By Michael Seff and RotoRob
The 2015 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit rages on today with the release of another cheat sheet. So while Yu Darvish owners face the loss of their ace, let’s go behind the plate to review the top 55 catchers.
In a word, the Fantasy landscape for catchers is thin. As in wafer thin. Depending on the size of your league, you can get by with any of the top 10 or 15, but if you snooze and are stuck with anyone much below that, you could be seriously screwed this year.
In the top tier, Buster Posey remains the king of the castle, but he has now been joined by Jonathan Lucroy and Devin Mesoraco. The reason Posey continues to dominate this position is because Manager Bruce Bochy won’t take him out of the lineup — when Posey needs a rest from catching, he plays first base. Finding a catcher that gets into 130 games or more is the key here.
Let’s face it: catcher is not a position that is going to anchor your team offensively. So really, it’s more about finding someone that won’t kill your team. Yes, that sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
Questions heading into 2015: Can Yan Gomes build on his breakout 2014 or have we seen all he has to offer? Will Evan Gattis take it to the next level, power-wise, in Houston? How will Miguel Montero fare in Wrigley? How much will Petco Park hold back Derek Norris?
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (1): Posey remains the clear top choice because he so seldom comes out of the lineup, playing first base when he’s not catching. Last year, he reached 170 hits for the second time and his slugging bounced back. Posey also qualifies at First Base.
2. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers (4): Lucroy busted through for a career year in 2014, setting personal bests in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles and walks. We love the number of at-bats he gets and it was nice to see his slugging bounce back thanks to a ridiculous amount of doubles. Oh, and he likes pie (see video below).
3. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds (16): Projected to hit sixth after spending much of last season batting cleanup, Mesoraco’s RBI chances could dwindle, but it’s hard not to be excited about his future after he smacked 25 homers, drove in 80 runs and increased his BA by 35 points in 2014.
4. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (19): Gomes topped 20 dingers last year, and he continues to show pop this spring. He’s right in his power prime this season, and considering he more than doubled his career total in homers last year, it’s exciting to think what he’ll be capable of for an encore. It would be somewhat surprising to see Gomes match or surpass his career high of 135 games that he set last year.
5. Brian McCann, New York Yankees (3): Last year, McCann’s first with the Yankees, he played in his most games since 2010 and had his most at-bats since 2008. That’s the good news. The bad news his overall performance at the plate dipped as his BA dropped 24 points and he had the worst OPS of his career. McCann remains a highly productive catcher and one of the best in the business at framing pitches. The Yanks, desperate for offense, are counting on him doing more in his second season in Pinstripes. That seems like a reasonable bet to us.
6. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (2): One of the more popular players in the game, Molina was slowed by injuries last year, but there’s no doubt his offensive game has been in decline for a couple of seasons now. He only scored 40 runs last year as his strikeout rate reached its highest since his rookie effort.
7. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles (9): One of the keys to the Orioles’ plan to grow organically this season, Wieters was flashing the best power-BA combination of his career before going down in May last year. Was it for real? We’ll soon find out.
8. Evan Gattis, Houston Astros (10): After appearing only at catcher in Atlanta last year, Gattis is unlikely to get any work behind the plate this year — certainly not enough to qualify at the position come 2016. Keeper league owners take note.
9. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (7): Perez played in a career high 150 games last year, but his overall offensive game has slipped gradually since his rookie season. Sure, he had a career high in hits, but was not as productive and struck out more often than ever. Perez’s BA has dropped from .331 as a rookie, to .301 to .292 to last season’s .260. Can he reverse that disconcerting trend in 2015? Our assertion is yes. Expect a .275-.280 mark based on last year’s low BABIP.
10. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies (5): Rosario has been the primary catcher in Colorado for the past three seasons, but with Nick Hundley now in town, he’s not assured as many starts any more (and could see more action at first base). Of course, if Rosario’s doubles from last year turn back into homers this year, it will be tough to keep his stick out of the lineup.
11. Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets (24): One of the centrepieces of the Mets’ strategy to acquire top minor league talent through trades, d’Arnaud took a nice step forward last year, and we’re excited to see what he can do once he gets 400 or more at-bats.
