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January 6, 2015

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

Catchers

by Mike Gianella

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Today, we kick off our positional tier rankings. For the third year in a row, we have made this into a collaborative effort. Players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by a “star” rating.

Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they will fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are 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

$23.25

$24.20

605

72

22

89

0

.311

Devin Mesoraco

CIN

$14.67

$19.34

440

54

25

80

1

.273

Jonathan Lucroy

MIL

$18.10

$20.67

655

73

13

69

4

.301

Evan Gattis

ATL

$6.24

$13.45

401

41

22

52

0

.263

Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana are no longer catcher-eligible in 2015, so the position feels a little bit of a squeeze compared to 2014. Posey’s consistency combined with the possibility that he could crack $25 in earnings make him the top catcher in fantasy by a healthy margin. He isn’t going to be a monster the way Mike Piazza was back in Piazza’s heyday, but that would be an unfair expectation for any backstop.

Lucroy is the next-safest bet, but Mesoraco is the catcher who is most likely to hit 30 home runs, and thus jumps into this tier with the rest of the top catchers. It isn’t difficult to imagine another 100 plate appearances for Mesoraco in 2015, and if he can get to that mark the power numbers could be something to behold.

Four-Star Value Pick: Evan Gattis
Last year’s PFM values don’t put Gattis in the rest of this group’s class, but Gattis will have the advantage of playing left field all season long and could easily amass an additional 150-200 at-bats this year. The Braves’ depleted lineup could hinder Gattis’ run/RBI potential, but Gattis has the same 30-home-run potential as Mesoraco does yet is going three rounds or so later than Mesoraco in early drafts.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Yan Gomes

CLE

$14.84

$19.05

518

61

21

74

0

.278

Yadier Molina

STL

$1.58

$8.70

445

40

7

38

1

.282

Russell Martin

TOR

$8.11

$13.73

460

45

11

67

4

.290

Salvador Perez

KC

$11.93

$17.03

606

57

17

70

1

.260

Brian McCann

NYY

$11.99

$16.96

538

57

23

75

0

.232

Wilin Rosario

COL

$5.60

$11.91

410

46

13

54

1

.267

An argument could be made for including Gomes or Perez with the four-star catchers above, but in both cases they stay in the third tier. Gomes had a terrific campaign in 2014 and could certainly repeat but it is worth seeing if he has it in him to put up another big year before bidding on him like an established commodity. Perez has been solid as well, but some are concerned about the wear and tear from last year, particularly after a long postseason and a stint in Japan in November.

Molina could easily break into the four-star group as well, but an even bigger concern than his injury last year is the fact that when he did play he was far from a dynamic backstop. He turns 33 this season. While that’s not ancient, Molina has logged a significant number of innings behind the plate during his career. He is far from finished, but it is entirely possible that the days of his $20-plus production in mono formats are gone.

Three-Star Value Pick: Russell Martin
Martin’s numbers in 2014 were somewhat the product of a BABIP fluke, but moving from Pittsburgh to Toronto is a very favorable venue change for a hitter, and the Jays improved lineup will give Martin plenty of opportunities to score and drive in runs. The presence of the DH makes it very likely that Martin will get a good amount of time in the lineup on the days he isn’t catching, so it is highly likely he gets far more than the 460 plate appearances he received in 2014.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Travis d’Arnaud

NYM

$3.34

$10.11

421

48

13

41

1

.242

Wilson Ramos

WAS

$0.98

$8.63

361

32

11

47

0

.267

Yasmani Grandal

LAD

$4.65

$11.50

443

47

15

49

3

.226

Matt Wieters

BAL

($11.54)

$0.03

112

13

5

18

0

.308

Derek Norris

SD

$5.38

$10.79

442

46

10

55

2

.270

The two-star tier is dominated by batting average risks and/or injury cases. This ranking assumes that Wieters is either going to be ready by Opening Day or will only miss a week or two at the most. When healthy, Wieters has offered the good-power/low-AVG combination that most of the hitters in this tier provided last year. If it looks like Wieters is going to miss a month or more, he moves down to the one-star tier, and in shallower mixed leagues and/or one-catcher leagues he can be avoided entirely.

Ramos could easily sail into the three-star group if he stays healthy, but will he ever manage to do so? Assuming future injuries due to past injuries isn’t particularly logical, but Ramos has missed significant time during nearly every season of his career. A 20-home-run campaign is something that can never be ruled out, but it is safer to assume that he will hit 12-14 home runs and bid/draft accordingly.

Two-Star Value Pick: Yasmani Grandal
The move out of Petco should provide an immediate boost to a hitter who was already on an up-and-coming trajectory. Grandal could be a bargain compared to the rest of this tier even if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2015, but even if he merely stands still the numbers should improve somewhat simply because he is no longer playing half of his games in San Diego.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Dioner Navarro

TOR

$7.67

$13.75

520

40

12

69

3

.274

Miguel Montero

CHC

$6.02

$12.70

560

40

13

72

0

.243

Mike Zunino

SEA

$6.48

$12.36

476

51

22

60

0

.199

Jason Castro

HOU

$4.10

$9.95

512

43

14

56

1

.222

Rene Rivera

TB

($1.47)

$7.17

329

27

11

44

0

.252

John Jaso

OAK

$1.53

$7.56

344

42

9

40

2

.264

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

MIA

$0.86

$8.28

435

43

11

44

0

.220

Chris Iannetta

LAA

$1.00

$7.12

373

41

7

43

3

.252

Robinson Chirinos

TEX

$0.01

$6.64

338

36

13

40

0

.239

Tyler Flowers

CHW

$3.83

$9.67

442

42

15

50

0

.241

The trade of Norris to the Padres makes it seem that the Athletics believe Jaso can handle catching on a full-time basis. However, the acquisition of Josh Phegley makes it more likely than not that this will be a platoon. Jaso could provide great value if he somehow manages to get 500 plate appearances, but a straight-up platoon is a more likely outcome, and Billy Butler’s presence leaves far fewer opportunities for Jaso to DH.

Castro is in a similar situation in Houston. The addition of Hank Conger from the Angels along with the presence of Carlos Corporan makes it unlikely that Castro will clear 500 plate appearances in 2015. It is possible that this brings Castro’s batting average up somewhat, but the danger in two-catcher leagues is getting part-time production, especially in a mixed format.

A change of scenery could help Montero considerably, but he has not produced in the last two seasons for the Diamondbacks and it is possible that what you see is what you get. It certainly isn’t terrible, but the days of Montero producing like a near-elite option are long gone.

One-Star Value Pick: Rene Rivera
Rivera should get the opportunity to play full-time in Tampa Bay, and like Grandal the move out of San Diego helps his offensive potential a great deal. You cannot simply prorate Rivera’s power numbers to 500-550 plate appearances, but 15-17 home runs is an outside possibility, which is a pretty strong outcome for a back-end mixed-league backstop.

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

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Catchers,  Tiered Rankings

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