Masks and Helmets
These days, it’s common to see catchers mixing and matching their preferred mask brand with different gear. This can be attributed to new and improved head protection technology that not all brands offer. For example, a catcher that wears a Force3 mask with Nike gear has become common and players make choices for protecting their heads outside of contractual obligations. For example, Nike athlete Will Smith prefers the Force3 mask, so he wears it. Nike does not require Smith to wear Nike branding on his head, because they recognize that the safety of someone’s head and brain supersedes marketing contracts.
Before we see the stats, what do you wear?
Force3 Masks: Worn by 47% of MLB Starting Catchers
Force3’s popularity has skyrocketed among catchers in recent years and they were named an Official Catcher’s Mask Partner of MLB Players, Inc in 2021. The quality head protection that their Defender Masks provide helped them earn the top spot in this category. National League standouts Will Smith, Travis d’Arnaud, and Austin Hedges all chose Force3 in 2022.
All-Star Masks: Worn by 30% of MLB Starting Catchers
All-Star has been one of the strongest brands in the game for years, especially among catchers. Although Force3 is in control at the moment, All-Star catcher’s masks/helmets are a mainstay in MLB, and with the introduction of the MVP5 helmet (worn by Rutschman below), their safest helmet to date, they may be coming for the crown.
The MVP5’s shock absorption is different than Force3’s, but it seems to accomplish a similar result: protecting the head of the most irreplaceable guy on the field. Two of the League’s biggest up-and-coming catching stars, Adley Rutschman and Joey Bart, rocked All-Star helmets throughout the season.
Other Mask Brands Worn By MLB Starting Catchers
Rounding out the list were Nike (13%), Rawlings (7%), and EvoShield (3%). In past seasons, Nike and Rawlings were much more prevalent. In 2022, it looked like a majority of catchers were more concerned with head protection than endorsements and selected catcher-specific brands All-Star and Force3.
Two-Piece Masks vs Hockey-Style Helmets
What style of headgear a catcher chooses to wear in game is all about preference. You are much more likely to see MLB catchers wearing traditional two-piece style masks rather than hockey-style. This remained true in 2022, with 77% wearing two-piece and 23% going with hockey-style.
Chest and Leg Guards
It is important to feel comfortable behind the plate, and choosing the right gear can make all the difference in the way a catcher performs. The league’s two most popular gear brands, Nike and All-Star, are worn by 73% of all starting catchers, including some of the league’s best.
Before we get into the pros, what chest and leg guards do you wear?
Nike: Worn by 53% of MLB Starting Catchers
Nike, the marketing juggernaut, has been a big player in the catching game for several years. Catchers feature prominently on television broadcasts and that means that they are offered lucrative contracts to wear the gear. Their player-exclusive gear is one of the most sought-after pieces of baseball equipment among non-professional and unsponsored catchers. (By the way, still no word from Nike on catchers gear at Dick’s). They lead the way in the chest and leg guard category with All-Stars like J.T. Realmuto, Willson Contreras, and Gary Sanchez all sporting Nike gear this past season.
All-Star: Worn by 20% of MLB Starting Catchers
Although All-Star sits 33 points below Nike, they remain a strong contender among catchers gear brands. 2022 Platinum Glover Jose Trevino and Alejandro Kirk both relied on All-Star gear behind the dish during their breakout years.
Other Gear Brands Worn by MLB Starting Catchers
There was a steep dropoff in gear popularity behind the top two leaders. Rounding out the list of remaining brands was Easton holding 10%, Rawlings and Force3 with 7%, and EvoShield sitting in last at 3%.
Wherever you look, you’ll find at least one constant in the MLB; Rawlings gloves. According to our 2022 WPW Glove Report, Rawlings controlled the majority of all gloves worn by MLB starters (55%). This trend was also true for catchers, but by a much larger margin.
Rawlings Gloves: Worn by 70% of MLB Starting Catchers
In 2022, catchers were dead even with center fielders for the highest percentage of Rawlings gloves used by position. Preferred by Gold Glovers like Sean Murphy, two-time winner J.T. Realmuto, and five-time winner Salvador Perez; Rawlings continued to dominate the glove market not only among catchers but the entire league.
All-Star Gloves: Worn by 13% of MLB Starting Catchers
At 13%, All-Star is the second most popular brand in this group. They continue to produce quality gloves that are preferred by players like Max Stassi of the Angels and Martin Maldonado of the Astros.
Other Gloves Worn by MLB Starting Catchers
We only saw a handful of starting catchers using glove brands other than Rawlings and All-Star, including Mizuno (worn by Travis d’Arnaud and Jonah Heim), Wilson (Worn by Tyler Stephenson), Easton (worn by Austin Hedges), and Force3 (worn by Yasmani Grandal).
Let us know what gear you prefer behind the dish!