Fantasy Ballevski: Catcher Rankings
You’ll have to just take my word for it, but I’m pretty good at fantasy baseball. Here are my catcher rankings for redraft leagues.
For hitters, my rankings are made for leagues that include OBP and SLG. Think of a 7×7 league with traditional 5×5 stats plus OBP and SLG for batters.
For (almost) each player I’ve included rough estimations of what to expect statistically, what the upside might be, and what their CC projection by Chris Carruthers is for 2014. CC projections are listed as AVG/OBP/SLG/HR/RBI/R/SB. You can find all of Chris’ projections here!
In an ideal world I’d have already rolled out these fantasy articles for every position. Time constraints haven’t made that possible, but I’m going to try to write and publish articles for every position along with a big board in the next week or so. I might not get to everything, but I’m going to try.
My general advice for catcher is just to punt the position. I hate taking catchers high in the draft. The position comes with a lot of injury risk, and most of the C eligible players will struggle to get the playing time needed to put up impact counting stats. Elite players like Posey and Mauer are frequently overdrafted, and C eligible players that are getting full time reps at other positions in real life (Napoli last year, Santana and Mauer this year) also tend to fly off the board early. There isn’t a huge gap between the players I’ve ranked around #10 and the names I have in the #20 range, so even in the deepest of leagues I think it makes sense to almost completely forget about the position until the late rounds.
1. Buster Posey
What to expect: .290/.370 with 20 HR, 80 RBI.
CC Projection: .291/.363/.452/19/80/75/2.
Upside: .320/.400 with 25 HR, 100 RBI, 80 Runs.
Posey is probably the only catcher that has a realistically good chance of going .300/.400 with 25+ HR and 100+ RBI. Almost no other catcher eligible players have the talent to slashline like Posey, and most of the other catchers with good counting stat potential will struggle to get the playing time needed to reach the triple digit RBI plateau. Posey plays 1B on some of his days off from catching, so he collects PA nearly like a non-catcher. He’s also been durable despite that grotesque injury in 2011 (148 G in both 2012 and 2013).
I would never draft a backstop in the first or second round, but a guy like Posey can be justified as a third rounder in deep leagues, or a 4th rounder in a 12-teamer. Someone else in your league might grab him in the 2nd (or 3rd) though.
2. Joe Mauer
What to expect: .300/.380 with 15 HR, 70 RBI/Runs.
CC Projection: .305/.391/.433/12/70/84/2
Upside: .330/.420 with 20+ HR, 90+ RBI/Runs
You’ve got to love Mauer in redraft leagues this year, with the Twins planning to move him to 1B primarily. That means more opportunities for him to accrue counting stats, more time to focus on his hitting, and less chance of him getting hurt. His 28 homer year in 2009 looks like a career anomaly, but with the positional move I think he’ll poke 15+ over the fences this year. Mauer is pretty damn close to Posey for the best fantasy backstop option in 2014, since Posey carries more positional injury risk, but Mauer’s age and semi-chronic leg issues have me leaning Posey even if Joe won’t be doing much squatting this season.
But, like Posey, Mauer will probably be gone before you get a chance to draft him at a sensible slot.
3. Carlos Santana
What to expect: .260/.360 with 20 HR, 75 RBI/Runs
CC Projection: .251/.365/.424/20/71/72/3
Upside: .280/.380 with 25+ HR, 85+ RBI/Runs
Like Mauer and Posey, part of Santana’s allure comes from playing time. He’s transitioning off of catcher with the The Tribe, thanks in part to his terrible framing skills and in part to the emergence of Yan Gomes. This means less injury risk for Santana and a solid chance to get 600+ PA (for the fourth straight year). Santana’s age (27) still implies upside, and his career peripherals (BB and K rates, and ISO) are excellent. With some fluky batted ball luck Carlos Santana could, for fantasy purposes, turn into a “Mauer with Power” during any given season.
