By Jordan Branson and RotoRob
The 2016 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit continues today as we turn our attention to those masked fellows behind the plate. So while the Dodgers deal with injury issues both among their prospects and their pitching staff, let’s review the top 50 catchers. Special thanks to Jordan (@JBsFantasyHelp) for his excellent work with the rankings.
The catcher position actually looks pretty good for 2016. Having said that, Buster Posey is the only backstop we are drafting with 100 per cent confidence. He alone is Tier One. Catchers two through six represent the second tier, all of whom will boost your team in at least one category or have the potential to help in multiple cats.
Posey will go early, and then expect a gap of five or six rounds before catchers start coming off the board. Be cautious of Jonathan Lucroy and Devin Mesoraco as both are coming off injuries and each of them toil for bottom of the league offenses.
The fact is unless you want Posey, there’s no real rush to grab a catcher as there are decent options scattered in the mid and bottom tiers. It’s important to note that in keeper/dynasty leagues, Kyle Schwarber and possibly even Mesoraco may lose their eligibility for next season.
The best young guns? J.T. Realmuto and Blake Swihart. Expect them to go around rounds 12-to-14. Seeking a sleeper? Dioner Navarro (who is competing against Alex Avila on the White Sox). Bounce back candidate? Try Yan Gomes of Cleveland. Potential busts include Mesoraco and Lucroy, who we already warned you to be cautious of.
Prospects your thang? Try Gary Sanchez, as he’s gaining some traction these days. The Yanks may opt to give Brian McCann some extra at-bats by playing him at first base given that Sanchez can hit. The kid is not a defensive wizard, but his bat will play.
One injury to monitor is that of Matt Wieters, currently dealing with elbow fatigue. Position battle to watch? Try Minny, where John Ryan Murphy and Kurt Suzuki are squaring off this spring.
Note that neither Carlos Santana nor Evan Gattis maintain Catcher eligibility after combining for zero games played at the position in 2015.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (1): The fifth overall pick from 2008 has established himself as the king at catcher for several years now. Because of his ability to also play first base, he remains in the lineup nearly every day, last season reaching 150 games for the first time in his career. Posey is extremely productive, and while he has next to no speed, he’s a dangerous hitter that is often pitched around (career high 10 intention passes last year). His slugging dipped a tad last year, but his BABIP was right around career norms, so you can expect another high average season in 2016. Posey is also listed in our First Base Rankings, coming shortly.
2. Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs (NR): Schwarber is a big boy and he swings a big bat, capable of swatting some serious big flies. As long as he remains at catcher, he’ll be extremely valuable, but there’s a high likelihood that he won’t qualify at the position after this season. Schwarber is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
3. Brian McCann, New York Yankees (5): Atlanta’s second rounder from 2002 has enjoyed a very fine career and while he saw less action in his second season in Pinstripes, he made a nice offensive recovery. He flashed better extra-base power and his OBP bounced back closer to its normal career level. McCann got a bit banged up this spring, but it sounds very minor, so don’t sweat it. As you can see from the video below, he’s getting ready to rock.
4. Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays (13): Martin had some defensive misadventures in the playoffs, but the Canadian boy sure revitalized his career offfensively after coming north of the border. He’s no longer a skilled basestealer, and his BA leaves something to be desired, but oh man, you’ve got to love the power.
5. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (9): Perez recently signed a new five-year, $52.5 million extension that will keep him in KC through 2021, and why wouldn’t the Royals lock him up? After all, this a three-time All-Star has shown consistent gap power and turned into one of the more productive catchers in the game. His BA seems to have bottomed out in the last couple of seasons and the fact that his OBP keeps dipping is worrisome, but you have to like the power surge he flashed last year — with his power prime likely still to come.
6. Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets (11): d’Arnaud started to fulfill his offensive promise last year. That’s the good news. The bad news is injuries again derailed him, and we’re still waiting for him to get even 400 at-bats in any one season. d’Arnaud has no speed, so his health woes won’t affect that, but he’s continued to improve his on-base skills and slugging, and — assuming full health — could be the precipice of being a Fantasy stud. This year will tell us much about him.
7. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers (2): After soaring to the top spot (beyond Posey, of course) in 2014, Lucroy crashed and burned last season thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness. His extra-base power dropped to its lowest levels since 2011 as his overall value really took a beating. There are rumours that Texas is now after him, and a move to the Rangers would help Lucroy a tad.
8. Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics (NR): Vogt burst out of the gate last year before fading somewhat. The big question this year is how much PT he’ll get beyond simply catching, as the A’s have beefed up their lineup somewhat. Vogt is coming off elbow surgery, but that should not affect his status as the Opening Day catcher for the A’s. If he can maintain or improve his walk rate, he may be in line for more runs this season in what should be a better offense. Vogt is also listed in our First Base Rankings.
9. Derek Norris, San Diego Padres (17): Norris saw more action than ever last year, but was unable to build on his breakout 2014 season. He did score a goodly amount of runs, but what happened to his strike zone judgment and on-base skills? Norris is at the right age for a power spike, so bear that in mind as you assess him. Expect to pay low to mid double digits at auction if you want him as your catcher.
10. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds (3): After breaking through in 2014 in a huge way, Mesoraco let down his Fantasy owners in just a massive a fashion last year, as hip woes ultimately forced him to shut it down. He wasn’t even around to bask in his own bobblehead doll day on August 1. Given that he only accumulated 45 at-bats, it’s fruitless to assess his performance last season. When he finally made his spring debut, Mesoraco wasted no time in flexing his muscles, spanking a two-run dinger in his first at-bat, so consider him a high risk/reward player given his upside and relatively discounted price this year.
11. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles (7): So much potential, so much injury trouble. Wieters has only played 101 games over the past two seasons combined as the fifth overall pick from 2007 has dealt with elbow woes — which have again cropped up this spring. He was not as productive as usual when active last year, but has untapped power potential and could be an RBI machine in time. If, of course, he can ever get over these elbow woes.
12. J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins (54): Realmuto has a chance to provide a great return on your investment this season as he’s still not a household name yet has made a very quick adjustment to big league life. He’s blessed with a rifle arm, has great speed for a catcher and could become a much better hitter, batting average wise, in time. Double digit power with excellent contact rates as a rookie? Um, sign us up.
13. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (4): Gomes got hurt early last season, and was held to just 95 games. When healthy, he wasn’t as productive as he’d been, and he’s never been a contributor in the speed department, so this overall regression has sent him careening down the rankings this year. He remains a core player of the Tribe and young enough to rebound, so if you get “stuck” with him, you may actually wind up being pretty happy about it.
14. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals (14): Over the years, this Venezuelan has teased Fantasy owners with his potential, and while he finally stayed healthy last year, he struggled through the worst season of his career. Ramos has power, and considering how low he’s been going in drafts and how productive he could be, he might be a real steal.
15. Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (16): After establishing himself as a regular in 2014, Grandal was supposed to really break out last year — especially given that he had moved to the Dodgers and taken over as the new No. 1 in LA. Well, he did make some nice progress — with his walk rate in particular — but injuries held him back somewhat. Grandal flashed a bit of speed in 2014, but that disappeared last year.
16. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (6): Molina’s thumb woe cost him the end of 2015, and resulted in him going under the knife this offseason twice — procedures that have him off to a slow start this spring. He just took his first game swings of the preseason, meaning he potentially may be ready to rock for the season opener. Molina’s BA has dipped the last couple of years and his OBP has been in free fall since his career season in 2012. The power has also waned in recent seasons, so he’s clearly no longer Fantasy starter material.
17. Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates (28): It took him long enough, but Cervelli finally established himself as a true No. 1 catcher last year, and while his extra-base sock continues to slide and his BA slipped a tad, he remains a strong on-base dude, ranking second on the Pirates in that regard. He’s now a worthy second catcher in standard formats and a decent starter in NL-only leagues.
18. Welington Castillo, Arizona Diamondbacks (32): After being ditched by two teams last year, Castillo wound up in the desert and really revitalized his career, seeing tons of action with the D-Backs. They don’t plan to play him as often this year for fear he’ll break down, but for a dude who may not have even been drafted in smaller mixed leagues last season, the power he flashed in Arizona was a massive surprise. Now let’s see if he can build on that offensive showing; the D-Backs are banking on him supplying support to Paul Goldschmidt in what should be a deeper lineup this year.
19. Miguel Montero, Chicago Cubs (12): Montero was an offensive force in the earlier part of this decade before fading in recent years. Last season, however — his first with the Cubs — saw him experience somewhat of a renaissance, as his power recovered and his OBP bounced back to normal career levels. This tobacco chewing backstop is tough to swallow as a starter in anything other than an NL-only league at this point.
20. Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox (43): Thanks to injuries, Swihart may have been forced to the Show earlier than Boston would have liked, but he more than held his own as a rookie last year. He scored plenty of runs despite the Red Sox’s struggles and flashed a bit of power — especially in the second half, when his topped a .450 slugging percentage. The ceiling for Swihart may not be immense, but there’s upside here.
Others to Consider
21. James McCann, Detroit Tigers (53)
22. Nick Hundley, Colorado Rockies (47)
23. A.J. Pierzynski, Atlanta Braves (48)
24. Jason Castro, Houston Astros (19)
25. John Ryan Murphy, Minnesota Twins (50)
26. Dioner Navarro, Chicago White Sox (34)
27. Hank Conger, Tampa Bay Rays (46)
28. Chris Iannetta, Seattle Mariners (24)
29. Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (27)
30. Josh Phegley, Oakland Athletics (41)
31. Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota Twins (30)
32. Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles (38)
33. Carlos Perez, Los Angeles Angels (NR)
34. Christian Bethancourt, San Diego Padres (29)
35. Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves (21)
36. Cameron Rupp, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
37. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Detroit Tigers (18)
38. Geovany Soto, Los Angeles Angels (49)
39. A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers (39)
40. Andrew Susac, San Francisco Giants (33)
41. Alex Avila, Chicago White Sox (31): Avila also qualifies at First Base.
42. Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (20)
43. Brayan Pena, St. Louis Cardinals (36)
44. Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians (51)
45. Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets (NR)
46. Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies (NR)
47. Martin Maldonado, Milwaukee Brewers (40)
48. Michael McKenry, Texas Rangers (37)
49. Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds (NR)
50. Ryan Hanigan, Boston Red Sox (42)
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who is too high, too low or missing.
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