Top 10 Best Catchers for the 2024 MLB Season

The catcher position is on the rise in Major League Baseball, with more great backstops than in years past. Here are our top 10 for 2024.

Adley Rutschman
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 21: Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Bowman Field on August 21, 2022 in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

If you’re looking for the next star that could help the Houston Astros to sustain what’s been a borderline dynastic run over the last seven seasons, look no further than Yanier Diaz.

In just 104 games in his rookie season, Diaz homered 26 times, drove in 60 runs and posted an .846 OPS. Diaz could stand to walk more (11 times in 377 plate appearances a season ago), and gets mixed marks behind the plate (four defensive runs saved, -3.0 framing grade in 2023).

But his power profile is extremely intriguing, and with Martín Maldonado departing to join the Chicago White Sox in the offseason, Diaz should get an extended run at catcher in 2024.

Diaz, though, is one of the honorable mentions for our top 10 catchers list in 2024, having just missed out on cracking the countdown.

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As is Alejandro Kirk of the Toronto Blue Jays, who failed in 2023 to replicate a breakout offensive season from the prior campaign. En route to making an All-Star Game appearance and winning a Silver Slugger Award, Kirk hit .285 with 14 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .786 OPS in 2022. In 2023, he regressed to hitting .250 with eight home runs, 43 RBIs and a .692 OPS.

The good news for the Blue Jays is that Kirk remained an elite defender in 2023, posting a 17 defensive runs saved and a 9.6 mark in terms of his framing. The advanced metric of fielding run value graded Kirk at 14 in 2023, the third-best mark among catchers. With an offensive rebound in 2024, Kirk will likely be back on this list a year from now, and probably not at No. 10.

For now, Diaz and Kirk are on the outside looking in on our rankings, giving you an idea of how many talented catchers there are in the sport currently.

The following rankings were made by our senior staff members at Just Baseball. Jack McMullen, Peter Appel, Aram Leighton, Ryan Finkelstein, Leo Morgenstern and Colby Olson, each created their top player lists at each position and we took the composite average score to set our 2024 rankings.

10. Willson Contreras

Age: 31

2023 Stats: 380 PA, .264/.358/.467, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 6 SB, 127 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: -8 DRS, -10.3 FRM

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Rank: 10Rank: 8Rank: 11Rank: 8Rank: 12Rank: 7

The first season of a five-year, $87.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals saw some familiar themes for Contreras — tremendous offensive output, with some alarmingly bad defensive metrics.

Let’s start with the good. Contreras had a monster second half at the plate, slashing .309/.402/.557 with 10 home runs, 31 RBIs and a .959 OPS. That’s tier 1-type production from a catcher offensively, and served as a reminder of why after watching him play for the division-rival Cubs for seven seasons, the Cardinals jumped at the chance to sign Contreras as the successor to Yadier Molina.

However, Contreras’ defensive performance — or lack thereof — is in stark contrast to what the Cardinals got from Molina, a four-time Platinum Glove winner. Contreras had -8 defensive runs saved, and an unsightly -10.3 mark in terms of his framing ability.

In May, the Cardinals essentially had to reset with him behind the plate, going nine games without him catching. He has enough juice offensively to be a productive DH, but you don’t necessarily want him entrenched their for the remainder of his deal because it limits your ability to get other veterans — Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, for example — off their feet some days.

The reality is that Contreras still is an elite offensive performer for the catching position, but his defense has gotten so bad that he hurts the team behind the plate. First base isn’t currently an option with Goldschmidt there, and the type of offensive numbers he’ll put up aren’t as valuable when compared to other DHs as they are when he’s catching.

9. Francisco Alvarez

Age: 22

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2023 Stats: 423 PA, .209/.284/.437, 25 HR, 63 RBI, 2 SB, 97 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 7 DRS, 15.2 FRM

Rank: 8Rank: 9Rank: 7Rank: 9Rank: 10Rank: 10

Seen for a long time as one of the most promising prospects in the sport, Alvarez took over as the primary catcher for the New York Mets in 2023, delivering mixed results.

