By: Nate Leer
I am listing 13 catchers because this really can be an unlucky group for fantasy baseball owners. It is shaping up to be one of the weakest positions, not just this year, but in recent history. Contrast C with the other shallow positions – 2B and SS – where there are at least a few stubs and/or some depth with upside. There is (#1) Posey, who is a top 10 hitter at any infield position – top 20 OF – and (#2) Schwarber, who may have similar upside but is unproven at best.
Compare C to last year and there is a drop as well. Last year, besides Posey, Jonathan Lucroy was a legit offensive player and players such as Devin Mesaroco and Yan Gomes seemed to be emerging. Now Lucroy is at best a bounce-back candidate and the other 2 are longshots.
I refer to Posey as Gronk because, like the football TE, he stands so far above others at his position that his value skews way up from where his stats alone would place him. The fact that Scwharber seems to be the 2nd best option says all that needs to be said about this position. While his counting stats look awesome projected from just 232 ABs, those rates may be unsustainable (41 HR if he gets 600 ABs doesn’t seem likely) and his sub-.250 average hints at regression. Still there is no doubting the potential upside of getting 30+ HR with solid average at C.
So let’s start the list at #3 overall and work down. I think the evidence will show that the wise draft-day move is to be patient at C and wait to see what value filters down to the lower rounds (or cheaper dollar-amounts) of your draft.
Sure, a rebound can be expected and would be more likely with a trade to a contender, but that is a best case scenario and still is not ideal. If Lucroy is in Milwaukee, he is a middle-of-the order guy in a bad line-up but with one other elite hitter in R Braun. A trade to, say, Texas could mean a lower-third spot in a better batting order. So, while Lucroy may be the popular #3 C, is he worth a pick in the top half of your draft? I say wait until you have 5-6 hitters and 4-5 Ps before thinking of Lucroy as value or wait for similar value WAY later.
4. Brian McCann
5. Salvador Perez
6. Russell Martin
McCann, Perez and Martin are all low average, 20+ HR type guys. Last year Perez had the best average, McCann the most HR & RBI. All three have a proven track record but limited upside with their low averages. If (that’s a big if) McCann can reproduce over 90 RBIs again, he would be the best of this group.
7. Travis D’Arnaud
8. Wellington Castillo
9. Yan Gomes
10. Wilson Ramos
11. Devin Mesoraco
12. Yasmani Grandal
Numbers 7-12 are a pick ’em group of young players with some talent, notably power potential, but that have not proven to be consistent, healthy assets. Any of the group could emerge as a top-five fantasy catcher this year or become clearly nothing more than major league platoon players – only noteworthy in 2 C leagues. I like Mesoraco’s upside as a former high end prospect for the Cincinnati and for fantasy as recently as last year. One other guy who has similar pros and cons as the players listed above is Jason Castro for Houston.
13. Matt Wieters
Similar player to the vets mentioned earlier (McCann, etc.) but with a recurring elbow issue that has to be worrisome for a C on a team loaded with DH/1B guys as well.
14. Francisco Cervelli
15. S Vogt
Cervelli and Vogt have hit for average over stretches of their careers. Vogt added some pop last year, Cervelli not so much, but Vogt’s average regressed substantially in the 2nd half of the year. Vogt may be more of a platoon guy for Oakland than an everyday player while Cervelli will be the main C for Pittsburgh but has to prove that his nearly .300 average was not a fluke last year.
Many fantasy teams last year had to use more than one C for considerable stretches of the season. If you do not invest in a C early in your draft (or spend much on one), it is that much easier to cut him and pick up a hot guy if your draftee is not hitting.
Beyond this list, there are other players who could put up top ten numbers at this weak position – James McCann, AJ Pierzynski – so don’t be afraid to be patient in your draft and active during the season!