Best Chicago White Sox Catchers in Team History [All-Time List!]

The Chicago White Sox have played in the majors for 120 years and have built a rich legacy in the process.

In this article, we focus in on the men who have caught for the Sox. Specifically, we highlight the best Chicago White Sox catchers of all-time based on career and single-season fWAR.

Keep scrolling to learn more...

best chicago white sox catchers of all time

A Quick History of the Chicago White Sox

The First 20 Seasons

The White Sox formally joined the major leagues in 1901, becoming a charter member of the American League (AL) that year.

They were called the White Stockings during this time by the press (not to be confused with the Chicago Cubs' original name). Abbreviated to the Sox, this new name stuck after a few years of play.

Stars of the White Sox in this early period of team history included players like “Big Ed” Walsh, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Eddie “Cocky” Collins. 

In 1906, despite the Cubs' remarkable 116 win season, the White Sox surprised the baseball world by defeating the Cubs in the World Series that season. It was the Sox's first big league championship.

The White Sox hit the 100 win mark for the first time and they racked up another World Series championship in 1917. Their championship was due in part to the play of guys like Jackson, Collins, Red Faber and Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk.

Catcher Ray Schalk of the chicago white sox

Catcher Ray Schalk posing for a photo.

After the White Sox's infamous 1919 World Series loss, they failed to win another pennant for 40 years.

Pre-and-Post World War II

For much of the next three decades, the White Sox had average or below average seasons. Of course there were outliers, such as Chicago's 1937 season under manager Jimmy Dykes who led the team to 86 wins. 

Dykes was a steadying presence for the White Sox and was at the helm for parts of 13 seasons. He is the winningest manager in Chicago White Sox history with 899 wins. 

Things started looking up for the Southsiders in the 50s. That decade, the Sox spent nine of ten years above .500. 

The White Sox had an incredible season in 1959 under manager Al Lopez, and they went on to win the AL pennant that year. However, they lost the World Series four games to two against the Los Angeles Dodgers

1959 chicago white sox sports illustrated

An August 1959 Sports Illustrated cover showcasing Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio.

Sixties Through the Eighties

The White Sox also had their fair share of wins in the sixties. During this decade the Sox had some solid pitching courtesy of guys like Gary Peters, Tommy John, Joe Horlen and Eddie Fisher.

During the seventies, the White Sox had a mostly disappointing ten year stretch, and during this time there were threats of relocation which never fully panned out. 

It was this decade where owner Bill Veeck also made headlines with his unusual approach and Comiskey Park promotions.

In 1980, a new manager named Tony La Russa took the helm. He led some strong White Sox teams in the early 80s, including the '83 team that went 99 - 63. 

Bill Veeck and Tony La Russa talk in dugout

Former White Sox owner Bill Veeck talking to Tony La Russa.

The Big Hurt to Present Day

Early in the next decade, the Sox had some incredibly competitive teams. They were above .500 and finished either first or second in their division all but once between 1990 - 1994. The Sox teams of the early 90s featured stars like Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas, Jack McDowell, Tim Raines and Bo Jackson.

The White Sox were a very good team for much of the next decade. Between 2000 - 2009, the Sox finished above .500 eight out of ten years and had three first place finishes in the AL Central. 

The highlight of this decade was in 2005 when the White Sox won the World Series in convincing fashion, sweeping the Houston Astros in four straight. It was their first World Series championship since 1917.

chicago white sox celebrate 2005 world series victory

Celebrating after the final out of the 2005 World Series.

The White Sox experienced a playoff drought the next decade as they failed to reach the postseason between 2010 - 2019. Yet the team was by no means devoid of talent. Great players like Chris Sale and Jose Abreu had some excellent seasons and stood out during this period. 

Currently, the White Sox are being led again by manager (and now Hall of Famer) Tony La Russa. They are coming off a great year (2021) in which the Sox went 93 - 69, and guys like Tim Anderson, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada give White Sox fans a source of hope for the team's future.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

Referred to as WAR, Wins Above Replacement is a baseball metric developed to quantify a player’s overall value and amount of contribution to his team. 

