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January 17, 2014

Dynasty League Positional Rankings

Top 50 Catchers

by Bret Sayre

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The Primer:
Because dynasty league rankings are relatively league dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. Feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or league–only formats.

The catcher position is a tricky one, as there are a lot of players at or near the top of the list who may be playing another position in three or so years. That, plus with most leagues using one active catcher, prospects are featured a little more prominently due to both the major-league depth right now and the fact that there are diminishing returns to carrying too many backstops.

And now, your Top 50 Catchers in dynasty formats:

The crazy thing about this first tier is that, unlike most of the names that come after, there’s no guarantee they will be at the position in 2016. We already know Mauer won’t, but don’t underrate his ability to be a very solid first baseman as he moves towards his mid-thirties. Posey is the best combination of age, likelihood to maintain eligibility, and production out there, and is a pretty clear top guy.

As you can tell, I’m not going by tiers per se. But Lucroy is a guy who gets overlooked when compared to other more “famous” backstops, and he shouldn’t. He has a great home park to draw out his pop and underrated speed to boot.

There certainly are arguments to be made that these two should be higher on the list (even as high as no. 2), but there are cases against them—and in fact, spacing them out like this makes them like they are a step down from the top group (which is not necessarily true). Santana has the offensive potential that could make him the top backstop for fantasy, but he is already going to primarily be a DH in 2014. He’s likely not in danger of losing that eligibility in the next few years, even if Yan Gomes really runs with the job. Perez has age going for him (he won’t turn 24 until May), but the jury is still out on whether he will show the type of power needed to be a top-flight option at the position.

Outside of Molina, we really don’t know what to expect from this group. Rosario isn’t a catcher, despite what the lineup card says—and it’s only a matter of time before someone (possibly a player 17 spots lower than him on this list) takes his spot and pushes him to fantasy mediocrity. Ramos needs to show he can stay healthy. Castro needs to show he’s not a one-year wonder. Wieters either has to live up to his lofty potential or we need to stop being tempted by his former prospect hype (it’s probably the latter).

Here’s where the prospects start to come into play. D’Arnaud has the talent to be in the top tier, but he can’t stay on the field—which is a real problem for accruing stats. Alfaro could be the best fantasy catcher we’ve seen since Mike Piazza, but he’s going to have to hit. I’m talking 30 homers and 15 steals type of upside, which would make him a first-rounder. Gattis is Wilin Rosario without Coors Field and with more swing and miss.

Okay, he deserves his own section. There are plenty who have left him for dead—in fact, I think this is merely the second mention of him at all in Catcher Week. It’s true that his future value is very clouded by the fact that he’ll lose eligibility after 2014 and has little short-term value due to Seattle’s free-agent signing binge. Oh, and it’s clouded because he’s been terrible on the field and is coming off a PED suspension. But beyond all that, I still believe that he’ll hit. I will carry this torch for a while longer, as he’ll still play all of 2014 at age 24. This either makes me a romantic or a can short of a six-pack.

Here are six either current or former prospects, who have combined to do next to nothing at the major-league level. Mesoraco, Norris, Pinto, and Zunino could all elevate themselves into the top-10 conversation if they can fulfill their promise, though Mesoraco and Norris still carry the most fantasy upside. I remain bullish on Norris, as he has the power/speed combination that could more than offset his lack of batting average. Zunino is more name recognition at this point than fantasy value. Castillo is a highly underrated option, who could become the next Jonathan Lucroy.

The top 30 gets rounded out by veteran presents, a couple of prospects, and a player whose ranking I may get some hate mail about. Murphy is the player I mentioned earlier as the heir apparent to Rosario’s job in Colorado, and his power should play nicely in Coors. I’m not buying the Yan Gomes love. He has some pop, but had a BABIP-fueled run in 2013 that I don’t think he can replicate. If he’s a .260 hitter with 15 homers, it’s playable, but it’s also very forgettable with the depth that reigns. To buck that middling depth, Francisco Mejia is a name to know. He has Carlos Santana upside with the bat, and that’s worth paying attention to, even though he’s years and years away.

Most of these names have showed up in other posts this week, so I won’t dwell on them. However, I want to remind everyone that J.P. Arencibia still exists and he’ll probably hit 20 homers a few more times before his time on this Earth has passed. Also, Chance Sisco is another far-away prospect name to keep on your radar if you’re looking for upside. He’s not in Mejia’s class, but that’s not much of a knock anyway. Finally, the low-ish rankings on Austin Hedges, Reese McGuire, and Christian Bethancourt highlight the differences between real life and fantasy. Hedges will have value because he’ll play, but it’s tough to see him as more than a replacement-level backstop. McGuire could be more than that, but I don’t see the upside that others do and he’s much less of a sure thing. Bethancourt may have showed improvement in his second tour at Double-A, but this ranking shows how much (read: little) I think he’ll hit in the majors.

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

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