Best Baltimore Orioles Catchers in Team History [All-Time List!]

Many Baltimore Orioles catchers have taken the field over the years, but only a few stand out above the pack.

This article focuses on those top catchers in Baltimore Orioles history based on a player's  single-season and career wins above replacement (WAR).

Keep scrolling to learn more!

best baltimore orioles catchers

Background on the Orioles

Legendary owner Bill Veeck sold the St. Louis Browns to a group of Baltimore businessmen after the 1953 season. These new owners renamed the team the Orioles and the newly re-branded franchise began playing in 1954 at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

Since their inaugural '54 season, the Orioles have won three World Series championships and they have fielded a wide variety of Hall of Fame players (guys like Ripken, Robinson, and Palmer). 

Some very talented catchers have also played for the O's over the years. This article explores these men in more detail, as we highlight Baltimore's best backstops since '54.

clint courtney 1954 orioles

Orioles catcher Clint Courtney hits the first home run at Memorial Stadium, in 1954.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is a metric in baseball that is used to quantify the overall value and amount of contribution of an MLB player to his team.

For much more detail on the topic, we'd suggest reading this

In our opinion, WAR is the best single metric to understand a player's value. So in this article, we looked back at each catcher to have played for the Baltimore Orioles since 1954 and ranked them by highest single-season and career WAR (utilizing the Fangraphs calculation, or fWAR).  

What follows is a summary of the top five Baltimore Orioles catchers in franchise history based on career WAR, and then an overview of the top five seasons by Orioles catchers based on single-season WAR.

Top 5 Orioles Catchers by Career WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 100 games played as a member of the Orioles to be eligible for the career WAR list.

#1. Javy Lopez, 30.7 career WAR

javy lopez baltimore orioles

One of the top Orioles catchers in team history, Javy Lopez (AP Photo).

The primary catcher for many of the legendary Atlanta Braves teams of the 90s, Lopez had a number of very productive years in Atlanta prior to signing with the Orioles in 2004. 

The best season in Lopez's career was 2003. That year, Lopez set an MLB single season record among catchers for most home runs. In addition, he was the starting catcher for the NL in the '03 All-Star Game.

In 15 big league seasons, Javy hit .287/.337/.491 with 260 career home runs and 864 RBIs. He caught in over 1,300 MLB games, maintaining a .992 fielding percentage and a caught stealing percentage, or CS%, of 28%.

#2. Mickey Tettleton, 28.5 career WAR

mickey tettleton baltimore orioles

Tettleton running to first after a hit.

The switch hitting, tobacco chewing Mickey Tettleton is second on our list of Orioles catchers with the highest career WAR. He had a 14 year MLB career, three years of which were spent with the Orioles (1988 - 1990).

Tettleton started his career with the Oakland Athletics before moving to Baltimore. After that, he spent four years with the Detroit Tigers and then three years with the Texas Rangers.

Over the course of his career, Tettleton had a .241 batting average and collected 1,132 hits, 245 home runs and 732 RBIs. His career fielding percentage behind the dish is .991 and his CS% is 29%. Tettleton won silver slugger awards and made two All-Star teams.

#3. Rick Dempsey, 27.7 career WAR

rick dempsey catcher

Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey ready for the play at the plate.

One of the ultra rare MLB players to play in four different decades, Rick Demspey had a 24 year big league career that was spent with six different teams. The club he spent the longest time with was the Orioles.

A career .233 hitter, Dempsey finished his career with 1,093 hits and 96 home runs. He was never really known for his offense, except during the 1983 World Series when his performance earned him Series MVP honors.

Where he really excelled during his career was in his defense.

Demspey caught over 12,000 MLB innings, had a lifetime .988 fielding percentage behind the plate and a CS% of 40%. During his time in the majors, Dempsey led league catchers more than once in key categories like caught stealing and fielding percentage. 

#4. Charles Johnson, 25.7 career WAR

charles johnson orioles

Johnson during spring training in 2000 with the Orioles (Getty Images).

Charles Johnson is one of the most accomplished African American catchers in MLB history. Although primarily remembered for his time with the Florida Marlins, Johnson spent parts of two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles (specifically, 219 games between 1999 - 2000). 

Johnson collected 167 home runs, 570 RBIs, and slashed .245/.330./433 over the course of his career. Defensively, he maintained a solid .993 fielding percentage as a catcher and threw out 343 runners attempting to steal (39%).

Johnson's key MLB accomplishments include two all-star game selections, four gold glove awards and a World Series ring with the 1997 Marlins.