4. Wilin Rosario
What to expect: .270/.310 with 25 HR and 75+ RBI
CC Projection: .268/.296/.474/24/76/62/4
Upside: .290/.330 with ~30 HR and 90 RBI.
Thanks in part to Coors Field, Wilin Rosario has elite counting stat potential. He should be a near lock for 20+ HR in that park, with upside near the 30 mark, and if CarGo and Tulo can stay on the field a lot of those home runs will be of the multiple RBI variety. Rosario hardly walks at all, so he’s a category specific hindrance in OBP leagues, but an apparently good hit tool mitigates some of that; he hit a solid .270 in 2012 and a great .292 last year. Rosario carries some playing time questions based on past reps and the fact that the Rockies don’t necessarily seem enamored with his defense, so based on that and the poor walk rate, he’s a bit of a risky option in OBP leagues. At his o-rank and current Yahoo ADP (125 and 118), there are probably slightly better investments, but if he slides a bit below that then fell free to pounce. If you’re in a silly 5×5 league for some reason, Rosario is easily a better option than Santana.
5. Brian McCann
What to expect: .250/.330 with 25+ HR, 70+ RBI
CC Projection: .272/.344/.489/27/84/66/1
Upside: Maybe a wee bit more than that optimistic CC projection
McCann is going to be a hot commodity this year in fantasy. A move to lefty friendly Yankee stadium has a lot of people expecting behemoth catcher numbers. The power should definitely tick upwards with that short porch, but I think the mediocre slashline numbers from the last 2 season will stick around in the shift happy AL East. As a 30 year old veteran catcher with 8+ years of MLB service and wear and tear on his knees and surgically repaired shoulder, you have to apply a little bit of injury caution to McCann’s ranking. He’s still an upper tier catcher though, and the numbers should be at least solid across the board.
6. Yadier Molina
What to expect: .290/.340 with ~12 HR, 65+ RBI/Runs
CC Projection: .288/.336/.427/11/54/49/4
Upside: .310/.360 with 20 HR, 80 RBI, a sprinkle of SB
Yadi can really hit. He’s hit .300+ in each of the last three seasons, and .290+ in 5 of the last six. He’s also been remarkably durable, starting 130+ games for St. Louis for five straight years. He hits in a great lineup too, so he’s a safe bet as an across the board contributor in fantasy baseball, but he doesn’t have the pop or the upside of the five names listed above him. In Yahoo, he’s currently ranked in the 80’s and being ADP’d in the low 70’s – so he’s one of the most overrated players on the board this year, IMO. You’re doing fantasy baseball wrong if you’re spending a pick that early on a 31 year old low-upside catcher. Let someone else pop him there, and then give your computer a quick “muahaha” as you pick someone like Gordon, Zobrist, Butler, or Donaldson.
7. Jonathan Lucroy
What to expect: .270/.330 with 15 HR, 70 RBI, a few SB
CC Projection: .271/.324/.422/15/57/54/6
Upside: .290/.350 with 20 HR, 80+ RBI, 10 SB.
Lucroy is an across the board contributor, he’s still on the good side of 30, he doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his body, and he plays in a great hitting ballpark. He’ll provide Yadi-esque production, but he’s ADP-ing about 80 spots lower than Molina. If you want a safe, solid, 7 category backstop, then let someone else take Yadi and pick Lucroy when you’re a beer further into your draft.
8. Miguel Montero
What to expect: .260/.340 with 15 HR, 60+ RBI/Runs
CC Projection: .255/.334/.400/16/66/65/0
Upside: .290/.365 with ~20 HR, 80+ RBI
Montero is the first catcher that I would want to call a guy to really target on this year’s draft board. He’s criminally underrated in Yahoo, going in the 200’s, but with his walk rate and pop/park he’s a very strong option in OBP leagues and would represent immense potential value in that draft range. His rankings are depressed due to some injury struggles in 2013 and what looks like a small case of unlucky AVG fluctuation. Montero could easily outproduce more than a couple of the names I’ve ranked in front of him and you might be able to get him way, way later in the draft.
