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Oct 24, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hits a RBI single in the second inning of game five of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark. (Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE)

Ranking the NLC Catchers: Molina Leads Group

I believe there can be little argument with the title as Yadier Molina is the top guy in the division, if not all of baseball. Yes, he’s a thorn in the side of the Reds and their fans, and he’s not our friend, but he’s on a level tht no one within the National League Central can approach.

At least not right now. Despite Molina’s presence, the remainder of the division’s backstops tend to be overlooked. This is a pretty deep bunch even with the platoon situation in Cincinnati with Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco. Even with the aging Rod Barajas taking over in Pittsburgh. Even with a young Jason Castro returning after missing all of 2011.

And I didn’t even mention the other two. And they’re good, too.

1. Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Coming off his best offensive season. Molina will more then likely show a slight regression offensively (as projections show), but his defense usually recovers the majority of that difference. In looking at his caught stealing numbers, he did fall off in 2011.

Then again, who is willing to send a runner with Molina behind the plate?

Estimated WAR: 4.0

2. Geovany Soto, Chicago
Not slick defensively, but not as bad as we may be led to believe. Not a huge threat at the plate, but can change a game with one swing. That last part will need to change for 2012 as the Soto is the Cubs second home run threat next to Alfonso Soriano.

Not sure where new skipper Dale Sveum will look to put Soto in his batting order. One site has him tentatively batting sixth, but that’s also with assumption that Bryan LaHair bats cleanup.

Estimated WAR: 3.2

3. Johnathan Lucroy, Milwaukee
2011 was his first full season as the starter and did he ever come through for Ron Roenicke and the Brewers. Continued progression is reasonable. Projected for 12 homer, but more may be needed without the big guy around.

At only 25, Lucroy could be a face Berewers fans see for an extended period of time.

Estimated WAR: 2.8

4. Ryan Hanigan, Cincinnati
Regressed a bit with the bat in 2011 compared to 2010, but Hanigan is under appreciated defensively. Will share duties with rookie Devin Meoraco in what could be a position of strength for the Reds.

If the bat comes around more toward 2010 levels, the Reds will have something here.

Estimated WAR: 2.9 (Mesoraco: 2.0)

5. Rod Barajas, Pittsburgh
Sure, he’s getting long in the tooth (36), but Barajas can still play, and play at a decent level. The issue will be health and the Pirates haven’t had too much luck with catcher’s staying healthy, using eight different backstops in 2011.

It’s a stop gap, but not a bad one to have.

Estimated WAR: 1.6

6. Jason Castro, Houston
Coming off a serious knee injury is never a good thing, but Castro is young enough (24) where the recovery should be all right. The questions will be many and the answers may be few. Might need another season, but a decent 2012 is not beyond reasonable expectations.

Another youngster the Astros have that may provide excitment for 2013 more than 2012.

Estimated WAR: 1.6


1. Molina
2. Soto
3. Lucroy
4. Hanigan
5. Barajas
6. Castro

Again, Molina is #1. I had no qualms in determining the last three spots either. I do hold two questions regarding Hanigan. Could he handle more playing time and not suffer statistically if Mesoraco cannot latch on to MLB stuff. Also, could he rebound offensively.

To me, Barajas is the wild card. He could be as high as third, but also be the bottom guy. His bat seemingly has a lot of pop still in it. It may come down to staying healthy and seeing more time than he has over the past two seasons. Those seasons were pretty good offensive seasons, too.

I did have a slight difficulty with Soto and Lucroy. That is mainly due to Lucroy cloming out of the woodwork last season. Soto has more power and a slightly better glove. I could have put Hanigan #3, and I might have if I knew he would see more playing time.

Even with the ease in which I could put these guys into the respective slots, this position might be the deepest. I know second base is pretty stout, but let’s not forget those that wear the “tools of ignorance”. Might be the second deepest position for the division


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Tags: Baseball Chicago Cubs Cincinnati Reds Geovany Soto Houston Astros Jason Castro Jonathan Lucroy Milwaukee Brewers MLB National League Central NL Central Pittsburgh Pirates Rod Barajas Ryan Hanigan St Louis Cardinals Yadier Molina

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