Best Kansas City Royals Catchers in Team History [All-Time List!]

Although many different Kansas City Royals catchers have played since 1969, only a few stand out above the rest.

In this article, we highlight the top catchers in Kansas City Royals history as ranked by  single-season and career wins above replacement (WAR).

Keep scrolling for more!

best kansas city royals catchers

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Background on the Royals

Kansas City lost its major league team after the 1967 season, when the Athletics moved to Oakland. However, the city quickly gained a new franchise when the Royals were created and started playing in the American League (AL) in 1969.

Since their first season in 1969 the Royals have had significant success, including two World Series championships (1985 and 2015). The Royals have also had a number of baseball legends play for them, including Hall of Famer George Brett and two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen.

royals 1985 world series championship
The Royals celebrate their first World Series championship, in 1985.

A number of talented and high profile catchers have also spent time with the Royals since the inaugural '69 season. This article focuses on these men, as we showcase the Kansas City Royals' best backstops in the club's history.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

WAR is a statistic used in baseball to measure the comprehensive value that an MLB player has and how well they contribute to the team.

If you're interested in learning more about WAR, then we would recommend reading the article linked to here.

In short, we believe that WAR is the best metric available to easily understand a player's performance and value.

In light of this, we reviewed each catcher that ever played for the Kansas City Royals and ranked them by highest single-season and career WAR (utilizing the Fangraphs calculation, or fWAR).  

Keep reading to learn who the top five Kansas City Royals catchers are in team history based on career and single-season WAR.

Top 5 Royals Catchers by Career WAR

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

#1. Darrell Porter, 40.8 career WAR

Former Royals catchers darrell porter
Former Royals catcher Darrell Porter.

Darrell Porter began his big league career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971 before joining the Royals in 1977. He ended up spending a total of 17 productive years in the majors split among four different teams. 

Over the course of his career, Porter had 1,369 hits, 188 home runs and slashed .247/.354/.409. He was a four time All-Star and - perhaps most notably - was named World Series MVP in 1982 while with the St. Louis Cardinals.

On the defensive side of the house, Porter played 12,608 innings behind the plate. He threw out 553 total runners (38% CS%) and maintained a fielding percentage as a catcher of .982

#2. Jim Sundberg, 37.8 career WAR

Jim Sundberg Royals
Jim Sundberg during his two-year stint in Kansas City (Image Source: Otto Greule Jr.).

Although Jim Sundberg is widely remembered for his tenure with the Texas Rangers, he actually spent two seasons with Kansas City (1985 - 1986). In fact, he was the Royals' starting catcher during the 1985 World Series.

Sundberg batted .248 over his 16 year career. He had 1,493 lifetime hits, 95 home runs, 624 RBIs, and made three All-Star teams.

Sundberg was an excellent defensive catcher and won six gold glove awards. For multiple seasons he led AL catchers across a variety of defensive categories. Sundberg's career .993 fielding percentage as a catcher is phenomenal, and he maintained a lifetime CS% of 41%. 

#3. Jason Kendall, 37.1 career WAR

Jason Kendall with Royals
Jason Kendall closed his long career with the Kansas City Royals (Image Source: Joe Robbins).

The final season of Jason Kendall's 15 year long MLB career was spent with the Kansas City Royals.

One of the rare catchers to be in the 2,000 plus hits club (2,195 to be exact), Kendall owns a .288/.366/.378 career slash line. He piled up a total of 75 home runs and 744 RBIs, and he was named to three All-Star teams.

In over 17,000 innings caught, Kendall kept a fielding percentage of .990 behind the dish and gunned down 495 runners attempting to steal (29%). He led league catchers multiple times in important defensive categories like caught stealing, assists, putouts, and more.

#4. Bob Boone, 31.9 career WAR

Bob Boone at bat for Royals
Bob Boone at bat for the Royals.

Best known for his time with the California Angels and Philadelphia Phillies, Bob Boone spent two seasons with the Royals at the end of his playing career (1989 - 1990). He also served as the Royals' manager between 1995 - 1997.

In Boone's 19 major league seasons as a player, he collected 1,838 hits and 105 home runs while maintaining a .254 batting average. Defensively, he caught 2,225 games, averaged a 40% CS% and a .986 fielding percentage as a catcher.

Boone's key awards and accolades include four All-Star game selections, seven gold gloves and a World Series ring with the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies

#5. Mike Sweeney, 21.2  career WAR

Mike Sweeney catcher
Mike Sweeney tagging out Jeff Reboulet of the Baltimore Orioles in an April 1997 game (Image Source: Gene Sweeney Jr., The Baltimore Sun).

Although the majority of the games that Mike Sweeney played were as a DH or first baseman, he did catch approximately 201 games for the Royals early in his career. 

The five time All-Star played for four teams across 16 seasons in the big leagues. His career slash line was .297/.366/.486 and he collected 1,540 hits, 215 home runs, and 909 RBIs. Sweeney earned AL MVP shares in three seasons (2000, 2001, 2002).

In 1,543 innings behind the plate, Sweeney maintained a .988 fielding percentage and threw out an average of 36% of runners attempting to steal.

Honorable Mentions

  • Don Slaught, 21.1 career WAR
  • Gregg Zaun, 16.0 career WAR
  • Mike Macfarlane, 15.7 career WAR
  • Salvador Perez, 15.3 career WAR (active - through 2023)


Top 5 Seasons by Royals Catchers, Ranked by WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 70 games played (as a catcher) in one season with the Royals to be eligible for this single-season WAR list.

#1. 1979 - Darrell Porter (7.5 WAR)

darrell porter sporting news
An October 1979 Sporting News cover featuring Kansas City catcher Darrell Porter.

