8
62Ramon Hernandez1999201322.118.810.614.9
63Rick Dempsey1969199225.117.49.412.7
64Rick Ferrell1929194729.819.79.116.6
65John Stearns

Stearns backed up veteran Jerry Grote for a few seasons before taking over as the starter. At one point he became so frustrated that he asked the Mets to send him to Tidewater so he could play regularly. He was selected for the All-Star team four times as a Met and his tough style of play made him a fan favorite.

66John Romano1958196720.920.011.815.0
67Matt Wieters2009202018.317.311.914.5
68John Roseboro1957197022.519.410.313.6
69A.J. Pierzynski1998201623.818.09.911.5
70Johnny Kling

“I know Johnny so well, I could throw the ball to home plate without signs, and he’d still get them all.” — teammate Jack Pfiester, a side-arming southpaw pitcher

71Steve O'Neill1911192826.120.612.116.8
72Chief Meyers1909191725.221.311.918.1
73Spud Davis1928194523.
74Carlos Ruiz2006201722.520.911.816.2
75Kurt Suzuki2007202219.518.310.011.4
76Joe Ferguson1970198321.019.713.29.9
77Andy Seminick1943195721.518.710.815.0
78Earl Battey

Battey won three Gold Gloves in the early 1960s for the Senators/Twins and was named an All-Star five times. He was, after Elston Howard and Bill Freehan, the best catcher in the American League in the 1960s, once finishing eighth in MVP voting.

79Ernie Whitt1976199118.318.38.913.1
80Quincy Trouppe1930195221.
81Bob O'Farrell1915193521.317.112.416.2
82Jody Davis1981199015.816.99.814.4
83Muddy Ruel1915193420.516.49.816.8
84Alex Avila2009202116.815.510.210.2
85Miguel Montero2006201814.315.311.513.4
86Hank Gowdy

Gowdy was the first active major league ballplayer to enlist in the service in World War I. He served in the 166th Infantry Regiment and was shipped to France, where he fought in the trenches. He missed nearly two full seasons, and when he returned he was hailed as a hero. Because of his celebrity, the U.S. Army sent Gowdy on a nationwide speaking tour. In World War II, he re-enlisted and was commissioned a captain at the age of 53. He’s the only major leaguer to serve in both world wars.

87Paul LoDuca1998200817.918.711.616.0
88Steve Yeager1972198617.914.78.112.2
89Benito Santiago1986200527.418.69.413.1
90Clay Dalrymple1960197116.814.810.513.0
91Don Slaught1982199719.314.77.211.1
92Brad Ausmus1993201016.515.09.711.2
93Bubbles Hargrave1913193016.417.912.313.9
94Harry Danning1933194214.715.710.713.9
95Hank Severeid1911192618.616.78.114.2
96Stan Lopata1948196015.316.29.913.3
97Yasmani Grandal2012202220.219.210.512.1
98Mike Lieberthal1994200715.314.79.111.7
99Ray Fosse1967197912.915.210.712.7
100Chris Iannetta2006201915.
CAREER = Career Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
We use bWAR.
LONG PEAK = WAR in best seven seasons.
SHORT PEAK = WAR in best three seasons.
PRIME = WAR in best five consecutive seasons.

How Do We Rank The Players?

That's a Great Question. In short, it isn't Simple.

We have gone to great lengths to make our All-Time Baseball Player Rankings as thorough as possible. We believe our rankings are the most comprehensive, fair, and accurate.

Players are evaluated on five criteria as the foundation of our rankings: 

  • Career Value
  • Long Peak
  • Short Peak
  • Career Prime Value
  • Contribution to Championship Teams

We use Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as a basis for these calculations. However, we also adjust for era, integration and level of competition, and missed playing time due to factors beyond the control of the player.

Generally, a player’s Career Value is worth about 50-60% of the ranking score we assign him. That leaves half or just under half from his long peak (seven best seasons), short peak (three best seasons), and prime (five best consecutive seasons). The contribution to championship teams (player performance in seasons where his team wins the pennant) is a small factor in most cases.

Because we adjust for timeline and era, our rankings have fewer players from before 1941 than many other baseball player lists.

We feel it’s important to acknowledge that baseball is harder to play today than it was 25 years ago, and 50 years ago, and so on. It doesn’t make sense, in our opinion, for most of the great baseball players to have played prior to World War II, when MLB was segregated.