2016 Catcher Rankings – Top 20

2016 Ranking LogoWe wrap up catcher week with our 2016 rankings for the catcher position.  While the catcher position is not deep in elite talent like other positions, it is full of serviceable options from top to bottom.  For those of you that play in a 12 team/1 catcher league, there is no reason you should not come out of the draft with an above average catcher regardless of where you take them in the draft.  If for some reason that player does not live up to expectations, have no fear as there is some upside to the lower ranked players and a number of undrafted options will step up during the season and produce. 

In 2015 we saw Stephen Vogt, Nick Hundley, Francisco Cervelli, J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber and Welington Castillo finish in the top 14, and most of them went undrafted.  This was good news for those who drafted injured or underperforming stars like Yan Gomes, Jonathan Lucroy, Devin Mesoraco, Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters, Yasmani Grandal and Travis d’Arnaud.  That just goes to show you how the best made draft plans can go awry.  Catcher is one of the most volatile positions in fantasy, right up there with closers.  You can reach for your favorite player if you feel they are in line for a good season, but be prepared to adjust and alter your game plan quickly.

Taking part in our rankings will be Tommy Landseadel, Kevin Jebens, Jim Finch, Ron Vackar, Michael Zakhar and Neil (Mister DFS). Our six experts each ranked their top 20 catchers for the 2016 season. Players marked N/R were not ranked inside the top 20 by that particular person.  We used a 10 games started minimum requirement for eligibility, but everyone listed here should qualify for catcher regardless of where you play.

If you feel we overlooked someone or would like to debate a player’s ranking, feel free to do so in the comment section below.

Rank Player Team Kevin Neil Ron Zak Tommy Jim
1 Buster Posey Giants 1 1 1 1 1 1
2 Kyle Schwarber Cubs 4 2 2 2 2 10
3 Jonathan Lucroy Brewers 7 6 4 4 3 2
4 Brian McCann Yankees 8 3 5 3 5 5
5 Salvador Perez Royals 5 8 3 7 6 3
6 Russell Martin Blue Jays 2 7 6 8 4 7
7 Travis d’Arnaud Mets 9 4 7 6 8 4
8 Stephen Vogt A’s 3 5 8 11 12 9
9 Devin Mesoraco Reds 14 14 12 5 9 8
10 Matt Wieters Orioles 16 9 11 9 7 12
11 Yan Gomes Indians 6 15 10 13 15 6
12 Derek Norris Padres 10 11 15 10 14 13
13 J.T. Realmuto Marlins 13 16 9 16 N/R 11
14 Blake Swihart Red Sox 15 20 13 15 16 15
14 Wilson Ramos Nationals 19 12 17 14 18 14
16 Welington Castillo Diamondbacks 11 10 20 17 13 N/R
17 Yasmani Grandal Dodgers N/R 17 16 12 11 16
18 Nick Hundley Rockies 18 19 14 20 10 N/R
19 Miguel Montero Cubs 17 18 18 18 17 20
20 Yadier Molina Cardinals 12 N/R N/R 19 19 18

Buster Posey is the undeniable king of the backstops; there is nobody more consistent and reliable than him.  After Posey, the top 10 can basically be shuffled around to your own liking.  Kyle Schwarber makes his debut at number two, a spot that seemed reserved for Jonathan Lucroy one year ago.  Schwarber is this year’s wild card as there’s no telling how soon after Posey he will go off the board.  There were only three additional catchers that were ranked who did not make the top 20, Francisco Cervelli, A.J. Pierzynski and Robinson Chirinos.  All three should go undrafted except for those in two-catcher leagues.

Players that you would Reach for

Tommy: Buster Posey and Kyle Schwarber – I am not saying that I would definitely reach for either guy, but they are head and shoulders above the rest. Posey is a great hitter with more ABs than any other C eligible player. He will hit .300 with about 20 HRs. That is worth paying for. Schwarber is much riskier because his glove and struggles vs. lefties could leave him out of the lineup a fair amount. That being said, he is the only catcher with 30 HR upside. After Schwarber and Posey are off the board, I see very little discernible difference between 3 and 14.

