In order of the rankings, but we removed Roberto Hernandez and included Yorvit Torrealba, since that occurred after the rankings were posted.
Buster Posey (SFG)- After having his 2011 season cut short due to a brutal collision at home plate, many didnâ€™t know what to expect from Posey last year. All of those questions were answered when he came out and hit .353 with 9 extra base hits through the month of April. He was very consistent at the plate all year long as he only had one month where had an OPS below .800 and only two months below 1.000. His total numbers for the end of the season won him a Silver Slugger award and the NL-MVP, and his second half numbers show that he was only getting stronger as the year went on. In his final 71 games of last year, Posey had a slash line of .385/.456/.646 which is unheard of for someone whoâ€™s main position is a catcher. Look for Posey to have another solid season and build on last year. He is heading into the prime of his career at age 26 and is playing for a new contract and the fact that he gets to spend some time at first base will keep his legs and bat fresh. Expect a repeat of last yearâ€™s performance, and donâ€™t be surprised to see an increase in his power numbers as well.
Brian McCann (ATL)-McCann may miss the start of the regular season after shoulder surgery, and only hit .230 in 2012. But we still like him as the second catcher off the NL board. He is just hitting his prime, and yet he has shown some batting skills erosion over the last two years, at least superficially. Look at his OPS and HR/FB rate, give him a mulligan for 2012 and you are a winner.
Jonathan Lucroy (MIL)- Call us crazy but Lucroy looks like a catching version of Michael Morse right before his breakout; the signs are all there. 2012 was a nice consolidation year as he improved virtually across the board, and though his BA will likely regress, his skill set says he is a .290 hitter with power. Gravity is a powerful force and you wonâ€™t know until after 2013 if 2012 was a stepping stone or a peak, but thereâ€™s nothing not to like.
Miguel Montero (ARI)- Montero is money in the bank among the catching pool, and one can easily argue he should be number two among catchers, and 2012 showed that his 2011 breakout was not a fluke. The reason why he is not that high is because his BABIP is about to go ker-plop, and unless he improves his BB/K ratio his BA is about to go with it, so a .250 season may be in the offing. But maybe not.
Yadier Molina- Another player who should probably be ranked higher, and will be on every other site, most likely. But unless he is going to win the MVP award, there is no place to go but down. His HR/FB% was almost double its norm and the SB spike was a fluke of opportunity. If they both repeat we will be wrong, but if they do not we will be right. Take your pick.
Wilin Rosario (COL)- See how much better the NL catching corps is right now that the AL?Rosario might be the third best catcher in the AL, and if you do not look too closely you might think he is better than Mike Napoli. And at his age he might be. But his 25% HR/FB% is not repeatable and he has terrible control of the strike zone. Like Molina, if he repeats then we will take it on the chin, but betting on gravity is the smart play.
Carlos Ruiz (PHI)- Another fantasy gem, Ruiz has the best batting average skills among catchers, bar none. Were this the 1970â€™s his 25-game suspension would have the gameâ€™s superstars quaking in their boots, what with bowls of the stuff sitting out like tic-tacs. But hey, look at Barry Bonds, he is the cheater, not the 1970â€™s guys. Oh, and Carlos Ruiz, but thatâ€™s different you seeâ€¦Yeah, right.
Russell Martin (PIT)- That Pittsburgh gave him a multi-year deal is maybe the biggest surprise of the offseason. Pittsburgh knows what they are doing; he has the biggest gap between his expected BA and actual BA among all catchers, and they will reap that reward. The days of double-digit steals may be gone, but the 20 HR power is legitimate and throw in a .250 BA instead of .211 and you have a nice profit.
Travis Dâ€™Arnaud (NYM) â€“ This ranking pains me, as it seems silly to rank a rookie catcher this highly. But he has a clear path to playing time since the Mets are a laughingstock. You can forget the rosy predictions; he will be lucky to make it through the year as a starter, but if he does he might bop 15 HR and hit enough to not embarrass himself. On the Mets that may make him a star. As bright as his future might be, the present is rocky, and like most rookies it is a coin flip as to whether he will be any good, ever.
