3) Martín Maldonado
For five years, Martín Maldonado has been the primary backstop for the Golden Era of Astros baseball. In his five years in Houston, “Machete” has hit only .191 with a .628 OPS. His struggles at the plate persisted this season, hitting only .186 with a .600 OPS.
When it comes to Maldy’s importance, offensive numbers don’t tell even 10% of the story.
Maldonado has quarterbacked both the best rotations and bullpens in Astros history, with unrivaled prep work and brilliant pitch calling. Additionally, his pitchers love him for his ability to steal strikes with elite pitch framing and an arm that completely neutralizes the opposing running game on the base paths.
Maldonado was acquired at the trade deadlines in both 2018 and 2019, and has since been targeted by opposing fanbases. He was the subject of scorn after using a bat deemed illegal by the MLB in Game 1, though nothing nefarious occurred and no advantage was gained. Though Maldy had no role in the events of 2017, he’s received his fair share of disdain from opposing fanbases.
In response, he’s defended the team against unfounded conspiracies and defended his pitchers, acting as a leader both in the clubhouse and behind the plate.
Heading into Game 6, news broke that Maldonado was playing with both a broken hand and a sports hernia during the second half of the season.
Catchers are known for their toughness, but Machete took this to another level, explaining:
"“It’s about winning. The team needed me. The pitchers needed me.”"
The Astros rode their elite pitching staff to a World Series title. The staff wouldn’t be nearly as dominant without Maldy behind the plate. He’s stared adversity in the face from opposing fanbases, led young pitchers through October and endured multiple injuries dealt his way, but Maldonado has never wavered, and he now gets to call himself a champion as a result.