MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

2017's Top 10 right now: Catchers

2017's Top 10 right now: Catchers

MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series, looking at the best players at each position headed into 2017, will air two positions each Sunday night between Jan. 15 and Feb. 12. As each position is revealed, MLB.com's Mike Petriello, a participant in the show, will unveil his list along with the reasoning behind it. Rankings were compiled with a combination of subjective and analytical data, and no, batting average was not considered. We'll also include the rankings of "the Shredder," the MLB Network research department algorithm based on player performance that accounts for both offense and defense.

Position overview: Each year, it gets harder and harder to fill out 10 names on the catcher list, as the position is not deep and the same veteran names seem to pop up every single season. That said, two smashing 2016 debuts shake up the list a little, as does the fact that nearly every team now values framing as an important skill. (Note: Evan Gattis was considered a DH and not a catcher, for purposes of these rankings.)

Previous lists: First base | Second base | Shortstop | Third base | Left field | Right field | Starting pitcher | Relief pitcher

The list...

1. Buster Posey, Giants (Shredder rank: 1)
Even Posey's "worst year" -- and it was -- is still a pretty great year for a catcher. Posey's line of .288/.362/.434 (116 wRC+) was the lowest of any of his full seasons, and he went two full months between July 16 and Sept. 16 without hitting a home run. So while there's some concern about whether he can find that missing power, his line was still fifth-best of the 24 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, and according to Baseball Prospectus, he was the best pitch-framing catcher in baseball, adding +28 runs. When your "bad year" is this good, you're easily No. 1.

Posey thumbs up

2. Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers (Shredder rank: 3)
Grandal (+27 runs) was second only to Posey in 2016 pitch framing, and that's a big part of why he's ranked so highly. That's not the only reason, of course, because his .228/.339/.477 (122 wRC+) line along with 27 homers was the third-best of those 24 catchers with 300 plate appearances. In 2015, he was third-best of 28 catchers. That's value on both sides of the ball, and he's a good reminder that getting on base and hitting for power matters far, far more than a low batting average.

3. Jonathan Lucroy, Rangers (Shredder rank: 2)
After a below-average and injury-plagued 2015, Lucroy bounced back to put up a very good line of .292/.355/.500 (123 wRC+) with a career-high 24 homers for the Brewers and Rangers last year. While Lucroy is no longer the "best framer in baseball" that he once was, he still rated positive in the department in 2016, and Yu Darvish credited Lucroy with encouraging him to rely on his dominant high-spin fastball more often, to great effect. In three of the last four years, Lucroy has been one of baseball's best catchers. Barring injury, expect more of that in 2017.

4. Gary Sanchez, Yankees
What can you say about Sanchez and his historic debut? Not only did he destroy baseballs -- his .299/.376/.657 line (171 wRC+) was basically the equivalent of Mike Trout -- Sanchez dominated baserunners with his cannon of a throwing arm. The question isn't how good Sanchez was, it's how good he'll continue to be, because he did show signs of slowing in September (.225/.314/.520), and no one expects him to hit like Trout over a full season. Next year, Sanchez could easily be No. 1 or No. 12. We'll hedge our bets and place him fourth.

5. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (Shredder rank: 6)
After three straight years of declining offense, it seemed like the days of Molina as a star might be finally ending … and then he comes back and puts up a very good .307/.360/.427 (113 wRC+) line in 2016, along with an above-average +10 runs saved by framing. If Molina can repeat that again, he's still elite. That said, he'll be 35 this summer, with nearly 1,600 games behind the plate, and he threw out a career-low 21 percent of runners last year. Molina's a legend, but you can't ignore his age and how hard he's been worked.

.@Tsunamy27 leads the #STLCards rotation in 2016 with 9 games of 7 or more innings pitched.

6. Brian McCann, Astros
In many ways, McCann has been the model of consistency, as he's put up nine straight seasons of 20-26 homers, and he's still one of the better framers in the game, adding +10 runs in 2016. At 33 this year, there's no longer any further upside here, but there's certain value to reliability.

7. Willson Contreras, Cubs
Contreras didn't quite light up the sport like Sanchez did, but his important contributions to the 2016 Chicago title run shouldn't be overlooked, as he took the job over from veteran Miguel Montero nearly immediately after being recalled. Contreras' .282/.357/.488 line (126 wRC+) was actually better than any of the 24 catchers with 300 plate appearances, and while he didn't play enough to qualify, it helps to frame how well he hit. Contreras also showed a strong arm and versatility, starting 21 games in left field. Just what the Cubs need: More young talent.

8. Russell Martin, Blue Jays (Shredder rank: 5)
Martin's second year with Toronto ended up being league average (.231/.335/.398, 99 wRC+), but he sure got there in a roller-coaster way, hitting a poor .228/.314/.341 (78 wRC+) in the first half and a smashing .234/.359/.464 (123 wRC+) in the second half. (Yes, the batting average was identical. No, it doesn't matter.) Martin remains an elite framing catcher (+14 runs), but like many of the other names on this list, he's well into his 30s, and there's always concern for how a heavily-used catcher will age.

Russell Martin screams

9. Salvador Perez, Royals (Shredder rank: 9)
Speaking of "heavily-used" and "huge first half/second half splits," Perez was fantastic in the first half (.283/.318/.500, 114 wRC+), as he traded strikeouts for power, but was nearly unplayable after the break, hitting only .201/.248/.357 (55 wRC+). That second-half mark was the fourth-lowest of 188 hitters with 200 second-half plate appearances, and he's long been a below-average framer, at -13 runs in 2016. His importance to the Royals in ways that can't be quantified are obvious, but it's hard to rank him any higher than this.

10. J.T. Realmuto, Marlins (Shredder rank: 8)
Realmuto quietly had a very nice 2016, hitting .303/.343/.428 (107 wRC+), and is elite at getting rid of the ball quickly. (His average pop time of 1.89 on steal attempts of second was the best of the 57 catchers who had at least 10 attempts.) However, he is a poor framer (-13 runs), which he's been trying to work on, and has a limited track record.

JT Realmuto throws out Marte 

Just missed (in no order): Francisco Cervelli, Pirates (Shredder rank: 7); Wilson Ramos, Rays (Shredder rank: 4); Stephen Vogt, A's

Ramos had a fantastic season, and he would have ranked in the top five of this list if not for the late-season knee injury that is likely to keep him on the disabled list past Opening Day and might make him more of a designated hitter than a regular catcher with Tampa Bay. Cervelli maintained his great skills at framing (+11 runs) and getting on-base (.377), but hit only a single homer, and missed time with a variety of injuries.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.