The 2014 Catcher Rankings might not be the sexiest place to start our season rankings for each position, but then again, I think chunky Christina Aguilera looks better than the skinny version. So what do I know about sexy!?!
Many of you that know me know that I’m a huge fan of the catchers position. It was my position of choice in high school, and I always had soft spot for the guys behind the mask (catchers, not umpires).
I feel they’re underappreciated in the baseball world, even though they’re the only position player that faces the entire field of play. He also has to learn all three facets of the game (pitching, hitting and defense) to become effective at his position.
And in the Fantasy Baseball world, people are showing even less appreciation for the position by having one-catcher Rotisserie leagues. I’m totally fine with the one-catcher Head-to-Head leagues, since there are only nine offensive positions to begin with (with a DH). But in Rotisserie play, you have 14 hitters (or 13 if you’re in one of those crazy one-catcher leagues).
I hate that we’re minimizing a position in Fantasy that is such a pivotal position in the game. So take catchers seriously!
2014 Catcher Rankings
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2014 Catcher Rankings: Alphabetical Analysis
J.P. Arencibia, Texas: While you have to love a catcher that can poke 20 homers (Matt Wieters is the only catcher to hit more than J.P. last season), but the former Blue Jays backstop hit under .200. He’ll back up Geo Soto in Arlington.
Alex Avila, Detroit: He’s a 27-year-old backstop with some success already in the majors, and he plays for a high-scoring ballclub. He’s a nice sleeper with upside as a second catcher despite coming off two disappointing seasons.
Welington Castillo, Chicago Cubs: Castillo is another catcher turning 27 years old this year, which means he’s getting into his prime power years. With that said, he has 14 career bombs in 176 games, so you’re really drafting him for his OBP, which should eclipse .350 this season.
Jason Castro, Houston: Yet another about-to-be-27-year-old catcher, Castro is coming off a huge breakout season that ended with surgery to get a cyst removed from the back of his knee. He’s someone others will forget that you can pounce on in hopes 2013 wasn’t a mirage.
Hank Conger, L.A. Angels: The youngster will serve as Chris Iannetta’s backup once again this season, but at some point, we expect his minor-league hitting to catch up to his major league frame.
Travis D’Arnaud, N.Y. Mets: One of last year’s top prospects, D’Arnard’s arrival was delayed a bit by some injuries and the great early play of John Buck. But he’ll start behind the plate on Opening Day, and that makes this kid someone to target late as a second catcher. He’ll hit for average and power at some point, but it might not be for a bit, as catchers take a little longer to develop in the majors.
Ryan Doumit, Atlanta: Doumit goes back to the National League, but he won’t be able to play 49 games at DH like he did last season. He’ll get some time in the outfield, but it’s tough to imagine him posting 350 at-bats with the Braves. He’s an NL-only option for now.
A.J. Ellis, L.A. Dodgers: Ellis has proven to be great in bursts for Fantasy owners, but don’t overpay for a player that might get 10 homers and 50 RBI this season. At best, he’s a second catcher in 12-team mixed leagues, but he will drag your average down – as most second catchers do.
Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox: With A.J. Pierzynski long gone, Flowers has an opportunity to start in the South Side of Chicago. He’ll have to beat out Josh Phegley, however, and neither are going to become even middle-round picks next season.
Evan Gattis, Atlanta: With Brian McCann moving to the Bronx, Gattis takes over behind the plate in Atlanta, even though the team traded for Ryan Doumit. Only Matt Wieters hit more homers than Gattis, and he did it in 169 more at-bats. There’s no doubt he’s a run producer, as his big frame should bat cleanup behind Freddie Freeman.
Yan Gomes, Cleveland: In his second season in the majors, Gomes posted a nice slash line of .293/.345/.481 with Cleveland, allowing them to move Carlos Santana to less defensively libel spots. There are tons of excellent options for second Fantasy catchers this season.
Yasmani Grandal, San Diego: Grandal missed the first part of 2013 because of a 50-game suspension, but then he trumped that by missing the final two months with a torn ACL. His short stay wasn’t that impressive, but he’s still a good hitting prospect at the position. Nick Hundley should start behind the plate at Petco Park.
Ryan Hanigan, Tampa Bay: While Jose Molina is considered the better catcher to handle the Rays’ pitching staff, Hanigan is no doubt the better hitter at the plate. The former Reds backstop should see the majority of starts at catcher, but he’s still not good enough to warrant 12-team Rotisserie consideration since he leaves Great American Ballpark.
Nick Hundley, San Diego: The veteran will keep the position warm in San Diego until Yasmani Grandal (knee) returns. You can expect streaky results from the 30-year-old Hundley once again in 2014.