Kevin: Posey is obvious, but after that I’ll reach for Stephen Vogt. Don’t expect a full repeat, but I like him to be top-5 again, assuming health (which sapped his first half) and if he can hit lefties a bit more.

Jim: Just like last year, the only guy I’m reaching for (if I do reach) is the one that has done it year after year, Buster Posey.  If I don’t get Posey I’ll settle for whoever I can get late and potentially play the waiver game during the season.

RonWe all know what the answer to this question is supposed to be, but I’ll play along for the heck of it. I’d reach a little bit for Yan Gomes. An ugly slide at the start of the 2015 season derailed him and I’ll give him a pass because of it. The injury sustained should be well behind him now and his 26/9/35/0/.241 second half could easily turn into a 20 homer, 70 RBI full season in 2016. Through the first ten NFBC two-catcher slow drafts, Gomes was going off at 188 on average. Reaching a round or two would seem reasonable and you might get a stat line Brian McCann will produce some 70 picks earlier.

Zak: I don’t believe in reaching for catchers due to the demands of the position, the way it affects playing time, and limits upside of talented players. So even someone promising like Travis d’Arnaud will probably go too soon for me. That said, I am probably the last Matt Wieters believer and could see taking him when it gets down to where i like taking a catcher.

Neil: Welington Castillo.  While he had a September swoon, Beef Welington had a wRC+ of 114 or better in 4 of the 6 months last season.  Not many catchers have 25 homer potential.

Players you will avoid drafting

Tommy: Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud has plenty of upside, but his downside risk is a lower than the ceiling is high given his likely draft day cost. When you combine his past injury history with the fact that he may be looking at a platoon in 2016, I would have a very hard time selecting d’Arnaud in the top 200 overall. Similarly, whoever you have ranked 3rd is not worth a pick in the top 120. If you don’t take one of the top 2 options, reaching for number 3 is a mistake.

Kevin: I can’t stand spending money on players who have recent injury histories. So players like Matt Wieters, Yadier Molina, Devin Mesoraco, and Travis d’Arnaud have extra risk in 1 catcher leagues where you need as many at bats as you can get.

Jim: Kyle Schwarber – I hear his praises being sung throughout the fantasy world, but all that hype is driving up his ADP.  Schwarber has issues with lefties, will not see more than one week behind the plate with Montero on board, and is now part of a crowded outfield.  Should his numbers slip, or fall flat during spring training, he could find himself in a time share or potentially back in AAA.  He’ll be good one year, but I don’t see that year being this year.

RonI would avoid drafting Devin Mesoraco. What became of power hitter, Brandon Moss, last year after hip surgery is too fresh in my mind to want to go after another power hitter with hip issues.  All the crouching and bending to go with the hip sounds like a recipe for me not wanting any part of Mesoraco. Plus, the Reds are in full jump-ship mode, and I don’t think that lineup is going to produce anything you want to have a piece of for 2016.

Zak: I would be surprised to see Russell Martin put up the power that he did last year. I expect his HR/FB to regress and that will hurt his counting stats as well. To me there’s very little difference between him and the next 5 or so catchers behind him, so you can get similar numbers for a more reasonable price.

Neil: Yadier Molina.  He still has MLB value, but his days of having fantasy value are behind him. Had a sub .390 slugging percentage each of the last two years.

Late round picks that could make an impact

Tommy: Matt Wieters and Nick Hundley – Wieters should be back to playing every day now that he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. He will never be elite, but he can easily be a top 5 catcher this year. Hundley is being overlooked also, despite the fact that he is the primary backstop in Coors Field. He is a good bet for .270 with 12-15 HRs and some healthy counting stats. Do not forget about him!

