Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Catchers

Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Catchers

By: Kyle Brown (@CavghtLooking)

I can smell spring training grass all the way in South Korea. That means it is time for me to pour over baseball statistics, meticulously plot out positional rankings and prognosticate until my typing fingers are calloused. This will be the first of my positional rankings for Fantasy Judgment and I am extremely excited for the opportunity. I will start with the catcher position and work my way around the diamond. For each position other than outfield, starting pitcher and relief pitcher, I will rank players in five tiers. When ranking players before the season begins there are only two relevant questions: 1) what will the player do in 2013; and 2) how can I use stats from previous seasons answer the first question?  

In standard 5×5 leagues, the catcher position can sometimes be considered an afterthought. However, some managers are overly concerned with position scarcity and find themselves drafting a mediocre catcher much too early. On draft day, I tend to fall into the former category and generally leave my catcher position empty until the end of the draft. I do this for two reasons: 1) after the top two catchers most of the remaining crop is relatively equal; and 2) it seems that there is always a few catchers who come out of nowhere and can be snatched up off the waiver wire during the season. Let the rankings begin.

Tier 1 – The Cheese Stands Alone

Buster Posey, San Francisco (.336/.408/.549)

There is only one player in the first tier and if you are reading this then you probably don’t need to be told just how good he is. Buster Posey will begin 2013 as 25-year old stud. The triple slash listed above would be fantastic production to get out of any position, but when you get those kinds of numbers out of your catcher you give your team a gigantic leg up over your competition. Unfortunately, I think Buster Posey is due for a slight regression in 2013 given that his 2012 BABIP was an unsustainably high .368. Looking back at his 2011 season (18 HR in 108 games), I think it is safe to say that the power is real but I wouldn’t expect him to win the batting title again. However, his walk rate has increased in each of his first three seasons so that should help him maintain a solid .300 average with an OBP near .400 and a slugging percentage that hovers right around the .500 mark.

Tier 2 – Something Old, Something New

Joe Mauer, Minnesota (.319/.416/.446)

Not too much to say about Joe Mauer. The 29-year old veteran catcher has consistently produced solid seasons and I see no reason to think that 2013 will be any different. I fully expect Mauer to hit for around .300 and pop his usual 10 dingers. If you happen to draft him for one of his lucky seasons you might even be treated to a Buster Posey-like season, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Carlos Santana, Cleveland (.252/.365/.420)

This ranking might seem high to some, but I am extremely encouraged by what I saw from Santana in the second half of last season. In 74 games after the all-star break Santana hit .281/.389/.498 with 15 home runs. That is serious production and it reminded me of why the baseball world was so high on Santana when he was coming out of the minor leagues. I think that the power he showed in 2011 (27 HR) and the second half of 2012 will continue this year.  If he can maintain his health and keep his average around .260, he will be an extremely valuable catcher.  In addition, he is expected to play a good amount at first base or DH to help keep him healthy.     

Tier 3 – Youth or Experience?

Yadier Molina, St. Louis (.315/.373/.501)
Matt Wieters, Baltimore (.249/.329/.438)
Salvador Perez, Kansas City (.301/.328/.471)

I’m just not sold on Yadier Molina repeating his performance in 2013.  He posted his highest ISO rating, HR/FB rating, and his highest triple slash ever. Something will give in 2013 and I like the upside that Wieters and Perez bring to the table. I think that Yadier will be the catcher that most teams reach for in the draft, and you can be rewarded if you wait a couple more rounds and draft either Wieters or Perez. Wieters is a lock to hit over 20 home runs and seeing as how he is still only 26 years old you could be lucky enough to grab him for his true breakout season.  I’ve liked Perez (age 23) from the moment he entered the major leagues and the only thing that has really held him back is injuries. Whenever he has played he has hit for a high average and his 11 home runs in 76 games last year bodes well for his future power production. If he can put together a season of 130 games or more for Kansas City he could be Buster Posey without the walks.

Tier 4 – Go Big or Go Home

Miguel Montero, Arizona (.286/.391/.438)
Wilin Rosario, Colorado (.270/.312/.530)
Victor Martinez, Detroit (No 2012 stats)
Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee (.320/.368/.513)

The only real exciting player in this bunch is Wilin Rosario. The kid led all catchers in home runs (28) for 2012 and will be turning 24 in a couple of weeks. Rosario showed exceptional power in the minor leagues and the friendly confines of Coors Field should continue to help him showcase his power in 2013. His OPS was 235 points higher at home in 2012 and he has serious struggles against right-handed pitching so the season will be a little bit of a roller coaster ride in terms of production but I think that the power and upside make Rosario a very nice pick up. If you are playing in a standard league then you don’t need to be worried about his inability to take a walk and can simply sit back and watch the long balls go over the fence.

Montero is the reliable member of this group and can be counted on to put up another .800 OPS season. He certainly isn’t a sexy pick but he will get the job done. Montero’s walk totals continue to increase and if he can walk 70 times again this year his reliability factor will be even higher.

Lucroy is a bit of an enigma. He has very solid minor league numbers but it took him a while to put it all together in Milwaukee. His production last year might have been a little bit lucky when looking at the average but I think that a 15 home run season is a very real possibility for him. If he can hit around .280 then he will be a very solid option behind the plate. It would have been nice if that errant piece of luggage hadn’t cut his 2012 season short and I’d feel more comfortable about taking Lucroy if he had played 40 more games last year. Thanks Mrs. Lucroy.

If you are looking to take on a veteran resurgence project you should look at Martinez. I usually try to stay away from old catchers who are just coming back from big injuries but maybe you have a soft spot for him and are planning to feel nostalgic on draft day.   However, before taking Martinez you need to check with your league’s rules and see whether he is even eligible at catcher due to the fact he missed all of 2012. 

Tier 5 – Reliable but Boring

Jesus Montero, Seattle (.260/.298/.398)
Mike Napoli, Boston (.227/.343/.469)
Ryan Doumit, Minnesota (.275/.320/.461)
John Jaso, Oakland (.276/.394/.456)

If you find yourself in the late rounds without a backstop I think that any of the catchers in this tier can help you keep your head above water. I have yet to see anything out of Jesus Montero that can be considered encouraging. He was mediocre pretty much all year long and although he is still young I don’t really like his chances of becoming a fantasy stud in Seattle. If he learns how to take a walk he may be able to unleash his talents but until that happens I will move forward with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Doumit and Napoli are known entities and when they are healthy will give you exactly the kind of production they have in the past. I don’t like the injury report on Napoli, and I don’t ever expect him to have another season like he did in 2011.  But he should be a cheap source of home runs that you can nab late in the draft.

Jaso is an interesting case. His offseason trade has put his name on the lips of many a sleeper seeker for the catcher position in 2013 and I think that they buzz is warranted. He showed an exceptional ability to take walks last year, and because of that he was able to put up an impressive .394 OBP. Jaso didn’t play a full season last year (294 at bats) and so I will temper my expectations for him until we can see what he does over the course of a full season.

NOTE FROM THE COURT: If you are in a league that requires two catchers, then the rest of the options are essentially interchangeable.  It isn’t worth using two high draft picks to fill these spots because you will be passing on better players who will produce more across the board.  There will be options such as A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Avila, and Carlos Ruiz available much later on.  Don’t forget about an injured Brian McCann coming back at some point too.  Like Kyle said, there are usually catchers available on the waiver wire later in the year that can be had rather than wasting a draft pick on negligible returns.  Stay tuned for the next installment of positional rankings by @CavghtLooking.

 

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