It’s time to wrap up the infield by ranking the only position that rivals shortstop in terms of awfulness, and that’s catcher. While the top of the pile is more encouraging than it has been in years thanks to a few talented sluggers, the fact that there are so many defensive-oriented backstops in the majors makes this position a chore to get through on draft day. It’s even worse if you play in a league that requires two catchers in your everyday lineup, but hey, you could be in the setup I’m in that is NL-only with two starting catchers. Imagine that depressing scenario when you’re having trouble picking just one catcher for your own team.
One thing you need to remember for these tiers-since stars are meant to be somewhat even across all positions for easy decision making, you will notice a lack of quantity in the five- and four-star tiers at catcher. Between the low offensive expectations at the position, even for those that are considered productive options, and the lack of playing time (no catcher plays every game), it’s very difficult to hit so well that you make yourself elite or just missed in those regards.
- Players are no longer ranked by number (the 1-20 system). Instead, I am implementing a tiered system using stars (five stars is the best, one is the lesser of your options). These stars are equal across positions to make comparisons between them easier-for example, there are three five-star first basemen, but there may be more or fewer than that at other positions-if it comes to it, the first player at a position may be a four-star option. You can derive positional scarcity from the number of four- and five-star players available and make decisions from there. Players are loosely ordered within tiers, with my first preference to my last.
- I am no longer just covering 20 players per position-each list may be a bit different in length, but this list of catchers is 49 players long. This should let players in AL- or NL-only league be as prepared as those in mixed leagues. There are two things I did to make this happen. First, I used the depth charts as my guide (this is also where the projections listed come from) and picked the starting player for every team at the position, giving me a minimum of 30 guaranteed choices. Second, for players with multiple position eligibility, I included them in the list for each position. It is possible they will have different star ratings at different positions, though, so make sure you reference the correct set of rankings. Victor Martinez is a three-star first baseman-it’s a very crowded position, and his numbers are very average for it-but at catcher, where the talent pool is shallower, Martinez is worth more. This allows me to show you at which position a player is most valuable. If there is anyone I missed that you want to know about, please ask me about them via e-mail or in the comments, and I’ll get back to you with my thoughts.
I’m sure seeing Mauer here by his lonesome was shocking. It isn’t even that other catchers aren’t capable of putting up the line listed in the forecast above-seeing Brian McCann hit .328 wouldn’t be a shocking development, and he could even do it with more power than that. No, what separates Mauer from the others, and allows him to be considered elite, not just as a catcher but as a hitter, is the fact that this is just one of many likely scenarios for him. His 70th percentile has him at .336/.438/.522, and his 90th is .344/.473/.553. After watching him hit .365/.444/.587 last year, with 94 R, 96 RBI and 59 extra-base hits, both of these seem possible. Banking on last year would be a bit much, but it’s good to see PECOTA feels it’s in the cards.
Four Stars Player PA AVG/OBP/SLG R HR RBI SB Brian McCann 542 .290/.366/.488 58 20 84 3 Victor Martinez 556 .286/.363/.463 62 18 81 1 Jorge Posada 433 .270/.361/.440 44 14 56 2 Chris Iannetta 457 .253/.372/.461 54 16 63 0
McCann’s forecast looks a lot like his 2009 campaign, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he reached his 70th percentile of .307/.386/.543. Maybe with a tad less power, unless he reproduced his career high ISO, but his weighted mean seems to be on the safe side. Martinez gets bonus points since he’s eligible at first base and may pick up some at-bats there or at DH when he’s spelled behind the plate. Being in the lineup everyday is an advantage over 95 percent of the players listed behind him, and that’s without mentioning that he’s a better hitter than just about all of them.
I don’t expect 2009 out of Posada again, but this forecast is still a bit low to me. I like his 70th of .287/.386/.490 a bit more, though the power there may be a little high-it’s still a drop below his 2007 and 2009 performances, but within the realm of realism. Iannetta had a low batting average last year, partially from a .253 BABIP, and he didn’t get the playing time to let things level out. He did, however, have a ton of power, with an ISO of .232 to follow up on 2008’s .240 mark. If he can get that batting average straightened out-and Coors Field is the place for bringing a BABIP back up-then he’s going to be worth this position.
