A good chunk of attention focused on catchers this year has mainly been centered around Alex Avila and Matt Wieters, two first time all-stars who are also enjoying fine breakout seasons. Joe Mauer has dealt with his fair share of injuries accompanied by a lousy season in general but is still "Joe Mauer" and Victor Martinez who has barely played the position has contributed to the Tigers offense a great deal. However, it's extremely possible that the American League's best catcher isn't even among the four that I mentioned. That would be Indians catcher Carlos Santana, who, in the eyes of many has already developed into the star that people foresaw a few years ago.
Carlos Santana...wow, where do we even start? Following a season last year in which he not only dealt with bad luck, but injuries too, the Indians hope and expectations for the twenty-four year old catcher included eventual stardom, even if it didn't appear right away. A 2.3 WAR, behind the plate albeit, doesn't equal stardom in my eyes but it does in fact show how productive he's been this year. And yet, it isn't the only advanced statistic that can be used to show why Carlos Santana is currently the best catcher in the AL.
Despite lowered walk and strikeout rates this season from his previous year, Carlos Santana is still superior to other American League catchers in that category. Santana posses' a BB% of 17.2% and a K% of 19.4% -- against Alex Avila who is second best with a 12.4% BB% and a 24.1% K%. In addition, his peripherals continue to impress as he beholds the lowest O-Swing % among AL catchers. While he's shown the most plate discipline within his category, he's also shown the most proponent plate recognition.
The biggest problem for Santana has been bad luck on balls in play. He's dealt with a BABIP below league average the past two years, this season at .254. Even so, it hasn't greatly affected his other offensive statistics as he's just third in the AL in wRC+ and wOBA behind Avila and Victor Martinez. Both of whom, however, have been extremely lucky on balls in play this year (BABIP: Avila at .349 & Martinez at .332) and as I previously mentioned, Martinez has played minimal time behind the plate this year. He's been in the crouching position just 192 innings whereas Santana has played the position 491 innings.
Santana boasts a .349 wOBA and a wRC+ of 121, both well above average in their respective categories and a fine mark for a catcher. Heck, most position players would give a left leg for a runs created post of 121. Additionally, Santana has eclipsed Avila in home runs despite accumulating around 70 more plate appearances than the Tigers backstop. Santana has been worth just .4 less wins than Avila but again, he's been almost one-hundred points unluckier.
It's unclear how much of an impact he's had on what has been a pretty successful Indians pitching staff, but Carlos Santana has certainly played his part with the bat. Whether the Indians brass aware that Santana is already developing in to one of the elitist of catchers in the business, it is clear that he has already made huge strides to reaching that pinnacle.