Alvarez has a chance to quickly develop into the best power-hitting catcher in baseball. In his rookie season, he homered 25 times, drove in 63 runs and posted a .437 slugging percentage.

Outside of those numbers, though, there wasn’t a ton to be excited about offensively in regards to Alvarez. He finished the season with a .209 batting average, and his .222 batting average on balls in play doesn’t suggest that he hit into bad luck and could be due for a massive spike this season.

Alvarez walked 34 times, which is far too low for a player whose offensive profile is predicated on hitting for power, and gives you an idea of why his on-base percentage was a meager .284.

Defensively, things were also a mixed bag. Alvarez finished 2023 with seven defensive runs saved and a 15.2 mark for his framing, both among the better marks at his position. However, from a more traditional sense, he had 13 errors and eight passed balls, both of which are causes for concern.

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Alvarez has a very high ceiling if he finds a way to get on base more consistently — whether that’s hitting for a bit more contact, working more walks or a combination of both — and continues to grow defensively.

But there are no guarantees he will reach his full potential, with some concerning trends.

8. Gabriel Moreno

Age: Turns 24 in February

2023 Stats: 423 PA, .284/.339/.408, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 6 SB, 103 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 20 DRS, -3.9 FRM

Rank: 9Rank: 10Rank: 8Rank: 10Rank: 9Rank: 5

Gabriel Moreno had a breakout season in 2023, and was crucial to the Arizona Diamondbacks making a shocking run to the World Series.

After being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays along with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Moreno slashed .284/.339/.408, while driving in 50 runs.

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While he struck out 20 times in the postseason, he also homered four times and drove in 12 runs, helping the Diamondbacks to upset the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies en route to the second NL pennant in franchise history.

Moreno’s meal ticket, though, is his glove. While he doesn’t get great marks for framing, he racked up a staggering 20 defensive runs saved, while throwing out 22 would-be base stealers and allowing just one passed ball the entire season.

If Moreno continues to develop offensively, he has All-Star potential, especially given that he’s one of the elite defenders in the sport.

7. Jonah Heim

Age: 28

2023 Stats: 501 PA, .258/.317/.438, 18 HR, 95 RBI, 2 SB, 103 wRC+, 4.1 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 6 DRS, 9.3 FRM

Rank: 6Rank: 7Rank: 10Rank: 7Rank: 5Rank: 9

For a team that went on to win the World Series, Heim delivered both elite defense and run production for Bruce Bochy’s Texas Rangers a year ago.

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In addition to six defensive runs saved and an excellent framing mark (9.3), Heim posted a 13 fielding run value, tied for the eighth-best mark among all qualified defenders in 2023. It should come as no surprise then that Heim took home his first Gold Glove Award a year ago.

Additionally, he led all catchers with 95 RBIs, with no on else above 80 at the position. Heim will probably be hard-pressed to replicate that type of RBI total in 2024 given that he had a more modest 48 RBIs in 2022, but he’s certainly in a lineup that should allow him to come up with plenty of runners in scoring position, so who knows.

One thing to watch in 2024 is Heim’s workload at catcher. Last regular season he caught 993 1/3 innings behind the plate, and that was with Mitch Garver being able to spell him on occasion.

Garver signed with the Seattle Mariners in the offseason, so it seems likely Heim will catch over 1,000 innings for the first time in his career in 2024.

6. J.T. Realmuto

Age: Turns 33 in March

2023 Stats: 540 PA, .252/.310/.452, 20 HR, 63 RBI, 16 SB, 102 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: -4 DRS, -12.2 FRM

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Rank: 7Rank: 3Rank: 6Rank: 6Rank: 7Rank: 6

The half decade or so run that Realmuto had as the best catcher in baseball may be over, but he’s still one of the better players at a premium position.

Realmuto was still a force in terms of throwing out would-be basestealers in 2023, nabbing 22. But the two-time Gold Glove Award winner saw noticeable dips year over year in terms of defensive runs saved (11 in 2022; -4 in 2023) and his framing grade (1.1 in 2022; -12.2 in 2023).

