Each week, the Assembly will put together their positional rankings for keeper/dynasty leagues. Players are ranked with the next five years of production in mind, so when you see Travis d’Arnaud ranked ahead of players like Brian McCann that does not mean that we believe d’Arnaud will be the superior short-term option.
Catcher is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in dynasty leagues. Injury risk is always higher for catchers due to the extreme physical toll that the position can take on an athlete. Elite offensive options often end up being moved to other positions either because they are not up to par defensively, or because the club decides that a move to a less taxing position like first base keeps that big bat in the lineup more regularly. When investing in a long-term keeper at catcher, be aware that your stud may be playing another position down the road (see Santana, Carlos).
Our 5 experts, with over 100 years combined fantasy baseball experience, each ranked the catcher position, and here are the results:
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Tommy: Posey is the obvious choice as the # 1 catcher, and by a wide margin. If I owned him in a dynasty league, I would be selling high right now anyway. Although talks of a position change have cooled this season, Buster Posey the first baseman is still a distinct possibility within the next three years.
Will: Buster is the #1 catcher in mind without a doubt. That could change in a couple of years, but there are not a lot of catchers that consistently hit for both power and average.
2. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
Jim: The power was lacking in 2014, but he improved everywhere else across the line. He should produce those numbers for several years but with more power.
Will: Lucroy is 1st in runs scored, 4th in RBI, 2nd in AVG, 3rd in OBP and 4th in SLG for catchers with at last 300 PAs in 2014. Lucroy increased his walk rate and now has back-to-back seasons with similarly nice numbers.
3. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
Paul: Mesoraco was a top prospect before Dusty got his hands on him. Now free and playing, he’s shown his ability to drive the ball with authority. His HR rate is inflated, but even at a modest 15%, he projects to 21 HR over 450 AB.
Ron: Projectable 20+ HR power at the catcher position is supported by a decrease in GB% as well as a nice increase in FB/HR%.
4. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
Paul: Not the progress I was hoping for this year. Perez put up more HR and R, but saw his AVG, OBP, SLG and his BB/K rate all go down. May never be a top option, but a good fall-back one.
Ron: He’s mini-Buster at an age where he could be the most dynasty friendly catcher heading into 2015.
5. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
Tommy: Wieters has 20+ HR power, but struggles against right-handed pitchers have always held his average back. He showed signs of improvement against RHP before his injury. If he can get the average over .260, he will produce plentiful counting stats to go with the other goodies.
Ron: 2014 started off so promising for the often over-hyped Wieters before his need for Tommy John surgery shut him down.
6. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Tommy: Yadi remains an elite line drive hitter and a premier defensive backstop, but Ks are on a 4 year rise and power seems to be declining. At 32, Yadi is no longer a coveted dynasty league option.
Will: I hesitated to put Yadi this high, because of age, but I think you get a few more years of typical Yadi as a catcher and many of the ones below are not as proven. I think the average will stay fairly high, with some drop in Yadi’s power.
7. Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Jim: I think d’Arnaud and Mesoraco will be dead even come the end of 2017, but d’Arnaud will struggle with his average in 2015 before taking the next step.
Ron: Is this guy the new Wieters? An overhyped minor league masher who turns out to be an over-drafted, boring stat line producer at the MLB level?
8. Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves
Paul: Possibly the top power option at catcher, the concern is his ability to stick at that position as well as accumulate enough time on the field to increase hit counting stats.
Will: Affectionately known as “The Grape” by ESPN’s Matthew Berry, Gattis is all about the long ball, you’ll just have to work around the low AVG.
9. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians
Paul: Incredibly, Gomes was a top 5 option in 2014, but there are some red flags, especially with his contact rates and BABIP. He likely won’t hit in the .280 range with a 77% contact rate and a 22.5% K rate, but the power is legit and he provides enough defensive value that playing time shouldn’t become an issue.
Tommy: The power is legit for Gomes and his defensive ability will keep him eligible at C. Expect the average to regress some, but the power plus counting stats will make the 27-year-old a dynasty bargain.
10. Brian McCann, New York Yankees
Jim: Expect a bounce back in the batting average as McCann is a better hitter than we saw in 2014. His age shouldn’t be an issue as he’s not too old to worry about.
Will: McCann just cleared the 20 HR mark for the seventh consecutive season, but he also cleared the 30-year-old mark, so not sure how much longer he keeps that up, but if he can continue playing half his games in Yankee Stadium, it could certainly help to prolong the streak.
11. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies
Jim: Give the 25-year-old a mulligan for 2014. Improving strikeout and walk totals should work in his favor as he matures.
Ron: Despite a disappointing 2014 campaign, Rosario will still play his home games in Colorado going forward. If he can come at a 2015 discount, that works for me.
12. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
Jim: A healthy Ramos can be a top 10 catcher, he just hasn’t been able to play a full season. If you keep Ramos, have a plan B in mind.
Tommy: Ramos has elite power potential, but his lineup position and high GB rate hold him back. I love him anyway, despite the injury risk.
13. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners
Paul: It’s not looking like even a .200 AVG will be in the cards for Zunino in his first full season with the Mariners. A 33% K rate almost assures that. I dislike any player with twice as good of a BB/K rate as what he’s done. I’m willing to overlook some of it because of his age, his .200 ISO! and the fact that he was rushed.
Will: Zunino is your classic one trick pony. 20 homers with an average hovering around the Mendoza line? You’ll get all or nothing with Zunino, but 20 dingers is 20 dingers.
14. Derek Norris, Oakland Athletics
Ron: For deeper leagues, Norris could be looked at as a nice value play for a set it and forget it type of catcher. Otherwise, he’s probably destined to be waiver wire material in shallower leagues moving forward.
Will: Love his plate discipline! Good for 10-15 homers a year, and will be top 10 in runs for catcher, most seasons.
15. Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ron: Since catcher isn’t usually a great keeper position, Montero’s production level will be just fine for me if I don’t have a Posey-type to lock down the spot for the foreseeable future.
Will: Montero got back over 70 RBIs this season after rough 2013 campaign. Looks like 10-15 HRs a season for the next few, with 60-70 RBIs.
16. Yasmani Grandal, San Diego Padres
Jim: Year one after the PED scandal didn’t go well. There is potential and power, but if Grandal doesn’t come around he’ll be nothing more than a poor mans J.P. Arencibia.
Paul: Grandal still has power potential, though the massive loss in his once stellar BB/K rate is concerning. At just 25 years of age, I’m not ready to give up just yet.
17. Jason Castro, Houston Astros
Tommy: Castro’s HR/FB rate in 2013 was flukey. Expect power numbers closer to what we saw in 2014 than 2013. With a K rate near 30%, Castro is not likely to be much help to your batting average.
Will: Castro took a step back in 2014, probably due in large part to a decreased walk rate combined with the increased K-rate.
18. Josmil Pinto, Minnesota Twins
Jim: Unless the Twins bring in a veteran to ease the pressure, Pinto will learn on the job and go through growing pains the next few years. Overall he will turn into a solid catching option.
Ron: The second half of the 2015 season seems like an appropriate time for a full launch of Pinto behind the plate on a regular basis for the Twins.
19. Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
Paul: A little ambitious with this ranking, considering Schwarber won’t see any mlb time in 2015. The bat is very good, showing a lot of power as he hit 18 home runs in 72 games between 3 levels since being drafted in June.
Tommy: With solid vets being relatively affordable in most dynasty formats, I am swinging for the fences here. While there is no guarantee Scwharber actually catches at the major league level, one glance at his low minors numbers explain this ranking. There simply are not any catcher prospects in the high minors with bats like this.
20. Dioner Navarro, Toronto Blue Jays
Jim: Three years in a row with a plus average. For 2015 he is a better than average option for 2 catcher leagues, beyond that will depend on where he signs.
Tommy: Navarro makes for a great short-term play. His high LD rate should lead to a good batting average, and he will chip in about 15 HRs too. Navarro is the ideal catcher to own if you are waiting on a prospect to start producing.
20. Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates (Free Agent)
Paul: The 31-year-old quietly will finish in the Top 10 catchers of 2014. His .410 OBP towers over the rest of the field, making him even more valuable in points and OBP leagues. He’s not the 20+ HR threat or 20 SB threat he once was, but he should be solid for a few more years.
Will: Martin has had a quietly productive ’14, but he is 31 and the power numbers are already starting to wane. Tough to believe in this season’s average.
We were almost in consensus as to who the top 12 catchers were, they just often appeared in a different order. Some of the more polarizing players inside the top 12 were Salvador Perez, Yan Gomes and Travis d’Arnaud. Not surprisingly, these are the players who some of us ranked expecting production leaps. Tommy’s high-ranking of both Wieters and Gomes is as much a show of support for those players as it is an indictment of the other guys in the top 12.
Based on our collective rankings, it is fair to assume that Posey is far and away the top option. Lucroy and Mesoraco form the next “tier” with values substantially higher than the rest of the field. From there, the gap between 4 and 12 is remarkably narrow, before another large drop off at 13.
Draft strategies will obviously vary depending on the specifics of your league, but there will likely be some pretty good short-term values at the catcher position if you miss out on one of the top options. Vets like Navarro and Montero usually tend to get undervalued in keeper/dynasty leagues, so don’t be afraid to wait on the position and fill holes elsewhere.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2015 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.