It is nearly impossible to calculate the value of a catcher. Game calling, dealing with the different personalities of the pitching staff, instantly knowing when the pitcher is done. And this while crouching for hundreds of innings, receiving thousands of pitches, and taking shots to all parts of the anatomy. And then, still having to make a positive offensive impact with the bat.
MLB salary structure is beyond my comprehension. Some of the greatest players the game has ever seen are paid a fraction of their worth, while billionaire team owners watch the value of the franchise increase at eye-watering speed.
I love this quote.
“Major League Baseball has a minimum player salary in place to ensure that its athletes are fairly compensated for the work they do.”
The phrase “fairly compensated” does a lot of heavy lifting.
Without further ado, we are pleased to present the Bat Flips and Nerds Underpaid Superstars – The Minimum Wage Roster. All of the players were paid less than $610,000 in the 2021 season.
Catcher: Will Smith
The Dodgers are worth a staggering $3.7 billion, The franchise had the highest MLB payroll in 2021 of around $250 million, but their sensational catcher, Will Smith, was paid $590,500.
There is an argument that Smith is the best catcher in MLB. He finished second behind Royals’ Salvador Perez in runs and RBI, and third behind him (and Mike Zunino) in home runs, but according to Fangraphs defensive WAR, Smith was worth 11.1 compared to Perez’s -10.3 (that’s negative 10.3).
The 26-year-old hit 25 homers with 71 runs, 76 RBI in 501 plate appearances. In sabermetric terms, how does .364 wOBA grab you? That’s pretty good production for an outfielder, so it’s magnificent from behind the plate.
The Dodgers certainly got bang for their 600 bucks.
Smith was taken with the 32nd pick of the first round in the 2016 draft. That was the year when the Phillies drafted Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick. Ouch.
The Dodgers’ catcher is easily the best player to come out of the first round, and this is despite catchers developing more slowly. Interestingly, the most valuable player from the 2016 draft was a fourth-round pick: Cleveland’s starting pitcher, Shane Bieber.
In 2022, Smith will again be crucial to the best team in MLB with both his glove and his bat, yet once again he will earn the minimum of around $575,000. Smith will be 31 when he hits free agency in 2026; not a great age for a catcher with so much wear and tear on his body.
Salary information courtesy of Spotrac. Watch out for the rest of the “Underpaid Superstar Roster”
Featured image photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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