I’m sure you have all had that debate with a league mate about whether or not it is illegal (immoral, bad sportsmanship, etc.) to bench or just neglect to have a catcher active in a Fantasy Baseball League. I’m assuming, that you were on the “YES, of course you must have a catcher” side, but I do secretly have empathy for those who dream of not rostering a catcher. Catchers are prone to injury and prone to prolonged slumps, usually occurring right after a prolonged HR binge. They only play 5 or so games per week even when healthy so the impact of their stats is lessened. This shows in the vast disparity in value between Buster Posey and say Brian McCann who are both arguably top 5 catchers.
Some of you will try to “Stream” your catchers almost like Starting Pitchers. So hopefully you don’t pick up Dioner Navarro right AFTER he hit 4 Homers in 5 days by dropping Kurt Suzuki right BEFORE he went on a 20 for 25 tear over the course of a week. Yup, it is just like Day Trading on Wall Street. The rest of us hope to draft a good catcher in the mid to late rounds and then forget about him until October. I think there are several of those type catchers out there. But sometimes I’m wrong.
Be glad you are not in a league that makes you start 2 Catchers. I was in an NFBC League last season and let me tell you, it is NOT easy to keep 2 healthy, let alone productive catchers active all season. I sealed my fate in the draft when I emerged with Matt Wieters and Alex Avila as my two catchers and thought I was all set. A coup I thought. Boy was I wrong. I went through Tyler Flowers, Stephen Vogt, Carlos Ruiz, AJ Pierzynski, and Francisco Cervelli, among others who I can’t remember when all was said and done. It made me almost as miserable as my quest to compete in Saves, but that is another story and already well documented.
So, draft em early or draft em late, there is no right answer, but I miss the days when I could grab Jorge Posada in the LAST round or Yadier Molina in the 16-20th. As a Yankee fan I miss both Posada and his wife Laura, an athlete and body builder in her own right. I wonder who might be my late round target this season? I don’t think Yadier will fall that far even after last season. So, lets talk Catchers for 2015:
1. Buster Posey, C SFG – As if this was a question. I don’t need to tell you his stats or try to explain his skill set. You already know it. He hasn’t even missed any real-time in the last three seasons so any talk of “injury prone” is just so yesterday. Did I just say “so yesterday”? I’m ashamed of myself for saying that but not ashamed to say that I have never owned Buster Posey, and probably never will. For all the reasons I mentioned above I will not spend on my C position what it would take to land him. I’ve seen him ranked as high as a borderline 1st rounder to as low as a 6th rounder. I’d take him in the 6th, but I doubt he drops past the 3rd round. My opinion is that he delivers 4th round value. If you own him in a keeper you can’t drop him and no one will trade enough for him, so you will have the #1 catcher on your team in 2015. Enjoy that luxury.
2. Carlos Santana, C CLE (If eligible) – As long as Carlos qualifies at Catcher I believe he is easily #2. I apologize to all you Lucroy fans but we have certainly not seen the best of Carlos Santana yet. Unfortunately for most of us that production will come at a different position. Santana only caught 11 games in 2014 making him ineligible at C in all leagues that use 20 games as the barrier to carry eligibility over to the next season. Bummer. He’s no Victor Martinez but he could carve himself a decent career playing the corners and DH.
3. Devin Mesoraco, C CIN – I fell in love with this guy last season. Then I traded him. I regretted that trade for the rest of the season. He is the real deal. He will be drafted far too soon for me but I see him having the potential to be a 30 HR catcher who could get a lot of RBI batting in the middle of that CIN batting order. He may never hit .300 but he could easily match that .273 average and add a chunk of power for the next 5 years. That’s right, he turns 27 during the 2015 season. He’ll be the #2 catcher off the board from 2016 through 2019, but this season you might be able to get him in the 7th or 8th round after Jon Lucroy.
4. Jonathan Lucroy, C MIL – I would not blame you for taking Lucroy ahead of Mesoraco. I like Mesoraco’s HR power myself, but Lucroy is a professional hitter. Yeah, he is this good, maybe Joe Mauer good, but he is going to be 29 this season. That means this is what you are going to get at most. There is no further upside to Jon Lucroy, but that is ok. He is still one of the best hitting catchers in the game. The Jon Lucroy secret has been out of the bag now for a couple of years, but here is a stat your league mates may not know. In 2015 Lucroy led the NL in doubles with 53 to go along with his 176 hits. If he turned 20 of those doubles into HR’s in his age 28 season he’d have had 33 HR. In leagues with balanced scoring he’s valuable either way, but there is potential for those extra HR if you want to take the chance and draft him as early as it will take to get him. Just don’t overpay for him in a keeper league. He is already at his peak.