9. Evan Gattis
What to expect: .250/.300 with 25+ HR and 75 RBI
CC Projection: .242/.286/.448/15/51/42/0
Upside: .260/.320 with 30+ HR and 80+ RBI
Here is another backstop target, this one due to massive upside. Aside from Wilin Rosario and maybe Brian McCann, Gattis is the only C eligible that I could see conceivably topping the 30 dinger mark. He’s got more power than those two players, easily, he just doesn’t have their home ballparks and unfortunately for Gattis, his playing time outlook is a bit riskier. Gattis will start the year as Atlanta’s primary catcher, but Oso Blanco’s clumsy defense behind the dish might lead to more off days than we’d like, and defensive specialist / Braves #2 prospect Christian Bethancourt has a late 2014 ETA. Gattis didn’t post incredible slashline numbers in 2013 but his peripherals weren’t that bad for someone who shot through the minors like he did, barely stopping at AAA and AA on his way to Atlanta, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gattis walk more, strikeout less, and hit for more AVG than he did in 2013. There is immense upside here, but there is also a lot of risk. He could be a top 4 fantasy catcher by the end of the year, or he could be relegated to part time duty in Atlanta.
10. Matt Wieters
What to expect: .250/.320 with 20 HR, 75 RBI
CC Projection: .253/.316/.425/19/66/57/2
Upside: .265/.335 with 25 HR, 85 RBI, 70 Runs.
Wieters really looks to have settled in as a ~.250 hitter with a decent walk rate and 20 HR pop. He plays a lot and there’s some RBI/Run upside potential with him hitting in a lineup that contains a number of intriguing offensive players. If he’s been an overrated fantasy commodity in recent years, then the rankings depression due to his unlucky .235/.287 season might have his rankings and ADP numbers coming out as actually appropriate this year. You can probably get guys like Montero and Gattis after Wieters, but he’s still a decent option in OBP leagues and there really aren’t that many backstops that you can pencil in for 20 dingers and 70+ RBI or Runs (something he’s done in three straight years).
11. Jason Castro
What to expect: .250/.330 with 15 HR, 50-60 RBI/Runs
CC Projection: .259/.337/.425/18/69/72/2
Upside: .275/.350 with 20 HR, ~70 RBI/Runs
Castro is another fairly safe, middle of the road catcher that you can throw onto your target list this year. He’s getting picked after Gattis but just ahead of Montero in Yahoo. Castro can hit and his walk rate really plays in OBP leagues, but the Runs/RBI counting stats probably won’t be great in that putrid lineup. Don’t reach for a guy like Castro, but if he falls a bit then you can grab him and feel secure that you’ll have a productive hitter behind your fantasy dish.
12. Wilson Ramos
What to expect: .265/.320 with 15+ HR, 70 RBI
CC Projection: .269/.319/.440/13/49/41/0 (426 PA)
Upside: .280/.335 with 20+ HR, 75+ RBI
Ramos is an extremely intriguing upside option behind the plate. He’s a career .270/325 hitter and he hit 16 HR and collected 59 RBI in just 303 PA last season. Young and hitting in a great lineup, if he can combine that type or counting stat production with his career batting ratios and a healthy season, you might be looking at a bit of a stud that will contribute everywhere expect for on the basepaths. On the flip side, Ramos has had trouble staying healthy in his young career and the Nats seem to really value the defensive skills of Jose Lobaton, judging by what they gave up to get him. Sandwich Ramos with the safer but less sexy Jason Castro on your rankings, and take the one that falls to you.
