Best Colorado Rockies Catchers in Team History

The Colorado Rockies began playing in 1993 and quickly became a fixture of National League baseball. 

A number of talented catchers have caught for the Rockies over the years. This post focuses on them, as it highlights the best Colorado Rockies catchers in team history based on career and single-season WAR.

Keep scrolling to learn more...

A Brief History of the Colorado Rockies

Colorado Gets an MLB Franchise

Major League Baseball (MLB) expanded in 1993 by adding two new National League (NL) teams - the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies began playing in 1993 at Mile High Stadium. Mile High, a multipurpose stadium that also hosted the NFL's Denver Broncos, was known for having the highest elevation of any stadium in the majors.

colorado rockies mile high stadium

A full Mile High Stadium during the Rockies first season.

The high elevation meant thinner air, and soon Denver got the reputation for being a hitters paradise.

Although the Rockies went just 67 - 95 in their inaugural season, they were incredibly popular and had a strong fan base. In fact, the 1993 Rockies set an MLB record for having the highest attendance in a season with 4,483,350 fans. 

They were on track to exceed this attendance number in 1994 when the strike happened. 

Then, in 1995, the Rockies moved to their current stadium, Coors Field, a beautiful park but one with a lower seating capacity than Mile High Stadium had.

New Ballpark Through the '07 Pennant

In 1995, the Rockies had their first winning season (77 - 67) and their first playoff appearance. They'd finish above .500 the following two seasons, as well. 

The Rockies at this time had some impressive bats with guys such as Larry Walker, Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga. Soon, a new slugger and perennial all-star named Todd Helton would join the team.

bichette walker castilla galarraga colorado rockies

A picture of Rockies sluggers Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, Vinny Castilla and Andres Galarraga.

Despite this offensive talent, the Rockies struggled as a team for much of the late 90's and early 2000's. Between 1998 and 2006, the Rockies never finished higher than 4th in the NL West. 

In 2007, however, the Rockies would turn things around. With fresh talent like Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday in the lineup, the Rockies would finish the regular season 90 - 73 on their way to capturing the NL pennant.

Unfortunately for Rockies fans, they would fall short in the 2007 World Series to a recently un-cursed Boston Red Sox team. 

The Rockies celebrate their 2007 NL pennant victory.

From 2008 to Today

The Rockies had a disappointing season in 2008, but they went on to have the winningest regular season record in team history the following year (92 - 70). They made it back to the playoffs in '09, but fell in the NLDS to the reigning World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies. 

Between 2010 and 2016, the Rockies had mostly sub .500 seasons and never finished higher than third place in the division during this period. 

Still, there was reason to be optimistic if you were a Rockies fan during this time. The team had an all-star shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki, a budding star at third base named Nolan Arenado, and a strong bat in outfielder Charlie Blackmon.

Nolan Arenado throwing Colorado Rockies

Nolan Arenado when playing for the Rockies [AP photo].

In 2017, the Rockies went .537 in the regular season and .558 the following year. Still, they wouldn't make it past the NLDS in those two seasons.

Between 2019 and 2021, the Rockies finished in fourth place in the NL West each season. Key players on the roster currently include guys like Trevor Story, C.J. Cron and Ryan McMahon, among others.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. It is a baseball term that was created to measure a player’s contributions to his team. 

According to the MLB, the definition of WAR is 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).”

There are different formulas for pitchers and for position players. Also, the way WAR is calculated differs by publisher (e.g., Baseball-Reference vs Fangraphs). 

Even so, WAR is a very useful and popular measure because it does an excellent job at reflecting a player’s value to his team.

For this article, we investigated all catchers that have played for the Colorado Rockies and ranked them by their career and single season WAR (using the Baseball-Reference calculation). Meaning, we reviewed data going back to 1993 - the first season in Rockies history. 

What follows in this article is a summary of the top three Colorado Rockies catchers ranked by career WAR, and the second section highlights the top three seasons by a Rockies catcher as measured by their single-season WAR.

 

Top 3 Rockies Catchers by Career WAR

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

#1. Charles Johnson, 22.6 career WAR

charles johnson former colorado rockies catcher

Former Rockies catcher Charles Johnson.

Charles Johnson is the best catcher to have ever played for the Colorado Rockies (for more than 100 games), based on career WAR. In fact, Johnson ranks #3 all-time among African American catchers according to WAR.

