I was quite surprised to see that, over the last 10 years, the Reds are an average team behind the plate, ranking 16th out of 30 teams both offensively and defensively. To be honest, I didn’t think we were that good.
Going deep 48 times, Devin Mesoraco hit the most homers but he also had the lowest batting average of the eight catchers with at least 100 plate appearances.
He enjoyed (I’m sure there is a more suitable word) eight seasons in Cincinnati but injuries prevented him from ever fulfilling his obvious potential.
To be honest, I’m not sure if he has retired now. I know there was animosity with the New York Mets for going back on a verbal agreement earlier this year. Apparently they had promised a spot on the 25-man roster but instead wanted to send him to Triple-A.
Venezuelan Ramon Hernandez hit .290 AVG, which is the best for the club, and his 113 wRC+ is also the highest among Reds catchers.
In a career which saw him represent six teams, Hernandez saved some of his best baseball for Cincinnati, posting a career-best .348 OBP while with the Reds.
Curt Casali is another catcher with an on-base percentage above .340 and triple-digit wRC+. We will look forward to seeing both traits again in 2020.
The former Tampa Bay Rays catcher matched a career-high with 84 appearances for the Reds last season. He is not only useful with the bat, but Casali also ranked as one of the best defensive catchers in the league.
In 348 games for the Reds, Ryan Hanigan accrued 11.7 WAR which is slightly more than Yankees Gary Sanchez has achieved over a similar number of games. I bring up this comparison to demonstrate how outstanding Hanigan’s work behind the plate was.
During the last 10 years, Hanigan ranks as a top-20 catcher but my choice for the Reds Catcher of the Decade is …
TUCKER BARNHARTEmbed from Getty Images
In the 10 years since 2010, Barnhart leads all other Reds catchers in runs and RBI. I know he has played more games, but there is a skill to always being there.
He is the beating heart and soul of a team that, at times, struggles to find a leader.
According to Baseball Prospectus defensive metrics, the 28-year-old was a top-5 catcher last season. That’s no mean feat given the quality of catchers across the league, and is an unappreciated reason for why our pitching staff produced such a good year.
Barnhart is only 28 years old, and I’m very happy if he is behind the plate when the Reds face the St Louis Cardinals on Opening Day on 26 March 2020.
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Photos by Tim Clayton