February 27, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Fantasy Tier Rankings: Catchers
These are the catcher fantasy rankings for 2012. Check out our previous closer installment here.
My pre-season fantasy rankings return this week, and the rest of the positions will be coming fast and furious over the next couple of weeks to help get you ready for draft day.
As a reminder, five-star players are generally going to be your star-level producers that will be selected within the first couple of rounds, usually worth upward of $30. Four-star players are the next step down, worth more than $20. Three stars are worth more than $10, two stars will be in the single digits, and one star will be roster-filler and late-round fliers. Of course, this is just a general guideline. While the rankings will generally follow PECOTA, I will deviate when I feel strongly that a player will over or underperform his PECOTA projection.
I’ve also decided to give my choice for a value pick in each tier—a guy who I think will be worth more than your leaguemates do, or a guy who I believe stands a good chance of beating his PECOTA projection.
For reference, the dollar values were created by our PFM using a league format of 12 teams, 5x5 scoring, and 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify. We’ll be providing values for both mixed leagues and AL-only/NL-only leagues. While this is the industry standard format, your own league structure may differ, in which case you can customize the PFM to your own needs.
Much love for Napoli, who I owned absolutely everywhere last year. He’s finally getting the attention he deserves from fantasy owners. Unfortunately, that means I won’t have him on many teams this year, but I did manage to get him for a reasonable $21 in the CBS AL-only Experts League. He’s easily the top option at the position now that playing time is no longer a concern.
Santana has some of the best power among all catchers, and while his batting average left much to be desired last year, his strong bat projects for better going forward. McCann may not have the upside of Santana, but he makes up for it with consistent, year-in-and-year-out excellent performance from behind the plate.
Four-Star Value Pick: You’re not going to get a value on anyone here, so I’ll take Napoli, please.
Those in this next group all project to be very good options, but they’re not without risk. The top two guys alone are coming off injury-plagued seasons that destroyed their 2011 value. PECOTA is betting on bounce-backs for the two of them, though the system is significantly lower on Posey than I am. As long as he’s healthy, though, Posey is loaded with talent and should be one of the better-producing backstops in fantasy. Mauer has upside too, but now that he’s playing half his games in Target Field, I have a hard time seeing his power numbers returning.
PECOTA wouldn’t put Matt Wieters in the Three-Star category, but I’m comfortable doing so. He’s always had talent and finally began making good on it in 2011. He shows power to all fields, has cut down on strikeouts three years running, and stays in the lineup.
For those wondering, this is where Jesus Montero would be if he’s catcher-eligible in your league (CBS, for example, lists him as a catcher despite him spending more games at DH last year). Put him between Wieters and Martin.
Three-Star Value Pick: Ryan Doumit is interesting and a guy I figure will be a bargain in many leagues. Not only can he play catcher, but he’ll get most of his at-bats at DH and can even play a little first base and corner outfield. I could see him beating his PA projection in Minnesota, and while some will be scared away by Target Field, the move from Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is basically a lateral one. Being taken as the 20th catcher off the board in Mock Draft Central drafts, it’s a done deal for me.
Here’s where the warts start to show. All of these guys have one deficiency or another, be it Arencibia’s low batting average or Pierzynski’s middling power. Of course, they compensate for it by being strong in the opposite area, but if you draft a catcher in this tier, you’re going to have to be content with a guy who is an albatross in at least one category and may have playing time downside.
Hernandez and Lucroy are injury risks. Arencibia, Pierz, and Salty have guys in their organizations that may push them for at-bats (Travis d’Arnaud, Tyler Flowers, and Ryan Lavarnway, respectively). While John Buck doesn’t have either of those concerns, we know his batting average will be poor and don’t know exactly how the new Marlins park will affect him (best guess: the deeper fences will hurt his power).
Two-Star Value Pick: A.J. Pierzynski is not sexy. He’s aging, he doesn’t have the kind of power his tier-mates have, and there is Tyler Flowers, but as the 27th catcher (mock) drafted, he’d be my target here unless someone else drops. He’s a solid, consistent performer and tends to fit the kind of teams I build better than a guy like Arencibia does. When I load up on Mark Reynolds types, a good batting average from a catcher can really help even things out.
You could make the case for propelling Mesoraco out of this category, but with Ryan Hanigan figuring prominently in the Reds’ catching situation, the at-bats just don’t justify it. There’s upside if Hanigan gets hurt or if Mesoraco performs so well as to push him out of the picture, but that’s a risk I’m not willing to take given his high market value.
Every year, it seems like Iannetta is the sleeper du jour among fantasy writers, but I’m off the wagon this season. The move out of Coors Field and into the American League is going to wreak havoc on his power numbers, which is where all of his value is derived. He’ll likely be too expensive for any of my teams based on name value alone.
Barajas has the highest PECOTA-projected value of this group, but I have similar reservations with him as Iannetta. His move into PNC Park is really going to hurt him, especially since he is also a pure power guy.
One-Star Value Pick: I’ll take Miguel Olivo. I imagine his market value will be unduly depressed with Jesus Montero now in Seattle, but Montero is not a good catcher (he’s not even a bad catcher) and Olivo will still get plenty of at-bats. With good power and what I expect to be the bulk of the catching time, I could handle Olivo in one of my catching spots. Depending on roster composition, I could also opt for Thole here, for the reasons I outlined for A.J. Pierzynski.