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2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Catcher Rankings

January 4, 2013 | By Tim McLeod | comment on this post
AJ Pierzynski takes his act to the Texas Rangers.
Was A.J. Pierzynski’s power surge the real deal?

By Tim McLeod and RotoRob

Welcome to the 2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit. Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing cheat sheets at every position, various top 10 lists of sleepers, busts, etc., our annual list of top prospects and various other goodies. Are you stoked for baseball yet? Well, we’re here to get you off on the right foot. So while you wonder if Nick Swisher can turn around the Indians’ fortunes, let’s preview the top 63 catchers in Fantasy baseball.

When choosing a catcher for Fantasy purposes in 2013, there are two tiers: Buster Posey and everyone else.

Okay, things are a bit more complex than that, but you catch our drift. After Posey, there’s a mid-tier group of about a half dozen backstops before things drop off again.

Generally speaking, it’s a solid group this year with plenty of options – especially in standard formats.

You’ve got your vets coming off injuries (Brian McCann and Victor Martinez), your next wave of up and coming stars (Wilin Rosario, Salvador Perez and Jesus Montero) and your big question marks (was A.J. Pierzynski’s power surge for real?; can Chris Iannetta bounce back?; will Devin Mesoraco finally deliver on the hype?).

Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.

1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (6): Posey recovered from an injury-ravaged 2011 to turn in an MVP performance and establish himself as the best catcher in the game. He managed a career high in at-bats, and oh baby, did he ever take advantage of them, winning the batting title and enjoying a power breakthrough. Posey led the NL in WAR, proving he deserved the MVP by sabremetric criteria as well. His extra-base pop may have peaked, but he’s certainly capable of repeating what he did in 2012. Proving he’s just a damn nice guy to boot, Posey donated his MVP bonus to his old high school. He is also listed in our First Base Rankings, coming shortly.

2. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles (5): When we ranked Wieters fifth a year ago in our Catcher Rankings we wrote that we expected his growth to accelerate in 2012. While he may not have wound up as a top five backstop, he’s easily a top three heading into 2013 after showing marked improvement in his walk rate and even flashing a little life on the basepaths. Okay, so Wieters’ slugging dipped slightly, but he’ll turn 27 next season, and we all know what that means. Yes, there’s no sugar coating the fact that Wieters has been a bit of a letdown so far in his career, but only a fool would think that great things aren’t still very possible. Based on his last two years, you might think he’s plateaued, but that could be a serious mistake. For our money, there’s no other AL catcher we want more in 2013 than Wieters.

3. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (9): When we ranked Molina ninth heading into 2012 in our Catcher Rankings, we said he may have deserved the Silver Slugger in 2011. Well, he was even better in 2012, likely the second-most valuable catcher in the game behind only Posey. Damn, Molina was fourth in NL MVP voting after setting career highs in at-bats, runs, hits, homers, RBI, steals and all the slash cats. His counting cat numbers were very strong for a catcher and we like the fact that his walk rate bounced back (although he also whiffed more, too). How about finishing fourth in the NL batting race and tied for seventh in WAR? Yup, Molina was all world. But he’s not going to rest on his laurels, with plans for a short stint in Winter Ball in Puerto Rico.

4. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (7): Mauer’s fine comeback effort is something we covered a few weeks ago, so no point rehashing too much here. We do know that he’s committed to playing for Team USA in the WBC, so that suggests he’s feeling fine this offseason, which is great news for keeper league owners of Mauer. He’ll turn 30 early in the season, but the team’s move to play him more at first base and DH has really helped keep him healthy and extend his productivity. The team has no plans to move him away from the catching position altogether, even though that would be the best thing for him from a baseball perspective (but worst from a Fantasy perspective — Mauer’s Fantasy value is assured as long as he keeps qualifying at catcher). A five-time All-Star, Mauer will continue to be the subject of trade rumours with that huge-ass contract, but the Twins are not considering any offers for him – for now. He is also listed in our First Base Rankings.

5. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (1): Santana, who was also listed in our First Base Rankings last year, led the Indians with 18 homers in 2012. However, it was a season of slight regression for him as he struggled on the basepaths and saw his OPS drop for the second straight season despite a bounce back in OBP. It was a drop in the power numbers that worried us, but with Santana about to enter his age 27 season, that could turn around in a big way in 2013. Look for another 25-homer campaign from him next year as he continues to try in vain to become the most famous Carlos Santana ever. Um, good luck with that. Santana is also listed in our First Base Rankings.

6. Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks (4): When we ranked Montero fourth in last year’s Catcher Rankings, we wondered whether he deserved his Silver Slugger. Well, in some ways, he was even better in 2012, matching his career high in runs, even if his extra-base pop dipped. Since becoming a starter in 2009, Montero has consistently produced nice Fantasy value and last year, he took it to a new level, reaching the 5.0 in WAR for the first time. An All-Star in 2011, Montero is likely to remain a top 10 catcher for the foreseeable future.

7. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves (3): McCann’s normally sweet left-handed swing wasn’t quite up to snuff this year as he struggled through his worst campaign yet. While he did manage his fifth straight 20-homer season, his extra-base pop was at its worst since he was a rookie. The fact that McCann’s BA also plummeted made matters worse. A shoulder woe was definitely a factor in stripping him of his usually consistent numbers and he wound up having surgery after the season – a procedure that may cost him a couple of weeks to begin the 2013 campaign. Of course, there have been rumours that the Braves may be willing to part with McCann with youngster Evan Gattis looking very good this winter.

8. Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers (53): Martinez suffered a torn ACL (and needed surgery) prior to the 2012 season and despite reports that he might return before the end of the season as we discussed in a June Podcast, he never did make it back. His return this year, however, should guarantee that the Tigers will be one of the majors’ top squads. And if Martinez can stay healthy and perform at the same level he did in 2011, look out. Hopefully you kept him if you’re in a keeper league because he’s capable of putting up some sweet numbers as the DH this season, and reports on his ACL are currently very positive.

9. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies (50): Rosario’s tremendous showing in 2012 earned him a spot on the coveted 2012 Wire Troll All-Star team. All the rookie did was flirt with 30 homers (leading all catchers with 28) and show improved patience. His base stealing prowess leaves something to be desired, but he’s a catcher, so who cares? And backstops that hit .270 with power are gold – especially young ones who are driven to get better as the confident Rosario clearly is.

10. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (15): An honourable mention on the 2012 Wire Troll All-Star team, Perez is young and improving. Despite an injury that cost him months, he got in some valuable seasoning in the bigs. He’s part of the new wave of young catchers that have made this position deeper than it’s been in a few years and now that he’s past the torn meniscus injury, he’s ready to really rock.

11. Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners (3 at DH): No. 8 in our Top 55 Prospects heading into the 2012 season, former Yankee prospect Montero could see more time behind the plate next season given that Seattle has added DH Raul Ibanez. Montero certainly enjoyed a solid rookie effort, seeing plenty of action and flashing nice extra-base pop. Of course he offers catcher speed and his decline in BA was a disappointment. Montero was supposed to be a star already, so he’ll need to establish him as a viable catching option very soon as the Mariners have prospect Mike Zunino knocking on the door. Montero better put up an OPS of 700 to 750 next season, because Seattle is getting a logjam at 1B/DH/C with Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, John Jaso, Mike Carp and himself. Montero could find himself on the trading block depending on how things shake out.

12. Mike Napoli, Free Agent (2): Napoli, who was slotted 15th in our First Base Rankings last year, again qualifies at both catcher and first. He’s now left the Rangers, combining with Josh Hamilton’s departure to leave Texas with a lot less pop. Of course, Napoli is still trying to finalize his three-year, $39-million deal with the BoSox, who are concerned over his hip. Last year, Napoli really slumped offensively in the wake of his massive 2011 campaign. He struck out more than ever as his WAR plummeted to its lowest level since 2007. The fact that Boston is still looking at Adam LaRoche suggest that this Napoli contract is far from being a done deal. Napoli is also listed in our First Base Rankings.

13. Ryan Doumit, Minnesota Twins (24): Doumit didn’t quite make our Top 10 Sleepers list last year, but he did earn a mention because of his catcher eligibility. Well, how good did that pick look now after he set career highs pretty much across the board, including matching his personal best of 34 doubles and reaching 75 RBI for the first time? Doumit hasn’t stolen a base since 2010, and his walk rate regressed last year to its lowest level since 2008, but he’s settled into a pretty nice offensive groove. The fact that this injury-prone dude also set a career high in games played was huge and given that he didn’t have to catch as often definitely was a factor in him staying healthy. Doumit is also listed in our Outfield Rankings, coming shortly.

14. Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (19): Ruiz enjoyed a career year, really only being slowed by plantar fasciitis in the second half. Unfortunately, we now know that he had some help in the form of amphetamines and getting caught will cost him the first 25 games of next season. That’s why Ruiz didn’t soar up this list even higher a season after hitting .325 with way more power than he ever showed before. Of course, he also struck out more often and now that he’s been caught cheating, the power spike makes more sense. Ruiz really took the Philly sports scene by storm last year and established himself as arguably the team MVP in a real down season for the Phillies.

15. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers (11): Lucroy got off to a nice start last season before getting hurt and when he was ready to come back, we recommended him as a wire pickup in mid-July. It was a decent call as Lucroy’s extra-base pop didn’t return as soon as he did in July, but he did a great job of getting on base in August before his power went AWOL again in September, although he did get plenty of hits down the stretch. The injury really burned him as he fell three days short of Super Two arbitration eligibility. D’oh! Still, Lucroy put up a career–best .320 BA and by far enjoyed his finest season. He’s nearly arrived as a No. 1 catcher option and at the age of 26, there may still be upside here – especially in the power department.

16. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox (17): Salty still has to worry about Ryan Lavarnway and that may ultimately lead to the trade of one of this pair, but for now the key takeaway is that Saltalamacchia took a modest step forward last year. He saw more action than ever, piled up some decent counting cat numbers and showed overall development as a hitter. We love how his power finally came into its own and in some cases, he’d make a decent low-end No. 1 catching option in standard formats. Keep a close eye on Salty’s situation as we head towards spring, because he’s not guaranteed to still be in Boston – or starting – by any stretch.

17. Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers (8): After enjoying a breakthrough in 2011, Avila was limited by knee woes last year, something we discussed in a late-June Podcast. His numbers were down significantly across the board, and he didn’t exactly snap out of it in the playoffs – especially in terms of extra-base power. Avila remained a solid on-base dude, but there is no way to sugar coat his 2012 season after the bar he set for us the year before. He struck out more often, but there is reason for hope: after the World Series, Avila had platelet-rich plasma injected into his left knee, a procedure designed to keep him healthy in 2013. This kid is just 25, so don’t write him off; a rebound is quite conceivable and worth gambling on.

18. A.J. Pierzynski, Texas Rangers (26): As we discussed in a mid-September Podcast, I’m still bitching about dropping Pierzynski in my keeper league last season. The White Sox were rumoured to be interested in trading him before he became a ten-and-five player in June, but he remained in Pale Hose, responding with a career year that included a whopping 27 homers – nine more than he ever hit in a season before and 19 more than what he managed in 2011. Pierzynski played in his most games since 2007, and while he doesn’t even pitch in with the occasional steal anymore, the power surge was sweet. The White Sox let him walk and the free agent penned a one-year, $7.5-million deal with the Rangers, but can he duplicate his shocking 2012 season? We have our doubts, and that’s why we only raised him up the rankings modestly from a year ago.

19. J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays (12): Arencibia does a mean impersonation but we would have been happier if he had done a better job of imitating his 2011 form as last year he stumbled enough so that he was only an asset in AL-only or two-catcher formats. His counting cat stats were down (especially his RBI), his extra-base sock slipped and a horrific walk rate took down his OBP despite a better BA. Injuries cut into Arencibia’s PT, but at this stage it’s become clear what this dude does: lots of Ks, lots of dingers. Strike outs 29 per cent of the time? Really? Still, the fact that the Jays dealt away top prospect Travis d’Arnaud this offseason was a clear endorsement of Arencibia and we’re expecting him to improve his contact rates this year.

20. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (10): We called Ramos very rosterable when we released our 2012 Washington National Season Preview, and he definitely met that description as a must-own NL-only league asset before a knee injury knocked him out of action for most of the season. Coming on the heels of being kidnapped the previous offseason, he lasted a mere 25 games before getting hurt and his extra-base pop and production had slipped as had his BA. Ramos’ speed will likely be affected by the injury, but would you be able to tell? In the meantime, Washington has brought in Kurt Suzuki, and that could hurt Ramos’ PT in 2013 – he’s not guaranteed a starting gig. We do love the fact that Ramos was drawing walks more often last year, and if that continues, he should ultimately rise to the top of the depth chart again in Washington.

Others to Consider

21. Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates (14)
22. Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels (18)
23. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds (23)
24. A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers (34)
25. Derek Norris, Oakland Athletics (NR)
26. Kurt Suzuki, Washington Nationals (22)
27. Rob Brantly, Miami Marlins (NR)
28. Miguel Olivo, Free agent (25)
29. Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox (45)
30. Nick Hundley, San Diego Padres (21)
31. Yasmani Grandal, San Diego Padres (NR)
32. Jason Castro, Houston Astros (31)
33. Welington Castillo, Chicago Cubs (NR)
34. Josh Thole, Toronto Blue Jays (27)
35. Geovany Soto, Texas Rangers (13)
36. John Buck, New York Mets (16)
37. Michael McKenry, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
38. John Jaso, Seattle Mariners (36)
39. George Kottaras, Oakland Athletics (44)
40. Martin Maldonado, Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
41. Jose Molina, Tampa Bay Rays (32)
42. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners (NR)
43. Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets (NR)
44. Eli Whiteside, New York Yankees (NR)
45. Ryan Hanigan, Cincinnati Reds (28)
46. David Ross, Boston Red Sox (41)
47. Jeff Mathis, Miami Marlins (NR)
48. Hector Sanchez, San Francisco Giants (NR)
49. Rod Barajas, Free agent (33)
50. Hank Conger, Los Angeles Angels (43)
51. Ramon Hernandez, Colorado Rockies (20)
52. Chris Snyder, Free agent (35)
53. Ryan Lavarnway, Boston Red Sox (NR)
54. Sebastian Valle, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
55. Gerald Laird, Atlanta Braves (37)
56. Jose Lobaton, Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
57. Carlos Corporan, Houston Astros (NR)
58. Lou Marson, Cleveland Indians (NR)
59. Francisco Cervelli, New York Yankees (39)
60. Tim Federowicz, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR) (49)
61. Kelly Shoppach, Free agent (29)
62. Erik Kratz, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
63. John Baker, San Diego Padres (48)

RotoRob’s Fantasy Baseball Weekly Podcast

Crave more in-depth Fantasy analysis? Then join us every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST for RotoRob’s Fantasy Baseball Weekly Podcast on Blogtalkradio. Tim McLeod and I will entertain and edify you for a half hour or more each week. Tune in here.

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