Three Stars Player PA AVG/OBP/SLG R HR RBI SB Geovany Soto 499 .276/.367/.476 55 17 71 1 Ryan Doumit 482 .290/.346/.468 54 16 65 4 Matt Wieters 513 .296/.367/.479 62 19 68 2 Mike Napoli 356 .261/.356/.509 59 24 55 5 Miguel Montero 387 .272/.350/.454 47 13 48 1 Kurt Suzuki 608 .282/.344/.417 66 14 71 5 Yadier Molina 563 .297/.364/.416 48 11 63 4 Russell Martin 499 .277/.375/.414 62 11 56 8 Bengie Molina 457 .282/.310/.452 39 15 71 0
If PECOTA can forgive Soto his 2009 without even knowing he legitimately came into spring training this year in the best shape of his life (hint: the shape was not round) then I guess I can, too. His BABIP needs to rebound for his line to come back, but there’s really no direction for a .246 one to go except up -as long as he can avoid the injuries that diminished his production in 2009, he should be fine. Doumit is another catcher who dealt with injuries in 2009, as a broken wrist knocked him out of action and kept him from doing well upon his return. He was forecasted for .281/.344/.453 in 2009, and finished strong in September, so the hope is that his wrist is fully healed and he can go back to doing what he’s capable of.
I was very much against Wieters’ forecast for 2009, but this 2010 one seems much more reasonable. He hit .288/.340/.412 in his rookie season, including a strong finish of .333/.395/.486 in September/October. Do I expect him to play like that in 2010? Of course not. But by year’s end, this projection will seem right, even if it isn’t evident the first month or two, Napoli has two issues: playing time split with Jeff Mathis and his batting average. You can live with one of them and maybe even plop him into the four-star category, but unless he’s consistently hitting for a high average or locks Mathis into the equipment closet on days he’s supposed to start, then he’s regrettably in the three-star tier. It’s a shame. How many other .500-plus slugging percentages do you see forecasted for catchers without resorting to the 70th-or-above percentiles?
Montero matched his forecast for 2009, which was actually a little more optimistic than this. Though he’s splitting time with Chris Snyder, he’ll still get the majority of the playing time, and he’s capable of at least the forecast above. Suzuki’s line isn’t the prettiest, but he’s expected to play a ton, which is rare at this position. This should help out his counting stats, which is good for both roto or head-to-head. It’s funny to think Yadier Molina may be the best-hitting Molina, but there he is, ranked above both of his kin. Like Suzuki, he’s about quantity over quality, though he won’t hurt you with what he does offer.
Martin’s appeal wears thinner with the fewer bases he swipes and the more his power diminishes, so instead of being an elite option, he’s now down here with the average folk. I’m not giving up on him entirely based of off 2009, though I did rank him No. 5 last year ,but if you’re expectations are even lower than mine then feel free to kick him into the two-star tier.
When you combine Bengie Molina’s OBP with the Giants‘ offense, you end up with a projected 39 runs scored. He should pick up some RBI and hit for some solid power, and his batting average can help you stay afloat. This is a three-star that I can very easily see being a two, especially if Buster Posey starts to cut into his playing time.
You may have noticed we’ve gone through three tiers and have covered 14 of the 60 catchers. The last two tiers are loaded, but in the same way that the shelves in a dollar store are always full of stock that no one wants, even at a fair price.
Two Stars Player PA AVG/OBP/SLG R HR RBI SB Kelly Shoppach 323 .240/.335/.449 39 14 39 0 Jesus Flores 308 .255/.321/.408 28 9 47 0 Brayan Pena 291 .287/.339/.439 29 7 33 2 A.J. Pierzynski 453 .276/.318/.417 45 12 40 1 Nick Hundley 399 .232/.302/.404 39 14 50 3 John Baker 342 .259/.353/.402 38 8 39 1 Ronny Paulino 308 .262/.335/.412 28 8 34 1 Chris Snyder 281 .231/.343/.408 27 9 36 0 Jarrod Saltalamacchia 299 .265/.337/.456 49 16 46 1 Taylor Teagarden 266 .237/.318/.447 31 11 32 1 John Buck 411 .225/.300/.411 39 15 45 1 Carlos Ruiz 433 .262/.363/.404 43 9 47 2 Gerald Laird 399 .253/.326/.386 48 9 36 3 Rod Barajas 299 .247/.299/.433 31 11 41 0 Gregg Zaun 389 .230/.349/.373 37 9 37 0 Buster Posey 140 .268/.344/.427 17 4 15 1 Miguel Olivo 246 .251/.289/.447 24 9 31 3 Lou Marson 420 .260/.354/.364 46 6 42 3 Rob Johnson 399 .255/.319/.374 35 7 35 3 Dioner Navarro 323 .268/.325/.412 34 8 34 3 Ramon Castro 161 .257/.326/.501 19 9 27 0
Shoppach is harmful to your batting average, but should have plenty of power for the position, and gets on base enough that he’ll be able to pick up some runs in the Rays lineup. Flores would easily be a high three-star player (forecast notwithstanding) if he was guaranteed 60 percent of the playing time. His 90th percentile of .276/.346/.456 seems like it should be his weighted mean after hitting .301/.375/.505 in 2009-his .381 BABIP is of concern, but the regression here seems extreme. He’s still young and developing, after all.
