Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Reality Check: Early look at catcher

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Catcher is a weird position.

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

By its nature, it's weak. Injuries are more common, and everyday players are few and far between. What results are numbers that, from top to bottom, just don't compare to other positions.

But of equal importance to Fantasy owners are comparisons within the position. How do catchers stack up against each other? Is it a shallow position, which isn't quite the same as being a weak one, or will you like who you draft no matter where you draft him?

After taking the pulse of my Twitter followers and inspecting some of the other early rank lists popping up all over the Internet, I'm more convinced than ever of the latter.

Why? Because the Fantasy Baseball community can't decide who to give priority at the position.

Never does my Head-to-Head bias show more than at catcher, where like at first base, there are no stolen bases to equalize things, but unlike at first base, the home runs aren't so prevalent. While Rotisserie types are quick to distinguish the catchers who hit home runs from the ones who don't, I continue to favor traditional mainstays like Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina, who offer more in the way of batting average.

Part of it's because their peripherals set them apart in Head-to-Head league, but even in Rotisserie, I believe they stand out from pure mashers like Wilin Rosario and Evan Gattis. Home runs are only one category, after all. A high batting average (or to be more exact, a high on-base percentage) improves a player's chances of scoring runs and, especially when attached to a higher number of doubles, is nearly as important as home runs for RBI totals. Plus, it's not like Mauer and Molina are their position's version of Marco Scutaro. They're capable of at least a dozen homers.

A well-rounded hitter trumps a one-trick pony more often than not in Fantasy, and I have a feeling front office types would tell you the same is true in real life (which is part of the reason I prefer Head-to-Head to Rotisserie).

Then again, you could argue Rosario wasn't a one-trick pony in 2013, hitting .291 to finish third in the Rotisserie league rankings, but I say ... well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

On with it!

Top 10 catchers for 2014:
1. Buster Posey, C/1B, Giants
2. Carlos Santana, C/1B, Indians
3. Joe Mauer, C, Twins
4. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
5. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers
6. Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies
7. Salvador Perez, C, Royals
8. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
9. Brian McCann, C, Braves
10. Wilson Ramos, C, Nationals

I mentioned Mauer and Molina at the top, but together with Rosario, Posey and Santana actually make for the more fascinating comparison at the position, with Santana being the one who ranked first in Head-to-Head leagues in 2013, Rosario being the one everyone thinks should rank first in Rotisserie leagues in 2014, and Posey being the one I actually rank first in both formats.

The two most common mistakes a Fantasy owner can make -- and I'm in no way exempting myself here -- is to put too much stock into last year's numbers and to always assume the best-case scenario. I think both mistakes have contributed to this debate, first with the underestimating of Posey's potential based on his 2013 numbers and then with the trusting of Rosario to repeat (or perhaps even improve upon) his .291 batting average.

Coming off an MVP performance in 2012, Posey disappointed in 2013. His .455 slugging percentage was his lowest for a full season, and even though he did a fine job getting on base, the shortcomings of the rest of the Giants lineup limited his ability to score runs. But it's not like he's on the decline at age 26. His failures in 2013 don't in any way cheapen his successes of 2010 and 2012. Based on his pedigree and track record, a 20-homer season is still a reasonable expectation for Posey in 2014, making him the one catcher most capable of delivering the best of both worlds and an easy top choice at the position.

What separates him from Santana and Rosario is batting average, mostly, though that wasn't the case for Rosario in 2013. Still, nothing about Rosario's profile suggests he's capable of hitting .290 on a consistent basis. An unsustainable .344 BABIP made up for the same horrible plate discipline that made him only a .267 hitter over six minor-league seasons. That's not to say minor-league numbers are the best indicator of future performance, but everything from peripherals to pedigree to track record points to Rosario being about the .260 hitter Santana has been, only with far fewer walks and doubles, which should ultimately lead to fewer runs scored.

