Last week, Banished to the Pen readers were asked to vote on where Gary Sanchez ranks in the current hierarchy of major league catchers. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference concur that he has 4.8 career WAR despite not yet participating in 100 major league games in his life. He has a career 159 wRC+ and has positively rated defensive metrics. He also arrived a time in which there are few good catchers in baseball and only one Buster Posey on a Hall of Fame career arc.

The poll had one question that simply asked, “How good is Gary Sanchez?” Here were the possible choices:

  • He’s #1! Move over, Posey!
  • Second best. Everyone who voted for #1 is stupid.
  • #3-5. He’s a great young player and he’s only getting started.
  • #6-10. We haven’t seen him play enough.
  • #10-20. He’s still a baby! He needs to finish a few full seasons.
  • #21 or lower. I hate the Yankees too much to be objective.

Without further ado, the results:

Not a single participant believes Sanchez is worse than the tenth best catcher in baseball. The vast majority voted for #3-5 and more than ¾ of respondents voted for either #2 or #3-5. It seems we can say confidently that Sanchez is a top five catcher in baseball right now. As of this writing he has 409 career plate appearances.

Of course, everyone has their own method of determining the value of baseball players. Some might weigh recent performance more heavily while others prefer a long track record of success. Catcher value is especially confounding because there is still so much we don’t know about defense. Furthermore, defensive value often fluctuates highly from year to year, and Sanchez has not yet played a full season’s worth of games in his entire major league career. Less than a year ago, scouts were not convinced he would be able to stay behind the plate defensively, and now he has already amassed 2.8 FRAA.

JAWS is often used to determine the value of a player as it relates to Hall of Fame voting. Sanchez is not close to having a calculable JAWS because a player really needs more than seven years experience for it to be viable. Nevertheless, here are the top five active catchers in JAWS*:

Name WAR WAR7 JAWS Yrs 2017 WAR
Buster Posey 35.8 34.5 35.2 9 2.4
Russell Martin 35.7 27.6 31.7 12 0.8
Yadier Molina 33.9 26.9 30.4 14 0.6
Brian McCann 30.6 24.2 27.4 13 1.7
Carlos Ruiz 22.1 21 21.6 12 0

These five catchers have combined for 23 All-Star appearances and 6 World Series championships. They collectively received MVP votes in 19 seasons, with Posey winning the award once and Molina achieving a pair of top five finishes. While some of them are undoubtedly on the downside of their careers, 59.3% of voters feel that Sanchez is already better than at least one player on this list. 25.9% think Sanchez slots in at #1 or #2.

Sanchez is only 24 years old. His 12 HR are second in the majors among catchers despite a month-long injury (Salvador Perez has 15). The first ~100 games of Sanchez’ career have been incredible. The next 1000 should be a lot of fun to watch.

 

*Joe Mauer actually has the highest JAWS among active “catchers”, but was was removed from these rankings because he’s no longer catching. Victor Martinez and Mike Napoli would also have cracked the top five but were not included for the same reason.

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