*Disclaimer: You’re about to read my personal positional rankings for the 2016 baseball season. Treat it as a “fantasy baseball for dummies” if you will. I try to keep my blurbs funny enough that even the most casual fans will find it interesting, but I acknowledge that the subject matter isn’t for everyone. If you have even the slightest interest in baseball, I hope you enjoy the article.*
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for baseball fans. The buses have pulled into Florida and Arizona and soon the boys of summer will be back. But first, this is going to be a rough one. Catchers are like Top Ramen. You should only ever eat those watery noodles when you’re cramming for finals, it’s 3 am, and the dining hall is closed. You should never draft a catcher in the top 100 picks; there is too much value to be had elsewhere. For example, last year Buster Posey was drafted as the top catcher and finished as such. However, he was still only as valuable as Albert Pujols, who hit .244 and finished as the eighth best first baseman.
Another reason why one should wait on catchers more so than any other position is injury risk. One bad foul tip or long backswing to the helmet and your catcher is out for an extended period of time, and essentially droppable. Also, because of the grueling nature of the position, catchers will require more off days than any other position. That means you may only get 135 games from someone when you could have drafted an outfielder that will give you 155. In your top 100 picks, go for overall value instead of position eligibility. In short: wait on catchers.
Quick side note: I do my rankings in tiers. Players are in the same tier, because I believe they will produce about the same value. For the most part, the numbers within tiers are interchangeable and can be decided by personal preference. I only have them there because that is how I would draft them.
Stats are Runs/Homeruns/RBI/Average/Stolen Bases.
Tier 1 – Buster Posey
- Buster Posey: Posey gets his own tier because he is far and away the best catcher. If he stays healthy, he will again be the number one catcher. Posey tends to get overrated by what is perceived as real world value. He’s amazing, gritty, superlative! Between three World Series rings, an MVP, a ROY, and three All-Star appearances, he has had one of the best starts to any MLB career in recent memory. You will not get any extra points for his leadership skills in your fantasy league. If he stays healthy all year he will put up something similar to 73/23/91/.312/3 yet, because he is a catcher, he is being drafted around the same time as J.D. Martinez who hit 38 homers last year, or Charlie Blackmon who almost went 20/40. Posey simply is too valuable to pass on in any draft. Projection: 73/23/91/.312/3
Tier 2 – Peppermint Tea. I call this tier Peppermint Tea because even though some people love it, it just isn’t my cup of tea.
- Kyle Schwarber: Penciled in as the Cubs left fielder to start the year, Schwarber is intriguing because he has catcher eligibility, but he should play everyday at a different position. Like Victor Martinez or Carlos Santana in previous years, this should keep him in the lineup and productive all year. The problem arises with the fact that although Schwarber has power, he is simply not a great hitter. He had 34.3% strikeout percentage in Triple-A last year, and then in the majors it was 28.2%. Guys that strikeout that often will struggle to hit above .250 without a lot of luck. Last year, Schwarber hit .246. Keep in mind, between him, Soler, Fowler, and Heyward, the Cubs have four outfielders for three spots, so Schwarber may be platooned if he struggles against lefties. Could he make adjustments and hit better? Yes. Will I draft someone with these many question marks around 40th overall? No. Projections: 68/27/90/.248/5
- Salvador Perez: No one catches more games than Salvador Perez. Not only does he get the fewest days off of any backstop, but he’s also an integral part of a power-lacking Royals lineup. He is still only 25 years old and should be entering his hitting prime. After two consecutive long playoff runs, would it surprise me if he finally succumbs to some type of knee injury this year? Nope. Did I almost rank him above Schwarber because he feels safer? Yup. Will I draft him anyway? Nope. Do I love answering my own questions? Yup. Projections: 60/20/77/.263/1
- Travis d’Arnaud: One of these years, d’Arnaud will be the top catcher. Side note: d’Arnaud and Syndergaard for 38 year old R.A. Dickey has to be one of the most lopsided trades across all major sports in recent history. Side note II: The Side Note Strikes Back: Imagine if last year’s Blue Jays team had d’Arnaud and Syndergaard!! Back to d’Arnaud, he has always had the talent and pedigree, but he is now 27 years old and still has not stayed healthy for a complete season. If he falls to around pick 190, I will be all over him. Projections: 60/16/72/.267/5
- Brian McCann: McCann, like most Yankees (cough Ellsbury/Tanaka cough), seems to fall under a certain Yankee draft tax where players are overrated simply because they are expected to hit 40 homeruns since shallow fly balls to right wind up leaving the yard. He now has had two years in pinstripes. He hit .232 both years and his home run totals have been 23 and 26. An outfielder that put up that kind of stat line (Colby Rasmus, Khris Davis) would be put on waivers for half the year. Projections: 65/24/85/.230/2
Tier 3 – Chamomile. I call this tier Chamomile, because it is my cup of tea. At this point in the rankings, we are firmly at the point where players are (or at least should be) drafted after 200 overall. We are also only six catchers deep. Lowercase yay!