So what of Lucroy? I wouldn't balk at anyone picking Rosario over him in a Rotisserie league, but he was actually second in Head-to-Head formats in 2013. And judging by some of his peripherals, I think he has a better chance than Rosario of taking another step forward. Despite his exceptional contact rate, he was hitting only .229 on May 30 thanks to a .237 BABIP to that point. His BABIP leveled off during the summer, allowing him to make up some ground, but with a steadier performance from start to finish, I think he's closer to being the .320 hitter we saw in 2012.

Perez might be the next in line for that type of production. Like Lucroy, he makes consistent contact, posting the fourth-lowest strikeout rate among regular catchers, and like Lucroy, his luck didn't turn until later in the season, when he hit .367 with eight homers and a 1.021 OPS over his final 34 games. His shortcomings up until then had more to do with his power numbers than his batting average, but for a 23-year-old yet to enter his prime, a big surge to end the season could be the start of a legitimate breakthrough.

Wieters, McCann and Ramos are closer to the Rosario end of the Lucroy-Rosario spectrum in that they're all power hitters who'll struggle to hit much better than .260. Ramos even has Rosario's poor plate discipline down. Sometimes I wonder if they're actually the same player, their names are so suspiciously alike.

But of course, Wieters and McCann are the more proven of the three. McCann keeps his strikeouts low enough to give me some fleeting hope he can get back to hitting better than .270 for the first time in five years, but his playing time isn't as assured as Wieters'. If he ends up signing with an AL team to DH in between catching duties, I'll consider flip-flopping the two.

Next 10 catchers for 2014:
11. Evan Gattis, C/OF, Braves
12. Jason Castro, C, Astros
13. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox
14. Yan Gomes, C, Indians
15. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets
16. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners
17. Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks
18. Josmil Pinto, C, Twins
19. A.J. Pierzynski, C, Rangers
20. Alex Avila, C, Tigers

Gattis is probably the trickiest player to rank at catcher. He was the definition of an all-or-nothing hitter in 2013, compiling a .291 on-base percentage to go along with 21 homers in 354 at-bats. But the way he looked for stretches of the year, hitting balls so hard that they'd reach the outfield fence on a line, makes me wonder how high his ceiling goes. Yeah, he had some cold stretches, but doesn't every rookie, particularly one getting sporadic at-bats? Those at-bats won't be so sporadic if McCann signs elsewhere this offseason.

The drop-off at the position comes right after Castro, who was quietly having the biggest breakout of any catcher before missing the last three weeks of September with a cyst in his right knee. Frankly, other than strikeout rate, I'm not sure much separates him from McCann these days. That's good news for owners in one-catcher leagues. You won't be too far behind the competition if you wait until late to fill that spot. It's not like you have to worry about someone drafting a catcher to play utility.

Play in a two-catcher league? Good news for you as well. Plenty of upside remains at the position even after Castro goes off the board. In particular, d'Arnaud and Zunino have a chance to emerge as top-tier players. Neither did anything in 2013, but Zunino was rushed and d'Arnaud missed most of the year with a broken foot. They're the best catcher prospects to enter the league since Posey and Santana in 2010, making them well worth a leap of faith over the eternally frustrating Montero.

Did you know Gomes' .826 OPS in 2013 was sixth among all catchers who got at least 250 at-bats? Did you know he hit .319 after the All-Star break, when he was playing most consistently? Did you know he started 14 of the Indians' final 15 games at catcher? Gomes isn't assured regular playing time in 2013, but Santana's ability to play first base makes the former Blue Jays farmhand a better bet than not for 400 at-bats, which should make him one of the more productive second catchers you could have in a 12-team league.

After an impressive 76 at-bat showing in which he hit .342 with four home runs, Pinto may have a similar role for the Twins next year, keeping Mauer's bat in the lineup by bumping him to first base or DH. Pinto could always hit in the minors but was considered a defensive liability before slimming down in the offseason. He's one of my favorite sleepers for 2014.