Pena should easily match his forecast, if for no other reason that it will make every Jason Kendall plate appearance that much more of a problem for Royals fans. Pierzynski seems to be everyone’s option when they miss out on the elite catchers, but you can’t all have him. Don’t any of you play in leagues together? Hundley won’t pick up all of the playing time thanks to the Yorvit Torrealba acquisition, but the depth charts are confident he’ll still pick up most of it by year’s end. Petco Park is a problem, but his numbers are still adequate for the position.
Baker doesn’t have a ton of power, but he gets on base and will pick up runs. He’s like a poor man’s version of the Suzuki-type. Paulino also fits into that mold, though with less in the on-base department. Snyder could be a starting catcher for many teams in the league, but he’s paired up with the talented Montero, and therefore sits in the two-star tier with the rest of the playing time-impaired.
You would think the Rangers could grow one worthwhile catcher from their crop, but as of yet, they have harvested nothing but disappointment. Saltalamacchia’s line would be a huge improvement over 2009’s .233/.390/.371, and Teagarden’s .217/.370/.374 shows he has just as much to prove. They are here for their upside, otherwise their performances would have them ranked even lower. You know what you’re getting with Buck: a low average but good power for a catcher. The R and RBI depend on his lineup, but the Blue Jays should have a decent one this year.
There isn’t much to say about the rest of this group. Posey is intriguing because the Giants are willing to give him at-bats elsewhere on the diamond rather than wasting him on the bench. Castro and Olivo are players to target in-season if the starters in front of them go down, as both provide huge power for catchers. The rest of these guys are one-star catchers with the plate appearances of someone better, which will hurt your rates but help your counting stats if you’re that desperate for a catcher.
One Star Player PA AVG/OBP/SLG R HR RBI SB Jason Kendall 356 .266/.340/.350 30 3 33 3 Ivan Rodriguez 342 .251/.286/.373 30 7 32 2 Ryan Hanigan 342 .263/.380/.350 32 4 25 1 Ramon Hernandez 342 .269/.345/.429 43 13 62 1 Humberto Quintero 333 .252/.295/.366 27 6 26 0 Omir Santos 266 .248/.298/.350 21 5 29 0 J.R. Towles 266 .243/.290/.412 30 7 32 2 Jason Varitek 259 .223/.339/.374 21 6 24 0 Jeff Mathis 259 .226/.301/.372 30 7 26 1 Jason Jaramillo 259 .256/.324/.375 24 5 26 1 Brian Schneider 233 .259/.353/.382 17 5 26 0 George Kottaras 233 .222/.317/.381 22 7 22 0 Alex Avila 199 .249/.336/.415 19 6 29 1 Adam Moore 199 .241/.299/.388 19 5 22 0 Yorvit Torrealba 199 .244/.310/.361 18 4 21 1 Francisco Cervelli 180 .254/.322/.354 16 2 15 1 Koyie Hill 166 .231/.297/.348 15 3 16 1 Mike Redmond 161 .270/.323/.347 12 2 17 0 Jose Morales 152 .289/.349/.395 13 2 11 0 Landon Powell 152 .223/.324/.400 16 5 18 0 Chad Moeller 137 .230/.280/.328 11 2 12 1 Raul Chavez 137 .241/.275/.340 11 2 12 1 Brad Ausmus 133 .244/.323/.351 10 2 10 1 David Ross 108 .222/.336/.383 9 3 9 0 Jason LaRue 105 .214/.291/.332 9 3 9 0
Remember how I said I would order them within tiers using the “gun to my head” principle, meaning that if you forced me to choose between evenly-distributed talent, I would name so-and-so over that guy? Well, here I used that idea, down in the dank depths of the catcher rankings, to organize the tier by playing time. This far down, all you are looking for is someone who will pick up some plate appearances-otherwise, why would you care who any of these guys are? Excepting the terrible twosome of Kendall and Rodriguez at the top, no one here will have a starting job, and these aren’t interesting backups either, like your Penas of Floreses from above.
The one item of separation these catchers have is their playing time, as none have impressive rates (excepting Hernandez, who has a forecast that I will politely refer to as “suspect”). It’s all about how many R, RBI and HR they can accumulate for you in your second catcher slot or as a desperation backup on a deep roster.