Likewise on offense, Realmuto still homered 20 times and drove in 63 runs, but saw other aspects at the plate go down relative to his peak years. In 2022, Realmuto hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage. In 2023, he hit .252 with a .310 on-base percentage.

The 1.5 fWAR that Realmuto posted a season ago is the lowest mark in his five seasons as a Phillie, and that includes the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Just Baseball’s Leo Morgenstern did a deep dive into why that is over on FanGraphs.

From here, Realmuto could benefit greatly from the Phillies easing up his workload a bit — even if he doesn’t want them to — as he approaches his mid-30s. Even before a second straight deep playoff run, Realmuto caught a career-high 1,142 innings last season, the sixth time in his career he’s gone over 1,000 innings.

By comparison, Will Smith caught 959 innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Adley Rutschman caught 934 2/3 innings for the Baltimore Orioles and Sean Murphy caught 866 innings for the Atlanta Braves.

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A combination of more frequent off days, playing some first base and occasionally DHing would probably help the Phillies to get a better version of Realmuto in 2024 than they did in 2023.

5. Sean Murphy

Age: 29

2023 Stats: 438 PA, .251/.365/.478, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 129 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 8 DRS, 6.5 FRM

Rank: 4Rank: 5Rank: 5Rank: 5Rank: 6Rank: 8

The Atlanta Braves acquired Murphy in a trade with the Oakland Athletics last offseason, and shortly thereafter, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos signed him to a very team-friendly six-year, $73 million extension, with a $15 million club option for 2029.

In his first season with the Braves, Murphy was an All-Star, but his new team did a very good job of protecting their long-term investment by retaining veteran Travis d’Arnaud and limiting the workload of Murphy.

It can be argued that Murphy should see a little more time behind the plate than he did a year ago, when he caught 866 innings over 108 games, but the Braves won’t always have another starting-caliber catcher to pair with Murphy. While they have d’Arnaud, managing Murphy makes sense.

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When Murphy did play a year ago, he was excellent, homering 21 times, walking 49 times and posting an .844 OPS across 438 plate appearances. The former Gold Glove Award winner also posted eight defensive runs saved.

In one of the deeper lineups that the sport has ever seen, only reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and two-time All-Star Austin Riley are projected to post a higher fWAR in 2024 than the 4.0 of Murphy.

4. Cal Raleigh

Age: 27

2023 Stats: 569 PA, .232/.306/.456, 30 HR, 75 RBI, 111 wRC+, 4.7 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 2 DRS, 8.4 FRM

Rank: 5Rank: 6Rank: 4Rank: 4Rank: 4Rank: 4

Raleigh isn’t going to compete for batting titles or challenge Juan Soto for the league lead in on-base percentage, but “Big Dumper” has delivered tremendous power production from the catcher position over the last two seasons for the Seattle Mariners.

Since the start of the 2022 season, Raleigh has clubbed 57 home runs, 11 more than any catcher over that timespan. Over that same period, he’s fifth in RBIs (138). Additionally, Raleigh raised his batting average from .211 in 2022 to .232 in 2023, while also increasing his on-base percentage 22 points year-over-year.

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We tend to think of big, power-hitting catchers as defensive liabilities, but Raleigh doesn’t fit that mold. In parts of three MLB seasons, he has 15 defensive runs saved and a 19.3 mark for his framing. Raleigh also posted a seven fielding run value in 2023, tied for seventh among all catchers.

Raleigh will become eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2025, and can’t become a free agent until after the 2027 season. Whether the always-active Jerry DiPoto holds onto him for the next four seasons or not, Raleigh is of tremendous value currently given how little he’s making.

3. William Contreras

Age: 26

2023 Stats: 611 PA, .289/.367/.457, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 6 SB, 124 wRC+, 5.4 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 5 DRS, 14.4 FRM

Rank: 2Rank: 4Rank: 2Rank: 3Rank: 3Rank: 3

For as much credit as we gave Murphy above, the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Contreras from the Atlanta Braves in the three-team deal that also involved the Oakland Athletics, and they may have made out the best of anyone.

