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 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, even with the new rule that protects the catcher from plate collisions. 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. Santana & Mauer were moved in 2014; in 2015 we saw Evan Gattis shift to the outfield, Wilin Rosario to first and Stephen Vogt played both catcher and first as the A’s attempted to keep his bat in the lineup. Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy have been seeing time at first for a few years now. You’ll get a warning; things like this don’t happen immediately (barring an injury), but it is something to be aware of.
Taking part in our dynasty rankings will be Paul Hartman, Kevin Jebens, Jim Finch, Will Emerson, Ron Vackar and Michael Zakhar. Our six experts each ranked their top 20 catchers. Players marked N/R were not ranked inside the top 20 by that particular person, Here are the results along with last year’s ranking.
The top 5 players really need no explanation or commentary. Everyone knows Buster Posey is the top option. Jonathan Lucroy is still a top 5 option and is as close to a plug and play option as you can get. The same can be said about Salvador Perez, whose numbers have stabilized the past few season. Travis d’Arnaud and Kyle Schwarber have a lot of potential. It may take them a year or two to earn their respective rankings, but they have the upside to do just that.
As for the remaining players, our panel shares their thoughts on each below.
6. Devin Mesoraco – Cincinnati Reds
- Kevin: Anyone missing nearly a full season warrants caution. He has power, but 2014’s great surface stats were fueled by high BABIP and HR/FB in first half that aren’t likely sustainable.
- Will: Hip injury be darned, the Punxsutawney Pounder is still only 27 and had 25 dingers in his last full season. Mesoraco should be one of the safer bets to consistently produce from the catcher spot over the next 5 years.
7. Brian McCann – Yankees
- Ron: McCann is just young enough at 31, and just had the bounce back season we needed to see to believe in him again. Hitting in the middle of the Yankee lineup never hurt anyone.
- Jim: 8 straight years of 20+ home runs. Just once in the past 10 seasons has he had under 67 RBIs. Those kind of numbers make him a top 5 in two categories most years. Just make up the average someplace else.
8. Blake Swihart – Red Sox
- Paul: Swihart was a highly-touted prospect heading in to 2015, and all he did was become the second best offensive catcher in the second half with a .350 wOBA. There isn’t a ton of power yet, but he should develop into a 10-15 HR guy to go with a .280 AVG.
- Zak: I am loathe to recommend a Red Sox rookie, but Swihart impressed me. He displayed some power in the second half, as well as mild improvements in plate discipline. It may be a bit of a roller coaster early on, but with his pedigree he could make a leap in the coming years.
9. Yan Gomes – Indians
- Kevin: A slow start and knee sprain made 2015 a lost season. His LD% suggests 2015 BABIP was low, so BA should rebound. He may not reach 20+ HR again, but 15+ is possible with a better BA. Catcher is weak, so give him a pass and hope for a rebound that isn’t a long shot.
- Zak: Around this time last year Gomes was being talked about as a top 5 option, right there with guys several slots ahead of him. He dealt with some injuries in 2015, but the power is still there and he’s just 28. No need to jump ship now.
10. Russell Martin – Blue Jays
- Kevin: Most catchers aren’t great long-term keepers for dynasty. For that reason, Martin’s rebound in 2014-15 makes him a great short-term investment. He’s “old” and entering his 11th season, but people will pay for 15+ HR at catcher, and Rogers Centre greatly helps RHB HR numbers.
- Paul: Martin is in a great spot, playing for the high-octane Toronto Blue Jays. He’s signed for the next 4 seasons, and at 32 years old, I’d expect him to be a top 5 option next year and then gradually tick down. My ranking reflects a 5-yr outlook of the following ranks: 5, 7, 10, 13, 25 with DH time increasing over that span.
11. J.T. Realmuto – Marlins
- Ron: Realmuto is a standard boring catcher, but at least he will give you a little production across the board. Yup, even a handful of stolen bases.
- Will: Taking a bit of a leap of faith with JT, since the sample size is small, but Realmuto was pretty locked in at the end of the season. Walk rate still leaves something to be desired, but he had a .373 wOBA in the final month of the season to build on. At just 24, that eye and power should still improve, so the sky’s the limit.
12. Yasmani Grandal – Dodgers
- Ron: Grandal and d’Arnaud, d’Arnaud and Grandal. Finkle and Einhorn? These two can be flip-flopped for my liking as I see them as one in the same. Nagging injuries may always be an issue for this pair of 26 year olds, but the upside is there if they can stay on the field.
- Kevin: He hits for power, but that’s it. If LA keeps platooning with Ellis, he may not reach 400+ AB. Two years of bad BA means little hope for improvement. He gets a boost in OBP leagues, but 5×5 shouldn’t get sucked in.