Kevin: It depends on where they go in your draft, but some newcomers are worth trying out for their first full year: Blake Swihart, J.T. Realmuto.  Robinson Chirinos also has chance at 20 home runs if he gets playing time.

Jim: There is a lot of potential upside to the final catchers that will be on the board in the later rounds.  Derek Norris, Wilson Ramos, Blake Swihart and J.T. Realmuto all have the upside to be top 10 catchers, and you should be able to get one or two of them in the later rounds.  Grab two of those guys late and see who works out.

RonTwo names that jump out at me for two-catcher formats are Robinson Chirinos and Hank Conger. Both players have some pop in their bat, and if they can hit .235-.240 they would be ideal second catchers to snag late while you focus on other needs earlier in the draft. Play in a deep enough format and you’re going to have to make sacrifices somewhere. If Chirinos and/or Conger manage enough at bats, there’s a chance to bank 15-18 homers. If it doesn’t work out, grab the next best thing on waivers.

Zak: Wellington Castillo was finally given a chance to show what he can do and finds himself in a good situation in Arizona. He could put up a season similar to someone like Sal Perez at a fraction of the cost.

Neil: Devon Mesoraco.  People will shy away from him due to health concerns, but let’s not forget that he hit 25 homers with a .534 slugging percentage and a wRC+ of 146 in his last healthy season.

That Wraps up our catcher rankings.  Check back next week as we bring you our Top 30 First Base options for the 2016 season.

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17 thoughts on “2016 Catcher Rankings – Top 20”

    1. Schwarber has swing issues, contact issues and strikeout issues. He does have 30+ home run potential, but because of the underlying issues there is a realistic chance he will struggle with his average. If that happens you’re not going to see his full power potential; that could potentially put that home run total in the 25 range. If he struggles with the average, that will affect his place in the batting order. That will mean reduced run totals to go with the low batting average.

      Even if he doesn’t struggle as much as I anticipate and hits in the . 250/.260 range, with 25 home runs that puts him in the Brian McCann/Russell Martin territory (I have them 5 and 7). Directly below them (on my rankings) is Devin Mesoraco. He has similar issues to those of Schwarber, although to a lesser extent. Mesoraco is right there in the McCann/Martin range, and I place him above Schwarber because his batting average floor isn’t as low. Next up is Vogt, and if you saw the article by Kevin Jebens ( http://fantasyassembly.com/2015/10/08/can-we-expect-more-from-gomes-perez-vogt/ ) you would see he has the potential to easily outproduce the players I ranked above him. I didn’t move him higher simply based upon his second half slump. While I do like him more, I think it would be irresponsible to rank him higher just based upon 1/2 season worth of dominant numbers.

      That brings me back to Schwarber. He has the potential to be one of the top catchers in the league. Unfortunately like I stated he does have some issues. While he does have a ceiling higher than almost everyone on this list, his floor is lower than all the players I ranked above him. Not only that, but as we saw with Javier Baez, the Cubs have a number of potential replacements on the roster that could steal at bats away from Schwarber should he struggle. There is also the realistic possibility that, like Baez, he could be sent back down to AAA if those struggles persist over a long enough period.

      Schwarber has upside, but I weighed the good with the bad. For where he will have to be drafted, it is not worth the risk (in my opinion) when you can get established catchers who could produce similar numbers. With Soler and Heyward slated for two OF spots, there is only one spot for Schwarber. He will need to hit the ground running. If by some chance Baez is the one that hits the ground running, Maddon will have no issues playing Baez at 2B and moving Zobrist into his spot.

      I knew I would catch a lot of flack for ranking Schwarber low, but too many times we rank prospects way to high. Not every highly touted prospect lives up to expectations and not all of them do it immediately. If you notice in our dynasty rankings I ranked Schwarber 3rd so it’s not like I don’t believe in him; I just don’t believe he will be the guy we all want him to be this season. And if he sticks he should get enough games behind the plate when spelling Montero so I’m not worried about him losing catcher eligibility long term.

