After each week of positional coverage, we will wrap things up here Sunday with our 2016 dynasty/keeper rankings. Players are ranked with the next five years of production in mind, so when you see Salvador Perez ranked ahead of a player like Evan Gattis – that does not mean that we believe Perez will be the superior short-term option.
The catcher position is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in dynasty leagues, and the most volatile when it comes to rankings. Only three players (Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy and Salvador Perez) that were ranked inside the top-10 in last year’s dynasty rankings made the top-10 this year.
Travis d’Arnaud, Yan Gomes, Kyle Schwarber and Devin Mesoraco dropped out due to inconsistencies and or injuries. Blake Swihart has been replaced behind the plate. Brian McCann loses some value with a younger option now available. And finally, Russell Martin moves down a few spots with another birthday under his belt.
There looks to be a little more stability this year than in year’s past, but only time will tell if those looks are deceiving. So many young options come up with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, but only a select few ever stick. Sometimes it takes years for a player to establish themselves behind the plate. This is why, unlike other positions, you’ll usually see more veteran names scattered throughout the list. Don’t be too concerned if you have an older backstop in a dynasty league, but don’t shy away from those young-guns either – he may just pan out to be one of the good ones.
Taking part in our dynasty rankings will be Paul Hartman, Kevin Jebens, Jim Finch, Ron Vackar, Josh Coleman and Mike Sheehan. Our six experts each ranked their top 20 catchers. Players marked N/R were not ranked inside the top 20 by that particular person.
We may not all agree on the order, but we do all agree that the top-8 players deserve to be in the top-10. Posey continues to be the poster boy for the position. Lucroy gets a boost with him move to Texas. Sanchez has shot up the rankings after his prolific debut, and both he and fellow rookie Contreras will look to establish themselves as top options over the next few years. Realmuto proved that 2015 was not a fluke. Perez has been a stable option for several years. Grandal may never be much for batting average, but he is an above average source of power. Gattis returns to the rankings, and he would probably be ranked a few ticks higher if there was more of a guarantee he would stick at the position.
As for the remaining players, our panel shares their thoughts on each below.
9. Wilson Ramos – Free Agent
- Ron: This one is difficult to peg. Maybe Ramos joins an American League team where he can DH and take more time between starts behind the plate, allowing him a quicker return to action. Or maybe he’s just another Gomes/Mesoraco/d’Arnaud type we can never really trust to stay healthy.
- Josh: I love what Ramos has to offer, but the late season knee injury will cut into 2017. Perhaps more concerning is the talk involving his ability to play Catcher next season. The skill set keeps him in the rankings, but the concern drops his value for me.
10. Matt Wieters – Free Agent
- Jim: He has basically morphed into a poor man’s Salvador Perez. Steady power, an average that won’t kill you most years, and top-10 RBI production. Wieters is not pretty, but he is safe – I like safe.
- Mike: Another year of injuries, but he has flashed some upside in his past and even had some moments this season. Throw in a great park and good lineup (should he resign with Baltimore) and he’s worth the minimal investment it should take to snag him.
11. Russell Martin – Blue Jays
- Paul: Things looked bleak in the first half for Martin, but a strong .357 wOBA after the All-Star break got Martin back on track and near to what can be expected of him. Lock him in for 450 at bats, 20 home runs and a solid walk rate for points or OBP leagues. There’s nothing special here, but it’s solid production and has been pretty consistent throughout his career.
- Ron: Martin is the ideal catcher for a dynasty team going for gold right now. Martin has played in 125+ games in 5 of the past 6 seasons. The year Martin fell short in that time-span, he played in 111 games. He’s reliable and productive enough to keep you in the running and can be had on the cheap because of his age. Martin is your prototypical set it and forget it catcher.
12. Travis d’Arnaud – Mets
- Paul: I ranked d’Arnaud #3 last year, and while he obviously had a miserable 2016 season, he isn’t far removed from a pretty solid though injury-shortened 2015. Still young at 27, d’Arnaud has good power and a starting position. What he needs to do is stay healthy. I think we should eventually see a season where he puts it together; though I doubt we’ll see many.
- Kevin: He’s not young anymore (28 in 2017), and so he’s no longer a prospect with big upside. Instead, he’s an injury risk who may have above-average power (best year 15% HR/FB) but can’t stay on the field or capitalize on his potential.
13. Brian McCann – Yankees
- Kevin: He keeps up 20 HR, but Sanchez will eventually replace him fully at C, so McCann is looking at 1B/DH long-term. Declining contact could further hurt BA, and this year’s sub-60 RBIs aren’t as impressive as his previous years.
