Johnny Bench
Best all-around catcher in history, hands down. Bench had tremendous power, provided superb defense, had a powerful throwing arm, and he was a great leader. Caught for four pennant-winning teams.
Gary Carter
Excellent peak and long career put him ahead of the others on this list. Was the heir apparent to Bench as best in baseball in the late 1970s, and caught for two great teams: the Expos (who underachieved) and the Mets.
Ivan Rodriguez
Rivals Bench as best defender. Great throwing arm, good power in his prime, but was his best as a line-drive hitter who got on base and fueled many great Rangers' lineups in the 1990s. Helped two teams to the World Series, winning once.
Carlton Fisk
A nice blend of offense, defense, and team leadership. A throwback who maintained his power well into his late 30s, set record for games caught.
Mike Piazza
Not a great defender, but the best hitting stats of any catcher in history. Best power to the opposite field of anyone on this list, he had a hard time throwing out basestealers, though.
Yogi Berra
A run producer and team leader who won 10 World Series rings as a player. Most of the guys on the Yanks' pitching staff credited Berra with some of their success, he was real easy to work with.
Bill Dickey
Long, productive career. Was more of a hitter for average, not as much power. Above average defender and good at blocking the plate. Won seven World Series titles. Edges Cochrane solely on longevity.
Mickey Cochrane
A unique offensive player with remarkable skills as a defender. Won title as player/manager with Tigers, and was starting catcher on five pennant-winning teams in seven-year stretch. Career shortened when he was nearly killed by a pitch that struck him in the head.
Ted Simmons
Excellent hitter who stayed healthy for a long time. Never that great behind the plate but caught until he was 33, then Dhed for a few seasons.
Gabby Hartnett
A notch below Dickey and Cochrane in his era, he was still a very good hitter. Better defebsively than Dickey, but not as dynamic as Cochrane. Clearly the best in the National League for a decade though.
Roy Campanella
At his peak, he was a lot like Bench. Many inconsistent seasons drop him below the others, but we boosted him up to give him credit for the five years (age 21-25) he lost due to the color barrier.
Thurman Munson
Better than Simmons at his peak, but career cut short, obviously. probably would rate ahead od Hartnett had he survived. One of six Yankees on this list (counting Schang).
Bill Freehan
Best catcher in baseball between 1960 and 1972, Freehan deserves more recognition. Handled pitchers and defended the plate as well as anyone in his era, and was a good hitter. Only real weakness was speed.
Joe Mauer
Will move up this list as the second half of his career fills out, but won't be able to move into the top five by playing most of his 30s as a first baseman, which seems likely.
Gene Tenace
Great stick and good plate discipline, Tenace was also a solid receiver. Part of three World Series champions and was still a very good offensive force in his mid-30s.
Jorge Posada
Solid, long career as part of Yankee dynasty. Made himself into an excellent defender and was decent enough with the bat. Ranking based largely on career value, his peak was pretty modest.
Ernie Lombardi
Big, slow, but a great hitter who hit the ball as hard as anyone in his time (he was known for leading the league in line drive outs). Won two batting crowns and an MVP award for the Reds. Along with Piazza, one of the worst defensive catchers on our list.
Jason Kendall
Offensively a bit like Cochrane, but not at his level. An average defensive player.
Wally Schang
Excellent catcher, especially at blocking the plate. Won three World Series titles with three different teams.
Darrell Porter
Very good at almost every aspect of the game: defense, pitch-calling, power, drawing walks.
Joe Torre
Also a third baseman for many years, and never a great catcher. Rates here almost solely on offense. It's probably unfair to rate him against the catchers, but he'd rate lower as a first baseman, and he only played about 500 games at third base.
Jim Sundberg
Along with Fisk, the best defensive catcher in the American League in the 1970s and early 1980s. Sundberg didn't hit much at all, but he was as good as almost anyone behind the dish wearing the mask.
Lance Parrish
As Bill James pointed out in his Historical Baseball Abstract, Parrish was a lot like Lombardi: strong with great power, slow runner, but a very fine defensive catcher, especially at cutting down the running game. Parrish is one of the few catchers to hit cleanup on a World Series winning team.