WAR is defined as follows:

“WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).”

Different formulas are used for pitchers and non-pitchers, and the way it is calculated varies by media outlet (such as Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs). 

Even so, WAR is an incredibly useful and widely-used statistic since it does such a great job at capturing the value that a player gives.

For this article, we went back and researched every catcher that has ever played for the Chicago White Sox and ranked them by their career and single-season WAR (using the Frangraphs calculation, or fWAR). This means that we reviewed data going all the way back to 1901 - the first season the Sox played in the big leagues. 

What follows is an overview of the top five Chicago White Sox catchers ranked by a player’s career WAR, and the second section focuses on the top five seasons by White Sox catchers as measured by their single-season WAR.

Top 5 White Sox Catchers by Career WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 100 defensive games (catching) played as a member of the Chicago White Sox to be eligible for our career WAR list.

#1. Carlton Fisk, 68.3 career WAR

Carlton Fisk former chicago white sox catcher

Carlton Fisk in a game against the Seattle Mariners.

Fisk first came to fame as a member of the Boston Red Sox where he played for 11 seasons. However, he spent the majority of his career as a member of the Chicago White Sox, playing in the South Side from 1981 to 1993.

Fisk was named Rookie of the Year in 1972. He also earned one gold glove, three silver sluggers and was named to a total of 11 all-star teams during his career.

Over the course of his career, Fisk hit .269  with 2,356 hits, 376 home runs and 1,330 RBIs. Behind the plate, he had a .988 fielding percentage and he gunned down 34% of all runners attempting to steal on him.  

In 2000, Fisk got the call that he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

#2. Brian Downing, 48.4 career WAR

Brian Downing with the chicago white sox

Downing in the White Sox powder blues.

Brian Downing had a twenty year career in the big leagues, the first five of which were with the White Sox. He later spent a number of productive seasons as a member of the California Angels

Downing played a variety of positions during his career, mostly in the outfield or serving in a DH role. He also caught a total of 675 MLB games, including many games with the White Sox between the 1973 - 1977 seasons.

Offensively, Downing had a lifetime .267/.370/.425 slash line. He collected approximately 2,099 hits and 275 home runs. He was also named an all-star once, in 1979.

Defensively, Downing had a .989 fielding percentage as a catcher and threw out 264 runners, good for a career 34% caught stealing percentage (CS%).

#3. Yasmani Grandal, 38.0 career WAR

Yasmani Grandall throwing to first

Yasmani Grandal throwing to first (Getty Images).

The only active player on our list, Yasmani Grandal is the current catcher of the White Sox. He broke into the majors in 2012 with the San Diego Padres, then spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers before joining the Sox. 

Through the end of the 2021 season, the two-time all-star Grandal has played in 1,018 MLB games over ten years. He has a .240/.355/.451 career slash line and has collected 777 hits, 172 home runs and 505 RBIs.

Grandal has a lifetime .994 fielding percentage behind the dish, and he has thrown out 26% of runners attempting to steal.

#4. Sherm Lollar, 37.5 career WAR

Sherm Lollar swinging

Lollar swinging in front of the cameras.

Sherm Lollar was one of the top catchers in the major leagues in the early post-World War II era. Though he played with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns, Lollar spent the vast majority of his career (12 years) with the White Sox.

Lollar has 1,415 career hits, 155 home runs, 808 RBIs, and a lifetime .264 average. A solid defensive catcher, he maintained a .992 fielding percentage behind the plate and gunned down 47% of all runners attempting to steal, which is a very high average.

In total, Lollar was named to nine all-star teams, he won three gold glove awards and earned a World Series ring with the 1947 Yankees. 

#5. Earl Battey, 23.8 career WAR

Earl Battey with the chicago white sox

Earl Battey.

