07 Feb Fantasy Baseball 2017: Catcher Rankings 25-13
25. Yan Gomes (CLE)- Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes was a slam-dunk buy-low candidate coming into 2016 after he failed to match the production of his Silver Slugger-winning 2014 when he hit .278 with 21 homers. Unfortunately for all parties involved, he put up a season even worse than his 2015, finishing with a hideous .167-9-34 line in 251 at-bats. There was never a point where Gomes looked right at the plate despite the Indians’ willingness to let him play through his struggles, eventually leading to the right shoulder injury that mercifully killed his fantasy season. After Cleveland passed on adding anyone new to their catcher pool this offseason, all signs point to Gomes again opening the season as the team’s starter. While chances of him returning to form are distinctly minuscule at this point, the chance still remains, but this is why he finds himself at the bottom of the rankings.
24. Sandy Leon (BOS)- Leon will start the 2017 season behind the plate for Boston, viewed to be their primary catcher to open the season. He is a prime candidate for regression, after he had a superb 2016 campaign (in terms of what most projected him to produce). He will have to prove that last season was not all smoke and mirrors, because GM Dave Dombrowski was on Sirius XM fantasy radio recently and he as well as some in the Boston organization, view catcher Blake Swihart as a future all-star. Leon is a J.A.G (just a guy), and really should not be drafted outside of two catcher leagues. Even in those type of league formats, he is best suited to be your third/back-up catcher.
23. Travis d’Arnaud (NYM)- If there is any catcher in the bottom-10 that has the chance to really vault themselves up these rankings by mid-season, it may be Mets’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud. The former prospect was on an upward trajectory until this year when the injury issues continued to mount up. Last year, it was a broken foot and a hyperextended elbow. This year, a strained rotator cuff. You could see how the steady onslaught might derail him, or perhaps he just pushed himself to come back from the latest one too soon. If you were looking at just the peripherals, there were not any alarming numbers; nevertheless, he may have reached a breaking point with his litany of injuries. But while he has stopped hitting for power, he has continued to strike out at his usual low rate and has actually had a higher rate of hard contact, according to FanGraphs.com. So yeah, maybe an offseason of rest could get him back in the top-10 discussion. But after giving him the benefit of the doubt about his health concerns last year, I would be surprised, and considering he’s a defensive liability, I wonder if the Mets will even give him the chance.
22. Austin Hedges (SD)- Hedges was a top catching prospect for San Diego, and he will get a chance to prove his worth as the regular catcher in 2017. He hasn’t impressed in his two stints at the major league level, hitting .161 over 161 at-bats with 45 strikeouts. He doesn’t have much more to prove in the minors, however. Hedges hit .326 with 21 home runs and 82 RBI at Triple-A El Paso last season and displayed the excellent glove that has made him a top-100 prospect the last four years. While Hedges will definitely be a defensive upgrade over Derek Norris, he still must show that he can handle big league pitching. If he can put it all together, Hedges could be a strong sleeper at a very thin fantasy position.
21. Mike Zunino (SEA)- We are certainly at the low-risk, high-reward part of the rankings, and Zunino is the epitome of that ideology. This was clearly evident by his 11 home runs in just 55 games at the big-league level last season. What was most encouraging was the fact that he actually took some walks and cut down on his strike-out rate when he returned from the minor leagues last season. If those trends continue during Spring Training he definitely is a player worth taking a flier on late in your drafts.
20. Derek Norris (WAS)- Here we have one of my favorite bounce-back candidates coming off of an absolutely horrific season hitting a miserable .186 in San Diego. We can shake last season out to somewhat of a fluke considering his BABIP was almost .100 points lower than in the previous two seasons despite the fact he posted the highest hard hit numbers over his career. We talked about the negative downshift in the move to Tampa Bay for Ramos, hitting in a weaker lineup in a bigger ballpark. Norris should see a positive correlation in his numbers with his move to Washington, as he will hit in a much stronger lineup in a more hitter friendly environment.