Victor Martinez
Still building his case, though he's doing it as a DH as of 2014. Martinez has more than 800 games behind the plate (about as many as Torre) and enough to keep him on this list, though he'll be discounted a bit if he keeps adding offensive numbers while not playing a defensive position.
Roger Bresnahan
In a very different era when catchers rarely caught 100 games a season, Bresnahan stood out as a versatile player. He was durable and he could play all over the diamond, also showing great athleticism. He was a favorite target for Giants' hurlers in the early 20th century.
Smoky Burgess
Javy Lopez
Mickey Tettleton
Manny Sanguillen
Yadier Molina
Elston Howard
Tom Haller
Del Crandall
Sherm Lollar
Walker Cooper
Ray Schalk
A really good defender behind the plate, Schalk lasted 18 years and had 12 seasons of 100 or more games caught. Despite hitting .250 with zero power (11 HR for his career), Schalk received MVP votes in four seasons. Still, he's a borderline Hall of Famer.
Ed Bailey
A big, hard-hitting catcher from Tennessee, Bailey was a five-time All-Star who peaked at 28 homers and maintained good power and pitch selection throughout his career. Trails only Bench and Lombardi among Cincinnati backstops.
Tim McCarver
After his 29th birthday, he was essentially a replacement level player, but prior to that, or essentially before 1972, McCarver was a very good catcher and an above average offensive player. He finished 2nd in 1967 NL MVP voting.
Rick Ferrell
Not a Hall of Famer by any stretch of the imagination, but he played a long time and was considered one of the best with the glove in his day. He was a mediocre offensive player, but not as bad as it seems because he did draw his share of walks and made a lot of contact.
Terry Steinbach
A solid catcher behind the plate and at bat, Steinbach suffered by hitting in Oakland where the park was tough on offense. He has the most freakish season of anyone on the list - hit 35 homers in 1996, 20 more than his next highest total.
Tony Pena
About 70% of his value came from his defense. He was the best at containing the running game in the 1980s, and he won four Gold Gloves. One of the few catchers to play until he was 40 years old.
Russell Martin
Like Wynegar, Martin's career started hot, as he racked up the 5th highest WAR in his first four seasons for a catcher in history (Bench, Piazza, Campy, Kendall). He's become a bit of a nomad after leaving the Dodgers, but if he can post 2-3 WAR each season into his mid-30s he'll climb this list steadily.
Butch Wynegar
At age 23 it looked like he might be a great one - his 12.7 WAR for his first four seasons ranks 10th among catchers. But he got injured a lot after that and also never ended up maturing into a power hitter. He was always a contact hitter who drew few walks and hit no more than 10 homers in a season. He was a good catcher though, which allowed him to stick in the majors for 13 years.
Mike Scioscia
Reknowned for his defensive ability, amazingly Scioscia never won a Gold Glove because Carter and Tony Pena won most of them in the NL in the 1980s. Scioscia was a rarity: a contact-hitting catcher, but he was only an average hitter. He could get on base by drawing some walks, though.
Bob Boone
One of the best behind the plate for handling a pitching staff, Boone was a pretty mediocre hitter, but still racked up some solid seasons due to his brilliant defensive play. Like Scioscia, he managed a long time in the majors after his playing career.
Darren Daulton
A prototypical take-charge catcher, Daulton was the leader of the Phillies in the 1990s and a fine ballplayer. Got a late start as an everyday player, but his peak was very good. Only five seasons of 100 games or more. Constantly battled knee problems.
Brian McCann
Could rise into the top 15 if he produces in his 30s for the Yankees. His 176 homers through age 29 rank 7th all-time for catchers. Is a lot like Thurman Munson defensively.
Chris Hoiles
Had excellent secondary skills: power and ability to get on base. Was blocked by Mickey Tettleton, otherwise he'd have been starting at the age of 24. Brief career was done by the age of 33 due to back/hip injuries, but he was good, and the best catcher to ever play for the Baltimore Orioles.
Benito Santiago
An excellent defensive catcher who was agile despite being 6'1. A free swinger, he only walked 430 times in 20 years.
Jason Varitek
Next to Fisk, the best catcher in the history of the Red Sox. Better hitter from the right side of the plate, showing power and discipline. Only won one Gold Glove because he shared the era with Pudge Rodriguez.