Chris Iannetta, L.A. Angels: While Iannetta should see more starts than Conger for the Angels, neither are great pickups even late in your mixed league drafts. For AL-only owners, he’s a decent source of power, for a second catcher, but he’s much more valuable in leagues that reward OBP over batting average, like Tout Wars.
John Jaso, Oakland: The former Rays and Mariners catcher will share duties with Derek Norris again, and leagues that reward OBP over BA should consider adding Jaso with a very late pick. He could see action as the DH, though, which would give him even more chances to take walks – and not hit homers. How many other DHs do you know that hit eighth? (Oh, Oakland, you so crazy.)Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee: In Head-to-Head play last season, Lucroy was only outdone by Carlos Santana among catchers. He offers something in all five categories as a run-producing catcher. He’ll start the season at 27 years old, and he’s coming off two very solid years. Even over the past three years, only four other catchers have more average RBI than Lucroy’s 66. He actually led the position with 82 RBI in 2013.
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh: Martin broke out with a big April, then faded a bit throughout the next five months at the plate. But the Pirates are for real, and he’ll get another 400-plus at-bats, which makes the still-just-30-year-old backstop a nice Catcher-2 option.
Joe Mauer, Minnesota: Keeper owners beware! Mauer’s Fantasy value is going to take a big hit entering 2015, as he’ll likely no longer have catcher eligibility in Fantasy leagues for the first time in over 10 years. A concussion ended 2013 early for him, prompting the Twins to move him to first base permanently. This year, however, he should still have catcher-eligibility (check your league rules), which makes him a top-40 player overall.
Brian McCann, N.Y. Yankees: Nothing but good news for McCann’s Fantasy owners, as he moves to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium and the DH-friendly American League. It’s hard to believe McCann will be just 30 years old this summer, but he was one of the very few young catchers to hit well right from the get-go.
Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati: While Mesoraco has played in parts of the past three seasons, he hasn’t seen enough at-bats as a starter to become Fantasy reliable. Now, with Ryan Hanigan in St. Pete, the former top catching prospect will have a chance to shine under new Reds manager Bryan Price, who was a former pitcher. Former pitchers and former catchers as managers are usually good mentors for young catchers.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis: The youngest of the “Catching Molina Brothers” remains the best one in the majors, both in front of the plate and behind it. And while playing in the NL, not allowing him at-bats as a DH, might open up Molina to more chances for injury, he actually has the third-highest average of at-bats (495) over the past three seasons. (Santana (533) and Wieters (516) are the only catchers averaging more.) In a 15-team Mixed Rotisserie mock draft in mid-January, held by the guys at MLB.com, I took Molina with my sixth-round pick, after 86 other players were chosen. I doubt we see that again in any other mock.
Jesus Montero, Seattle: The former top catching prospect with the Yankees now finds himself as a potential bust entering his fourth year in the majors. The Mariners have already moved fellow youngster Mike Zunino behind the plate, and Montero has to shake off a PEDs suspension to get some Fantasy respect again. But remember this – catchers take longer to develop than any other position. He’s a big guy, and he’s still just 24 years old – just two years Zunino’s senior.
Miguel Montero, Arizona: If you love to draft bounce-back candidates, this Montero is the right guy for you! He’s coming off one of his worst years in the majors, but even so, he was a top-five catcher in the two previous seasons. At MockDraftCentral.com, he’s being drafted as the seventh catcher, with an average pick in Round 6 of 12-team Rotisserie drafts.
Dioner Navarro, Toronto: CBSSports.com points out that Navarro figured something out from the right side of the plate, batting .361 there last season, compared to below .200 over the previous three seasons against left-handers. He’ll be the starter in Toronto, and he’ll hit in the back of the order.
Derek Norris, Oakland: Norris turns 25 on Valentine’s Day this year (Awww), and he’ll work to get more than 300 at-bats for the first time in his career, as John Jaso splits time behind the plate and at designated hitter. Norris, like most A’s hitters, has a penchant for getting on base (.344 OBP last season), and he could close in on a 15-HR season if he gets the at-bats and continues to develop.
Salvador Perez, Kansas City: One of my favorite young catchers in the game, Perez finally had a full season at the plate in 2013. With 13 homers and 79 RBI (only two catchers had more RBI last season), Perez gave notice he’s going to be a beast in 2014. Remember that his development was delayed one season because he tore up his knee in 2012. Even so, he’s just 23 years old – and at 6-foot-3, 245 lbs., I see him as a power leader at the position in the next few years.
Josh Phegley, Chicago White Sox: The sophomore will have to beat out Tyler Flowers to start for the ChiSox. A nice season in Triple-A Charlotte earned him an early promotion last season, but Fantasy owners can safely look elsewhere for now. He had just seven doubles and five homers in 43 games above Class A last season.
