Fantasy Baseball 2017: Catcher Rankings

Catcher is still not a deep position like usual, but unlike last season we have a solid top five and even really 10 catchers that won’t completely kill your team. This is still easily the weakest position in fantasy baseball (not that it ever won’t be, but there’s really not a lot of good catchers right now). I mean just think about this, if the Tigers platoon James McCann and Alex Avila correctly and they play like they have in their careers, where McCann crushes lefties and Avila does respectably well against righties, they’ll basically have the second best offensive output at catcher in their division. So when you’re drafting a catcher you can wait until the last round, but make sure you don’t get one that tanks your team. Also on the projections did, I just used a simple system similar to Tom Tango (weighting the last three seasons) and made adjustments based on trends I saw in their data, I think these projections will not even be that close to the best, but I think they can give you an idea of the ballpark numbers that some of these guys are in. Also, you can’t predict certain things. Like if Colorado is in it mid-July and trades for Wellignton Castillo, then he will hit more homers than I predict. If Milwaukie decides that Susac is better than Bandy then Susac will rack up more counting stats due to playing more, and if the Tigers start Alex Avila just against righties and James McCann just against lefties they will both most likely hit for a higher average. So let’s jump into my personal rankings and then the projected SGP rankings will be at the bottom.

Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America

Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America

  1. Buster Posey– Buster saw a dip in his power and average last season but more than likely he’s fine. His Isolated Power, wOBA, and his line drive and fly ball rates all stayed around the same. His BABIP went down and his HR/FB also went down so it’s more than likely Posey experienced some bad luck last season. I think a reasonable expectation for Buster is to hover around 20 homers and a .300 average, but he’s also getting older and it’ll be interesting to see if he follows a Joe Mauer career path or a Yadier Molina career path. He insists he wants to stay behind the plate, and he’s really good behind the plate but do the Giants want to protect his head and knees to save his bat or take the chance he will hit despite the all the tough territory that comes with being a catcher. One thing is for sure, he’s only going to be 30 this year so he has some good seasons left in his bat no matter what and he’s still producing better than pretty much every catcher by a lot. He’s one of the most valuable pieces in the game and he will rack up numbers in the middle of the Giants line-up this season.
  2. Gary Sanchez– Sanchez has a really good chance to become the face of the Yankees and one of the biggest stars in baseball. His 20 homer binge in basically two months last year as a rookie was pretty legendary and all the scouts and stats agree that he’s going to be a big time bat for a long time (and a pretty great defender too). It’s impossible for Sanchez to keep up the rate he was hitting home runs at and he will come back down to Earth, but he’s still a superstar in the making and I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he passed Buster Posey on the list after this season with Posey playing at his normal level. Sanchez is the real deal power wise and if he can handle MLB pitching for a whole season and hit at least .260, he’s going to be a top 40 fantasy player for many seasons. My one concern for him is that after his August in which he hit over .350, he only hit .225. Now we know he’s not going to hit over .350 all year, only maybe Jose Altuve could probably do that, but it’ll be trouble if he hits .230 too. His strikeout rate did increase some in September but his eye and power remained there, so I think it’s reasonable to expect .260 at least from Sanchez and a chance to hit a power gold mine.
  3. Jonathan Lucroy– If we are going by WAR, Lucroy was actually the best catcher in baseball last year and being traded to Texas and being able to hit in nice warm weather in a line-up full of sluggers and young stars didn’t hurt him either. Lucroy has a pretty solid track record at this point and is known as a good hitter. His power spiked last season, so it’s reasonable to expect that go down and his overall season slash line to maybe not quite match what it was in 2016. Lucroy is still pretty valuable though and I don’t expect him to fall off a cliff at this point in his career. He’s pretty much earned the right to be called a top catcher in fantasy baseball and he’s definitely worth a pick if you snatch him at the right time because he will do a little bit of everything (except steal) for you at the catcher position. He’s pretty consistent save for his 2015, which he spent part of the year hurt, so you know what to expect from Lucroy.
