Being a former junior-varsity back-up catcher with a pop time of about 5 and a caught stealing percentage of 0% — I have the perfect qualifications to write this column. 

Pop time for the un-initiated is another in a long line of new-age states that we nerds are using to quantify the game of baseball. The long and short of this stat is quite simple: it reflects how quickly a catcher can grab the ball from his glove and whip it to a certain base to catch the stealing runner. The lower the number, the better! However — that doesn’t tell the whole story of a catcher’s success rate at throwing out a runner. You can have a pop time of half a second and throw it over the second baseman’s head every single time and you quickly realize why you never made it to the varsity back-up catcher level.

For the purpose of this article I took a look at each team’s projected starting catcher (or catchers) and ranked them via their 2019 pop time (couldn’t find 2020’s data — sorry!) and paired this with their caught stealing percentage from 2019 and 2020 combined. There are some guys (like Ryan Jeffers) who didn’t record a pop time in 2019 so they’re only being judged on their caught-stealing rate. Unfair? Maybe. Happening anyway? Oh you betcha! 

Below I’ve grouped these guys together by the division they’ll be playing in so I can point out who benefits/suffers based on who they’re playing their most games against. I could’ve ranked and tiered them — but what fantasy info is there to glean from that if you’re not using defensive categories? At least this way, maybe you’ll see that a certain team/division has strong or weak catchers in it which helps certain runners or hurts certain pitchers.  

 

AL East

Rank Player Team Division Pop Time 2019 Pop Rank CS% CS% Rank Average
5 Mike Zunino TB AL East 1.97 8 35.59% 5 6.5
6 Christian Vazquez BOS AL East 1.97 8 35.23% 6 7
15 Gary Sanchez NYY AL East 1.94 4 24.24% 22 13
16 Pedro Severino BAL AL East 1.98 12 26.09% 19 15.5
22 Danny Jansen TOR AL East 2.05 24 28.74% 15 19.5
31 Chance Sisco BAL AL East 2.1 30 17.39% 30 30

 

Who it benefits:

Who it hurts:

  • Orioles Starting Pitchers: If Chance Sisco is behind the dish-co, expect a lot of extra movement on the basepaths. 
  • Austin Hays: The only real double-digit stolen base threat on the Orioles has three tough catchers to face in Zunino, Vazquez, and yea, even Sanchez. 

 

AL Central

Rank Player Team Division Pop Time 2019 Pop Rank CS% CS% Rank Average
3 Roberto Perez CLE AL Central 1.97 8 47.62% 1 4.5
6 Salvador Perez KC AL Central 1.98 12 44.44% 2 7
24 Yasmani Grandal CWS AL Central 2.08 28 29.20% 13 20.5
27 Wilson Ramos DET AL Central 2 18 15.86% 31 24.5
28 Mitch Garver MIN AL Central 2.04 22 21.15% 28 25
34 Ryan Jeffers MIN AL Central 12.50% 33 33

 

Who it helps:

Who it hurts:

  • Spencer Turnbull, DET: Since 2019 Turnbull is 5th among starting pitchers in stolen bases allowed. Unfortunately, he’ll now be throwing to Wilson Ramos who was 31st of the 34 guys in this article in caught stealing percentage. Over that same time period the two pitchers with the most stolen bases allowed are Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom — guess who was catching for them with the Mets? Wilson Ramos. Now Syndergaard and deGrom were obviously able to limit the damage allowed by base runners getting an immediate extra base, but is Turnbull as skilled as Syndergaard and deGrom? I don’t think so. 

 

AL West:

Rank Player Team Division Pop Time 2019 Pop Rank CS% CS% Rank Average
9 Sean Murphy OAK AL West 1.97 8 29.63% 11 9.5
11 Martin Maldonado HOU AL West 1.96 6 27.59% 16 11
21 Jose Trevino TEX AL West 2.07 26 29.63% 12 19
25 Jason Castro HOU AL West 2 18 21.57% 26 22
29 Max Stassi LAA AL West 2.04 22 17.39% 29 25.5
32 Kurt Suzuki LAA AL West 2.07 26 12.05% 34 30
33 Luis Torrens SEA AL West 15.79% 32 32

 

Who it helps:

  • Myles Straw, HOU: As it stands right now, Straw is penciled in as the Astros starting center fielder. Straw is strictly a burner on the basepaths having only 5 total professional HRs in 2,030 major and minor league ABs since being drafted in 2015. In that time he’s also stolen 186 bases including a 70 SB season in 131 games in 2018. Straw gets three strong SB match-ups in the Angels, Mariners, and Rangers

Who it hurts:

  • Dylan Bundy: Ranked 8th in stolen bases allowed since 2019, Bundy’s situation with runners on base doesn’t get any easier with the Angels signing Kurt Suzuki. I also can’t see Max Stassi taking a huge leap forward as he returns from hip surgery.  

