Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed the Diamondbacks and Rangers, and their hot starts. This week we’re going to tackle the game’s most demanding position.
Who is the best catcher in baseball?
R.J. Anderson: There are three answers I’d accept on this one: J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith, or Sean Murphy. Those three each rank in the top five for Wins Above Replacement accumulated since the start of the 2020 season. (The other two are Salvador Perez and Willson Contreras.) Realmuto is the legacy answer; Murphy is off to the best start of the three this season; and Smith seems to split the gap. I might go Smith as a result, but that’s because I’m a coward without conviction on this topic.
Matt Snyder: I was very tempted to be a prisoner of the moment and go with Sean Murphy. What an amazing start to the season he’s had. He’s certainly been the best catcher in baseball to this point in 2023. I just fall back on JT.. Realmuto being so much better last season and with him being 32 years old, I’m not convinced he’s giving in to age-related decline instead of just having a very mild slow start. He hasn’t even been bad. He’s been productive, just not as much as Murphy or the 2022 version of himself. Smith is absolutely in the mix as well and I agree with R.J. that it’s a three-man race. Perhaps I’ll revisit this during the All-Star break, but for now I’m sticking with Realmuto until we’ve had a larger sample of him being worse than either of these two.
Dayn Perry: I’ll get bold and possibly incorrect and say Adley Rutschman is already the best catcher in baseball. At this writing, he’s got a career OPS+ of 135 through his first 142 games, and suffice it to say that’s elite production by positional standards. He’s also an above-average defender, and he’s got the prospect pedigree to back up all of these skills and his performance at the highest level thus far.
Mike Axisa: Yeah, I’m with Dayn, and I was kind of curious to see whether I would be the only one to bring up Rutschman. He’s so good! Switch-hitter with power and patience and contact skills, great defense, good leadership ability. What more to do you want in a catcher? He’s perfect. I would take Rutschman over any catcher in baseball for the next five years, no questions asked, and I’d take him in 2023 too. Realmuto is the legacy pick and Murphy is fantastic as well, but give me Adley.