  4. Willson Contreras– It looks as if Willson is going to catch over half the Cubs games this year and he will see even more time in the outfield and possibly a few days in the infield. His ability to be played in the outfield slot definitely helps his value out. He started his career off with a homer in his first at-bat and I think that’s what we should expect a lot from Willson. He has power and it should play right away. I saw him hit a home run live last August and it was pretty majestic. The real question is whether he will put up some good batting averages or not. He hit over .340 in the minors after breaking out in 2015 until his call-up, then he hit .282 on a .339 BABIP in the majors. So I think he’s already basically at least a little above average as a hitter, especially when it comes to catchers. He’s going to be 25 and he was seasoned well in the minors so I think the expectation should be around .270 and I think he could reach a full potential of being around a .300 hitter. Though he has a lot of potential and is only in his second year, there’s a lot of value in a talented Chicago hitter this year as we know they carry one of the best offenses in baseball and Contreras will certainly benefit from it.
  5. Evan Gattis– I could probably right this and just put a GIF on Gattis crushing a baseball that most hitters would lay off of and it would summarize him pretty well. Last year he walked more, but he struck out pretty much once a game. He’s proven he can sit in the .240-.260 range and as long as he’s blasting near 30 homers a year he can get away with that, even on your fantasy team. Be aware though this is where there’s a drop off in catchers. In my opinion the gap between Gattis and Contreras is the biggest one we’ve covered yet. In 2015 Gattis hit 27 homers and nearly lead the AL in triples, yes triples, last year we saw his homer count go up 5 and I think that’s because some of those triples turned into homers, because we know Gattis wasn’t lining a baseball down the first base line and pressuring the fielder with his speed that year, he was just missing homers by hitting the gaps. So the power is real and he’s a solid pick, just don’t expect a high average because he’s a candidate for that to slip a bit.
  6. JT Realmuto- Realmuto stole his way on to the catcher scene last year and proved to be a very useful and above average fantasy catcher. He was the only catcher to have double digit steals. That speed also likely helped him notch a .300 batting season as his BABIP sky rocketed. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect Realmuto to hit .300 again, but I believe he does have some more power, it just remains to be seen if he will unleash it at this level or not. So in short, he will be the only catcher to steal double digit bases, he’s probably more of a .270 and hitter and I could see a small power spike from him this year. He’s a solid option, but again we are at the stage of the rankings where we don’t want to overreach for these guys.
  7. Brian McCann– McCann once was a threat to hit .300, the best offensive catcher in baseball behind Joe Mauer and was one of the most respected catchers in baseball. He suddenly lost his knack for hitting well but he still has power. We are at the point in the rankings where a lot of these guys are pretty flawed and McCann is no different. He has two things that are important to me though: a track record and a floor that’ll still most likely get you 20 homers. The scary thing about McCann is that he’s been striking out at worse rate every season he plays. In the Astros order he will fit in with their power approach at the plate (and he walks a lot for you guys that use OBP or OPS). He’s also getting older and he moved away from Yankee Stadium, but neither are the kiss of death. He still gets to hit in a decent hitter park and with good teammates and just because he’s older doesn’t mean he’s going to drop off. McCann is still making hard contact, but he’s just down from his career prime rate. He’s still a solid option.
  8. Salvador Perez– Every year I write that Salvador Perez has never seen a pitch he doesn’t like and he swings like he’s Vlad Guerrero. That’s okay but he’s not quite Vlad Guerrero. He finally developed his power and shown that it is sustainable over the past few season, but he’s also shown that the way he swings will likely always mean he has trouble with his average and getting on base. Perez was Vladdy like in 2014 on making contact outside the zone, but he’s since been making less and still swinging at a lot of pitches outside of the zone. This also means his strikeout rate went up and Guerrero still walked twice as often as Perez has in his career. Perez looks like he can hit 20 homers and he has solid hitting mechanics if he’d just learn about pitch selection. He’s going to turn into the all-star version of Wilson Ramos of this list (he has the tools to be good, just continues to have bad seasons because of his downfalls). He could even take a Yadier Molina career arc and become a better hitter as he gets older (the theory is after you spend a few years behind the plate you really understand how pitchers minds work and it helps you become better at knowing what’s coming). For now I’ll stash Perez at 8 and tell you that he has good power and puts up above average counting stats but right now despite only be 26 his career is trending downward. It can change and his ceiling is high, but for now he’s stuck right here.
  9. Matt Wieters– Wieters finally found a home not too far from where he played before. Last year he put up a pretty productive season and he still seems to be an above average hitter at the catcher position though his other skills have been put into question. A lot of what keeps Wieters off the top end of these lists is his injury problem, but that’s something you can’t neglect in fantasy baseball. At this point if you make the choice to draft Troy Tulowitzki you better be trying to draft Marcus Semien too just in case he goes down like he so often has. At catcher you don’t have that luxury though so if you get him you may have to settle for Cameron Rupp if he’s hurt. In Washington he will get less playing time than a season and he should hit against righties more often since Derek Norris is a known lefty masher. Expecting a repeat of last year isn’t too crazy for Wieters. All of his trends in secondary stats look good and he’s shown his pop numerous other seasons. Don’t’ expect a crazy high batting average but he’s a borderline all-star offensively as a catcher at times.