13. Salvador Perez
What to expect: .290/.320 with 10-15 HR, ~70 RBI
CC Projection: .290/.317/.427/12/57/53/0
Upside: .310/.345 with 15+ HR and 80+ RBI
For the purpose of OBP leagues, Sal Perez might be the most overrated catcher on the board this year. He doesn’t have much more than league average power, and with his Arencibian walk rate, a BABIP swing could have you holding a .260/.290 catcher with middling power at midseason and wondering what could have been. There is legit upside with Perez since his hit tool is so good and his frame carries the promise of more power than he’s shown at the big league level, but he’ll very likely be long gone before you’d get a chance to draft him where that upside would have value. He’s a much, much better option in traditional 5×5 leagues where that hit tool and projected AVG can rocket him up the rankings.
14. Russell Martin
What to expect: .230/.320 with 15-20 HR, 50+ Runs/RBI, and 5-10 SB
CC Projection: .251/.333/.393/14/54/56/7
Upside: .250/.340 with 20+ HR, 65+ RBI/Runs, and 10 SB.
After three straight seasons with an AVG at .237 or worse, I’m still not 100% convinced that Russell Martin has lost the ability to hit .255 (his career mark). CC Projections agree with me, and in an OBP league we can live with a low AVG if the guy is walking 11% of the time. Martin leads all MLB catchers with 23 SB in the last three seasons, so he might be the only backstop with a legitimate chance to go 20/10 in 2014. That helps his ranking, even though stolen bases don’t quite have the highly leveraged value in a 7×7 that they do in a 5×5. Martin is the type of guy that you might even be able to get in the final round or two of a 12 team league if you decide to punt Catcher in the draft.
15. Yasmani Grandal
What to expect: .250/.350 with 10-15 HR, ~60 RBI/Runs
CC Projection: .254/.355/.388/4/21/23/0 *(276 PA)
Upside: .290/.390 with 15+ HR and 70+ RBI
Grandal is my favourite backstop sleeper for OBP leagues. He is criminally underrated in Yahoo right now, with an 0-rank in the 1000’s. Expectations need to be tempered due to the PED performance cloud surrounding him, and the fact that he’s coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, but Grandal could be ready around opening day for San Diego and he has the potential to be a rate stat darling in OBP leagues and a solid counting stat contributor. Can you imagine essentially punting C in a deep OBP league and still ending up with a .290/.390 guy?
16. Alex Avila
What to expect: .250/.345 with 10-15 HR, 50-60 RBI/Runs
CC Projection: .243/.336/.387/11/44/48/1 *(420 PA)
Upside: .270/.365 with ~20 HR, 80 RBI.
Avila is a career .254/.350 hitter with a 19 HR, 82 RBI reason under his belt. He’s just 27 years old so he’s in his physical prime, and he hits in a solid lineup. His K rate was up a bit in 2013, to a somewhat alarming 29.6% rate, and his AVG was a career low .227, but 379 PA worth of those numbers isn’t enough to scare me off. Take those numbers as an opportunity to target Avila late in a draft this season.
17. Travis d’Arnaud
What to expect: .240/.310 with 10-15 HR and 50+ RBI (if he can stay healthy)
CC Projection: .222/.293/.330/2/23/27/0 *(431 PA; small sample size of projection system inputs!)
Upside: .260/.330 with 15+ HR and 70+ RBI
Just stay healthy, kid. Travis d’Arnaud is a very talented young catcher with absolute offensive upside that’s probably similar to guys like Jason Castro and Miguel Montero, but he’s not very likely to achieve that upside this season and he carries a massive, massive injury risk. Take a flier on him late in deep leagues and you could be rewarded with an upside catcher, but don’t take him so high that you’ll hesitate to drop him if he scuffles and/or battles injuries.
