Our first look at position rankings for fantasy baseball in 2014 will focus on catchers.
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants – Posey is very steady at a high performance rate among catchers. His upside is a .300+ hitter with 20+ home runs and good runs/RBI. He also gets some time at 1B, so he gets good plate appearance numbers.
2. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians – Santana is fairly athletic, so the move to 3B that’s rumored could be a great move, and fantasy owners would love to see the rare player with C/3B eligibility. He’s not going to win a batting title, but he gets as many plate appearances as any catcher out there, so he gets nice runs/RBI numbers.
3. Brian McCann, New York Yankees – It hurts just to type the team name behind McCann’s name, but fantasy owners should really enjoy his move to the short porch in Yankee Stadium. He’s also moving to the AL, so he could see some extra at bats by DH’ing.
4. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies – Rosario has stepped forward as the premium power source at the position, and he’s kicked in a good batting average as well. He’s not great defensively, so there’s always the risk that the Rockies move him off the position, but for now, owners can enjoy good power numbers from Rosario at a position with few guys with a realistic chance to hit 30 home runs.
5. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals – Based on pure production, Molina would have an argument as the #1 catcher in all of baseball. Molina, however, strikes me with some worries based on the fact that he is just short of 1,200 games behind the plate so far in his career and 5 years straight of 130+ games. He is only 31 in 2014, but don’t be surprised if you see Molina start to succumb to some days off and/or minor injuries based on wear and tear.
6. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins – One of the best catching fantasy runs may be coming to an end. The Twins have announced that Mauer will be moving to 1B in 2014, though many around the organization think we may see a few games per year from Mauer behind the plate, so he may retain his eligibility at catcher. Mauer playing 150 games per year at 1B/DH would make his high average much more valuable in fantasy, so enjoy possibly the last season at catcher.
7. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers – Lucroy has been tagged with an “injury prone” tag for years, but his 2013 was a great example of what he can do when healthy, and it’s an elite fantasy catcher. Without that injury risk, he’d be a top 3-4 catcher, so realize that it’s still present in spite of his healthy 2013.
8. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles – Though he hasn’t lived up to his hype as a prospect years ago, Wieters has been an excellent catcher in fantasy and real life baseball as he’s become a very good defender. Wieters hurts your batting average, but he does provide 20+ home runs, something rare among catchers.
9. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals – Perez is often compared to Yadier Molina, and his skills in fantasy are very similar. He likely won’t hit 20 home runs, but he’ll hit for a good average and mid-teens home runs along with good RBI.
10. Jason Castro, Houston Astros – Castro was a hyped prospect at one point whose prospect star had faded before he exploded in 2013. He could see even more offensive explosion in 2013, but there’s a lot of unknown and not a lot of lineup around him to help with R/RBI numbers, so his placement this low hedges against some risk of regression.
11. Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves – Okay, with my first Brave, I’m going to expose one of my personal tendencies in fantasy: I underrate players from my favorite team typically. Part of that is trying to correct for my exposure to that player and personal like of the guy because he’s got a tomahawk across his chest. That means I often don’t have a Brave on my fantasy roster, but I’m already watching the Braves most nights, so having non-Braves on my fantasy roster leads me to watch a lot of other teams to watch my fantasy players (and pick up guys who impress me upon viewing). Getting on Gattis, he’s one of two guys I really see that could legitimately hit 30 home runs from the catcher position. There’s a lot of unknown in Gattis’ usage in 2014, so that variance in what to expect in his plate appearances is one reason he’s lower on this list than he could be.
12. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals – If only Ramos could stay on the field, he’d be a top-level catcher in fantasy because he’s got all the skills. He makes good contact, has excellent power, and seems to have a nose for driving in runs. The injuries are present often, however, so fantasy owners need to be sure to have themselves set up just in case Ramos doesn’t play a full season.
13. A.J. Pierzynski, Boston Red Sox – Pierzynski may be aging, but he really has been the same player for nearly a decade – a solid average guy who hits 15ish home runs with good RBI numbers. Pierzynski may be doing some platooning with David Ross, so his at bats may not be as many as he’s had recently, but there’s no reason to expect a huge drop moving to arguably the best park for his line-drive swing.
14. Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks – Going into 2013, many rankers had Montero as a top 5 catcher, and that ranking was well-earned. Most of his peripherals were normal except for a significantly lowered BABIP from his career norms due to a drastically increased ground ball rate. The eye is still there, so a bounce back is a reasonable expectation from Montero in 2014.
15. Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners – One of the things I like doing when ranking is utilizing the last spot to highlight a young player on the way up in his career. So, if you note that I put a guy in the last spot or two that really isn’t better than another guy that I left off the list, there’s a reason. On Zunino, he has quickly jumped from the top college position player in the 2012 draft to debuting in the majors in 2013. He has the ability to be a very good average hitter with solid power in the future.
The catcher position is deep, but they often miss games frequently due to the wear and tear. The leading catcher each season is roughly 135-140 games caught, which is 20-25 games missed each season from your catcher. Because of this and the depth at the position, there’s really not a reason to utilize a high draft pick or bid a lot of money on any catcher. Save catcher for late in the draft or get one for a light price in auction formats.