How many more years do Victor Martinez, A.J. Pierzynski and Russell Martin have in them? Will one of them drop off?
The catcher position looks fairly top-heavy this year in fantasy baseball. You have a young group on their way up and a few prominent catchers that look to be transitioning into a designated-hitter role. I ranked the top 30 catchers and added some sleepers and busts to help you in your draft.
My rankings are based on a standard 5×5 league. If you have any specific questions about a different league, email me BobbyMcrib@gmail.com.
1. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants – This was the easiest pick. The defending National League MVP and World Series hero is set to have another amazing year. Posey will be a first round pick in every league and format. If you’re in an auction draft, be prepared to spend.
2. Mike Napoli – Boston Red Sox – When Napoli went to the Texas Rangers, fantasy baseball owners began to salivate. Things were great in 2011, but everything fell apart in 2012. My evaluation is higher than most, but since he’s also first base-eligible, his value increases in my eyes.
3. Victor Martinez – Detroit Tigers – When the Tigers decided to take Victor Martinez’s ACL rehab slowly, I gave the decision a big thumbs up. The Tigers could run away with the AL Central with V-Mart back in the lineup. I expect another 15/100/.315 season from him. I don’t see him playing behind the plate much at all. He will fit in nicely at DH and the occasional first base.
4. Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals – In 2012, Molina had a career year. He finally contributed in more categories than batting average. I still think he hits double-digits homers, but his average could take a dip. Molina’s BABIP was higher than average and was ridiculously high against lefties. I still think Molina has a great season, but he won’t quite hit the same numbers in 2013.
5. Matt Wieters – Baltimore Orioles – After nearly giving up on Wieters, he had his much-anticipated breakout year in 2012. He hit 23 homers and drove in 83 runs with a .249 batting average. The batting average left a lot to be desired, but his BABIP was only .274, I see him batting anywhere from .265 to .275 this year. Expect even more improvement from him this season.
6. Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins – I’m much lower on Mauer than most people. He always goes too early in drafts and he’s more expensive in auction drafts. I draft based on value and he’s never around by the time I think the value is there. He will be a .300 hitter, that’s a given, but is he the guy who will hit around ten homers a season or is he closer to the guy who hit 28 homers in 2009. I think he’s a guy who will hit 10-15 homers and struggle with RBI on a poor Minnesota team.
7. Salvador Perez – Kansas City Royals – For team owners lucky enough to pick up Perez when he was called up last season, he definitely helped you down the stretch. He is a known commodity now, so you will have to pay up. He will hit anywhere from 15-20 homers, bat around .300 and he should get around 500 at-bats in 2013. I think those numbers will lead to him being a top ten catcher this season.
8. Brian McCann – Atlanta Braves – McCann had an abysmal batting average last season. He went from being a career .285 hitter to batting .230. He battled a few lingering injuries, but his BAbip was well below average at .234. A person could look at that and assume he had bad luck. I expect the same 20-something homer season and his average to bounce back to normal. He’s a guy who could drop. An uneducated fantasy owner will pass him up.
9. Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians – After a breakout season in 2011, Santana struggled out the gate last season. His numbers dropped and many fantasy owners, like me, dropped him at some point last year. I actually picked him up and dropped him multiple times, no one wanted him. I predict a bounce back year, but his inconsistency could still be an issue. He has been known to go into long droughts. If you can withstand a few hitless streaks, in the long run, he will be a nice catcher this year.
10. Miguel Montero – Arizona Diamondbacks – He is the last catcher in the group I would deem as an automatic #1 catcher. The rest of the catchers are platoon-able and have more risk attached. Montero saw his strikeout-to-walk ratio drop to the lowest its been since his rookie season. I like his approach at the plate, even if his BAbip was a bit inflated. The rest of his numbers seem to be on par with a hitter who is in his prime.
11. Wilin Rosario – Colorado Rockies – Rosario had a fantastic rookie season in Denver. A 28/71/.270 could be difficult to repeat and I predict a slight decrease, but not enough to drop him to a #2 catcher in a 12-team league. Playing in Colorado will help pad his numbers a bit, so I’m not afraid of a sophomore slump drop off.
12. A.J. Pierzynski – Texas Rangers – A 35-year old catcher having a career power year is very rare. Pierzynski nearly doubled his previous career high in home runs. The rest of his 2012 numbers are close to his career averages. His doubles decreased, but that happens if you belt more homers than usual. I like his transition to Texas, but could slip into a platoon with Geovany Soto if he struggles early in the season. That is the only risk I see here.
