3. Fred Carroll (1885-1889, 1891)
Fred Carroll is a player that most fans, even the true hardcore, die-hard fans, may not know about, despite playing almost his entire career in Pittsburgh. In fact, Carroll played in three different leagues in Pittsburgh, leaving the Pirates in 1890 to join the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League before returning to the Pirates for one last year.
Carroll was, for his time, quite the offensive threat. In his six years for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he produced a .281/.365/.406 batting line, hitting 19 home runs and stealing 102 bases. He led the National League in 1889 with a .486 on base percentage and a .970 OPS. Carroll was not just an excellent hitter as a catcher in his era – he was considered one of the better offensive players in his day, regardless of position as he routinely placed in the top five in almost every batting category.
Yet, for as good as Fred Carroll was offensively, his defense puts him down this list. While Carroll actually led the National League with a .944 fielding percentage in his rookie year, and twice finished in the top five in the category for the Pirates, he had quite the difficult time corralling pitches. In fact, Carroll allowed 95 passed balls in 1886 (amazingly, that was second, as Chris Fulmer had 113 for the Baltimore Orioles).
One of the original ‘offense first’ catchers, Carroll still places in the top five all time in Wins Above Replacement for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His offensive standing was enough to put him in the top three in the countdown.
Next: The man behind the glove