Catchers tend to develop slower than most other positions, so it is rare to see a catcher in his early 20s handling the pitching staff as the everyday backstop. However, in some cases, especially with an impact offensive player, catchers find themselves in the minors at a very young age.
Finding a franchise catcher is something every team strives to do, but there are only a handful of teams that have what they can consider a catcher of the present and future, which makes the position such a valuable one.
So here is a quick look at the top backstops 25 years old and younger, guys who will be the game's premier receivers for the next decade and should frequent the All-Star Game.
*Ages are taken based on the player's playing age (age on June 30th) for the upcoming season, so guys like Carlos Santana and Matt Wieters are considered 26 years old.
No. 1 Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (25 Years Old)
The Giants were dealt a devastating blow last season when Posey went down with a season-ending ankle injury on May 25th following a big collision at home plate.
He played such a big role in leading the Giants to a World Series title in 2010, batting .305 with 18 HR and 67 RBI in just 108 games to take home NL Rookie of the Year honors. Losing his bat in what was already a sub-par offense was too much for the Giants to overcome last season.
Despite the injury, he is still the game's top young backstop. While he is certainly a candidate to be moved out from behind the dish within the next couple seasons, for now he will continue to throw behind the plate and anchor the Giants' lineup from the cleanup spot.
No. 2 Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers (25 Years Old)
Handed starting catching duties for the Tigers back in August of of 2009, the organization expected Avila to be the everyday catcher in 2010 and he was given that job out of spring training.
However, he struggled to the tune of a .228 BA, seven home runs and 31 RBI, and eventually found himself in a reserve role as his star began to fade as catcher of the future.
He turned that all around last season though, putting together a terrific .295 BA, 19 HR, 82 RBI season that earned him a start in the All-Star Game and a Silver Slugger award. He was burned out by the end of the regular season and struggled throughout the playoffs, but there is little question he is destined to be a premier catcher.
No. 3 Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners (22 Years Old)
It remains to be seen just how much he'll catch as he has just 61 big league at bats under his belt, but there is little doubt that Montero will be among the game's premier offensive backstops if he remains behind the plate.
As of now, it looks as though Miguel Olivo and John Jaso will handle the bulk of the catching duties in Seattle, but Montero should still see 30-40 games behind the plate which qualifies him as a catcher for the sake of this list.
He may not have the defensive skills, but he'll be a perennial .300 hitter and has to be the favorite along with Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore to take home the AL Rookie of the Year.
No. 4 Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (24 Years Old)
It was a weird offseason for Ramos, who was kidnapped in Venezuela while playing winter ball there and was held for ransom before being rescued.
With that ordeal behind him, he can go back to focusing on his role as the Nationals' everyday backstop and a star in the making.
Acquired from the Twins for closer Matt Capps at the 2010 trade deadline, he stepped into an everyday role last season and batted .267 BA with 15 HR and 52 RBI while playing fantastic defense to finish fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Best of the Rest
The pro baseball ranks are by no means ripe with good young catching talent right now, but there are a handful who should make an impact at the next level, starting with Blue Jays prospect Travis d'Arnaud, who enters 2012 as Baseball America's 17th-ranked prospect following a .311, 21 HR, 78 RBI season as a 22-year-old at Double-A last year.
One catcher who could find himself in a starting role with the big league club by season's end is the Reds' Devin Mesoraco (24 years old), who the club deemed a sure enough thing that they dealt fellow top catching prospect Yasmani Grandal (23 years old) to the Padres, where he looks to be the catcher of the future.
The Mets have a good young catcher in Josh Thole, as he served as the team's primary receiver last season and hit .268 with three home runs and 40 RBI. He's still only 25, and has the upside to be a franchise catcher for the Mets.