12. Miguel Montero, Chicago Cubs (15): Montero stayed healthy last year, and while his RBI soared, his runs dipped. His slugging rebounded slightly, but there’s no doubt his overall offensive game will likely suffer with the move from Arizona to Wrigley Field.
13. Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays (17): On the opposite side of the park effects lottery, Martin moves from a fairly weak hitting park to one of the top hitter’s parks in the majors. Considering he’s coming off one of his best offensive seasons already, it could be a very sweet homecoming for Martin.
14. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (11): We recommended Ramos in the Wire Troll in late-June last year, and it wasn’t our best call. His slugging dipped in July, but he had a huge August before struggling to get hits in September. Overall, it was Ramos’ worst season from a slash line perspective, but we still believe a monster season is coming soon — and given that he’s right in his power prime, this could be the year.
15. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners (29): Zunino took a nice step forward last year, and let’s hope his very productive spring to date portends an even bigger leap in 2015.
16. Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (34): Grandal enjoyed a nice offensive bounce back last year, setting career bests in hits and homers, but his strikeout rate rose alarmingly. He’s clearly not the near-.300 hitter he was as a rookie, but he’s better, BA-wise, than he’s shown in either season since. Think around .250 as a baseline. Grandal also qualifies at First Base.
17. Derek Norris, San Diego Padres (31): Part of the massive roster overhaul by the Padres this winter, Norris continues to improve as a hitter, last season reaching double-digit homers for the first time while enjoying a productive campaign.
18. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Miami Marlins (14): Saltalamacchia made his Marlins’ debut last year, and while he’s not well recognized as a pitch framer, he can usually hit better than he did in 2014. He needs to hit if he wants to maintain the lion’s share of the at-bats at catcher in Miami.
19. Jason Castro, Houston Astros (12): After looking like an emerging Fantasy starter in 2013, Castro really regressed last season. Still, he did set a career high in at-bats and if he can capitalize on the fact he’s right in his power prime, a rebound could be in the offing. We’ll be happy with, say, 200 total bases out of Castro this year.
20. Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (18): Ruiz enjoyed somewhat of a bounce back season last year, staying healthy enough to play at least 110 games for the sixth time, and showing a bit more extra-base sock. But let’s get real. He’s 36 and there’s probably only one direction his game will head at this point. The only question is how quick will the regression be?
Others to Consider
21. Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox (39)
22. John Jaso, Tampa Bay Rays (32)
23. Josmil Pinto, Minnesota Twins (36)
24. Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels (35)
25. Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
26. Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox (NR)
27. Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (NR)
28. Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates (53)
29. Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta Braves (NR)
30. Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota Twins (33)
31. Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers (23)
32. Welington Castillo, Chicago Cubs (25)
33. Andrew Susac, San Francisco Giants (NR)
34. Dioner Navarro, Toronto Blue Jays (21)
35. Tuffy Gosewich, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
36. Brayan Pena, Cincinnati Reds (43): Pena also qualifies at First Base.
37. Michael McKenry, Colorado Rockies (NR)
38. Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles (NR)
39. A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers (20)
40. Martin Maldonado, Milwaukee Brewers (50)
41. Josh Phegley, Oakland Athletics (41)
42. Ryan Hanigan, Boston Red Sox (38)
43. Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox (NR)
44. Tony Cruz, St. Louis Cardinals (NR)
45. Anthony Recker, New York Mets (NR)
46. Hank Conger, Houston Astros (30)
47. Nick Hundley, Colorado Rockies (27)
48. A.J. Pierzynski, Atlanta Braves (13)
49. Geovany Soto, Chicago White Sox (22)
50. John Ryan Murphy, New York Yankees (NR)
51. Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians (NR)
52. Carlos Corporan, Texas Rangers (NR)
53. James McCann, Detroit Tigers (NR)
54. Jacob Realmuto, Miami Marlins (NR)
55. Erik Kratz, Kansas City Royals (45)
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who’s too high, too low, or missing.
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