#5. Chris Hoiles, 24.8 career WAR

chris hoiles catcher

Hoiles checking the runner.

Chris Hoiles spent his entire ten year career in Baltimore. The Orioles' go-to catcher for much of the early/mid 90's, Hoiles was a lifetime .262 hitter, and he collected 739 hits and 151 home runs.

In 819 MLB games behind the plate, Hoiles had an impressive .994 fielding percentage as a catcher. He gunned down a total of 228 runners caught stealing, good for a 28% average. Hoiles was a great defender and led AL catchers in fielding percentage four different times.

Honorable Mentions

  • Ramon Hernandez, 22.0 career WAR
  • Gus Triandos, 19.0 career WAR
  • Matt Wieters, 17.5 career WAR
  • Clay Dalrymple, 17.2 career WAR

 

Top 5 Seasons by Orioles Catchers, Ranked by WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 70 games played in one season as a member of the Orioles to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.

#1. 1993 - Chris Hoiles (7.0 WAR)

chris hoiles 1993

Chris Hoiles at bat during a May 1993 game at Camden Yards (Getty Images).

From a statistical point of view, 1993 in practically every way was a career year for Chris Hoiles. 

That year, Hoiles set career highs in runs (80), hits (130), home runs (29), RBIs (82), and batting average (.310), just to name a few categories. His 7.0 WAR in 1993 led the team.

Behind the dish, Hoiles caught 124 Orioles games in '93 and maintained a .993 fielding percentage. His 41% caught stealing percentage (CS%) was five points better than the league average. 

Hoiles finished 16th in AL MVP voting that season, the only time in his ten year career he would earn MVP shares.

#2. 2011 - Matt Wieters (5.7 WAR)

 

matt wieters 2011

Matt Wieters in June of 2011 at Camden Yards (Getty Images).

In just his third year in the majors, Matt Wieters had a breakout campaign in 2011. That year, he slashed .262/.328/.450 and doubled his prior season's home run total, from 11 to 22.

Wieters caught 1,150 innings in 2011. He had a .995 fielding percentage, a 37% CS%, and he led AL catchers in double plays turned (14) and total zone runs (14) in '11.

As a testament to his strong season in 2011, Wieters won his first gold glove award and earned his first (of an eventual four) All-Star game selection.

#3. 2012 - Matt Wieters (4.5 WAR)

matt wieters 2012

Wieters at bat during the 2012 ALDS at Yankee Stadium (Getty Images).

Wieters followed his 2011 campaign with another impressive season in 2012. That year he earned career highs in home runs (23), RBIs (83), and total bases (229).

He caught 134 of Baltimore's games in 2012 and kept a .991 fielding percentage behind the dish. His 39% CS% was third in the league and he finished tops among league catchers in putouts (994).

Similar to 2011, Wieters was named an All-Star in 2012 and he won his second consecutive gold glove that year.

#4 (tied). 2004 - Javy Lopez (4.4 WAR)

javy lopez 2004

Javy rounds the bases after a home run in August of 2004 (Getty Images).

After spending more than a decade with the Atlanta Braves, Javy Lopez made his Baltimore Orioles debut in 2004. 

Although Javy didn't come close to matching his record (among catchers) 43 home runs that he hit the previous season, he still had a great year at the plate in '04. In fact, Lopez had a career high 180 hits that season and compiled a strong .316/.370/.503 slash line.

Defensively in 2004, Javy had a .994 fielding percentage behind the plate and a 28% caught stealing average. He finished the season in the top five among AL catchers in assists (49), double plays turned (11), and fielding percentage. 

#4 (tied). 1989 - Mickey Tettleton (4.4 WAR)

bo jackson mickey tettleton 1989

Bo Jackson and Tettleton during the 1989 All-Star game (Getty Images).

Mickey Tettleton was 28 years old during his second season in Baltimore in 1989. That year, he eclipsed 100 hits for the first time in his career and hit .258/.369/.509 with 26 home runs.

In 75 games behind the plate in '89, Mickey gunned down 22 base runners (28%) and had a .994 fielding percentage.

Tettleton earned his first silver slugger and first career All-Star game nod in 1989, thanks in part to a power surge early in the season. He was also a part of the tournament-style home run derby event at the '89 All-Star game.

#5. 2006 - Ramon Hernandez (4.1 WAR)

ramon hernandez orioles 2006

Hernandez at bat during a game against the White Sox in July of 2006 (Getty Images).

Ramon Hernandez's career year came in 2006, his first with the Orioles.