Catcher Earl Battey was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1953 and made his big league debut with the Sox two years later. He played in Chicago through the pennant winning 1959 season then was traded to the Washington Senators (which soon became the Minnesota Twins), where he remained until his retirement after the 1967 season.

Over his career, Battey had 969 hits, 104 home runs and 449 RBIs. He hit .270/.349/.409 lifetime. Defensively, Battey maintained a .990 fielding percentage behind the plate and had an impressive 44% CS%. 

Battery earned three Gold Glove awards, he was elected to five all-star games and he was a member of two AL pennant-winning teams (1959 Sox, 1965 Twins). He stands as one of the greatest African-American catchers to ever have played the game. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Johnny Romano, 23.2 career WAR
  • Ray Schalk, 22.4 career WAR
  • AJ Pierzynski, 20.7 career WAR
  • Tyler Flowers, 20.4 career WAR

 

Top 5 Seasons by White Sox Catchers, Ranked by Single-Season WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 50 defensive games (catching) played in one season as a member of the Chicago White Sox to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.

#1. 1990 - Carlton Fisk (5.0 WAR)

Carlton Fisk at bat at Comiskey Park

Carlton Fisk at bat in 1990 (Getty Images).

One of the best seasons in Fisk's White Sox career came when he was 42 years old, in 1990. That year, Fisk hit .285/.378/.451 with 129 hits, 18 home runs, 65 RBIs, and 204 total bases. 

Behind the plate, Fisk caught 970 innings over 116 games in '90. His fielding percentage as a catcher was .994 and his CS% was 37% that season. 

Fisk finished in the top five among AL catchers in 1990 for putouts, assists, double plays turned, caught stealing, fielding percentage, and range factor/game.

#2. 1983 - Carlton Fisk (4.6 WAR)

Carlton Fisk in the on deck circle

Carlton Fisk in the on deck circle during a 1983 game (Getty Images).

Fisk hit .289/.355/.518 and tied his career high in home runs (26) in 1983. Alongside others like Harold Baines and Greg Luzinski, Fisk helped lead the White Sox to a first place finish in the AL West with a 94 - 63 record under manager Tony La Russa.

On the defensive side, Fisk led AL catchers with 709 putouts, he had a .991 fielding percentage, and he threw out 31 runners (29% CS%). He finished third that year in AL MVP voting.

#3. 1959 - Sherm Lollar (4.3 WAR)

Former chicago white sox catcher Sherm Lollar

Lollar in his catcher's gear, in 1959.

Sherm Lollar led the pennant-winning 1959 Chicago White Sox with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs. His slash line that season was .265/.345/.451, and he played in both 1959 all-star games that year.

Behind the plate, Lollar won his third consecutive gold glove award for his defensive play. He was second among AL catchers in 1959 in fielding percentage (.993) and first in runners caught stealing (27). 

#4. 1956 - Sherm Lollar (4.2 WAR)

Sherm Lollar 1956 topps

Sherm Lollar's 1956 Topps card.

Lollar's 1956 campaign resulted in his fourth AL all-star selection. He had career highs that year in batting average (.293) and doubles (28). He also hit 11 home runs, 75 RBIs, and had a .821 OPS.

Lollar led AL catchers in '56 in fielding percentage (.993) and was fourth in the league in CS% with 54.1%.

#5. 1958 - Sherm Lollar (4.1 WAR)

Sherm Lollar and Ray Moore

Sherm Lollar with White Sox pitcher Ray Moore in 1958.

In 1958 Lollar batted .273/.367/.454 in 421 at bats. He hit 20 home runs and tied his career high in RBIs with 84. 

In 991.1 innings behind the plate, Lollar maintained a .987 fielding percentage in '58 and threw out 47% of runners attempting to steal. He was named to the all-star team and won his second consecutive gold glove that season.

List of All Chicago White Sox Catchers With a 2.0+ WAR Season

Reaching a 2.0 (or better) WAR in a season reflects a productive year for any big league player.