 

NL East

Rank Player Team Division Pop Time 2019 Pop Rank CS% CS% Rank Average
1 J.T. Realmuto PHI NL East 1.89 1 42.86% 3 2
8 Jorge Alfaro MIA NL East 1.94 4 28.99% 14 9
12 Yan Gomes WAS NL East 1.96 6 27.16% 17 11.5
18 James McCann NYM NL East 2.06 25 31.82% 8 16.5
20 Travis d’Arnaud ATL NL East 1.98 12 22.37% 25 18.5

 

Who it helps:

  • Vince Velasquez, PHI: Velasquez has always tantalized and sensationalized us with his strikeout potential, but last year’s 4.5 BB/9 also showed us his downside. Realmuto will help limit the number of extra bases from all those batters VV walks. 

Who it hurts:

  • Ronald Acuna: Acuna will still get his 25-30 SBs, but he’ll have a tougher time doing it in his home division. He’s got the cream of the crop in Realmuto and two other solid catcher arms in Alfaro and Gomes. 

 

NL Central

Rank Player Team Division Pop Time 2019 Pop Rank CS% CS% Rank Average
4 Willson Contreras CHC NL Central 1.91 2 30.86% 10 6
7 Jacob Stallings PIT NL Central 1.99 12 36.17% 4 8
10 Yadier Molina STL NL Central 1.98 12 31.71% 9 10.5
23 Tucker Barnhart CIN NL Central 2.01 21 26.67% 18 19.5
30 Omar Narvaez MIL NL Central 2.08 28 21.28% 27 27.5

 

Who it helps:

  • One of the tougher divisions due to the presence of three top-10 catcher arms: Contreras, Stallings, and good old Yadi. 
  • Steven Brault, PIT: Last year’s mini-breakout for Brault was due to putting his total trust in catcher Jacob Stallings and letting him call the games. The battery seemed to work: in his 8 starts with Stallings he had a 3.12 ERA/.176 BAA and in his 3 starts with John Ryan Murphy he had a 4.50 ERA/.267 BAA. Small sample size to be sure — but there are starts to be had here and if he carries over this trust — the breakout could continue.  

Who it hurts:

 

NL West

Rank Player Team Division Pop Time 2019 Pop Rank CS% CS% Rank Average
13 Elias Diaz COL NL West 1.93 3 24.62% 21 12
14 Buster Posey SF NL West 2 18 32.43% 7 12.5
17 Carson Kelly ARI NL West 1.99 12 26.09% 20 16
19 Will Smith LAD NL West 1.99 12 22.92% 24 18
26 Austin Nola SD NL West 24.14% 23 23

 

Who it helps:

  • Trevor Bauer, LAD: He’s going from Curt Casali and Tucker Barnhart who had 2.07 and 2.01 pop times in 2019 to Will Smith who has a slightly better 1.99. Not a huge difference-maker, but maybe an extra runner or two getting thrown out here and there will help slightly prevent Bauer’s obvious regression we’re all expecting. 

Who it hurts:

  • Yu Darvish, SD: Don’t get it twisted, Darvish is still going to be fine from an individual pitcher perspective, but on the basepaths, he is going from Willson Contreras, the guy with the second-fastest pop time and 10th best caught stealing percentage — to Austin Nola who is 31 years old and has only called 42 big league games behind the plate. 
 
  1. Coolwhip says:
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    That’s some mightly fine research there Kerry. Good info to have in drafts and sit/starts during season. One thing to point out though, Darvish will not be caught by Nola just like Contreras didn’t, the trade included Darvish and his personal catcher Caratini. So he retains the same guy behind the plate. Is there any data on Caratini?

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry William Klug says:
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      In 2019 Caratini actually had a 2.08 pop time and a CS% of 17% —both were among the league worst

      • Coolwhip says:
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        Ah, good to know. Thanks Kerry! He’s known for his calling/framing not holding runners haha

  2. Jimmy says:
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    Nice article! This question is off topic….Clint Frazier has been pencilled in as a starter in the Yankee OF… him or Nick Solak?
    Thank you!

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      I’m pretty high on Solak for this year with the dual eligibility.

  3. foxman says:
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    Great research, can’t wait to put this to use.
    AL Central definitely looks weak at defensive catcher.
    How many bases is Mondesei going to rip in the AL Central alone? Wow! Can’t wait!

  4. The blue jays will play at least 12 homes games(until may2) in Dunedin Florida. Nice way to start off April. Maybe draft them and sell high

  5. Rocky61 says:
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    Interesting information!
    Would like to see all the backup catchers.
    You mention that Darvish will be impacted in a negative way, but don’t forget that he brought his own personnal catcher with him. How does Caratini compare to Nola?
    Keep up the good work.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      I Totally forgot he had his own guy! n 2019 Caratini actually had a 2.08 pop time and a CS% of 17% —both were among the league worst.

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