I include Pierzynski just for appearances' sake. He has routinely been a top-15 option over the last few years, but nearing his 37th birthday and leaving Texas for who knows where this offseason, I think he finally takes a step back in 2014. If I was in a position to gamble late in a draft, knowing I could find a Russell Martin, J.P. Arencibia or Ryan Doumit type on waivers later, I might instead gamble on a 27-year-old Alex Avila, hoping his .303 batting average and .876 OPS in the second half mean his knees are healthy enough to get him back playing at an All-Star level, a 25-year-old Yasmani Grandal, hoping his surgically repaired ACL heals quickly enough to get him back on the field in spring training, a 24-year-old Jesus Montero, hoping his transition to first base allows him to tap into his awesome potential as a hitter, a 26-year-old Ryan Lavarnway, hoping Saltalamacchia's expected departure gives him a chance to strut his stuff for the Red Sox, a 23-year-old Max Stassi, hoping he can reclaim the part-time DH and backup catcher role the Astros intended for him in late August before a concussion altered their plans, or a 25-year-old Devin Mesoraco, hoping he overtakes Ryan Hanigan once and for all.

With so many intriguing fallback possibilities at catcher, maybe the debate over the top five is irrelevant.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Diamondbacks' Inciarte ready to compete for roster spot
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:39 pm ET) Outfielder Ender Inciarte was one of the Diamondbacks' top performers in the second half last season, but even a strong finish to the year couldn't secure him a starting job this season. Therefore, Inciarte will be competing for a spot on the roster this spring.

"There's a lot of competition here, but you only control what you can control," Inciarte said, per The Arizona Republic. "I know I can play defense. I know I can run. And I know I can hit. I've just got to do my job. I want to have a chance to play, but I'm ready to take any opportunity they give me or any role.

"I know whatever happens is going to be the best thing for me. I know if I go to Triple-A, I'm going to do my best and find my way back."

Inciarte shouldn't be talking about Triple-A just yet, especially not when you are on the manager's radar.

"He's the type of player you like to have because he can do so many different things," manager Chip Hale said. "He's kind of a throwback to when we played and being able to use all those different tools in a game instead of just waiting for the big home run."


Mets' Wilmer Flores exits spring game after HBP on wrist/forearm
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:09 pm ET) Mets infielder Wilmer Flores was forced out of Thursday's spring training game after being hit by a pitch on the wrist/forearm region, reports MLB.com. The team has yet to provide an update on his status moving forward.

Flores is viewed as the favorite to win the shortstop job after he hit .251 in 78 games and had a .979 fielding percentage at shortstop in 2014.


Mets' Gee: I don't care what's going on, just trying to get ready for season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:07 pm ET) Mets pitcher Dillon Gee took the hill Wednesday for his spring debut against the Braves amid speculation of whether he will be with the team come opening day. Gee allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in two innings. He didn't record a strikeout.

"In the end it doesn't matter, wherever that is," Gee said, per NJ.com. "Whatever role, whatever team.

"I don't care what's going on. I'm just trying to get myself ready for the season."


Head of MLPA Tony Clark: I hope Josh Hamilton gets 'support'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:57 pm ET) Tony Clark, the head of the MLBPA, told the Orange County Register on Wednesday that he's not sure how quickly the Josh Hamilton case will be resolved, but does hope that the embattled Angels slugger receives "support" from the people around his circle.

"There are always baseball concerns, but more important are life concerns," Clark said. "We have a process and protocols in place to handle the baseball issues. But I'm hopeful that anybody that is part of baseball family, if a player finds himself in a tough spot, he is more interested in the support he's getting as an individual than the baseball part."

Hamilton confessed to going on a binge that involved cocaine and alcohol a couple of months ago. A four-doctor panel will evaluate his case before an arbitrator makes a ruling. A verdict on a suspension could come in a few weeks.

"The process needs to play itself out, and then we'll have a decision," Clark said.


Pirates INF Josh Harrison exits spring game with left ankle issue
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:41 pm ET) Pirates infielder Josh Harrison exited Wednesday's spring training game because of left ankle discomfort, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Harrison was replaced by Brent Morel at the start of the second inning. At this point, it remains to be seen how long Harrison will be sidelined for. He'll likely be re-evaluated before their next spring game.

