Friday, January 11, 2013

Fantasy Focus: Catcher Rankings

The catching position is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in baseball. It wasn't more than 3 years ago that if you did not get one of the top 2 or 3 catchers in the game, you could count on getting little if any production from the position.  I remember drafting Brian McCann in round 2 of my first fantasy draft and then making him one of my keepers for several years.  I did not regret those moves one bit.  While I would definitely do that again under the same circumstances, times have changed.  In fact, catchers likely to be available at the end of the draft in 12 team leagues are likely to give very satisfactory production.  Snagging one of the elites is no longer a top priority.  Here is a list of my 2013 catcher rankings along with fantasy relevant stats and a few comments:

1.  Buster Posey, Giants:  78 R, 24 HR, 103 RBI's, .336 BA, 1 SB, 530 AB.  The question is not whether Buster is the top fantasy catcher.  He is!  It whether you should pay the price or draft him as early as you will need to to get him.

2.  Joe Mauer, Twins:      81 R, 10 HR, 85 RBI, .319 BA, 8 SB, 545 AB.  Mauer will likely never top 15 HR again, given his style of hitting and the home park he plays in, but he gives you solid numbers in 3 categories and an occasional SB.  Fairly big dropoff from Buster, though.

3.  Yadier Molina, Cardinals:  65 R, 22 HR, 76 RBI, .315 BA, 12 SB, 505 AB.  Molina has been steadily improving his offensive numbers, but you have to have a feeling 2012 might have been his peak year.

4.  Wilin Rosario, Rockies:  67 R, 28 HR, 71 RBI, .270 BA, 4 SB, 396 AB.  I picked up Rosario around mid-season and he helped carry my Savvy Vets fantasy team to my league's championship.  I won't be able to do that again this year. He will carry a cost, but he just might be worth it.  The only thing keeping him from being ranked #2 is a longer track record of this kind of production.  Poor defense could limit his AB's, but the Rockies will probably want to try to improve his D while he helps out on the offensive side.

5.  Carlos Santana, Indians:  72 R, 18 HR, 76 RBI, .252 BA, 3 SB, 507 AB.  Santana's 2012 was a bit disappointing, particularly his relatively low BA.  I am fairly optimistic for a positive regression in 2013 and it's not like what he gave in 2012 was all that terrible.

6.  Salvador Perez, Royals:  38 R, 11 HR, 39 RBI, .301 BA, 0 SB, 289 AB.  Perez missed the first half of the season with an injury, but put up solid numbers after coming back in late June. He's as good a bet for 500 AB as any catcher for 2013.  Early ADP's are low but his stock will rise dramatically as the season approaches and people get a chance to read fantasy mags.

7.  Ryan Doumit, Twins:  56 R, 18 HR, 75 RBI, .275 BA, 0 SB, 484 AB.  Doumit was my big sleeper pick last year and he came through big time.  He's still flying under a lot of radars, but should be grabbed earlier than he was last year.

8.  Miguel Montero, D'Backs:  65 R, 15 HR, 73 RBI, .286 BA, 0 SB, 486 AB.  Montero is a steady performer who will give you numbers that are very close from year to year.

9.  Matt Wieters, Orioles:  67 R, 23 HR, 83 RBI, .249 BA, 3 SB, 526 AB.  My days of predicting a breakout season for Wieters are over, so watch him do it this year.  His numbers are not terrible even with no breakout, but the low BA drives me crazy.  If you are in a 10 team league and Wieters is ranked #9, you can afford to wait until near the end of the draft to take a catcher.

10.  AJ Pierzynski, Rangers:  68 R, 27 HR, 78 RBI, .278 BA, 0 SB, 479 AB.  AJP changes teams and goes from one hitter friendly ballpark to another.  He's also in a better lineup now.  He ain't gonna hit 27 HR's again, though.  I did read that he worked with a batting coach to put more uppercut in his swing and cut down on the ground ball outs, so the HR's may not completely regress.

11.  Mike Napoli, Red Sox?:  53 R, 24 HR, 56 RBI, .227 BA, 1 SB, 352 AB.  A lot of people paid a lot for Napoli last year.  He will be much cheaper this year.  Can he bounce back?

12.  Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers:  46 R, 12 HR, 58 RBI, .320 BA, 4 SB, 316 AB.  One thing I really like about Lucroy is he will bolster your BA.  He tends to come up a bit short on counting stats, but he missed a month in 2012 and should put up better numbers if he stays healthy all year, which he is as good a bet as any catcher to do.

13.  Rob Brantly, Marlins:  14 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, .297 BA, 1 SB, 100 AB.  Brantly should be the starting catcher in Miami after their firesale, so you can multiply his couting stats by 5 here.  He won't have much of a lineup around him.  Not a terrible fallback position, though.

14.  Jesus Montero, Mariners:  46 R, 15 HR, 62 RBI, .260 BA, 0 SB, 515 AB.  I would expect Montero to improve his BA in 2013 which will also help his counting stats.  Safeco field is brutal to RH hitters.

15.  Russell Martin, Pirates:  50 R, 21 HR, 53 RBI, .211 BA, 6 SB, 422 AB.  Martin gives you HR's and moves to a stadium that should be more friendly to RH power, but he will kill your BA.

16. Yasmani Grandal, Padres:  28 R, 8 HR, 36 RBI, .297 BA, 0 SB, 192 AB.  Grandal would be much higher on this list were it not for a 50 game suspension that he must serve at the beginning of the season.  If you are in a H2H league, you might want to draft him anyway.  Remember, it's the team you have in the playoffs that counts, not the team you start with.

17.  Brian McCann, Braves:  44 R, 20 HR, 67 RBI, .230 BA, 3 SB, 439 AB.  McCann is coming off an terrible, injury marred season without any assurance that his injuries are behind him.  Someone will probably draft him in your league and they will be making a big mistake.  He's been a great player, but personally I think he's about done.

Rookie Watch:  Travis D'Arnaud, Mets.  The Mets did not give up RA Dickey to get prospects who won't play right away.  D'Arnaud tore up the PCL last year at AAA level and should be the Mets starting catcher in 2013.  Just remember Las Vegas grossly inflates offensive numbers and he has history of injuries.

Much as I love Buster Posey, he's still an injury risk and you will have to pay a high price to get him in a fantasy draft.  Personally I would advise not spending more than $15 for your catcher in a standard auction draft and not taking a catcher higher than the 10'th round in a standard snake draft unless you are in a league with more than 12 teams or in a NL or AL only league.

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