Johnson had a 12 year career in the big leagues, from 1994 - 2005. Though he spent the bulk of that time as a member of the Florida Marlins, he spent two seasons (2003 - 2004) as the Rockies’ primary catcher. 

In total for his career, Johnson owned a .245/.330/.433 slash line with 167 lifetime home runs and 570 RBIs. He was incredibly strong defensively, and his career fielding percentage as a catcher all-time is .993. Over the course of his career, Johnson earned four NL gold gloves.

In addition to being a great defender, Johnson also had a strong arm. He threw out an impressive 39% of base runners trying to steal over his MLB career.

#2. Chris Iannetta, 15.0 career WAR

chris ianetta former colorado rockies catcher

Long-time Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta after hitting a home run.

A product of the UNC Tar Heels baseball program, Chris Iannetta was drafted by the Rockies in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, making his big league debut two years later.

Iannetta spent 14 years in the majors, eight of which were with the Rockies. He was a member of the 2007 NL Pennant winning team, splitting time behind the dish that year with Yorvit Torrealba, Geronimo Gil and Edwin Bellorin.

A career .230/.345/.406 hitter, Iannetta collected 820 MLB hits, 141 home runs and 502 RBIs. He caught 9,275.1 big league innings, maintaining an excellent .995 fielding percentage behind the plate and a 24% caught stealing percentage, or CS%.

While with the Rockies, Iannetta led all NL catchers in fielding percentage (1.000) in 2008, in double plays turned (10) in 2009 and in assists (82) in 2011. 

Iannetta retired as a player in August 2020. 

#3. Nick Hundley, 7.4 career WAR

nick hundley with the colorado rockies

Nick Hundley hitting at Coors Field [photo by Doug Pensinger].

Nick Hundley played big league baseball for 12 years and for five teams. 

Two of those seasons were spent with the Rockies (2015 - 2016). However, Hundley had the best season of his career while playing for the Rockies in 2015, hitting .301/.339/.467 that season.

Hundley's lifetime slash line is .247/.299/.405 with 93 home runs and 376 RBIs. Defensively, Hundley had a .991 fielding percentage behind the plate and a 26% CS% over the course of his career.

Hundley retired as a player in February 2020.

 

Top 3 Seasons by Rockies Catchers, Ranked by Single-Season WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 60 games played in one season as a member of the Rockies to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.

#1. 2008 - Chris Iannetta (3.2 WAR)

Chris Iannetta at bat in a June 2008 game against the San Diego Padres [Getty Images].

Chris Iannetta had the best season of his career in 2008. He appeared in 104 games for the Rockies that season and hit .264/.390/.505. Iannetta had career-highs in ‘08 in hits (88), home runs (18), RBIs (65), OPS (.895), and several other categories.

In 837 innings behind the plate that season, Iannetta had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, tying Arizona’s Chris Snyder for the NL lead. He also threw out 12 runners attempting to steal in 2008, good for a 23% CS%.

#2. 2011 - Chris Iannetta (3.1 WAR)

Iannetta during a July 2011 game versus the Milwaukee Brewers [Getty Images].

Iannetta returned as the Rockies’ everyday catcher in 2011, and that season he had a career-high 426 plate appearances. He collected 14 home runs and 55 RBIs in 2011, with a .238/.370/.414 slash line.

Defensively, Iannetta had a near-perfect .998 fielding percentage behind the plate, and he threw out 30% of runners who attempted stealing on him. Iannetta tied Geovany Soto of the Chicago Cubs for the NL lead in assists by catchers that season with 82.

#3. 2010 - Miguel Olivo (2.5 WAR)

Miguel Olivo after hitting a walk-off home run against the Philadelphia Phillies in May 2010 [Getty Images].

Chris Iannetta got off to a sluggish start in 2010 and new Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo took his place as Colorado’s primary backstop. He ended up having a career-high 2.5 WAR that season.

Olivo played in 112 games for the Rockies in 2010, hitting .269/.315/.449 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. Behind the plate he had a .990 fielding percentage and threw out an impressive 42% of runners trying to steal, good for second in the NL. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • 2021 - Elias Diaz (2.2 WAR)
  • 2013 - Wilin Rosario (2.2 WAR)
  • 1997 - Jeff Reed (2.1 WAR)

 

Thank You for Reading

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. We learned a lot about the Rockies from the time spent researching and writing it.

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