Former Royals catcher Darrell Porter has the highest single-season WAR among all Kansas City catchers. 

1979 was the best season of Darrell Porter's career. He was the AL's starting catcher in the all-star game, finished in the top 10 in league MVP voting, and set career highs in almost every major statistical category.

Porter hit .291/.421/.484 with 20 home runs and a team leading 112 RBIs in 1979. Additionally, he led all league batters that season in walks (121), sacrifice flies (13), and times on base (284).

Porter's fielding percentage in '79 was .982 and he gunned down 57 runners caught stealing (47%). He led league catchers in double plays turned (15) and finished among the top five in putouts, assists and caught stealing.

#2. 1978 - Darrell Porter (4.4 WAR)

darrell porter 1978 catcher
Porter during a 1978 game at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium (Image Source: Getty Images).

The Royals catcher with the second best single season WAR is also Darrell Porter, who finished the 1978 season with a 4.4 WAR.  

It was Porter's second season in Kansas City, and he was named to the All-Star team that year. His '78 slash line was .265/.358/.444 and he hit 18 home runs for the AL West winning Royals.

In 1,229 regular season innings spent behind the plate, Porter maintained a .988 fielding percentage and a 37% CS% in 1978. Of note, Porter caught the most single-season games (145) and complete games (130) of his career that year.

#3. 2013 - Salvador Perez (3.5 WAR)

salvador perez in gear 2013
Salvy during an August 2013 game at Kaufmann Stadium versus the Rays (Image Source: Getty Images).

The 23 year old Salvador Perez had a great year in what became his first full season in the majors. 

In 2013, Salvy made his first All-Star game and won the first of five gold gloves. That season he hit .292 with 145 hits, 13 home runs and 79 RBIs. 

Salvy had an excellent season defensively as well. He had an .993 fielding percentage behind the plate, led the league with 25 runners caught stealing (35%) and topped AL catchers with 71 assists in 2013.

#4. 1993 - Mike Macfarlane (3.4 WAR)

mike macfarlane royals at bat
Mike Macfarlane at bat during a 1993 game against the Orioles (Image Source: Getty Images).

Mike Macfarlane finished the 1993 season with a 3.4 WAR in 1993. 

Macfarlane hit 20 home runs, 67 RBIs, and had an .857 OPS that season - all of which were career highs. In 114 games caught in '93, he had a .985 fielding percentage and a 43% CS%. 

It's worth noting that while Macfarlane had a slightly higher fWAR in 1993 than Salvy had in 2021, Perez's bWAR was over 2% higher than Macfarlane's for these same seasons.

#5. 2021 - Salvador Perez (3.2 WAR)

salvador perez 2021 home runs
Perez trotting the bases after hitting one of his many home runs in 2021 (Image Source: Getty Images).

Salvy's 2021 campaign was one for the record books. He was tied with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the league lead in home runs with 48, which set a single-season home run record for catchers.

Defensively, Perez led league catchers in fielding percentage (.998), CS% (43.9)% and assists (61). 

List of All Royals Catchers With a 2.0+ WAR Season

Reaching a 2.0 or better WAR in a season typically means that a catcher had a good year.  A handful of Royals catchers have met or surpassed this mark since the team first started playing back in 1969. 

See the list below which shows every Kansas City Royals catcher to have a season with a 2.0 + WAR.

1979Darrell Porter7.5
1978Darrell Porter4.4
2013Salvador Perez3.5
1993Mike Macfarlane3.4
2021Salvador Perez3.2
1972Ed Kirkpatrick3.0
1977Darrell Porter3.0
1989Bob Boone2.9
1980John Wathan2.7
1991Mike Macfarlane2.7
1973Fran Healy2.7
1974Fran Healy2.7
1996Mike Macfarlane2.4
1992Mike Macfarlane2.2
1982John Wathan2.1
2014Salvador Perez2.0

Royals Catchers over the Last 10 Years

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

2014 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Brett Hayes
  • Erik Kratz
  • Francisco Pena


2015 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Drew Butera
  • Francisco Pena
  • Erik Kratz


2016 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Drew Butera
  • Tony Cruz


2017 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Drew Butera
  • Cam Gallagher


2018 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Drew Butera
  • Cam Gallagher
  • Meibrys Viloria


2019 Royals

  • Martin Maldonado (primary)
  • Cam Gallagher
  • Meibrys Viloria
  • Nick Dini


2020 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Cam Gallagher
  • Meibrys Viloria
  • Oscar Hernandez


2021 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Cam Gallagher
  • Sebastian Rivero


2022 Royals

  • MJ Melendez (primary)
  • Salvador Perez
  • Cam Gallagher
  • Sebastian Rivero
  • Freddy Fermin


2023 Royals

  • Salvador Perez (primary)
  • Freddy Fermin
  • Logan Porter
  • MJ Melendez
  • Tyler Cropley


Complete List of All Royals Catchers Over the Last 10 Years

The below list shows every Kansas City Royals 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.

  • Brett Hayes
  • Cam Gallagher
  • Drew Butera
  • Erik Kratz
  • Francisco Pena
  • Freddy Fermin
  • Logan Porter
  • MJ Melendez
  • Martin Maldonado
  • Meibrys Viloria
  • Nick Dini
  • Oscar Hernandez
  • Salvador Perez
  • Sebastian Rivero
  • Tony Cruz
  • Tyler Cropley


Thank You for Reading

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Please let us know if you have any questions or comments. To contact us, go here or email scott (at) catchersome (dot) com.

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Sources for this article

  • Baseball Reference
  • Fangraphs
  • Retrosheet
  • Royals Review


Scott Perry is the owner and lead author at Catchers Home. He's a former baseball player, a current coach, a husband and a Dad. He remains as passionate about baseball today as he was as a kid.