The importance of the fantasy baseball catcher has started to wane. In the olden days, virtually all fantasy leagues required owners to have two catchers in their starting lineups. Increasingly, the two-catcher leagues have started to fall by the wayside. This has caused the relative value of catchers to decrease a bit, but it also results in, frankly, a more enjoyable experience – since, well, you don’t have to worry about no-talent assclowns like Rod Barajas or Jose Molina from a fantasy perspective.
But that doesn’t mean catchers aren’t important. Grabbing an elite player at the position can undoubtedly separate you from the pack. Without further ado, here are our top 30 catchers, according to our Super Rankings, with commentary on those players we felt require a bit of further explanation.
Posey and Molina are the consensus top-two catchers, but you’ll have to pay for them. Posey is being drafted in the first round of early mock drafts, and Molina is gone by the end of Round 3. It’s safe to say Mauer’s never going to hit 28 HR again, but 2012 was his best season since that breakout 2009 campaign. Mauer stayed healthy, challenged for another batting title, and hit double-digits in HRs while just missing in SBs. As long as you’re not banking on 20+ HRs, Mauer is a worthy investment in the fifth or sixth round.
Napoli won’t hit .320 again, but his BABIP numbers indicate he’s not necessarily a .227 hitter either. You’re essentially taking 25 HRs to the bank, and if he can get up to .255 or .260 he won’t be a total drag on your batting average. The Red Sox are expected to play him primarily at first base, which could keep him healthier as well (keeper and dynasty leaguers take note as well, since he may not be eligible at C next season). Super Rankings believe he’s worth the risk.
The Next Wave
With the exception of Miguel Montero, who has established himself as a reliable .280-15-85 guy over the past several seasons, the next tier of catchers are all young players who have yet to reach their prime. Wieters remains the most promising of that group, but his final 2012 numbers were disappointing after his early-season surge made it look like the breakout was upon us. You’re not going to kick him out of bed for a .249-23-83 line, but Wieters still hasn’t lived up to the considerable hype. Santana regressed badly in the first half of 2012 after his 27-HR 2011 campaign, but steadied the ship in the second half. Like Wieters, if he can put it all together he has star-quality potential. Offensively, Rosario arrived in a big way in his rookie season, leading all catchers in HRs, with 28. But he was a clown show behind the plate and he continues to strike out nearly three times as often as he walks. Rosario’s 2012 digits are all the more impressive when you consider he had fewer than 400 at-bats, but he has some work to do to maintain that level of production. Rosario had the season many were expecting of Jesus Montero, who fell well shy of expectations with a mediocre .260-15-62 line. If he can learn to hit right-handers (.228 vs. RHP) as well as he does southpaws (.322 vs. LHP), we’ll be in business. The new, cozier, confines of Safeco Field should help, too.
Martinez tore his ACL in the offseason prior to 2012, and hoped to return by the end of the year. That never happened, and now there’s plenty of risk in a 34-year-old coming off a knee injury that he opted to rehab instead of surgically repair, but there’s .300-20-100 upside if everything comes off without a hitch. That’s a big “if.”
Salvador Perez is unquestionably the next-most intriguing name on the list. Perez overcame a knee injury to post an impressive .301-11-39 line in just 289 ABs. He rarely walks, but that concern is mitigated by the fact that he doesn’t strike out either. Catchers who are capable of hitting .300 with moderate power don’t grow on trees, and if there was one guy I’d consider sloughing the position and waiting on until late in a draft, it’s Perez. He’s a 10th-rounder in a 12-team league, according to ADP. McCann probably won’t be ready for the start of the season as he continues to recover from the torn labrum he attempted (unsuccessfully) to play through in 2012. Carlos Ruiz is suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season, and a crazy .343 BABIP that led to his .325 average last year won’t repeat. Speaking of not repeating; Pierzynski came three HRs shy of matching his total for the previous three seasons combined. At age 36, don’t expect a repeat. Travis d’Arnaud will almost certainly take over as the Mets primary catcher at some point in 2013, but it likely won’t be until late April or May. He has huge upside, but unless you’re in a keeper league he may not be ready to contribute to fantasy lineups until 2014.