It’s time for the second in our series of player rankings, catchers. Catchers don’t necessarily get much love in fantasy leagues because they just don’t seem to be able to put up the offensive numbers that other positions can. Why is that?
There is an old saying in baseball about playing catcher, “tools of ignorance”. Where else do you take foul tips off different parts of your body, thrown your body in front of pitched ball that are in the dirt, and purposely stand in the path of an oncoming runner who wouldn’t mind planting you in the 15th row if that mean separating the ball from your glove. Tools of ignorance indeed. All of these reasons can lead to a catcher missing game action, not to mention they just need a day off more than most players. Not easy kneeling for nine innings day after day with all that equipment on, especially once the weather starts to heat up.
As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues, not that they would really change all that much in deeper leagues. Unless I’m playing in a league that starts two catchers, I generally wait to select one, preferring to load up on my outfielders, positions that generally offer more power and upside than the guy behind the plate, and away we go.
- Mike Napoli, Texas: Hard not to take the catcher first who hit 30 HRs with an OPS of 1.045. Those numbers might have even been better if not for a slow first two months of the season. Now he’s only done it for a half season, so there is reason to be cautious, plus the ankle injury that Napoli suffered during the World Series is still bothering him, and with all those home runs he still only drove in 75 runs, but still, with the numbers that catchers generally put up, it’s hard not to have Napoli atop this list.
- Carlos Santana, Cleveland: Did you know that Santana hit 27 HRs last season? I actually had to check that twice when I first saw it. What I did remember was that Carlos also batted a pathetic .239. That has to improve. Santana is to good a hitter to be an all or nothing kind of batter. One has to wonder if he sacrificed average in order to build up the power numbers.
- Brian McCann, Atlanta: McCann was well on his way to what might have been a career season before suffering an oblique injury shortly after the All-Star break. Injuries that you hate to see batters have, wrists and obliques. Those injuries have a tendency to hang on a while and never fully heal during the season. Still McCann hit 24 round trippers, 18 pre injury, and is fully healthy this season and ready to do good things for your fantasy team.
- Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners: Okay, now I admit I’m high on Montero, but this kid is a monster in the making. Sure playing in Safeco instead of Yankee Stadium will hinder his power production but at least his playing time won’t be curtailed by veterans needed a day off. This may be the last season that Montero has catcher eligibility depending upon your league setup as it shouldn’t take Seattle long to figure out that Montero is not a good defensive player and belongs at DH, not that having a great full-time DH should bother Seattle, they had one of the best ever in Edgar Martinez.
- Buster Posey, San Francisco: Posey might be a bit higher on this list if not for the gruesome ankle injury suffered last season, an injury that has many thinking in the industry to disallow collisions at home plate. Ironic thing is that according to the rules you’re not allowed to block any base, it’s just not enforced. One has to remember when it comes to Posey that he has yet to play a full season in the majors, sure he’s a good player and may even be a great one, but it would be nice to see him play a full campaign before we anoint him one of the best and lord knows playing in San Francisco is not conducive to big fantasy numbers.
- Joe Mauer, Minnesota: Wow, how the mighty have fallen. I placed Mauer sixth, but could’ve easily placed in 9th as I believe the next 3-4 catchers are pretty much interchangeable. Mauer has missed half of last season due to injury and that has to be a big concern for fantasy owners. You can’t put up fantasy statistics if you’re not playing, but what has to be of equal concern is Mauer’s lack of power since the Twins moved to Target Field. After hitting 28 bombs the last season in the homerdome, Mauer has only hit 12 total HRs in the last two seasons combined, ouch. Where oh where has the power gone Joe? If Mauer does end up just being a singles hitter, his value is diminished in fantasy unless he’s going to bat in the .330 range, it’s not like there will be a bunch of stolen bases that will come along with those singles.
- Matt Wieters, Baltimore: Wieters finally had the season many were expecting of him when he came into the league as his numbers were pretty good across the board. 22 HRs and 68 RBIs are passable for a catcher, sure we’d like to see more, especially in the average category where a .262 is nothing to get excited about, but perhaps last season was the start of Wieters becoming a true offensive threat behind the plate.
- Miguel Montero, Arizona: I have to admit I’m having second thoughts about placing Montero this low. 18 HRs, 86 RBIs and an .820 OPS is quite good especially for a catcher. Not like I can see any reason why Montero couldn’t put up the same numbers again, maybe even better power numbers. He plays in a good lineup in a home ballpark extremely favorable for hitters. Hmmm, maybe he should be 6th.
- Geovany Soto, Cubs: If you’re like me, than you’re still waiting for Soto to approach the season he had in 2008 (23 HR, 86 RBI). Time to realize that’s not going to happen again but that doesn’t mean Soto can’t give you some bang for your buck, especially if you waited until late in your draft to select him. Soto is more than capable of hitting 20+ HRs and batting .275, just not sure he can do both in the same season.
- Wilson Ramos, Washington: It’s at this point where I start to get worried if I still haven’t selected a catcher. The sure things for the most part are gone. Now you’re just looking for someone with an upside or someone who won’t hurt you. Ramos will have the full-time job this season and did hit 15 HRs in 113 games in 2011. The lineup is pretty good around him and he may have the best combination of upside and not hurting your average category.
- JP Arencibia, Toronto: Arencibia however will hurt your average category as his .219 from last season will attest to. If you’re taking Arencibia you want the 25 HRs he could possibly hit and the RBIs that come with it, but remember, if that average doesn’t improve the Jays have another young catcher pushing for playing time in Travis d’Arnaud, someone who could take playing time away from Arencibia.
- Russell Martin, Yankees: Some would think Martin should be higher on this list just because he plays in the potent Yankee lineup, truth is that may be why he is on this list at all, well that and the potential for double digit stolen bases to go along with 20 HR potential. Martin did report to camp in great shape, doesn’t have a true threat for his job, and knows what it takes to stay at full strength for an entire season, you could do worse.
- Yadier Molina, St. Louis: Molina actually had the best season of his career last year. 14 HRs was almost double his career best, 65 RBIs was his career best as well as a .305 average and .814 OPS. Whether or not he can do it again is a big question, and if he can’t than he’s just another backstop.
- Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee: Everyone in the Brewers lineup gets a bump now that we know that Ryan Braun won’t be suspended for steroid use. That being said, there is not a ton to like here. Seems to be the definition of someone who won’t hurt you with his .270 average and 12-15 home runs.
- Kurt Suzuki, Oakland: Suzuki used to find himself 4-5 spots higher on this list but nowadays just seems to come in as another catcher. Perhaps it’s playing in Oakland, which seems to bring the value of just about every player down, but the .237 and .242 average the past two games certainly doesn’t help matters any.
George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.