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Houston Astros All-Time Rankings: Catcher

Today we start our series looking at the top five players at each position in Houston Astros franchise history. For this edition, we examine former (and maybe current) Astros backstops.

The Houston Astros have had quite a weak history from an offensive standpoint at catcher, as the Astros backstop through the years has been known for playing solid defense and managing pitching staffs well, but not quite ever getting it done with from the plate.

With that in mind, it becomes difficult to rank the top 5 catchers, as you have to factor in defense significantly into the equation. Looking through more than 50 years of Astros history, here is the list I have come up with for the top five Houston Astros catchers of all time: 

5.) Jason Castro

While last season certainly was not his best, Jason Castro provided the Astros with a few solid seasons during his six-year run with the club. Castro endured the tough, long seasons during the massive rebuild of the franchise and put up numbers that encouraged fans in Houston about the clubs' 2008 1st Round draft pick. For example, Castro posted a great season in 2013, a season in which the Astros finished with a record of 51-111 (sorry for the reminder). Not only did Castro provide leadership and grow a lot as a player, he was the Astros' lone representative in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game. 

While Castro was never able to replicate the offensive numbers that he posted in 2013, he certainly played a major role in the Astros 2015 postseason run. I will never forget going crazy after he hit that walk-off home run in Minute Maid Park on July 30, 2015. I was lucky enough to be able to attend that game, and it was absolutely unbelievable.

I've seen Jason Castro higher on some lists, although he certainly does not appear on all of them. In the end, I think Castro's lack of offensive production in recent years prevented me from putting him all the way in the top two or three. However, his defensive production and ability to call a game are undeniable. This is why he makes an appearance as an elite catcher in Astros history.

Here are some highlights from Jason Castro's time as a Houston Astro:

  • 2013 American League All-Star (Only Astro that season to be an All-Star)
  • Led Astros Pitching Rotation to remarkable run in 2015 season
  • Considered by many across the world of advanced statistics to be a top pitch framer across the MLB

4.) Johnny Edwards

Had to reach back a bit in Astros history to find Johnny Edwards, but man was he a good ball player for the Astros back in the day. I'm not going to lie, as someone who was born in 1996, I had never heard of this dude before I started researching for this article. So, for all you youngsters out there, here's some information about Edwards.

Edwards joined the Astros towards the end of his career after a pretty remarkable seven-year run with the Cincinnati Reds and then a short stint with the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Reds, Edwards established himself among the elite catchers in baseball, making an appearance in the 1963, 1964, and 1965 All-Star games and winning two Gold Glove awards as well. 

When Edwards finally joined the Astros, he was a veteran player entering his age 31 season. Not using his age as an excuse, Edwards played in 151 games in his first season with the club, which led all National League catchers. He led the National League in assists and fielding percentage that season, showing Astros fans that he still had his range. Offensively, his best season with the club came in 1972, when he posted an OPS of .732 and a batting average of .268. Here are some highlights of Edwards' run with the Houston Astros:

  • Led National League in Fielding Percentage: 1969, 1970, 1971
  • Posted a slash line of .268/.358/.373/.732 in 1972
  • Led National League in Games Played at Catcher: 1969 (151 games), 1970 (139 games)

3.) Brad Ausmus

Brad Ausmus will always be remembered by Astros fans for his role in the unprecedented 2005 postseason run. As most of you know, Ausmus saved the Astros in the NLDS when he delivered a clutch, wall-scraping, game-tying home run in Game 4. After that home run, the Astros and Braves played on, the game went to 18 innings, stuff happened, Chris Burke was clutch, and you know the rest.

In his ten-year run with the Astros, Ausmus was part of some pivotal postseason runs and was praised for his handling of a star-studded Astros pitching rotation and mentoring of a young Brandon Backe, who delivered clutch postseason performance despite his youth. Offensively, Ausmus was a four or five home run hitter per season in the steroid era, so the offensive production was not stellar by any means.