- Welington Castillo: Power! Really that is about it. He hit 15 homers in 61 games at Triple-A and then 19 homers last year in 110 games in the majors. He plays in Arizona, which is essentially Coors Field in the desert. He is also 29 years old. Look at my projection for Schwarber and then look at my projection for Castillo. Then look at where they are being drafted. Projection: 58/24/71/.238/2
- J.T. Realmuto: He plays for the Marlins. Sorry, I’m just assuming no one really knows who he is. At this point in the draft, it is safer to draft younger upside catchers than injury-prone veterans. As for Realmuto, he reminds me of a younger Lucroy. Projections: 59/13/58/.260/9
- Yan Gomes: Gomes is not as old as he may seem (28). Two years ago, he hit 21 homers and won a Silver Slugger. That’s really all it takes to win the Silver Slugger award as a catcher. He has had hot flashes in the past, but he has also never played more than 135 games in a season. His second highest number of games played is 95. Projections: 62/17/71/.250/2
- Derek Norris: In 147 games last year, Norris hit 14 homers. He will be 27 years old and plays his home games in Petco Park. Aren’t catchers just riveting? Projections: 56/12/60/.257/5
- Yasmani Grandal: This is whom I am targeting as my catcher in every league this year. He will be 27 years old, will hit in a strong Dodgers lineup, and last year went 35/14/36/.282 in the first half. Bad news? In 142 second half at bats he hit 8/2/11/.162. Wow that’s terrible. He does have a beautiful swing though. Projections: 56/17/63/.248/2
- Blake Swihart: Swihart is essentially a Realmuto clone that just isn’t quite there yet. He will hit for a decent average and has about 8 homer power and 8 steal speed. That’s both the good and bad news. Projections: 52/10/62/.265/8
Tier 3 – Green Tea. I call this tier Green Tea, because it’s gross. This tier consists of older former all-stars that are coming off injury or simply in the declining years of their career. It would not surprise me if someone from this tier finished as a top 5 catcher, but I won’t be drafting them to find out.
- Jonathan Lucroy: Two years ago, Lucroy was my pie in the sky. At this point, he provides nothing but counting stats without upside. He’s about to turn 30 years old, is in a terrible lineup, and missed much of last year with concussion. Concussions do not necessarily mean the end of someone’s career… right, Joe Mauer? Projections: 68/11/63/.259/4
- Russell Martin: Last year, Martin’s HR/fly ball percentage was nearly double his career average. He also hit .240. He’s 33 years old. Would I consider drafting him? Well, he is on a Blue Jays lineup that made Chris Colabello and Kevin Pillar playable. Projections: 52/14/57/.241/5
- Matt Wieters: Wieters has missed much of the past two years while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Surprisingly, when he has played his average has been strong, while his calling card power has been missing. Want the one guy from this tier that might be worth owning? Here he is. Projection: 54/17/60/.243/3
- Devin Mesoraco: Mesoraco is not the on-pace-for-30-homers guy that he was in 2014, but he also is not as terrible as he was last year. He is arguably the Reds’ best hitter outside of Joey Votto. Wow the Reds are going to be terrible. Projections: 48/18/54/.236
And just like that I wrote 1,612 words on catchers. As is eventually always true, someone not on this list will wind up in the top 10. If I had to guess now, I would say that it would be Nick Hundley, Wilson Ramos, Robinson Chirinos, or Stephen Vogt.