13. Derek Norris – Padres
- Jim: I see Norris as a young version of Miguel Montero, someone who will put up solid numbers each year. He could even get a bump in value if he learns to hit righties a little better.
- Will: Norris had a drop in his walk rate, but did have a respectable .153 ISO and I expect the OBP to go back up to the .350 range. Norris is a very serviceable C2 and should fall in the top 20 overall for catchers.
14. Stephen Vogt – A’s
- Kevin: There’s Posey, and then there’s everyone else. With that in mind, you might as well gamble on Vogt. First half BA was due to lucky BABIP, yes, but second half BA was due to unlucky BABIP. A groin injury was also a likely culprit for reduced second half numbers. He’s not the first half guy, and he’s not the second half. He is his full season line (and maybe a bit more), which is top-5 worthy.
- Will: Vogt is no Spring chicken, but in what was basically his first full season, he finished 10th in wOBA and 6th in homers among catchers with at least 100 plate appearances. I like Vogt and think he can provide some good ol’ fashioned production on the cheap.
15. Matt Wieters – Orioles
- Jim: I’ll admit to being a hater. There are signs he could be a similar player to Brian McCann (the current version), but some of his peripherals make me doubt his contact abilities. I was wrong once though, so….
- Zak: While no one is suggesting that he can travel through the space time continuum or DH in the national league–people used to, honest–I still hold out hope that Weiters can contribute to fantasy teams in the coming years. 2014 was looking like the breakout before injuries struck. They struck again in 2015 and he didn’t have a good season. Still, I think health is the only obstacle to 20 home runs. They may come cheap.
16. Wilson Ramos – Nationals
- Paul: We finally got to see what Ramos could do if he stayed healthy, and you can’t help but be a little disappointed. As the season wore on, Ramos got worse hitting just .197 in the second half. He’s still just 28 and may have better years ahead, but there is no chance I’m taking him except as a late round flier.
- Zak: His plate discipline tanked in what was a healthy year by his standards. But his power is something you can count on. If the average creeps up he could be useful, and he’s young enough to last a little while.
17. Welington Castillo – Diamondbacks
- Jim: He added 14 feet to his average flyball distance, but his LD% fell for a third straight year, his HR/FB% is unsustainable, his K’s are high, he doesn’t swing enough and doesn’t make great contact when he does. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit, but I’m not feeling it.
- Paul: Castillo is 28 years old and coming off a season where he was the 4th best catcher with 19 HR in just 342 AB. Most of the damage he did was as a Diamondback, hitting 17 HR in 4 months. Arizona is a great situation for him to be in, with a solid lineup and an outstanding hitters park. Any catcher than can hit 20 HR deserves strong consideration for fantasy and he’ll likely be available late in drafts.
18. Miguel Montero – Cubs
- Ron: It is not difficult to imagine Montero producing a line you can tolerate from your fantasy backstop for the next three or four years. A .240 average and something in the neighborhood of 15 home runs is not exciting, but in deeper formats you could certainly do worse.
- Zak: Montero is a serviceable option who isn’t going to be breaking out, but he also will not damage your team too badly. When it comes to second catchers, that’s actually a compliment.
19. Caleb Joseph – Orioles
- Ron: I get the career backup vibe from Caleb Joseph. He fell into some at bats this year, and maybe the Orioles give him some rope in 2016 with Wieters possibly moving on. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Joseph’s 2015 performance is as good as it gets for him and he finds himself sharing time sooner than later.
- Jim: He showed in the minors he can hit for a better average than we saw in 2015. I’ll take a leap of faith here and give him the benefit of the doubt. He could pan out to be a step or two above a replacement level player.
20. Yadier Molina – Cardinals
- Paul: I admit to never really considering Molina for this list. He’s 33 years old and has seen his power all but vanish over the past two seasons. Even if he magically improves next year, he still wouldn’t be a strong option for dynasty leagues.
- Will: Yadi has seen a drop in both ISO and wOBA in each year since 2012, and at 33 years of age, that trend doesn’t seem like it will reverse itself anytime soon. If you can get him on the cheap he can still give you some backup catcher-like production for a few more years.
A number of other catchers received a ranking on one or two lists, but ultimately fell short of making the cut. There were some older backstops (Nick Hundley, Robinson Chirinos), players who got their first full taste of the majors (James McCann, Christian Bethancourt, Tom Murphy), and two who could be contributors in the future (Gary Sanchez, Peter O’Brien). McCann, Bethancourt and Murphy could appear here next season should they take a step forward and prove themselves. The same goes for Sanchez and O’Brien (who were the only two ranked on more than one list); both are worth stashing, but you will need an established catcher from the group above for now.
That wraps up our catcher rankings. Tomorrow begins our first base coverage which will wrap up next Sunday with the top 25 first basemen.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2016 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.