Mets' Collins fine with how Parnell handled Syndergaard situation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:33 pm ET) Mets reliever Bobby Parnell said he wasn't trying to embarrass starting pitcher prospect Noah Syndergaard when he threw out his lunch plate in the clubhouse Tuesday in an effort to inform the highly touted prospect he needed to be in the dugout for an intrasquad game. Third baseman David Wright also talked to Syndergaard about being in the clubhouse.

"We try to keep those things behind closed doors, but the media was there and saw it," Parnell said in a statement released by the team, per NJ.com. "But it wasn't about embarrassing anyone. Again, it goes back to creating that culture on and off the field."

Parnell said he talked with Syndergaard since the incident became public.

"It's a clubhouse issue that needed to be handled," Parnell said. "We are trying to create a winning culture around here and that what's the whole situation was about."

Mets manager Terry Collins said he has no issue with how Parnell handled the matter.

"I think it's the perfect way he dealt with it," Collins told NJ.com. "Perfect. I think Bobby did what I would do and a number of other guys would've have done. The captain made a statement and it wasn't really adhered to and Bobby said, 'Maybe he didn't hear it'."


Rockies' Blackmon held out Wednesday with abdominal injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:23 pm ET) Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon was not in Wednesday's spring lineup against the Diamondbacks due to an abdominal injury, per MLB.com. However, Blackmon planned to take batting practice Wednesday.

Orioles limiting pitcher Kevin Gausman early in spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:20 pm ET) The Orioles are taking things slow with relief pitcher Kevin Gausman. He pitched just one scoreless inning on 14 pitches in Wednesday's game, but it's a part of the plan, reports MLB.com.

"Every year is a little bit different," said Gausman. "My first year I wanted to come into camp and show what I had and possibly be an option for later in the year, knowing I wasn't going to make the team. But pitched well. Last year came to camp, felt I had a good chance of making the rotation and then we signed Ubaldo [Jimenez]. So, it’s one of those things. Every spring is going to be different."

Gausman went 7-7 in 2014 with a 3.57 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings pitched.

"That's one thing that's different this year is they kind of held me back. [The Orioles] told me don't throw any bullpens before you get to camp. Normally I throw 7 or 8 bullpens before camp."


A good spring could help Brewers' Morris in getting back on track
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:16 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Hunter Morris is trying to re-establish himself this spring after he was removed from the 40-man roster in the offseason. It wasn't long ago that Morris was considered the Brewers' top prospect.

“I don’t feel any pressure to make this team right away,” Morris said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’m still confident in my ability and I firmly believe I’m going to play in the big leagues.

"My goal is go out and force the Brewers’ hand and not give them any choice but to have me in the big leagues.”

Morris was named the Brewers' minor-league player of the year in 2012 after he hit .303 with 28 home runs, 40 doubles and 113 RBI at Double-A. While he totaled 24 home runs the following year, he hit just .247. He ran into more offensive struggles in 2014, and he also missed time due to a wrist injury.

“It was frustrating, the way everything played out,” Morris said.

Now, the 26-year-old first baseman must prove to the Brewers he still has a future in the majors, and it starts this spring.

“He needs to have a good year this year, get back on that right track,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “He hasn’t performed well in spring trainings for us. That’s the hard part, that we don’t get to see him when he’s really good.

“All I get is what I see in the spring, and he hasn’t had good springs. It’s really hard for me to get a good read.”


Royals' Hochevar (elbow) emerges unscathed after BP session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:52 pm ET) Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar threw his first batting-practice session of the spring Tuesday and emerged from the outing without any issues, per MLB.com.

"Everything was fine this morning," Yost said. "He felt great."

Yost liked how Hochevar, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, threw in batting practice.

"A good live fastball," Yost said. "Good curve. He looked really good. Just a normal progression for him."


 
 
 
Rankings