With Salvador Perez on the verge of breaking the all-time, single-season record for home runs by a catcher, I thought it might be fun to have a look at the franchise-best in Toronto Blue Jays history.
Danny Jansen (8 HR), Alejandro Kirk (8), and Reese McGuire (1) have combined for just 17 home runs as a trio so far this season, so it hasn’t been the biggest power year behind the plate for the Jays. That said, they’ve had some pretty solid power-hitting catchers in the past.
Here are the best Blue Jays power-hitting seasons from a backstop.
1. Russell Martin (2015) – 23 Home Runs
When the Blue Jays signed Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million contract in the fall of 2014, a few eyebrows were raised. Sure, he was one of the premier catchers in the game, but the contract length, entering his age-32 season, was a bit long. However, Martin proved to be a valuable addition, especially in his first year with the club, when he hit a career-high 23 home runs.
T1. J.P. Arencibia (2011) – 23 Home Runs
Say what you will about Arencibia, he could hit the long ball. He burst onto the scene in a full-time role in 2011 with 23 jacks. Despite high strikeout totals, J.P. remained productive in the home run department over the next two seasons, with 18 and 21 respectively.
2. John Buck (2010) – 20 Home Runs
As much as he is synonymous with the Jays, it’s not Buck Martinez but another Buck who finds himself high up on this list. John Buck landed in Toronto after spending his first six seasons in the Kansas City Royals organization. He proved to be a fantastic pickup, launching 20 homers and earning the lone All-Star Game appearance of his career.
3. Martin (2016) – 20 Home Runs
Russell “The Muscle” followed up his stellar 2015 campaign with a solid 2016 performance. He hit 20 dingers and drove in over 70 runs for the second straight year. His contract really didn’t start looking bad until the third, and especially fourth years.
With Salvador Perez on the verge of breaking the all-time, single-season record for home runs by a catcher, here are the best Blue Jays power-hitting backstops in franchise history.
4. Darrin Fletcher (2000) – 20 Home Runs
Fletcher came to Toronto after spending the previous six seasons with the Montreal Expos. He experienced a bit of a power surge, hitting double-digit homers three straight years, including 20 in 2000
5. Ernie Whitt (1987) – 19 Home Runs
So fun fact: Whitt was my first favorite Blue Jays player. I don’t know if it was his mustache, the way he played, or what, but little-kid Graeme couldn’t get enough of Ernie. Many consider him to be the best Jays catcher of all time and his eight consecutive seasons of double-digit home runs is a franchise record for the position. 1987 was his best season when he went deep 19 times.
6. Whitt (1985) – 19 Home Runs
Whitt earned his only All-Star nod in 1985 and tied his personal best 19 big flies. This season gets pushed down due to lower peripheral numbers.
7. Rod Barajas (2009) – 19 Home Runs
Admit it, you forgot about Rod. It may have come during a somewhat forgettable time in Jays’ history, but Barajas was serviceable over two seasons in blue. He hit 30 bombs, including 19 in 2009. That he managed to do that despite recording an OPS+ of just 71 seems almost statistically impossible until you see that he also had an OBP of .258. That’s what you call swinging for the fences.
8. Pat Borders (1990) – 15 Home Runs
Borders will forever be remembered as the 1992 World Series MVP and rightfully so. His best overall season though occurred a couple of years earlier. In 1990 Borders went yard 15 times, one of only two times he achieved double digits in his career. He also caught 34% of base-runners and had a WAR of 3.0, the only time he’s been over 0.8.
9. Charlie O’Brien (1996) – 15 Home Runs
Known for his innovative hockey-style mask, O’Brien enjoyed by far the best season of his 15-year career in 1996 with 13 home runs. That easily eclipsed his previous high of nine, set the previous season with Atlanta.
10. Dioner Navarro (2014) – 12 Home Runs
The front office, still led by Alex Anthopoulos at the time, may have backed up the Brinks truck for Martin following the 2014 season, but it wasn’t a needed acquisition. Navarro was coming off his best season, by far, putting up a .274/.317/.712 slash line with 12 HRs and 69 RBI.
Honorable Mention: Buck Martinez (1983) – 10 Home Runs
This is my list and I decided to make a last-minute, editorial change. I swapped out a disgraced former catcher-turned media member (Gregg Zaun) with a beloved one, Buck Martinez, who went deep 10 times in 1982 and ‘83.
Don’t be surprised if Alejandro Kirk or eventually Gabriel Moreno set a new franchise record for the Blue Jays at some point, as both have big power potential. It’s hard to say if they’ll ever pull off what Perez has done in Kansas City this season, but fortunately, the Blue Jays have a few power hitters of their own that keep them among the best HR-hitting teams in baseball.