  10. Russell Martin– Martin never deviated away from his patience but unless he runs into some luck, he looks stuck being a .240-.250 hitter. Martin has spent his career confusing me. He started off as an all-around great catcher for the Dodgers, one of the top in the league, then he had a terrible season and went to the Yankees and continued hitting terrible but found a power stroke. Then he got a contract with the Pirates and toned down the power but turned back into a good hitter then he got a ton of money to play in his home country and he’s back to being a power hitter. So I think he’s probably going to stay the way he is now because that’s how he’s hit both season in Toronto and he’s in a park where the ball flies and he’s getting older so bat speed and other things that help you hit for a good average start to go after a while. Still a catcher that hits .230 can help you so long as he’s hitting 20 homers in feared line-up. He’s worth a late round pick if you don’t have a catcher.
  11. Yasmani Grandal– I grew up watching the Tigers and Placido Polanco was a great second baseman in Detroit for five seasons. Nobody ever drafted Polanco in my fantasy leagues though (save for his 2007 when he hit about .340) because he didn’t do anything grand on the fantasy scale, but fantasy baseball in just the accumulation of certain stats played as a game and Polanco did all the “small” stuff and played outstanding defense and set the table for Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez. He was an all-star. Grandal is the modern version of Polanco, just as a catcher. He hits for a terrible average, but he’s patient and a force at the bottom of the Dodgers order. The one thing he does well is hit home runs, which is why he’s number 11 on this list. If he hits that many homers again than he’s worth a late round flier, but if he has a decline in homers he’s just going to be a very valuable bottom of the order bat who is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball, but probably not quite worthy of a fantasy spot. I think he’s more likely to hit for power though.
  12. Wellington Castillo- Castillo flies under the radar, but he’s actually kind of solid. Every year he manages to pull a category from out of nowhere and provide your team with it. Last year it was a .264 average fueled by a high BABIP, in 2015 it was a large homer total fueled by almost 1 in every 5 fly balls he hit leaving the yard. Will be able to do something like this again? Being the realistic person I am, probably not, but if he hits .250 with 15 homers he definitely isn’t killing your team and by number twelve at catcher you’re starting to get to the bottom of the barrel of guys who get drafted. A sign of hope would be the fact he’s going to Camden Yards and a ton of players end up having dream power seasons there and he had a high line drive rate last year which is the best type of batted ball and he’s still making hard contact.
  13. Stephen Vogt– He’s been an all-star the last two seasons but he just can’t hit righties. He doesn’t have earth shattering power, but I’d now say he has a track record that suggest he will hit 15 homers. How much he is platooned will likely decide his batting average, but I’d expect something in between the 2015 and 2016 version of him. Cons are that he plays in a bad park on a bad team so some of the counting stat opportunities aren’t there. His walk rate went down but his strikeout rate did too. I think this suggests that he could be a candidate to hit more homers. His average fly ball distance of 233 feet is also the same as Donaldson’s, so the upside is 20 homers. He’s another solid pick in the middle of a weak field, but he’s toast against lefties so he’s essentially a platoon player.
  14. Tom Murphy– Murphy has always been a looked at prospect. He hasn’t been rated super highly on a ton of lists, but he put up solid numbers and he finally did make the Baseball America Top 100 Prospect list season, albeit at 14. Rookies are always the hardest players to predict but Murphy showed in a stint that he did possess power, granted he won’t average around 60 homers for every6 600 PAs he has like he did last year, we know that having power in Coors Field and ability to not suck completely at hitting can open up guys to 25-30 homer seasons which have a lot of fantasy value, especially at catcher. Murphy isn’t going to hit better than league average and he’s a risk, but he has the chance to pay off big time.
  15. Yaider Molina- Molina was a defense wizard who didn’t have a ton of value on offense, now he actually seems like he’s a promising hitter. He has no power or speed, but the Cardinals figure to have a half way decent offense and his ability to hit for a very good batting average for a catcher seems like his biggest calling card and most of his value. Age has taken him down from his best hitting seasons though and he won’t return to that. His numbers from last year might fall a bit but there’s some evidence that he is going to maintain a good average.
  16. Travis D’arnaud
  17. Devin Mesoraco
  18. Austin Hedges
  19. Cameron Rupp
  20. Francisco Cervelli
  21. Yan Gomes
  22. Sandy Leon