18. Carlos Ruiz
What to expect: .270/.340 with 10 HR, ~50 RBI/Runs
CC Projection: .265/.325/.397/10/48/50/2
Upside: .300/.390 with 15 HR, 60+ RBI/Runs
Ruiz is an intriguing sleeper and bounce back candidate this year. For 2014, he’s received an exemption by MLB to take Adderall, the ADHD pharmaceutical that can improve focus. This is the banned substance that Ruiz was suspended for taking in 2013. A report from this offseason indicated that something like 10% of all MLB players have exemptions to take Adderall. Something tells me that the percentage of MLB players with legitimate ADD/ADHD is less than that. There’s a reason these guys pop focus pills like Adderall. Could we see the 2010-2012 version of Chooch now that he’ll be back on the stuff? His age (35) says no, but this convenient medication narrative screams yes. He could be a late round rate stat darling, not unlike Yasmani Grandal.
19. Josmil Pinto
What to expect: .250/.310 with 15 HR and 60 RBI
CC Projection: not projected due to limited MLB sample size
Upside: .275/.350 with 20 HR, 70 RBI
Pinto is my second favourite catching sleeper this year, behind Yasmani Gransal. He’ll start at C for the Twins this year with Mauer shifting to first base. Pinto killed it during two fairly age appropriate full minor league seasons in 2012 and 2013 before killing it an an extremely brief (and lucky) MLB showing in 2014. Look for him to do what ZiPS thinks he’ll do in 2014 (97 wRC+), but don’t be shocked if he’s even better than that.
20. AJ Pierzynski
What to expect: .265/.300 with 10-15 HR, 65 RBI
CC Projection: .281/.305/.430/9/40/34/0
Upside: .280/.320 with 20 HR, 70+ RBI
Pierzynski has been productive enough in recent years to warrant at least a flier in deep leagues. He’s hit .270+ for six straight years and his 27 HR, 77 RBI 2012 is recent enough to at least look at. He’s 37 years old though, and with that tiny walk rate he’s a very risky guy to bank on in OBP leagues. I could also see the Red Sox giving the sneakily productive David Ross enough playing time to cut into Pierzynski’s production.
21. Yan Gomes
What to expect: .250/.300 with 10-15 HR, ~50 RBI
CC Projection: .240/.284/.391/9/41/40/2 *(456 PA)
Upside: .280/.325 with 15+ HR, 70+ RBI
I’m just not ready to buy it with Yan Gomes. His minor league K rates tended to be much worse than the 322 PA 20.8% rate he showed with the Indians in 2013, and the .320 BABIP he’s put up in 433 MLB PA is likely far from stable. Projection systems have him as more of a .250/.300 hitter with some pop, and that sounds about right to me. At this time next year we could be talking about him as a top 10 fantasy catcher, but for 2014 I wouldn’t value him as more than a late round deep league flyer.
22. AJ Ellis
CC Projection: .246/.334/.372/12/51/57/0
Ellis’ walk rate makes him a viable OBP league option, but he doesn’t appear to have a lot of counting stat upside. His RBI/Run totals shouldn’t be ugly in that Dodgers lineup, but he won’t poke a lot of home runs out of Dodger stadium. If you want a late round catcher that you can plug into your lineup all year that won’t sink your team, then go with Ellis, but there are guys with more upside that you can get late., like Pinto and Gomes.
23. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
CC Projection: .229/.295/.396/15/51/49/2
Upside: Add some batted ball luck to that CC Projection
Him signing in Miami was a nightmare scenario for fantasy owners in dynasty leagues. His RBI/Run numbers will suffer greatly in that lineup, and there’s almost no chance he pushes 20 HR in that ballpark. The career .246/.310 hitter projects to bit worse than that in Miami, so he’s a bit of a rate stat hindrance in an OBP league and a traditional 5×5. Let someone else buy into his 2013 numbers, unless you’re in a two catcher format and he tumbles way down the board.