13. Alex Avila – Detroit Tigers – Was Avila’s 2011 season an aberration or was that a preview of what’s to come from him? He went from 19/82/.295 to 9/48/.243 last season. He did play in 25 less games, but that wouldn’t cover the production gap. I think Avila’s 2013 season will be more like his 2011 season than last season. I see him hitting 15-20 homers, driving in 75 RBI and having an average around .275.
14. J.P. Arencibia – Toronto Blue Jays – Now that Travis d’Arnaud is in New York, Arencibia doesn’t have to worry about losing time to a “catcher of the future”…he is the future. The Blue Jays upgraded their team immensely, so Arencibia just has to worry about what he does best, hit home runs. He will never win a batting title, but is a threat to hit 30+ home runs every year. If you can take the sub .230 batting average, he’ll make up for it with HRs and possibly RBI, since the guys ahead of him are better hitters than ever before.
15. Ryan Doumit – Minnesota Twins – Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will be the starting catcher and first baseman, but the Twins will find Doumit a place to hit. He will be a DH and spell Mauer and Morneau when they need a day off. I think he’s a solid #2 catcher with position flexibility.
16. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Boston Red Sox – Salty is a risky player. Ryan Lavarnway and Napoli are also fighting for at-bats. Boston has dangled Lavarnway and Salty in trades, so drafting him early is a risk. If he stays in Boston, he’ll hit 20+/75/.240 for the season…high risk/high reward.
17. Jonathan Lucroy – Milwaukee Brewers – Lucroy will get 500 at-bats this season and put up slightly above average numbers. He’s not a sexy pick, but he’s a solid #2 catcher.
18. Carlos Ruiz – Philadelphia Phillies – Is Ruiz a yearly .300 hitter? He finished the season with a .325 average, but I don’t see his 2012 numbers being repeatable. He starts the season on suspension, due to a failed drug test. This is one of the few reasons why I believe Ruiz won’t be a #1 catcher in 2013.
19. Russell Martin – Pittsburgh Pirates – Martin struggled against American League pitching during his tenure with the Yankees. He’s had past success against National League staffs and I see his batting average bouncing back to at least .240 in 2013. He could be a sneaky pick late in the draft, especially if you’re in a two-catcher league.
20. Travis d’Arnaud – New York Mets – The mega-hitting Toronto Blue Jays prospect was the centerpiece in the R.A. Dickey trade. I doubt he starts the season on the New York Mets roster, since they added John Buck in the offseason as well. d’Arnaud is a guy to stash and wait for his impending call-up. I also like Buck, but if d’Arnaud bounces back from an injury-shortened 2012 season, he’ll be worth the wait.
21. Jesus Montero – Seattle Mariners
22. John Jaso – Oakland A’s
23. Chris Iannetta – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
24. John Buck – New York Mets
25. Devin Mesoraco – Cincinnati Reds
26. A.J. Ellis – Los Angeles Dodgers
27. Tyler Flowers – Chicago White Sox
28. Jason Castro – Houston Astros
29. Kurt Suzuki – Washington Nationals
30. Yasmani Grandal – San Diego Padres
A.J. Pierzynski – Texas Rangers – I’m only adding A.J. here because he is going earlier than he should. Owners are expecting numbers similar to his 2012 season, but I see him reverting back to his career average numbers. As I said earlier, if Geovany Soto shows signs of life and Pierzynski gets off to a slow start, you could see Soto earning more time. A.J. is a much better defensive catcher than Soto, so there’s only a small chance of that happening. Expectations are just too high for him right now.
Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins – First, let me state that I think Mauer is going to have a good year. I always list him in this section because he doesn’t produce like a first round pick. He gets drafted too early and rarely equals the output of someone who should be picked as high. He has burned nearly every fantasy owner out there, but we keep going back to the well.
David Ross/Ryan Larvarnway – Boston Red Sox – If Salty is traded and/or suffers an injury, one of these guys will see extra at-bats. I think they can put up big numbers if they are called upon. As with Mesoraco, keep an eye on these guys in your free agent pool.
John Baker – San Diego Padres – Yasmani Grandal will miss the first 50 games due to a positive drug test, so San Diego will have to rely on Nick Hundley and Baker. Baker has more pop in his bat and could force manager Bud Black’s hand. Grandal will be given the starting job upon his return, but Baker could be a nice early season fill-in in a two-catcher league.
Mike Zunino – Seattle Mariners – File this under “Wait to See What Happens During Spring Training”. Zunino is one of Seattle’s top prospects and is nearly ready for the Majors. He will most likely begin the season in Triple-A, if only to avoid a Super-Two status, but could end up in the Majors before the All-Star break.