The Tampa Bay Rays have never been known for their catchers. Approximately 36 different players have fielded the position for the Rays in the ballclub’s 21 years of existence, yet no one man stands out as the undeniable “best.” Conceding this point, I turned to Baseball-Reference.com for the numbers and to my own gut for the opinion to compile a list of the High-Five of Tampa Bay Catchers.
No. 1: Wilson Ramos
The Tampa Bay Numbers:
Batting Average: .281
Let the controversy begin.
How can Wilson Ramos, a man who played less than 150 games with the Rays, be Tampa Bay’s all-time best catcher? I argue the chief evidence for Ramos’ place at No. 1 can be found in the catchers at Nos. 2-5. But, first, let’s examine the ‘Buffalo’’s numbers before, with and after the Rays.
After signing with the Minnesota Twins in 2004 as an amateur free agent, Wilson Ramos played his rookie season with the Washington Nationals in 2011. In those 113 games, he posted 104 H, 15 HR and 52 RBI while batting .267 and claiming a .779 OPS. Ramos finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year batting that year.
The next three seasons Ramos lost the bulk of his playing time to injuries. He played a full season in 2015, recording 109 H, 15 HR and 68 RBI even though his BA dropped to .229.
In 2016, Ramos improved in every category. In 131 games, he collected 148 H, 22 HR, 80 RBI and batted .307 with an OPS of .850. He not only made the All-Star team, he won the Silver Slugger award for NL Catchers and finished 17th in the NL MVP voting. The last two honors, Ramos received despite suffering a season-ending ACL tear in September.
It was this injury that gave the Rays the opportunity to sign Ramos that December.Tampa Bay was taking a chance on the injured Ramos, a catcher they knew would not be able to play until at least two months into the 2017 season.
The gamble paid off.
In the 142 games he played behind the plate for the Rays his numbers soared again to pre-injury heights (see above). In the summer of 2018, Ramos earned the AL starting catcher nod at the All-Star Game.
Although it was no surprise, it still stung Tampa Bay fans when the ballclub traded their All-Star catcher to the Phillies in late July. The move was an economic one, a decision Rays’ fans have become sadly accustomed to over the years.
So, Ramos moved on to Philadelphia. He played 33 games with the Phillies, collecting another 30 H and 17 RBI. In December 2018, Ramos signed a two-year, $19 million contract with the New York Mets.
Wilson Ramos was very good before the Rays. He was very good with the Rays. The Mets are banking on him being very good after the Rays.
While Dioner Navarro and John Jaso both had very good seasons with Tampa Bay, they never repeated the feat. Flaherty and Hall had the consistency but never that one great season. As 2011, 2016 and 2018 proves, it is Ramos, alone, who has shown the ability to repeat greatness.
Wilson Ramos is a special player. And for those 142 games he was with the Rays, Ramos was the best catcher Tampa Bay ever had. End of story.