24. Devin Mesoraco
CC Projection: .238/.295/.373/8/39/35/0 *(445 PA)
Upside: .250/.320 with 15+ HR, 50+ RBI
Mesoraco has been practically neutered for the last three years in Cincinnati, but he could take flight this year now that the kids gloves seem to be off. A few years ago, Mesoraco and d’Arnaud were neck-and-neck for “best catching prospect in baseball” status, so the raw talent is there. The peripherals during his brief career haven’t been terrible either. On top of all that, he plays in a hitter friendly ballpark.
25. Dioner Navarro
CC Projection: .266/.324/.433/12/44/37/0
Upside: A tiny bit more than that CC Projection
Navarro is hard to project for 2014 after his great numbers in just 266 PA in 2013. He could stink, like he did for several years for 2013, or he could be a half-decent multi-category contributor. He’s a locked in starter so he’ll get the playing time and that adds a bit of value. Unless you’re in a two catcher format, he’s nothing more than watch list material out of the gate, or a backup if you’ve punted catcher in the draft and you have deep benches.
26. Welington Castillo
CC Projection: .246/.306/.368/7/36/38/1 *(412 PA)
Upside: .260/340 with 10-15 HR, 60+ RBI
Castillo is an interesting young catcher in OBP leagues but in 1 catcher formats he’s more of a guy to watch on the waiver wire as the season unfolds than a guy to target in the draft.
27. Mike Zunino
CC Projection: .217/.280/.336/5/31/33/1 *(464 PA)
He should hit two or three times as many home runs as his CC Projection says, but the AVG and OBP numbers seem about right. Zunino struggled to slash in AAA last year, and then struggled just as much in the big leagues. For 2014, he looks like a one trick power pony a la JP Arencibia, and John Buck might even cut into his playing time. Keep an eye on the talented young backstop in case something clicks though.
28. Chris Iannetta
CC Projection: .214/.335/.360/9/29/31/0
Iannetta hasn’t shown much more than average pop during his two seasons in LA, and he’s never hit for average. With a bit more power he’s be a viable OBP league option since he walks so much, but unless he starts to show some of his 2008-2009 power, he’s not much more than a free agency watch candidate (unless you’re in a deep two catcher format).
29. Ryan Doumit
Doumit can still hit pretty well for a C eligible, but he’s in a pure bench role in Atlanta and due to continuous concussion issues he might not even strap on the catching gear this season. If there’s an injury in Atlanta and Doumit is forced into a full time playing gig at some position, he can still hit as well as some of these catchers ranked in the teens, so he’d be worth a pickup if you have a hole.
30. Geovany Soto
He was great back in 2008 and 2010, but since then he’s been largely terrible. Any nominal starter in Rangers Ballpark is worth a look though, so keep an eye on Soto out of the gate or if you’re in a two catcher format, take him as a middle of the road secondary catcher.
31 + 32. John Jaso + Derek Norris
Jaso gets on base and hits but isn’t a counting stat asset; Norris has some pop and walks at a decent clip. They’ll split time in Oakland so neither is really a worthwhile starter on their own, unless the other one gets hurt, but if you can use two roster spots on one position in a one catcher format, you could squish these two guys together to get an everyday catcher that hits something like .255/355 with maybe 18 bombs, 10 SB, and 75 RBI. That’s pretty good! Think about it…. or not.
33. JP Arencibia
Could hit 30 dingers in Texas if Soto loses his job or gets hurt out of the gate. That’s about it though.
34. Hank Conger
Just 26 years old and he can hit a bit. Chris Iannetta also isn’t exactly a huge hurdle for Conger to leap in order to get more playing time. Conger could be a deep sleeper.
35. Ryan Hanigan
Hanigan is a career .262/.359 hitter. He has almost no power and he wont be a supply of Runs or RBI, but he could be relevant as a lower tier 2nd catcher in two catcher OBP formats.
36. Jesus Montero
He’ll only be a little bit intriguing if he gets traded, and even then, don’t expect this ostensible bust to be fantasy relevant.
37. Tyler Flowers
He’s a starter with a bit of power, but he’s irrelevant in all but the deepest of two catcher leagues.