That season Hernandez had 138 hits, 29 doubles, 23 home runs, 91 RBIs, and .822 OPS - all of which were career highs.

The Venezuelan native caught nearly 1,100 innings for the Orioles in 2006, finishing the season with .985 fielding percentage behind the plate and an impressive 43% caught stealing average. He led league catchers that year in the number of runners caught stealing (42) and in assists (69). 

List of All Orioles Catchers With a 2.0+ WAR Season

A season with a WAR that reaches 2.0 + often indicates that a catcher had a productive year.  A number of Orioles catchers have hit or exceeded this mark since the Browns moved to Baltimore and started playing as the Orioles back in 1954. 

Take a look at the below list which shows every Baltimore Orioles catcher with a 2.0 WAR or better in a season.

SeasonNameWAR
1993Chris Hoiles7.0
2011Matt Wieters5.7
2022Adley Rutschman5.3
2012Matt Wieters4.5
2004Javy Lopez4.4
1989Mickey Tettleton4.4
2006Ramon Hernandez4.1
1995Chris Hoiles3.7
1963John Orsino3.6
1980Rick Dempsey3.6
1958Gus Triandos3.5
1956Gus Triandos3.5
1973Earl Williams3.4
1957Gus Triandos3.4
1992Chris Hoiles3.3
1994Chris Hoiles3.3
1978Rick Dempsey3.2
2010Matt Wieters3.1
1999Charles Johnson3.1
2000Charles Johnson3.1
1985Floyd Rayford3.1
1990Mickey Tettleton2.9
1985Rick Dempsey2.7
1996Chris Hoiles2.5
2009Gregg Zaun2.4
1979Rick Dempsey2.4
1969Ellie Hendricks2.3
1960Gus Triandos2.3
1997Chris Hoiles2.2
1959Gus Triandos2.1
1986Rick Dempsey2.1
2015Caleb Joseph2.1
1971Ellie Hendricks2.1
2017Welington Castillo2.0
1974Earl Williams2.0
2013Matt Wieters2.0
1971Andy Etchebarren2.0

Orioles Catchers over the Last 10 Years

Please note: the following catchers are listed based on the order of games caught per season for the Orioles. Catchers with the most games caught per season start at the top. 

2013 Orioles

  • Matt Wieters (primary)
  • Taylor Teagarden
  • Steve Clevenger

 

2014 Orioles

  • Caleb Joseph (primary)
  • Nick Hundley
  • Steve Clevenger
  • Matt Wieters

 

2015 Orioles

  • Caleb Joseph (primary)
  • Matt Wieters
  • Steve Clevenger
  • Ryan Lavarnway

 

2016 Orioles

  • Matt Wieters (primary)
  • Caleb Joseph
  • Francisco Pena

 

2017 Orioles

  • Welington Castillo (primary)
  • Caleb Joseph
  • Chance Sisco
  • Francisco Pena

 

2018 Orioles

  • Caleb Joseph (primary)
  • Chance Sisco
  • Austin Wynns
  • Andrew Susac

 

2019 Orioles

  • Pedro Severino (primary)
  • Chance Sisco
  • Austin Wynns
  • Jesus Sucre

 

2020 Orioles

  • Pedro Severino (primary)
  • Chance Sisco
  • Bryan Holaday

 

2021 Orioles

  • Pedro Severino (primary)
  • Austin Wynns
  • Chance Sisco
  • Nick Ciuffo

 

2022 Orioles

  • Matt Wieters (primary)
  • Adley Rutschman (primary)
  • Robinson Chirinos
  • Anthony Bemboom

 

Complete List of All Orioles Catchers Over the Last 10 Years

The below list shows every Baltimore Orioles catcher who played in at least one defensive game as a catcher for the team since 2012. 

Catchers are listed in alphabetical order by first name.

  • Adley Rutschman
  • Andrew Susac
  • Anthony Bemboom
  • Austin Wynns
  • Bryan Holaday
  • Caleb Joseph
  • Chance Sisco
  • Chris Snyder
  • Francisco Pena
  • Jesus Sucre
  • Luis Exposito
  • Matt Wieters
  • Nick Ciuffo
  • Nick Hundley
  • Pedro Severino
  • Robinson Chirinos
  • Ronny Paulino
  • Ryan Lavarnway
  • Steve Clevenger
  • Taylor Teagarden
  • Welington Castillo

 

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Sources for this Article

  • Baltimore Sun
  • Baseball Reference
  • Baseball Almanac
  • Fangraphs
  • Retrosheet