19. Fransisco Cervelli (PIT)- Cervelli proved to be one of the bigger busts at the catcher position in 2016. After a solid first season in Pittsburgh, both at the plate and behind it, Cervelli let down many fantasy owners in his second stint as a starter. Cervelli’s average dropped from .295 to .264, although he managed to actually improve on his on-base percentage at .377. The power was non-existent, as Cervelli clubbed only one homer all season. Injuries and inconsistency limited him to 101 games played, which amounted to 326 at-bats. Given his complete lack of power, Cervelli needs to hit .300 or better for fantasy consideration. Cervelli is a defensive-minded catcher who should retain his job regardless of his offensive production. If you are in a two-catcher league or one that uses OBP instead of average, Cervelli could serve as a No. 2 catcher, but that is probably his ceiling
18. Wilson Ramos (TB)- The question here is whether or not to draft Ramos this year, and if so when? He finished third on ESPN’s player rater at the catcher position, and is coming off his best season as a pro, finishing with career highs in average (.307), runs (58), home runs (22), and runs batted in (58). He is coming off reconstruction surgery to his knee, and probably will not return until late-May. Even upon his return, he probably will be eased back into action on his new team in Tampa Bay. With that move to Tampa Bay comes some disadvantages. He will join a lineup that is much less potent than the one he anchored in Washington. Furthermore, Tampa Bay is a much more pitcher-friendly park than a hitter-friendly one. For me, as the ADP’s (average draft position) shape up as we get closer to Opening Day, Ramos will probably be a player that I mark as a “stay-away” candidate. Nevertheless, if the price is right, there could be some value to be had dependent on where he falls on draft day.
17. Cameron Rupp (PHI)- Here we have a player that I would love to have as my number two catcher in two-catcher leagues, or as a back-up who you can snag pretty late in your drafts. Rupp had the highest hard hit rate of any player at the position in 2016, and 16 home runs and 54 runs batted in just 105 was surprisingly productive. Additionally, he passes the eye test as his at-bats are always judicious. A 20+ home run season is well within reach in 2017, and for a player who will not kill you in batting average, he has a very possible chance to outperform his ADP (average draft position).
16. Tom Murphy (COL)- One of the hotter catching names being talked about as we are nearing Spring Training, and rightfully so. We can hang our hats on the one absolute number here, and that is 81. This is the number of games that he will be hitting in the confines of his home park, Coors Field. We saw what kind of damage the youngster was capable of over just 49 plate appearances last season as a September call-up. He slashed a solid .273/.347/.659 line with five home-runs over that short span of time. I am eager to see what he can do with a full season of work as the Rockies’ catcher, and would not be surprised at all if he finishes as a top-10 player at his position if he sees anything near 500 plate appearances.
15. Matt Wieters (FA)- Wieters has still yet to sign with a team up to this point, but there is little-to-no doubt that he finds a suitor before Opening Day, if not before Spring Training kicks off. I have no doubt that if he stays healthy (which is a big if), he’ll find a way to get 450+ at-bats wherever he ends up, which is good news considering he’s averaged 20+ home runs, 65+ runs scored, and 70+ runs batted in when he’s made it to that number. The switch-hitter should find a home in the middle of a lineup very soon.
14. Stephen Vogt (OAK)- While Vogt may be a boring name in the fantasy realm, he finished as a top-12 option in average, home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored at the position last season. There is a very likely chance you will not see many of his at-bats unless you are a die-hard A’s fan, but he is definitely a player that you should keep on your radar, and somebody you could do worse than at having as your number one catcher.
13. Yadier Molina (STL)- Molina is what we like to call in the industry “empty batting average.” He tied for league lead in average (.307) for the catcher position. He also was able to chip in with 58 runs batted in, and 56 runs scored. Unfortunately, he has not been able to get you double-digit home runs since 2013 when he had 12. Nevertheless, if he is able to produce double-digit homers then that batting average becomes not-so-empty, and he could easily finish as a top-12 option for you in fantasy.