5. Sal Perez, C KC – My new Yadier Molina. I don’t think he’ll drop to the 15th round but I know I won’t have to reach for him and he could be the best young catcher out there as far as consistency and playing time are concerned. If I want a draft and forget catcher this is him. He averaged over .300 during his first 3 partial seasons in the MLB but dropped off to .260 in 2015. A lot of this can be attributed to the number of innings Sal spent behind the plate in 2014. He hit .283 in the first half, .229 in the 2nd half and .213 the last month of the season while the Royals were trying to make the playoffs. Sal caught all but about 15 of the Royals 162 games in 2014 and they have promised to limit his work load in 2015. Good. I’d rather have a great 5-6 day per week catcher than an average 7 day per week catcher. Oh, and he is only 24. Going forward I see a .280-.300 hitting 15-20 HR 60-80 RBI catcher, just like Mr. Molina.
6. Yan Gomes, C CLE – He can hit and now he has the catcher spot to himself. Where did this guy come from anyway? Well, he born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but was a college draftee out of Tennessee when he was 21. So he got a late start in the majors but learned how to manage a pitching staff in college, not to mention a fast ball down the middle. He’ll hit like Sal Perez but maybe with a little more power and a little less average. Major League pitching has exploited his command of the strike zone a bit but if he gets that figured out, which I’m confident he will, he’ll take the next step with the batting average. Just realize that unless you are Jorge Posada, the “peak” years of a catcher are very slim. Gomes turns 28 in July. THIS is the year!
7. Brian McCann, C NYY – On draft day, if I told you your catcher would hit .275 with over 20 HR and 75 RBI you would sign up right? That is Brian McCann. If he gets the BA up about 40 points to his lifetime average he is a top 5 catcher. As a Yankee fan I hope he has a good season. I think the Yanks are over relying on his bat in the middle of the order. He is not that guy anymore. But I would not count him out either. He is only 31 years old. In his best seasons he hit .300 with about 22 HR and 92 RBI. I’d settle for 80% of that.
8. Yasmani Grandal, C LAD – He’ll be popular on draft day. Probably too popular for me. Grandal has an amazing eye for the strike zone as he managed an OBP of over .400 in the minors and so far is at .350 OBP in the majors after parts of 3 seasons. He’s only 26 this season so I see his 2014 HR moving up to at least 20 the next two seasons. No, it doesn’t get much better than that for catchers. He’s good, I doubt you’ll be too disappointed, and his spot in the Dodgers Batting Order will make a bit of difference. I would not worry much about A.J. Ellis.
9. Matt Wieters, C BAL – I bet he falls far in most drafts. I bet I’ll own him on most of my teams. I was ready for him to break out last season and he did. Unfortunately a torn UCL got in the way. He was on pace to have career highs in ……EVERY category. He’ll be 29 this season but I doubt he will have lost the knowledge, ability and skill set that he had a year ago. I’m just hoping he is forgotten about on draft day. (Which is why I won’t talk stats with Wieters. shhhhhhhh)
10. Yadier Molina, C STL – I can’t place him out of the top 10 yet. He has helped me a lot over the last few seasons, in fact I rode him for about 4 years. But it’s over now. He’ll be drafted a lot higher than he should be. I love him, but he is so Yesterday. Sorry Yaddy. I’m in love with Sal Perez now, but the memories are good ones. Now, if he is still there in the 15th……………..
11. Miguel Montero, C CHC – Sssshhhhhh. This guy is due. He’s also going to play 81 games at Wrigley. I will draft him in any league once Perez and Wieters are gone by the time I’m ready for a C. But this is probably the last season he is relevant in a big way. He’ll turn 32 in July and his last name is not Posada. But 12-18 HR and 70-90 RBI can be yours with a decent BA if he is healthy in the Windy City in 2015.