Contreras added some much-needed thump to Milwaukee’s lineup in 2023, hitting 17 home runs, driving in 78 runs and posting an .825 OPS. Contreras took home the Silver Slugger Award for the NL, and even received some down-ballot votes for the senior circuit’s MVP, finishing 11th.

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We were very critical of his older brother’s defense above, but Contreras graded out very well behind the plate in his first season with the Brewers, posting five defensive runs saved and earning a 14.4 framing rating. Both of those were massive increases over his final season in Atlanta, where Contreras finished with -4 defensive runs saved and a -2.8 mark in terms of his framing.

There’s a strong argument to be made that Contreras was the best catcher in the NL last season, and he won’t even become eligible for arbitration until 2025, so the Brewers appear to have struck gold with this acquisition.

2. Will Smith

Age: Turns 29 in March

2023 Stats: 554 PA, .261/.359/.438, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 3 SB, 119 wRC+, 4.4 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 12 DRS, 1.7 FRM

Rank: 3Rank: 2Rank: 3Rank: 2Rank: 2Rank: 2

For quite a while — including on Team USA’s 2023 World Baseball Classic team — Smith has played second fiddle to J.T. Realmuto. But after a down year for Realmuto, Smith has grabbed the ranking of top catcher in the NL.

Across his first five MLB seasons, Smith has slashed .261/.357/.483 with 91 home runs, 306 RBIs and an impressive .840 OPS. He’s been a force in his career with runners in scoring position, posting an .897 OPS in such situations, while leading the NL in sacrifice flies in both 2021 (11) and 2023 (12).

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Smith has yet to win a Gold Glove Award, but that’s probably in his future. He’s improved as a framer, while posting 24 defensive runs saved since the start of the 2021 season. He has just 13 total errors and 18 passed balls in a half decade behind the dish for the Dodgers.

The 29-year-old remains under team control through the 2025 season, and it will be interesting to see how president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman proceeds with him.

He’s one of the best catchers in baseball, but he’ll be entering his age-31 season by the time he reaches free agency. And the Dodgers don’t have much wiggle room to move Smith elsewhere if he gets to a point where he can’t be a full-time catcher.

Freddie Freeman is signed to play first base through 2027, and it’s entirely possible the Dodgers will want to retain the future Hall of Famer beyond that. Two-time AL MVP Shohei Ohtani is going to be the primary DH for the Dodgers for the next decade.

So the Dodgers will have to feel comfortable that Smith will be able to handle the workload of being a full-time catcher into his mid-30s to retain him beyond the 2025 campaign. Whatever happens over the long-term, Los Angeles is guaranteed two more seasons of an All-Star caliber catcher.

1. Adley Rutschman

Age: Turns 26 in February

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2023 Stats: 687 PA, .277/.374/.435, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 1 SB, 127 wRC+, 5.1 fWAR
2023 Defensive Metrics: 2 DRS, 7.1 FRM

Rank: 1Rank: 1Rank: 1Rank: 1Rank: 1Rank: 1

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft has quickly established himself as the best catcher in baseball, and one of many examples of superstars around the sport that general manager Mike Elias was responsible for drafting.

Rutschman had to settle for runner-up in 2022 AL Rookie of the Year voting to Julio Rodríguez, but came back with an even better second season, hitting 20 home runs, driving in 80 runs, walking 92 times and posting an .809 OPS. Rutschman played in 154 games a year ago, but manager Brandon Hyde limited his workload behind the plate, giving him 203 plate appearances as DH in 2023.

That’s not to say Rutschman isn’t a strong defensive catcher, although he did decline from posting 18 defensive runs saved in his rookie season to just two a year ago. But he still received a strong mark in terms of his framing (7.1) and went the entire season without allowing a passed ball.

It’s always difficult to project how catchers will age, and how long teams will keep elite offensive players playing a position that is so physically demanding. But we’ll say this, Rutschman is probably the most impressive young catcher to enter the league since Buster Posey, who has a real chance to be a Hall of Famer some day.