      Does that answer your question?

      1. To play devils advocate, if he sits vs lefties that will negate a ton of his poor batting avg. He hit .278 with 14hrs and a .953 opsin 176abs vs rhp last year. I dont think it is fair to argue that he will both hit for a low avg and sit vs lefties. I almost prefer he sits vs lefties. Similar to Choo in his prime fantasy years. He is still likely to see 450 or so ab vs right handed pitching, which would equate to 36 home runs based on his pace vs rhp last yr. Even if his hr pace vs rhp regresses some and he hits lets say 28 in 450 or so abs, you also have to add the stats of the catcher you use when Scwharber sits. Almost all fantasy teams employ a 2nd catcher. I think between Schwarber + whatever later round C you use on his days off you are a very safe bet to surpass the 30 and 100 marks at the C position.

        1. To delve further…

          If you assume Schwarber gets …
          -450abs vs rhp
          -Hits 28hrs (less than his pace last year)
          -has a 25% k rate (greater than his pace vs rhp last year)
          -and has a .300babip vs rhp

          He would then hit .273 with 28homers vs rhp this year. I think that is a very fair estimate for his numbers vs rhp. If he ends up facing lhp he likely will hit 10-20 points lower, with 5 or more homers.

          I see no reason to doubt his production vs rhp.

        2. While he did hit for a reasonable average in his debut year, how many others have done the same and regressed the next. They do so because pitchers take advantage of things they see. Look at Schwarber’s contact rate of 67.8% last year compared to the league average of 78.9%. He can’t go on being lucky on contact like he did in 2015, and when pitchers adjust to him,you’re now left hoping he can adjust quick enough. Add on his 14.4% swinging strikeout rate compared to a league average of close to 10%. His strikeout percentage is 28; between the low contact and high strikeouts, you may be lucky if he hits close to .250.

          What Schwarber did last year was very similar to what Chris Davis did in his debut; he his .285 with 17 home runs in 317 at bats. Everyone did what you just did, extrapolated numbers, gave the glass half full prognosis and declared him a top pick. I compare him to Davis because they have similar profiles and contact/strikeout issues. Davis couldn’t crack .220 the first three months and found himself back in AAA. He managed only 270 at bats verse righties, and while he did hit .260 verse them and did hit 17 home runs verses them, was he really worth the high pick it would have cost you to get him? Are you prepared to take him 31st overall – that is where he is going now in early drafts.

          Schwarber is going off the board around he same time as players like Chris Davis, Charlie Blackmon, Jose Bautista, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez and David Price. Is that smart, to be using such a high pick on a player that is just as likely to regress than to come close to the projected numbers you’ve posted for him?

          I’m not denying that he hits the ball hard and can crack out a lot of home runs, but Davis had the same potential and hype and it took him years of struggles before he fulfilled that potential. I’d much rather settle for someone like McCann, someone I know who will hit for a bad average and give me 20+ home runs and I can get between rounds 10-12 than spend a third round pick on a player who could very well produce those same numbers. Schwarber should have a good career, but I think it’s dangerous to draft him this year considering the talent being taken around him.

      2. By “Cherry Picked” you are implying I pulled out only the hitters who Schwarbers contact rate vs RHP is higher than. Schwarbers contact vs RHP is higher than almost every player on that lists contact rates from last year. I did not at all cherry pick, I simply compared Schwarber to the best players on that list. You know, the 6 players whose stats would be hardest to match. I literally did the opposite of cherry pick.

        “There are a few names on that list that had success despite the strikeout totals, but all of those players had a better contact percentage than Schwarber”

        I was proving that the players that had success did not have higher contact rates than Schwarber as was claimed.