12. Evan Gattis, C HOU – He can hit and probably won’t play much Catcher in 2015. That is a good combination as long as he is still on the lineup card somewhere. We’ll see how Houston deploys him, but they seem to like guys who hit with power but not for average. His biggest problem is that he hits lefties better than righties which is not good if he ends up in a platoon. I doubt the Stros got him to platoon him though, so I think he will hit 30 homers, but he may not give you too much else. Pretty much what Chris Carter gave you last season.
13. Wilin Rosario, C COL – He needs a healthy season. If he gets one he will not be on the wire very long. That is right, I think Rosario will go undrafted in many leagues. He is only 26 though and when he left off in 2013 he was hitting .292 with over 20 HR and close to 80 RBI. I picked him to have a big season last year, so he owes me. Yup, he got hurt. Typical Catcher.
14. Derek Norris, C SD – Hopefully the Padres didn’t make him shave his beard. He should be good for a stable average and a little power. He won’t kill you. Norris garnered career highs in nearly EVERY 2014 category. He just turned 26 so there should still be more upside. I would not be afraid to enter the 2015 season with him as my C.
15. Russell Martin, C TOR – Martin is one of those guys who is better in real life than fantasy. If he plays full-time though, in other words Dionner Navarro does not take at bats away from him, Martin is good for double-digit HR, 60 or more Ribbie’s etc and a decent BA for this late in the draft. But only if he is on a team that will play him.
16. Dionner Navarro, C TOR – I’d start the year with Big Di as my catcher, and I would not even blink. Too bad his team just signed Russell Martin to a pricey contract. That is the only reason that he is ranked this low. Navarro is good for double-digit HR and a decent average if you can put up with his streakiness. But he is streaky. The bigger problem is that the Jays just signed Russell Martin to a big contract and I’d assume that means to catch full-time. This is a curious situation to say the least from a draft value standpoint. It is not uncommon though for both of them to go undrafted, so anything is possible here.
17. Mike Zunino, C SEA – He’s got power but that average might kill you. The bad news: He hit .199 with 158 K’s and 17 Walks in just over 400 AB in the MLB in 2014. The worse news, he did the same thing in AAA the year before. The good news: He has a lot of power, hitting 22 HR in those same 400+ AB last season. And he will only be 24 this season. If the Avg comes around he is a force. If not he’ll be another streaky power hitting catcher.
18. Jason Castro, C HOU – This could be quite the sleeper. I don’t picture him hitting for a lot of power, but he has been a very good hitter for average. He does strike out a lot though and his 2014 season showed regression in BA, walk and K rates, none of which are good signs. This is a leap of faith here. He may have the skill set to excel at the MLB level. He may never reach it though. He’ll be on the wire if you need him.
19. Robinson Chirinos, C TEX – He is a Wild Card. He scorched it for years in the minors, but so far he has not figured out MLB pitching as well as they have him figured out. If he can get his average back to the level it was at in the minors he’d be serviceable.
20. Wilson Ramos, C WAS – Another guy who needs a good healthy season. Ramos was finally putting it all together when he succumbed to injury in 2014. He brings power and plate discipline and is 27 years old. I’m keeping an eye on him.
21. Travis D’Arnaud, C NYM – One of many “Mystery Mets”. We really don’t know what his upside is, and the Mets are not telling us. We’ll let you know when we find out. He had an up and down Milb career so far as well so that is misleading.
22. Alex Avila, C DET – This guy should be so much better, but he isn’t.
23. Jarod Saltalamacchia, C MIA – There are 5 A’s in his last name. There is not much else here to talk about. He’s developed into your typical .250 hitting C with double-digit HR power and some RBI potential. I think of him as an injury replacement.
24. Tyler Flowers, C CHW – Don’t let the batting average flirtations sway you. He has hit well over .300 for a month or so at a time, but, this is not a guy to hang your hopes on. However, if you need an injury fill in he won’t kill you….usually. Every time I picked him up last season he went 0 for 20, but he hit .241 for the season so he could not have gone 0 for 20 too many weeks last season. Flowers is 29 this season so I think what you see is what you get. I see a .240-.260 hitting, double-digit, 50 RBI kinda catcher. Get him on his hot streaks if you like to play that game.
25. Stephen Vogt, C OAK – Whoever catches for the A’s: Stephen Vogt or John Jaso: Pick em.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 1st, 2015 from 7pm – 8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio network. We will be taking live callers at 646.915.8596 during the show. Our topics will be minor league pitchers/hitters who will have an impact this season in the majors the first half of the show, and the 1st base position the second half of the show.
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