A wide variety of Chicago White Sox catchers have met or exceeded the 2.0 WAR mark since 1901, when the team first began playing in the major leagues. 

Check out the below table which shows all White Sox catchers who have had a 2.0+ WAR season.

SeasonNameWAR
1990Carlton Fisk5.0
1983Carlton Fisk4.6
1959Sherm Lollar4.3
1956Sherm Lollar4.2
1958Sherm Lollar4.1
2021Yasmani Grandal3.7
1955Sherm Lollar3.6
1985Carlton Fisk3.4
1989Carlton Fisk3.4
2012A.J. Pierzynski3.3
1965Johnny Romano3.2
1953Sherm Lollar3.1
1915Ray Schalk3.0
1952Sherm Lollar3.0
1975Brian Downing3.0
1977Jim Essian3.0
1982Carlton Fisk3.0
1987Carlton Fisk3.0
1993Ron Karkovice3.0
1922Ray Schalk2.9
1988Carlton Fisk2.9
1914Ray Schalk2.8
2014Tyler Flowers2.7
1920Ray Schalk2.6
1966Johnny Romano2.6
1917Ray Schalk2.5
1960Sherm Lollar2.5
1961Sherm Lollar2.4
1981Carlton Fisk2.4
2015Tyler Flowers2.4
1957Sherm Lollar2.3
1970Ed Herrmann2.3
1972Ed Herrmann2.3
1992Ron Karkovice2.3
1905Ed McFarland2.2
1919Ray Schalk2.2
1950Phil Masi2.2
1991Carlton Fisk2.2
2009A.J. Pierzynski2.2
2019James McCann2.2
1968Duane Josephson2.0
2006A.J. Pierzynski2.0

White Sox Catchers over the Last 10 Years

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

2012 White Sox

  • A.J. Pierzynski (primary)
  • Tyler Flowers
  • Hector Gimenez

 

2013 White Sox

  • Tyler Flowers (primary)
  • Josh Phegley
  • Hector Gimenez
  • Bryan Anderson
  • Miguel Gonzalez

 

2014 White Sox

  • Tyler Flowers (primary)
  • Adrian Nieto
  • Josh Phegley

 

2015 White Sox

  • Tyler Flowers (primary)
  • Geovany Soto
  • Rob Brantly

 

2016 White Sox

  • Dioner Navarro (primary)
  • Alex Avila
  • Omar Narvaez
  • Kevan Smith
  • Hector Sanchez

 

2017 White Sox

  • Omar Narvaez (primary)
  • Kevan Smith
  • Geovany Soto
  • Rob Brantly

 

2018 White Sox

  • Omar Narvaez (primary)
  • Kevan Smith
  • Welington Castillo
  • Alfredo Gonzalez
  • Dustin Garneau

 

2019 White Sox

  • James McCann (primary)
  • Welington Castillo
  • Zack Collins
  • Seby Zavala

 

2020 White Sox

  • Yasmani Grandal (primary)
  • James McCann
  • Zack Collins

 

2021 White Sox

  • Yasmani Grandal (primary)
  • Zack Collins
  • Seby Zavala
  • Yermin Mercedes

 

Complete List of All White Sox Catchers Over the Last 10 Years

The below list shows every Chicago White Sox 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.

  • A.J. Pierzynski
  • Adrian Nieto
  • Alex Avila
  • Alfredo Gonzalez
  • Bryan Anderson
  • Dioner Navarro
  • Dustin Garneau
  • Geovany Soto
  • Hector Gimenez
  • Hector Sanchez
  • James McCann
  • Josh Phegley
  • Kevan Smith
  • Miguel Gonzalez
  • Omar Narvaez
  • Rob Brantly
  • Seby Zavala
  • Tyler Flowers
  • Welington Castillo
  • Yasmani Grandal
  • Yermin Mercedes
  • Zack Collins

 

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Sources for this Article

  • Baseball Almanac
  • Baseball Reference
  • Chicago Sun-Times
  • Fangraphs