Best Cleveland Guardians Catchers [All-Time List!]

The Cleveland Guardians have had a variety of talented catchers on the roster since 1901, when the team first joined the American League (AL). 

This article highlights these players, as we zoom in to look at the best Cleveland Guardians catchers in team history using career and single-season Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

Keep scrolling to learn more…

best cleveland guardians catchers in team history

Background on the Guardians

Although Cleveland baseball has roots that go back to the 19th century, the "official" beginning of Cleveland's professional team can be traced back to 1901, when the AL became a major league.

Since 1901, the team has been called the Blues (1901), the Bronchos (1902), the Naps (1903 - 1914) and most recently, the Indians (1915 - 2021). Beginning in 2022, they are now called the Cleveland Guardians

Over the course of the Guardians' history, the franchise has won two World Series championships, the most recent of which came in 1948 when the Indians defeated the Milwaukee Braves to claim the title. 

1948 cleveland indians

The World Series winning 1948 Cleveland Indians

The Guardians were led to their two World Series championships - as well as throughout the many seasons before and after - by a wide variety of famous players.

Included among these players are a handful of Guardians catchers that have stood out due to their high level of offensive and defensive production. 

This article focuses on these catchers in greater detail, as we showcase Cleveland's best backstops since the franchise got its start in the majors back in 1901.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

The statistic known as Wins Above Replacement (or WAR for short) is used to summarize and quantify a single player's amount of contribution to his team. 

For much more information on WAR, we'd suggest reading this article

From our vantage point, WAR is the best single metric available today in terms of communicating the comprehensive value of a player. 

With that in mind, we researched every catcher for the Cleveland Guardians since 1901 then we sorted them by highest WAR using the formula developed by Fangraphs (also called fWAR).  

Continue reading to learn who the top three Guardians catchers are across franchise history based on career and single-season WAR.

Top 3 Guardians Catchers by Career WAR

Please note: A catcher must have at least 100 defensive games played as a member of the Cleveland Guardians to be eligible for our career WAR list.

#1. Victor Martinez, 26.8 career WAR

victor martinez former cleveland guardians catcher

One of the best Guardians catchers of all-time, Victor Martinez

The best catcher in Cleveland Guardians history, according to WAR, is Victor Martinez.

The Venezuelan slugger made his big league debut for the Indians in 2002 at the age of 23. He went on to spend a total of 8 years in Cleveland, followed by a stint with the Boston Red Sox and later, with the Detroit Tigers.

Over his 16 years in the MLB, V-Mart became one of the rare catchers to collect more than 2,000 career hits. He also smashed 246 home runs and had a .295/.360/.455 career slash line.

Although a significant part of his career was spent at either first base or in a DH role, Martinez still logged over 7,000 innings behind the plate. He owns a .993 fielding percentage as a catcher and a 23% caught stealing percentage (CS%).

Over the course of his career, V-Mart made five all star teams, won two silver sluggers and earned league MVP shares in six seasons.

#2. Tony Peña, 23.9 career WAR

tony pena indians home run

Peña circles the bases after hitting a walk off home run in game 1 of the 1995 ALDS (image source: Carlos Osorio, AP Photo)

Tony Peña spent three seasons in a Cleveland Indians jersey towards the tail end of his career (1994 - 1996).

In total, the Dominican catcher played for six teams over 18 years in the big leagues, spending the largest amount of time with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Peña, a five-time all star, hit .260/.309/.364 with 107 lifetime home runs and 708 RBIs.

Defensively, the four time gold glove winner had a .991 career fielding percentage as a catcher and he threw out 35% of all runners attempting to steal on him.

#3. Johnny Romano, 23.2 career WAR

johnny romano of the cleveland indians

One of the top catchers of the early 60s, Johnny Romano

Johnny Romano played for the Cleveland Indians between 1960 - 1964. After departing Cleveland, he also spent time with the Chicago White Sox and St Louis Cardinals. 

