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 an All-Star mask with Nike gear has become common and players make choices for protecting their heads outside of contractual obligations. For example, Braves backstop Sean Murphy prefers the Force3 mask, so he wears it. For the rest of his protective gear, though, he’ll go with Rawlings – just like his leather.
Before we see the stats, what do you wear?
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. They maintained the same percentage from 2022 over to 2023 and, at nearly a third of the league, it shows that All-Star catcher’s masks/helmets are a mainstay in MLB. The MVP5 helmet has been well received by MLB starters (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.
Force3 Masks: Worn by 27% 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 brand did see a decline in its usage across the league – going from 47% in 2022 to 27% in 2023. Christian Vazquez, Will Smith, William Contreras, and Gary Sanchez all chose Force3 in 2023.
Other Mask Brands Worn By MLB Starting Catchers
Rounding out the list were Nike (17%), Rawlings (10%), Mizuno (7%), Easton (3%) and Under Armour (3%). Easton and UA made appearances on our starters list after not having done so the previous season. The catcher-based brands in All-Star and Force3 own 53% of the helmet share in MLB.
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, though the latter is growing. 63% wear two-piece masks while hockey masks saw a 14% increase from 2022.
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 Rawlings, are worn by 60% 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 43% of MLB Starting Catchers
Nike has continued to be a big player in the catching game. 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. They lead the way in the chest and leg guard category with Francisco Alvarez, J.T. Realmuto, and Gabi Moreno all opting for the swoosh.
Nike went ahead and released the very gear that used to be so coveted by amateurs throughout the country. For younger Tyler Soderstrom’s sake, it has made the hunt much easier.
Rawlings: Worn by 17% of MLB Starting Catchers
Rawlings surpassed All-Star for the runner-up spot in 2023, seeing a big 10% increase from one year to the next. Others include Christian Bethancourt, Salvador Perez, and World Champ Jonah Heim.
All-Star: Worn by 13% of MLB Starting Catchers
All-Star declined 7% from 2022 to 2023 but still remained a strong contender among catchers gear brands. 2022 Martin Maldonado and Alejandro Kirk both relied on All-Star gear behind the dish for the Astros and Blue Jays, respectively.
Other Gear Brands Worn by MLB Starting Catchers
Some of the newer brands to the Big League stage upped their presence. Easton rose to 7%, mirroring the same share as Mizuno and Evoshield. Force3 and Under Armour each have their guy (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 73% of MLB Starting Catchers
In 2023, there was a +3% increase in Rawlings mitt usage behind the plate. 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.
Other Gloves Worn by MLB Starting Catchers
We only saw a handful of starting catchers using glove brands other than Rawlings, including Mizuno (Yan Gomes, Jake Rogers, Kyle Higashioka), All-Star (Martin Maldonado, Alejandro Kirk), Wilson (Tyler Stephenson and Connor Wong), and Force3 (Yasmani Grandal).
Let us know what gear you prefer behind the dish!