Pittsburgh Pirates Countdown: Top Five Catchers in History
By David Hill
1. Jason Kendall (1996-2004)
During the dark days, when the Pittsburgh Pirates were seemingly stuck in an endless cycle of rebuilding years and hoping that their prospects would pan out, Jason Kendall was a true force offensively. He was a rarity when he first came to the majors – a catcher with legitimate speed who had a bit of pop. That is, before his truly horrific ankle injury that he suffered in 1999.
Even after that injury, Kendall had a few more seasons with double digit home runs and stolen bases, but he was about done as a power threat after the 2001 season. Yet, despite that, Kendall posted a .306/.387/.418 batting line for the Pirates, hitting 67 of his 75 career home runs and stealing 140 bases.
Defensively, Kendall was not exactly great. While he was typically among the league leaders in putouts and assists, the opposition also ran on Kendall with impunity. While he may have led the National League in runners thrown out three times with the Pirates, base stealers also constantly tested his arm, even stealing 136 bases against him in 1996.
Jason Kendall may be a case of what could have been if he had not gotten injured. While he still carved out a solid career, and is the career leader in Wins Above Replacement at catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, his career may have been even better if not for that injury. Despite that, he was still good enough to be considered the best catcher in Pirates history.