 

16-22: These guys are worth watch lists but probably not draft selections, and after 22 you could pretty much rank the catchers in any type of order. D’arnaud and Mesoraco have both shown promise and put together parts of good seasons but they are injured a lot and it have taken from their ability. Hedges has hit well in the minors, has potential but it hasn’t translated yet. Rupp had a successful 2016 but he’s a fringy guy with not much more upside. Cervelli and Yadier Molina are pretty much the same player to me. Catchers that are known as team leader, have no power and seem to already have had their best season of their career. Cervelli simply hits too many grounders to be a good hitter though and he probably won’t drastically change. Yan Gomes is good and has a lot of power but he has regressed and essentially forgotten how to hit which deems him a valueless player. Sandy Leon had a huge “breakout” in the second half but I think the sample size gods will strike him and Swihart and Vazquez will take over, taking away his value and making him a third string catcher again.

 

INJ: Wilson Ramos- Ramos finally had his long waited breakout and I think that he’s the real deal and despite a possible regression to less glamorous numbers, in a full season he’s still a top 10 catcher. He did hurt his knee last year and won’t be ready until May or possibly June. So we are looking at anywhere from 100 games to less than 70 played, so I can’t really rank him. I would say I wouldn’t draft a catcher who might miss half the season and we don’t know how long it will take him to recover from the injury.

Nik’s Projection Rankings:

Rank Player SGP HR RBI R SB AVG OBP $
1 Gary Sanchez 13.56741 32 93 84 4 0.273 0.345 22
2 Buster Posey 12.84751 18 88 79 3 0.305 0.376 19
3 Jonathan Lucroy 10.50318 20 71 66 3 0.285 0.352 11
4 Willson Contreras 10.48383 17 69 68 4 0.292 0.372 11
5 Evan Gattis 9.331212 28 71 56 1 0.252 0.310 7
6 JT Realmuto 9.287104 11 51 59 11 0.289 0.325 7
7 Russell Martin 8.641096 19 73 62 3 0.244 0.349 5
8 Tom Murphy 8.371393 18 62 56 2 0.266 0.318 4
9 Brian McCann 8.335289 22 75 62 0 0.237 0.318 4
10 Salvador Perez 7.894547 20 66 55 0 0.253 0.286 2
11 Matt Wieters 7.749894 17 62 48 1 0.267 0.305 2
12 Stephen Vogt 7.519766 15 63 55 0 0.260 0.317 1
13 Wilson Ramos 6.955311 15 57 39 0 0.275 0.318 0
14 Wellington Castillo 6.923273 17 65 42 0 0.252 0.313 0
15 Yasmani Grandal 6.922198 21 61 48 1 0.231 0.338 0
16 Yan Gomes 6.758175 18 66 67 0 0.218 0.240 0
17 Devin Mesoraco 6.64587 17 60 44 0 0.247 0.320 0
18 Yadier Molina 6.600166 6 52 44 2 0.284 0.336 0
19 Austin Hedges 6.412617 13 60 51 1 0.242 0.289 0
20 Francisco Cervelli 6.134616 3 43 55 4 0.274 0.375 0
21 Derek Norris 6.000827 13 49 52 5 0.231 0.298 0
22 Travis D’Arnaud 5.789604 13 44 47 0 0.255 0.317 0
23 Sandy Leon 5.39004 9 41 42 0 0.270 0.331 0
24 Cameron Rupp 5.381348 15 49 35 0 0.247 0.300 0
25 Jett Bandy 5.117158 11 43 37 2 0.248 0.314 0
26 Jorge Alfaro 4.565333 8 37 36 2 0.253 0.287 0
27 James McCann 4.384724 11 47 33 0 0.237 0.280 0
28 Mike Zunino 4.212738 19 49 33 0 0.194 0.278 0
29 Tyler Flowers 3.861879 9 38 22 0 0.256 0.326 0
30 Andrew Susac 3.741086 8 38 30 0 0.239 0.307 0
31 Jason Castro 3.674178 12 36 40 1 0.212 0.293 0
32 Miguel Montero 3.236403 7 31 25 1 0.237 0.328 0
33 Curt Casali 2.828666 12 27 28 0 0.199 0.288 0
34 Chris Iannetta 2.544111 8 31 28 0 0.213 0.315 0
35 Alex Avila 2.39008 7 20 28 0 0.220 0.344 0
36 Martin Maldonado 2.278325 8 27 25 0 0.210 0.310 0

 

 

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