  1. You are looking at rates that are severely skewed due to his #s vs LHP. His K rate vs RHP was 23.7% which is not bad for a power hitter. 25% k rate, with a good HR rate, and lg avg babip would result in a good batting avg for the C position as I proved before. That is simply math, not my opinion assuming these rates. A 25% K rate would be an 1.3% increase compared to last season, so I really dont think you can argue I am low there, and if I am it wouldnt be by much. I see no real solid argument as to why his avg vs rhp would be poor. There is nothing based on last years numbers to suggest it would be. His biggest flaws were not big flaws when you remove his abs vs LHP.

    1. Also, a huge reason why Davis regressed was because he was awesome vs LHP his rookie yr (916 ops). Schwarber does not need to worry about regressing from a .481 OPS vs lhp. Obviously a K prone, long swing lefty has a much better chance to regress from success vs LHP than success vs RHP.

      Davis has a long loopy swing, Scwharber has a short quick swing. I think due to the swing Scwhrber has a much better chance not to regress, or improve in contact/k rates.

    2. If you want a solid argument, how about this. Every, and I do mean every, expert will tell you it is unwise and foolish to base expectations on extrapolation. All of your numbers are based upon this using a small sample size for a player with less than a years experience. Just because a young player with potential did something in the minors does not mean he will be capable of doing that in the majors (Javier Baez), and just because a player does well his first year does not mean he will continue that success (Chris Davis). I use these two players since they both have the closest resemblance to Schwarber, but there are tons of other prospects I can use as examples as well Wil Myers is the first one that comes to mind. Everyone had him pegged for a big year after what he did in 2013. How did that work out for those who took him way too early.

      If you see no real argument as to why his average vs right hand pitching would be poor, then you obviously give no weight to bad contact rate or potentially dangerous strikeout totals. You say there is nothing based on last years numbers to suggest it would be, but the underlying metrics show serious warning signs. If you wish to ignore them, go right ahead and spend that late second, early third round pick. I’ll never knock anyone who wants to draft based upon potential. I wouldn’t do it, especially given the names being selected around him.

    3. “If you see no real argument as to why his average vs right hand pitching would be poor, then you obviously give no weight to bad contact rate or potentially dangerous strikeout totals”

      I said this twice but maybe a 3rd time would sink in… He did not have dangerous contact rates and K totals vs RHP. I understand this FACT deflates your argument, but it is still a fact.

      Also, if we want to dive into what “experts” say which is the lamest argument I ever heard, then why does fangraphs view Scwarber as a really good 3-4th rd fantasy pick? Do you want me to find the article? They also rank him in the top 35. Zips projects Scwharber to hit 32 homers this year. Zips does not simply extrapolate a rookie pace. Now let me guess, experts opinions mean jack shit, unless it helps your point.

      I also did not extrapolate a pace. If I did I would project 36 homers vs RHP. I projected 28. That is a massive diff in pace so being accused of extrapolating makes no sense to me. It is simply a false claim.

      1. I am not arguing Schwarber is as safe as Bautista, but objective projections have them with very similar overall seasons, and that takes into account regression off of Schwarbers pace last year. Obviously if a C and an OF have similar numbers, the C is massively more valuable. If Scwharber matches his projections, he is a first rd pick in 2017. Both have huge power, and low avg (bautista has hit in 250s or lower 3 of last 4 yrs). Bautistas projected avg is way below the avg from a fantasy outfielder, Schwarbers projected avg isnt even lower than the avg fantasy C. The power is not a question with Schwarber, so how much lower of an avg than Baustista does he have to go to be less valuable? 30-40 points? is that likely?

        And if we are just throwing out player examples that help the point were trying to make, I can point to George Springer, who was the king of high K rates and low contact rates. He was on a 25/25 pace last year. Everyone who advised against him was very very wrong before he got hurt.

      2. You did extrapolate in your very first post when you assumed numbers over 450 at bats based upon last years numbers.

        “He is still likely to see 450 or so ab vs right handed pitching, which would equate to 36 home runs based on his pace vs rhp last yr”

        Those are your words. Paint it whoever you want, that is extrapolation.

