He wasn’t known for his prowess at the plate, but Benito Santiago didn’t need to be.
The Puerto Rico-born catcher enjoyed a 20-year career in the majors on the strength of his skills behind the plate — especially his ability to throw out would-be base thieves.
Santiago made his MLB debut in 1986 with the San Diego Padres and quickly established himself as one of the top young catchers in the league due mostly to his defense. At 22, he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1987 (18 HR, 79 RBI .300), becoming the first NL backstop to win the award since the Reds’ Johnny Bench in 1968.
Despite his reputation as one of the top defensive catchers of his era — he played from 1986 to 2005 — Santiago did swing a solid bat. He had a career average of .263 and hit 217 home runs with 920 runs batted in. He was particularly effective in clutch situations, hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position over his career.
In 2002, he was named MVP of the NLCS, hitting .300 with 2 homers and 6 RBI for the pennant-winning Giants.
Santiago played for nine teams, most of them in the National League: Padres, Marlins, Reds (twice), Phillies, Blue Jays, Cubs, Giants, Royals, and Pirates.
After retiring as a player, Santiago worked as a minor leagues coach and manager and as a coach for the Puerto Rican national baseball team in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic tournaments. He was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2003.
- Rookie of the Year in 1987
- Five-time All-Star (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995)
- Three-time Gold Glove Award winner (1988, 1989, 1990)
- Four-time Silver Slugger Award winner (1987, 1989, 1990, 1991)
- Led the National League in games caught for seven consecutive seasons (1987-1993).