2004 Rookie Catchers
Few would dispute that when healthy the Twins' Mauer was the best all-around rookie catcher of 2004, but he missed most of the season with injury and several other newcomers saw far more action.
The Rangers had such high hopes for Laird they traded away veteran Einar Diaz before the season to make way for him. "Gerald emerged this spring," said then-Rangers general manager John Hart, "and there was a lot of feeling in the organization that this was a young guy we should commit to." Laird started out well, hitting .346 for April while throwing out six of 13 runners who tried to steal, but injuries cut into his season. He finished with a puny batting average (.224) as did other youngsters such as the Diamondbacks' Brito (.205), the Blue Jays' Cash (.193) and the Tigers' Shelton (.196).
The Cardinals' Molina, who backed up perennial Gold Glover Mike Matheny, was both lucky and good, turning in a fine debut season, finishing at .267. The same might be said of the Royals' Buck, who demonstrated power with 12 home runs in 238 at-bats, though he hit a modest .235.
Molina, 21, brother of Angels catchers Bengie and Jose, might well be the regular if Matheny leaves St. Louis as a free agent. Molina certainly impressed pitching coach Dave Duncan and manager Tony La Russa. "I think the wuestions are about how he will hit at this level," said Duncan. "He's shown he can catch here."
In the final analysis it came down to a choice between Molina and Mauer. Mauer was sidelined much of the year and Molina was healthy. Still, Mauer is a power hitter. Molina isn't. Defensively they may be equal. It's a tough pick, but the nod goes to the vastly talented Mauer.
#7 | Mauer Bio & Stats | League Awards