- Mike: He’s no longer a top-5 option, and he generally sits against lefties. Still, McCann should be in the heart of an improving bombers lineup and is still a reliable bet for homers and RBIs.
14. Devin Mesoraco – Reds
- Paul: I think there’s going to be a long road ahead for Mesoraco before he returns to fantasy relevance – if he ever does at all. I worry about the two lost seasons, the potential move to outfield prior to injury, and the arrival of Tucker Barnhart whom the pitching staff loves. There’s no question that he has huge power upside, but will he be off catching if he does return to form?
- Josh: My name is Josh and I’m a hypocrite. Has missed nearly two seasons, has never played in 120 Games, and has topped 60, 2 times in his 6 year career. The difference for me is he’s recovering from as opposed to going through the injury when 2017 begins. In shallow one-catcher type leagues, sign me up for that upside regardless of potential risk.
15. Tom Murphy – Rockies
- Ron: I’d take the stats from pitchers that hit in Coors over some of the MLB backstops getting the bulk of the playing time for their respective teams these days. Nick Hundley should be on his way out, and Tom Murphy’s stock should be on the rise playing half his games in the thinnest air baseball has to offer.
- Mike: I would like to rank him higher since I love players that call Coors Field their home. He is a deep sleeper pick that could round into a top-12 option if he can figure out a way to monopolize playing time in Colorado.
16. Mike Zunino – Mariners
- Ron: Zunino still strikes out too much, but the power is real and he displays some patience at the plate that he might be able to build on. For a guy who will be 26 in March with the power to match most catchers in the game, Mike Zunino deserves a longer look.
- Josh: Overall the position is bland with production. Therefore, when an option offers plus production I’m interested. Sure, the plus power comes with AVG risk, but at 26 and improved minor league plate discipline, is it possible we can expect improvement? For me that answer is yes.
17. Stephen Vogt – Athletics
- Jim: I may be discounting Vogt a little compared to last year, but I expected at least similar results in 2016. The big thing he has going for him is he is cheap and under arbitration for the next three years so the A’s will keep running him out there. You can do better, but there are worse options.
- Kevin: I’ve cooled on Vogt, but there’s still potential for mid-rank production. He remained in at least the top-13 in R, RBI, HR, and BA in 2016 among catchers with 300 AB. He tied for fifth in AB, and you could do worse by picking someone who doesn’t get as much playing time.
18. Welington Castillo – Diamondbacks
- Paul: Castillo suffered from a lack of fly balls this year, but he hit the ball harder than ever before. As much as 2016 was a disappointment, I think he deserves a mulligan for the lack of home runs. He still drove in 68, plays in a great ballpark and is young enough to produce for the next 5 years. He’s no All-Star, but the production is respectable at least.
- Jim: I think Castillo is as good an option as Wieters, but without the reliability factor when it comes to average and power. To me he’s the kind of catcher you don’t mind owning, but you’re always looking for a better option.
19. Yan Gomes – Indians
- Jim: The high expectations I had after 2013-2014 have quickly faded. Roberto Perez could steal at bats from Gomes moving forward, and that is not an endorsement for Perez either.
- Mike: A down year in 2015 followed by an injury plagued 2016. Gomes had a tremendous 2014, though, and could be a nice cheap bounce back option at the worst position in fantasy baseball. He’s not a bad option if you decide to punt catcher in 1 catcher leagues and could be upside option in a 2 catcher league.
20. Cameron Rupp – Phillies
- Kevin: Rupp is going to be a surprise in 2017, but not to me. Hard hit rate and HR/FB% improved with more experience and playing time in 2016. He has an outside shot at 20 HR next year, along with strong RBI numbers for a catcher.
- Josh: Another player whose skill set I like. Problem for me is Jorge Alfaro. Alfaro was the centerpiece name involved in the Cole Hamel deal. Fans and ownership want these type of players as prominent fixtures in promoting the future. Having already bypassed AAA with a September call-up, that leads me to believe this job will be his with a strong Spring Training.
While Cameron Rupp took the final spot, teammate Jorge Alfaro was next in line and just missed the cut. Rookies Sandy Leon, Austin Hedges, Jacob Nottingham and Chance Sisco also appeared on several lists, as did veterans Derek Norris, Yadier Molina and Francisco Cervelli. Unfortunately none of them appeared on more than three lists and didn’t rank him enough to warrant more than a mention. It’s possible we could see some of those rookies in the top-20 next season.
That wraps up our catcher rankings. Next week begins our first base coverage which will wrap up next Sunday with the top 25 first basemen.