To celebrate 25 years of Triple-A baseball in New Orleans, we are taking a look back at the best players at each position over the last quarter-century. This week's feature is the top five catchers.
As the saying goes, championship ballclubs are strong up the middle: catcher, shortstop and second base, and center field. So it comes as no surprise that both Triple-A title-winning teams (1998, 2001) are represented among the top catchers in club history.
Kelly Stinnett was one of only two New Orleans Zephyrs to be named to a postseason All-Star team during the four years the club was affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers (1993-96). Stinnett earned American Association honors in 1996 by finishing fourth in the league with 27 home runs and 10th with 70 RBI, doing so in only 95 games while being nagged by a broken bone in his right wrist.
Of note, when Stinnett was promoted to Milwaukee in August, the bulk of the playing time in New Orleans went to Mike Matheny, now manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Mitch Meluskey turned in one of the franchise's finest all-around seasons in 1998. Though he was not with the Zephyrs during their run to the Pacific Coast League and Triple-A World Series titles in September, Meluskey chipped in 17 home runs and 71 RBI while hitting .353, the third-highest mark in team history.
Meluskey also ranked second in the PCL with 85 walks and a .465 on-base percentage and was third with a team-record 41 doubles while contributing solid work behind the plate, once going 35 consecutive games without an error.
A fan favorite and longest-tenured player in New Orleans history, playing in 396 games from 2000-03, Raul Chavez contributed his best season during the Zephyrs' second championship campaign in 2001. That year, Chavez batted .302 with eight home runs and 40 RBI and threw out 61% of runners attempting to steal.
Chavez went on to establish a career franchise record with 68 doubles, a mark that would stand for a decade, and drew praise for his ability to block the plate.
John Buck was Chavez's successor in 2003 and immediately lived up to his reputation as a defensive standout by being named the PCL's Top Defensive Catcher by Baseball America. Buck was named to the All-Star team that year but was unable to play due to a broken hand which cost him more than two months.
Buck returned to New Orleans in 2004 and was hitting .300 with 12 homers and 35 RBI in 65 games when he was included in a June trade with the Kansas City Royals which brought Carlos Beltran to Houston.
Tomas Telis rounds out the group, having worked his way into the franchise's top 10 in career batting average with a .313 mark entering the 2017 season, when he overcame a slow start to hit .347 over his final 40 contests and was the Baby Cakes' representative in the All-Star game.
Telis led all PCL catchers with a 44.4% caught stealing rate when he was promoted to Miami in July.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.