A.J. Pierzynski, Boston: Pierzynski moves to Boston, where his fiery disposition will make him a fan favorite, and he’ll bat in the back of the BoSox order for 2014. He has 44 homers over his past two seasons combined, but expect his power to dip back to the 13-15 dinger ranger, as he aims for Pesky’s Pole in Fenway.
Josmil Pinto, Minnesota: Pinto hit well in a short stint last season, and he has pretty good minor-league numbers overall. He’ll work on stealing at-bats from veteran backstop Kurt Suzuki.
Buster Posey, San Francisco: There’s nothing I’m going to tell you about Posey you don’t already know – he’s phenomenal, and he’s turning 27 years old in March. Wow. He’ll stay behind the plate, keeping his eligibility, and he’ll remain a top 15 Fantasy player for a few more years. What I will tell you, that you might not know, is that he was rewarded by FSU head coach Mike Martin, who allowed him to play all nine fielding positions in one of his final college games. Can you imagine if the Rays drafted him No. 1 overall instead of Tim Beckham!?! … I have to go lie down.
Wilson Ramos, Washington: Ramos is an excellent hitting catcher, but he just can’t stay healthy, as evidenced by his 103 games played over the past two seasons. But Fantasy owners are drooling over his 16 home runs in 78 games in 2013, which would extrapolate to a position-leading 24 home runs if he played just 39 more games. He’s getting picked in the later rounds on MockDraftCentral.com, but he has a high upside if he stays healthy.
Wilin Rosario, Colorado: Among catchers with at least 250 at-bats, Rosario led the position with a .485 slugging percentage, and he proved his breakout 2012 season (.530) was no fluke. He’s no a big fan of the walk, however, as he posted more homers (21) than he did walks (15) last season. Rotisserie owners are happier about having him than Head-to-Head owners because of the whiffs.
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia: A 25-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and a hamstring injury held Ruiz to just 310 at-bats in 2013. He averaged close to 400 at-bats in the three previous seasons, and now, he’s one of the oldest starting catchers in the majors at 36 years old. Even so, he has hit over .300 in two of the past four seasons, so he’s worth a look as a second catcher.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Miami: Salty had a career year and won a World Series in Boston, but then he signed with the Marlins and will be saddled with a young pitching staff and an offense trying to find an identity. His veteran presence will help a five-man rotation that averages just 23 years old. Marlins Park will damper Salty’s offense, though, and he’ll be lucky to see 50 RBI this year.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland: Santana gets to work more as the Tribe’s first baseman or designated hitter, now that Yan Gomes has emerged behind the plate. That’s great news for Fantasy owners, as he’ll still probably play just enough there to keep his eligibility, but not enough to limit his at-bats. No catcher has averaged more at-bats over the past three seasons than Santana’s 533.
Geovany Soto, Texas: There’s just something off-putting about a player that hits nine homers and gets just 22 RBI. Interestingly, he popped those nine dingers in 163 at-bat last season, and he’s entering 2014 as the Rangers’ starting backstop. Luckily, J.P. Arencibia offers worse on-base ability than Soto, and the former Cubs catcher will play half of his games in Arlington, where he hit seven homers last year. You could do worse than him with your last pick in a 23-round draft.
Max Stassi, Houston: Keep an eye on Stassi in the early months of the season, as he backs up Jason Castro in Houston. He does have some pop at a position normally devoid of heavy hitters, and he’ll be just 23 years old this season. Unfortunately, he’s just 5-foot-10, which makes me leery of calling him a slugger just yet.
Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota: After three solid seasons from 2009-2011, Suzuki fell back to earth in 2012, when he shared time between Oakland and Washington, which he also did in 2013. He’ll be handed the starting gig in Minnesota, now that Joe Mauer’s moving to first base full time, but he’ll have prospect Josmil Pinto to deal with behind him.
Matt Wieters, Baltimore: One of the biggest and baddest catching prospects to come along in years has had plenty of ups and downs in his past five seasons. His batting average over the past three seasons (.248) smears his Fantasy value a bit, but he leads the position averaging 22 homers and 77 RBI since 2011. As I’ve mentioned, young catchers take a little longer sometimes to develop completely because they have to worry about pitching and defensive duties more than other positions. I’ll be targeting Wieters in my 2014 Tout Wars Mixed auction this March. His .247 BABIP last season has us thinking he had a relatively unlucky 2013.
Mike Zunino, Seattle: The Mariners have all but given up on former prospect Jesus Montero, making room this season for one of the top prospects entering 2013. While he didn’t see much success in about 50 major league games last year, he’s still just 23 years old this season, and much of his first season was limited because of a broken hand. He’s a high upside guy with a starting job his to lose, so consider him either a late-round pick in larger leagues or as a possible free-agent pickup midseason.
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Hopefully, you learned something with these 2014 Catcher Rankings, or at least it gave you something to think about going forward. Feel free to drop a comment below, or tweet me @DavidGonos.