        And since you brought up fangraphs, almost every writer there will tell you that extrapolating numbers over a limited sample size isn’t the best way to do things.

        As for projections, Fangraphs (most of the writers anyway) have stated numerous times that projections from Zips are a nice guideline, but not always accurate as they don’t take every factor into consideration (age, experience, minor league production). Since you like projections, Streamer has Schwarber down for 25 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .261 average. How are those numbers any different than those of Brian McCann, or his projected line of 23 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .241 average. Are those projected 20 points of batting average worth 7 rounds in the draft?

        As for the statement that he did not have dangerous contact rates last year, there were 138 players with a better contact percentage, and taking out those 56 at bats versus lefties does not raise that 68.8% contact rate enough to rank him in the top 100. You don’t call that dangerously low?

        He had a 23.6% strikeout percentage versus righties. Using last years totals that puts him in the top 25 for strikeouts.
        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2015&month=0&season1=2015&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=5,d
        There are a few names on that list that had success despite the strikeout totals, but all of those players had a better contact percentage than Schwarber. How can you say he did not have dangerous strikeout levels when the numbers clearly state that they do.

        I will admit, Schwarber is capable of dong everything you are saying he could do, but you also have to admit there are a bunch of red flags that say the opposite which could produce a season no better than Brian McCann. That is not third round draft material.

        I’ve seen the articles on Fangraphs and countless other publications stating that schwarber is worth being taken in the third/fourth rounds of a draft, but there are an equal number of articles outlining the pitfalls of selecting him too early

        1. “He is still likely to see 450 or so ab vs right handed pitching, which would equate to 36 home runs based on his pace vs rhp last yr”

          Lets read the next sentence…

          “Even if his hr pace vs rhp regresses some and he hits lets say 28 in 450 or so abs”

          I was simply giving you the number to which he would regress from. Youre copy and paste of my sentence couldnt be more void of context. Literally every projection I gave contained regression.

          That list you sent absolutely helps my argument. You realize almost all those studs on that list have a WORSE not better contact rate than Scwharber contact rate vs RHP? You just told me they have better contact rates. False. If Scwharber had a 68% contact rate overall, with a K rate vs LHP of 44%, and K rate vs RHP of 24% we can safely assume his 68% contact rate is drastically weighed down vs LHP. If you remove his contact vs LHP, I would wager any amount his contact rate vs RHP is above 75%, probably around 80% or higher. Here is every stud on that lists contact rate…

          Troiut-80%
          JD Martinez 71%
          Davis -67%
          cruz-71.5
          bryant 66%
          upton 70%

          Schwarber ahead of all but Trout in terms of his contact rate vs RHP.

          If you hit a ton of HRs with big strike outs you can have a solid avg, UNLESS you have a horrible BABIP. I see no reason to expect a poor babip. All the powerful low avg guys on that list have horrible BABIPS. Schwarber compares very well with the names I listed above (minus Trout).

          1. I just looked, and avg contact % is 80%. His is north of 75% against RHP. So I will say it again, he does not have alarming contact issues vs RHP. If anything his contact rate vs RHP suggests his K rate should IMPROVE. I still find nothing in his numbers VS ONLY RHP that suggest he should have bad batting avg against RHP. Nothing.

          2. Haha, cherry picking 6 players out of 30 to make a point.

            I look at both comments and you each make a good point. I like Schwarber, but I wouldn’t reach for him in the third round any more than I would Posey.

          3. By “Cherry Picked” you are implying I pulled out only the hitters who Schwarbers contact rate vs RHP is higher than. Schwarbers contact vs RHP is higher than almost every player on that lists contact rates from last year. I did not at all cherry pick, I simply compared Schwarber to the best players on that list. You know, the 6 players whose stats would be hardest to match. I literally did the opposite of cherry pick.

            “There are a few names on that list that had success despite the strikeout totals, but all of those players had a better contact percentage than Schwarber”

            I was proving that the players that had success did not have higher contact rates than Schwarber as was claimed.

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