Stephen Vogt Is The American League’s Best Catcher

The American League had a pretty decent crop of catchers to pick from in the voting for this year’s All-Star Game. That’s what makes it disappointing that the nod went to Kansas City’s Salvador Perez. There were at least two, and maybe even three better choices. And the one most clearly deserving to start on Tuesday night in Cincinnati was Oakland’s Stephen Vogt.

Vogt’s on-base percentage is .371 and he slugs. 485, both easily the best among American League catchers. He does it with a batting average of a respectable .283 and then combines the plate discipline attributes that made Moneyball famous to drive the OBP up to the levels of an excellent player.

The slugging percentage, keyed by 13 home runs is even more impressive, given that Oakland is a notoriously tough place to hit. Of the three catchers who could realistically challenge Vogt for the honor of best in the American League—Perez, Toronto’s Russell Martin and Brian McCann with the Yankees—Vogt easily has the toughest home venue in which to hit. Yet his numbers, even without factoring that in, are decisively the best.

Vogt was surely hurt in the fan voting by the fact he’s a late arrival. At age 30, this is his first year of real significance. He was already old by September call-up standards when he got a cup of coffee with Tampa Bay in 2012. His official rookie year came in 2013 in Oakland. This season’s 272 at-bats are already a career high.

The performance of Vogt’s team hasn’t exactly helped matters either. Vogt’s A’s and Perez’s Royals have gone diametrically opposite directions since their epic wild-card game last October. Oakland has the worst record in the American League while Kansas City has the best. But since when is team performance a prerequisite for being an All-Star catcher?

By contrast, while Perez his hitting home runs—his 14 are the best among AL catchers—his offensive game is not nearly as well-rounded. The OBP is a woeful .274, thanks to only five walks. When you bat .262, there’s got to some plate discipline added to it if you want to be an All-Star. I understand Perez is an excellent defensive catcher and if this were a truly bad crop of catchers, which we have seen in the past, his choice would be justified. But not when Vogt is there waiting.

Martin and McCann have their own cases to make. Martin has a .338 OBP and .463 slugging percentage, both substantially better than Perez. And if we give Perez credit for his defensive calls, we have to give Martin credit for his veteran savvy in handling a pitching staff. McCann’s case isn’t quite as strong—his .333/.463 stat line in the hitter haven of Yankee Stadium is not spectacular.

I’d probably pick Perez over McCann, with both of them far behind Martin and even farther behind Vogt. The Oakland catcher has 54 RBI, tied with Miguel Cabrera who has a comparable number of at-bats and only two behind Albert Pujols who has more.

Face it, if this Oakland team were as good as what we’ve seen the last three years, Vogt would be in the MVP conversation. At the very least, he got picked to go to Cincinnati as a reserve. But he should be starting.