Grading the 2021 KC Royals, Part 1: The catchers

(Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports) /

Catching for the 2021 KC Royals was a task shared by three men, but dominated by one. Salvador Perez’s talent and effervescence destined him to overshadow his backups and he did, putting up the kind of season mere mortal catchers can only envy and admire.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that Cam Gallagher and Sebastian Rivero were dispensable. They weren’t. Gallagher was, as always, a serviceable primary backup to Perez, and Rivero proved a good choice to replace Gallagher when he went on the Injured List.

How, though, do Kansas City’s catching corps grade out for the 2021 campaign?

There’s only one grade Salvador Perez can receive for his KC Royals season.

Heavy analysis is unnecessary, close scrutiny needless, debate futile. One grade, and one grade only, is all one should consider for Salvador Perez.

Give him an A+.

Every KC Royals fan knows what kind of season Perez had. He signed the biggest contract in club history before the season began, a four-year $82 million deal that kicks in next season. But unlike so many other players, Perez performed in a manner clearly free of the pressure some feel to prove themselves worthy of huge new contracts.

His 48 home runs broke Johnny Bench’s single-season primary catcher record, tied the Royals’ single-season best, and knotted him with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the major league lead. The 121 runs he drove in were the most in the big leagues. He also had the best caught-stealing rate at 44%. He spent no time on the Injured List and played all but one game.

The veteran of 10 major league seasons made his seventh All-Star team and put on a record-breaking show in the Home Run Derby. He’s been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award, the Hank Aaron Award, and the Major League Baseball Players Association’s American League Outstanding Player Award.

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To give Perez anything less than an A+ just wouldn’t be right.

The KC Royals’ primary backup catcher deserves a decent grade for 2021.

There are no All-Star Games, no major league records, and probably no Kansas City club records in Cam Gallagher’s baseball future. He’ll never be a regular major league starter; his headlines are few and far between.

But as five seasons backing up Salvador Perez prove, Gallagher is important to the Royals. It’s to him the team turns when Perez gets a much-deserved day off, or falls prey to the many injuries befalling big league catchers. And although Gallagher spent some 51 days on the IL this season, filling in for Perez was something he again did well.

He slashed .250/.298/.330 in a 48-game part-time role that afforded him only 112 at-bats. Although not outstanding, his .983 fielding percentage was adequate considering his job, and he had only one passed ball.

Always reliable and ready, Gallagher had Perez’s and his team’s backs. For the 2021 campaign, he rates a solid B.

Pressed into service by injuries, Sebastian Rivero made his big league debut.

Before the 2021 season, Sebastian River’s exposure to the major leagues consisted of 17 spring training games spread over three years.

But injuries to Cam Gallagher forced the KC Royals to call Rivero up from Triple-A Omaha for the important task of backing up Salvador Perez. And Rivero responded fairly well, especially behind the plate where he flawlessly handled 103 chances for a 1.000 field percentage, and threw out a better than league average 29% of would-be base stealers.

His bat wasn’t as good—Rivero hit only .175, but his catching was far more important to the Royals than his hitting.

Rivero gets a B for his first major league effort.

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Kansas City’s 2021 catchers performed well and deserve good season grades.