In his 10 MLB seasons, Romano had a .255 average and collected 706 hits, 129 home runs and 417 RBIs. 

The four-time all star caught 810 big league games. He maintained a .990 fielding percentage behind the plate and had a 35% CS%.

Top 3 Seasons by Guardians Catchers, Ranked by WAR

Please note: A catcher must have at least 70 defensive games played in a season as a member of the Guardians to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.

#1. 2007 - Victor Martinez (5.4 WAR)

former cleveland guardians catchers victor martinez

Victor Martinez after the final out of game 3 of the 2007 ALCS (image source: Getty Images)

Victor Martinez had one of the finest seasons that any Cleveland catcher has ever had in 2007. 

That year, V-Mart hit .301/.374/.505 with 169 hits, 25 home runs and 114 RBIs. The .879 OPS he had that season was the highest of his Indians’ career.

Behind the plate, Martinez kept a .995 fielding percentage across 1,042 innings caught. His 2007 CS% was 32%, which was five percentage points higher than the league average that year.

V-Mart helped power the 2007 Indians to a first place finish in the AL Central. His strong play that year earned him a top 10 finish in AL MVP voting, and it earned him an all star game appearance - in which he hit a home run in his only at bat!

#2. 2014 - Yan Gomes (5.1 WAR)

yan gomes indians 2014

Yan Gomes throwing to first during a 2014 game against the Kansas City Royals (image source: Getty Images)

The best season of Yan Gomes’ still active career - and the second best season among Cleveland catchers - came in 2014. 

Gomes set career highs (through 2021) in a number of offensive categories that season, including hits (135), home runs (21), RBIs (74) and total bases (229). His strong bat in 2014 earned Gomes a silver slugger award.

In 1,082 innings behind the plate in 2014, Gomes kept a .988 fielding percentage and he threw out 32% of runners attempting to steal. 

#3. (tied) 1961 - Johnny Romano (4.9 WAR) and 1962 - Johnny Romano (4.9 WAR)

johnny romano 1961 topps

Johnny Romano's 1961 Topps card

The best two years of Johnny Romano's career came in 1961 and 1962. 

In 1961, Romano hit .299/.377/.483 with 21 home runs and 80 RBIs. He led all Indians batters in '61 in categories like slugging percentage, OPS (.860) and OPS+ (132).

Defensively, Romano had a fielding percentage of .988 in 1961 and he led league catchers with 31 runners caught stealing.

The following season, Romano hit .261 and led the 1962 Indians with 25 homers and 81 RBIs.

He played 130 games behind the plate in '62. That season, Romano had a .990 fielding percentage and a 39% CS%. 

Romano made each of the all star games held in 1961 and 1962, earning the distinction of being named a four time all star over just two years!

List of All Guardians Catchers With a 2.0+ WAR Season

For most big league catchers, a season with a 2.0 or better WAR typically means that they had a good year. 

A few Cleveland Guardians catchers have either reached or surpassed this number since the team began playing in the Al in 1901.   

Check out the table below to learn more about every Guardians catcher to have had a WAR of 2.0 + in a single-season.