Defensively, Ausmus won three Gold Glove Awards (2001, 2002, 2006) with the Astros. These awards were certainly earned, as Ausmus led the National League in fielding percentage, putouts, and defensive games played multiple times during his stint in Houston. He was always near the top in basically every defensive statistic, and was rarely injured despite playing most games in the 162-game grind that is the MLB regular season. Here are some highlights of Ausmus' time with the Astros:

  • National League Gold Glove Award Winner at Catcher: 2001, 2002, 2006
  • Starting Catcher for Astros 2005 World Series Team
  • Fielding Percentage as Catcher Leader: 2001, 2002
  • Showed that he has the Clutch Gene: 2005

2.) Alan Ashby

Despite his less than memorable run in the Astros broadcasting booth in recent years, Alan Ashby makes the list at #2 in the Astros All-Time Catchers Ranking. In his eleven years with the Astros as a player, Ashby was a productive catcher both offensively and defensively. 

From an offensive standpoint, Ashby was consistently in the .250-.270 range with his batting average. His two "outlier seasons" came in 1985 and 1987 when he batted .280 and .288 respectively. Ashby was always disciplined at the plate, never striking out too much and taking a fair number of walks. He eclipsed the ten home run mark twice in his Astros career, hitting 14 home runs in 1987 and 12 home runs in 1982. Although this might not be much power, it's pretty good on the list of Astros catchers through the years.

On the defensive side, Ashby played in almost 1,300 games as a catcher during his career and was a consistent presence behind the plate for the Astros. His fielding numbers do not match that of Ausmus', but he did flash some signs of brilliance. He led the National League in fielding percentage once, and had a couple seasons in the top five in fielding percentage among catchers. Here are some highlights of Alan Ashby's run with the Houston Astros:

  • Hit .288 in 1987 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs, an offensive season that has rarely been matched in Astros Catcher history. 
  • Member of the 1986 Houston Astros, one of the best Astros teams of all-time.
  • Played 11 years with the Houston Astros organization.
  • Never struck out more than 52 times in a season, which would be absolutely unbelievable for the 2012-2014 Astros.

1.) Craig Biggio

Oh yes, we snuck Craig Biggio into this list. While Biggio was not primarily a catcher throughout his 500,000 seasons with the Astros, he certainly put enough time in to be among the elite in Astros backstops. The only Hall of Fame player for the Houston Astros, Biggio came up with the team as a catcher and played catcher from 1988-1991 for the team. 

Not only did Biggio put up some great offensive numbers for the Astros as a catcher, he was a reliable defensive player and made the 1991 All-Star Game as a catcher for the National League team. The famous Yogi Berra always liked Biggio, as he was a short catcher. Berra famously said, "I always identified with short catchers -- they don't have to stand up as far." 

I could go on talking about Biggio for 50 more paragraphs, but this article is just focused on his time as a catcher. In 1989, Biggio brought home the National League Silver Slugger Award for catchers, as I believe he's the only Astros catcher to win this award (could be wrong on this). Biggio was certainly deserving of the honor, as he slugged 13 home runs with 60 RBIs while walking 49 times and stealing 21 bases. His 21 stolen bases as a catcher will most likely never be replicated by an Astros backstop, certainly not by Brian McCann or Evan Gattis this season. Here are some highlights from Biggio's three and a half seasons as a catcher for the Houston Astros:

  • National League Silver Slugger Award Winner for Catchers: 1989
  • 71 Stolen Bases while playing Catcher for the Astros.
  • 889 Putouts in 1989, which ranked him 1st in the National League
  • Slash Line of .295/.358/.374/.731 in 1991, arguably the best offensive season by an Astros catcher in Houston Astros history.

As always, we hope you enjoyed this piece. Let us know on social media and in the forums what your All-Time Astros Catcher Ranking would be, as the debate is what makes these articles exciting. 

Look out for Houston Astros All-Time Rankings: First Base tomorrow.

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