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January 14, 2014

Fantasy Tier Rankings

Catchers

by Mike Gianella


Today we kick off our positional tier rankings. For the second year in a row, we have made this into a collaborative effort. Players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by the number of stars.

Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be earl- round selections, and they're projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late-round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we'll allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

The first edition of the series tackles catchers.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Buster Posey

SF

$14.25

$19.03

595

61

15

72

2

0.294

Joe Mauer

MIN

$10.64

$13.78

508

62

11

47

0

0.324

Yadier Molina

STL

$18.12

$21.26

541

68

12

80

3

0.319

Carlos Santana

CLE

$16.31

$19.21

642

75

20

74

3

0.268

Jonathan Lucroy

MIL

$18.04

$23.85

580

59

18

82

9

0.280

Wilin Rosario

COL

$17.15

$21.92

466

63

21

79

4

0.292

Brian McCann

NYY

$6.30

$12.80

402

43

20

57

0

0.256


The four-star tier is pretty thick this year, and every one of these catchers could potentially earn $20 in AL- or NL-only formats. McCann will be a popular pick due to his shift to Yankee Stadium. There is an expectation in some circles that he could hit 30 home runs, but it might be more realistic to pencil in 25 if you buy McCann. Even with the richness at the top of the position, that still might wind up leading the majors.

Posey remains in the four-star tier, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he returned to 2012 form and moved up into the elite class. His HR/FB rate dropped considerably last year, but he does enough across the board that even a power bounce up to 20 home runs could make him the best catcher in fantasy.

Four-Star Value Pick: Joe Mauer
The PFM hates him, but I wind up with Mauer in at least one of my deeper leagues nearly every year. That batting average is almost automatic, and at a position where there are a lot of players who can drag you down in that category Mauer is gold. In leagues that dislike Mauer as much as the PFM does, you have to grab him at that price.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Wilson Ramos

WAS

$4.17

$10.32

303

29

16

59

0

0.272

Jason Castro

HOU

$10.86

$14.82

491

63

18

56

2

0.276

Salvador Perez

KC

$11.12

$14.53

526

48

13

79

0

0.292

Miguel Montero

ARI

$0.87

$8.23

475

44

11

42

0

0.230


Most of this tier is populated by a younger, up-and-coming class of catchers. Ramos is beloved by enough fantasy experts that you might have to push him close to the four-star group in price if you want him. Health has had the biggest impact on Ramos not reaching his ceiling, although some of his value in 2013 came from a home run binge that may or may not be repeatable.

Montero gets a boost due to his track record and the fact that he’s not old even by catcher standards. However, last year was somewhat alarming, as Montero never seemed to get into a groove for a sustained period of time. If you have faith in a bounce back, then Montero easily belongs here but given the number of strong options at the top of the heap and in this category this year, be cautious before jumping too aggressively into this market.

Three-Star Value Pick: Jason Castro
Because he is on the Astros, Castro will probably get his price bumped down by a couple of dollars due to RBI/runs concerns. The power is legitimate, though, and as long as Castro stays healthy he should produce at least on a par with what he did last season.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Matt Wieters

BAL

$11.21

$15.73

579

59

22

79

2

0.235

Evan Gattis

ATL

$6.68

$13.32

382

44

21

65

0

0.243

A.J. Pierzynski

BOS

$9.97

$14.24

529

48

17

70

1

0.272


Including Wieters in the two-star tier might seem a little controversial, but he isn’t nearly as much of an asset as a left-handed batter and given how strong the position has become isn’t an automatic inclusion in a higher tier anymore. Maybe he will emerge as a better option, but unless Wieters gives up switch-hitting, he is always going to be limited.

First half/second half stats often aren’t instructive, but Gattis’ swoon from June through August should give you pause, even if you’re a Gattis believer. The raw power is still there and he’ll continue to mash if you throw him a cookie, but it is worth approaching Gattis with some healthy skepticism. Any outcome between 30 home runs and a trip to Triple-A in June wouldn’t be particularly surprising.

Two-Star Value Pick: A.J. Pierzynski
With only three hitters here, Pierzynski gets the nod by default. He gets a lot of playing time and always manages to put up a fair amount of accumulation stats. Owning him is like watching paint dry, but A.J. will be solid and steady as long as a stays on the field.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

FLA

$11.96

$15.56

470

68

14

65

4

0.273

Yan Gomes

CLE

$4.51

$8.87

322

45

11

38

2

0.294

Welington Castillo

CHC

$2.18

$8.93

428

41

8

32

2

0.274

Devin Mesoraco

CIN

($1.36)

$6.35

352

31

9

42

0

0.238

Russell Martin

PIT

$7.32

$15.88

506

51

15

55

9

0.226

Travis d’Arnaud

NYM

($24.64)

($4.07)

112

4

1

5

0

0.202

Alex Avila

DET

$0.44

$6.06

379

39

11

47

0

0.227

Yasmani Grandal

SD

($12.65)

($0.51)

108

13

1

9

0

0.216

Carlos Ruiz

PHI

($1.27)

$6.09

341

30

5

37

1

0.268

Dioner Navarro

TOR

$1.48

$7.99

266

31

13

34

0

0.300

Derek Norris

OAK

$1.10

$6.88

308

41

9

30

5

0.246


Martin had a big year in 2013, but it’s hard to trust a catcher who is perpetually bad in batting average and goes through long periods where he does next to nothing. The power will always be there, but with the combination of stronger options ahead of him and young up-and-comers, Martin is worth owning but can be relegated to this tier.

Speaking of average, a lot of Salty’s value bump in 2013 is tied to his batting average. A .372 BABIP simply isn’t sustainable. Combine this with Saltalamacchia’s move to the National League and a tough hitters’ park and he could take a pretty significant tumble this year.

It might be tempting to push Navarro up a few bucks expecting a big power boost with the starting job in hand. However, he had a very significant HR/FB% jump that isn’t sustainable. He might improve a little bit in his overall numbers with the additional playing time, but don’t simply take his numbers and adjust upward based on plate appearances. You will be disappointed.

One-Star Value Pick: Yan Gomes
With Carlos Santana moving mostly to DH this year, Gomes should get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate. There is a good chance that he runs with the job and an outside chance that he hits 20 home runs. There are some young players in this group that might do better, but Gomes had the most success of these players in 2013. Travis D’Arnaud has the higher ceiling, but Gomes is a better choice in redraft leagues.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (01/14)

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