SeasonNameWAR
2007Victor Martinez5.4
2014Yan Gomes5.1
1962Johnny Romano4.9
1961Johnny Romano4.9
2005Victor Martinez4.7
1920Steve O'Neill4.6
2013Yan Gomes4.3
1970Ray Fosse4.2
1997Sandy Alomar Jr.4.2
1980Ron Hassey3.7
1969Duke Sims3.5
1919Steve O'Neill3.4
1924Glenn Myatt3.4
2004Victor Martinez3.3
2019Roberto Perez3.2
1922Steve O'Neill3.2
2008Kelly Shoppach3.0
1921Steve O'Neill2.8
1906Nig Clarke2.8
1964Johnny Romano2.8
2001Einar Diaz2.8
2006Victor Martinez2.8
1968Duke Sims2.8
1937Frankie Pytlak2.7
1963Joe Azcue2.7
1907Nig Clarke2.6
1960Johnny Romano2.6
1945Frankie Hayes2.5
2018Yan Gomes2.4
1984Chris Bando2.4
1990Sandy Alomar Jr.2.4
1967Joe Azcue2.3
1968Joe Azcue2.3
2013Carlos Santana2.3
1966Joe Azcue2.2
1971Ray Fosse2.2
1910Ted Easterly2.1
1974John Ellis2.1
2015Roberto Perez2.1
1943Buddy Rosar2.0
1970Duke Sims2.0
1906Harry Bemis2.0
1994Sandy Alomar Jr.2.0
1936Billy Sullivan2.0
1948Jim Hegan2.0
1905Harry Bemis2.0

Cleveland Guardians Catchers over the Last 10 Years

Please note: the catchers shown below are listed according to the number of games caught per season for the Indians/Guardians. Catchers with the most games caught per season start at the top. 

2012 Indians - Finished fourth in AL Central

  • Carlos Santana (primary)
  • Lou Marson
  • Luke Carlin
  • Vinny Rottino

 

2013 Indians - Finished second in AL Central, lost AL Wild Card Game

  • Yan Gomes (primary)
  • Carlos Santana
  • Lou Marson
  • Omir Santos
  • Kelly Shoppach

 

2014 Indians - Finished third in AL Central 

  • Yan Gomes (primary)
  • Roberto Perez
  • Carlos Santana
  • George Kottaras
  • Chris Gimenez

 

2015 Indians - Finished third in AL Central

  • Yan Gomes (primary)
  • Roberto Perez
  • Brett Hayes
  • Adam Moore

 

2016 Indians - Finished first in AL Central, lost World Series

  • Yan Gomes (primary)
  • Roberto Perez
  • Chris Gimenez
  • Adam Moore

 

2017 Indians - Finished first in AL Central, lost ALDS

  • Yan Gomes (primary)
  • Roberto Perez
  • Francisco Mejia

 

2018 Indians - Finished first in AL Central, lost ALDS

  • Yan Gomes (primary)
  • Roberto Perez
  • Eric Haase

 

2019 Indians - Finished second in AL Central

  • Roberto Perez (primary)
  • Kevin Plawecki
  • Eric Haase

 

2020 Indians - Finished third in AL Central, lost AL Wild Card Game

  • Roberto Perez (primary)
  • Sandy Leon
  • Beau Taylor
  • Austin Hedges

 

2021 Indians - Finished second in AL Central

  • Austin Hedges (primary)
  • Roberto Perez
  • Rene Rivera
  • Wilson Ramos
  • Ryan Lavarnway

 

Complete List of All Guardians Catchers Over the Last 10 Years

The list below shows every Cleveland Indians/Guardians catcher to have appeared in one or more defensive games as a catcher for the team since 2012. 

Catchers are in alphabetical order based on first name.

  • Adam Moore
  • Austin Hedges
  • Beau Taylor
  • Brett Hayes
  • Carlos Santana
  • Chris Gimenez
  • Eric Haase
  • Francisco Mejia
  • George Kottaras
  • Kelly Shoppach
  • Kevin Plawecki
  • Lou Marson
  • Luke Carlin
  • Omir Santos
  • Rene Rivera
  • Roberto Perez
  • Ryan Lavarnway
  • Sandy Leon
  • Vinny Rottino
  • Wilson Ramos
  • Yan Gomes

 

That’s a Wrap!

Thanks for stopping by Catchers Home and for taking the time to read this article. We hope you found it to be useful! 

If you have any questions or comments for us, feel free to get in touch by going to our contact page or by sending an email to scott (at) catchershome (dot) com.

 

Sources for this Article

  • Baseball Reference
  • Fangraphs
  • Retrosheet
  • The Plain Dealer