Kurt Suzuki (WAS)- It may end up being an interesting battle at catcher in Washington, and the winner gets to be the starter on the World Series favorites. Three straight years with a sub-.250 BA and a BB rate well below average is not exactly a big road block to get past. Suzuki is the incumbent, but there is a good chance he spits the bit. And, even if he doesnâ€™t he is still, at best a #2 fantasy catcher.
Nick Hundley (SD)- Call this a pure speculation, but Hundley has a chance to run with the job while Yasmani Grandal is out on drug suspension. His knee was an issue, as his season ended with surgery, but take out 2012 and what do you see? We see a catcher with legitimate power skills who is one good month away from 450 AB. You want an end-game catcher that might be worth $20? Here is your man.
A.J. Ellis (LAD)- Letâ€™s seeâ€¦he is 31 years old, with one decent season buoyed by a career high HR/FB and BABIP. He can take a walk so go an extra dollar in OBP leagues. To $2. Otherwise, we see a return to the fantasy waiver wire in his future. Sometimes fantasy can be a tough game, but other times it is obvious enough that it is a splash of water in the face.
Yasmani Grandal (SD)- What point does it serve to even discuss his past performance? It seems silly to speculate how a guy will do after a PED suspension. We are a minority of one (most likely) but we prefer Hundley anyway on cold dope. Feel free to speculate if you want on his rookie season stats, but catchers with no speed do not sustain .350 BABIPs. And after that, what else do you have?
Rob Brantly (MIA)- Â The mere fact that Brantly is unlikely to embarrass himself at the plate would make him a top ten catcher in the AL. And the fact that Jeff Mathis is his backup virtually ensures he will be the best bat among their catchers, for whatever thatâ€™s worth. He is like Josh Thole with a little more power; he makes good contact and should be a decent bet for a BA that will not kill you, which makes him a perfect #2 catcher in NL only.
Ryan Hanigan (CIN)- His excellent defense may win him kudos with Dusty Baker, but for our purposes, he is another one of the â€œwonâ€™t kill your BAâ€ types whose competition is the somewhat obvious flop, Devin Mesoraco. Hanigan is a poor-manâ€™s Carlos Ruiz at the plate, with very strong BA skills, and that is not chopped liver. If I knew what Dusty had in mind he might be higher on the list.
Welington Castillo (CHC) The nominal starter on a rebuilding Cubs team with Dioner Navarro (shiverâ€¦listeners of the Roundtable Show know why) Castillo is a 25-year-old up-and-comer whose BA is about to crater. His minor league numbers do not show that he can sustain last yearâ€™s .348 BABIP. In fact, even a league-average .300 may be a stretch.
Wilson Ramos (WAS)- As we said above, Ramos has a decent shot to back into significant playing time behind Kurt Suzuki. What can he do with it? Assuming he isnâ€™t permanently scarred from being kidnapped, he is coming off knee surgery. He was once a promising prospect, like so many others. We see no reason that he cannot repeat his 2011 numbers if given a chance, but anyone who says they know with any degree of certainty what he will do is lying.
Devin Mesoraco (CIN) â€“ Mesoraco is a great example of scouting gone wrong because of tacit communication and an unwillingness to buck the crowd. There was literally nothing in his minor league performance that looked like a major league starter, and we have been bashing him for years at FP911. I see no reason to stop now. Sometimes being young for your league is a positive, but other times it makes you the catching version of Wilson Betemit.
John Buck (NYM)- In a different park we might rank him more highly, since he is backing up a rookie catcher with a 50% chance of flopping, and since Buck has shown power skills. But, his BA skills in the last two seasons give us only one conclusion: he is at the end of the line. Maybe he bounces back, but maybe he is working at Sears in a year.
Erik Kratz (PHI) – His is a great story, but one that already ended. With Ruiz back, Kratz is not likely to get significant playing time, and even if he does, he is not repeating his luck-induced .800 OPS
Mike McKenry (PIT)- We are really scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point, since NL-only leaguers have to have someone to be a #2 catcher, and at least there is a glimmer of hope. His 12 HR last year is almost certainly a fluke, but at least we can say â€œalmost.â€ His HR/FB was triple 2011â€™s, but if he keeps hitting half his balls in the air he can produce a few extra homers.
Yorvit Torrealba (COL)- We continue a fine fantasy baseball tradition here with his inclusion, in that anyone with a chance at at-bats in Colorado deserves to be ranked in an NL-only league. In fact, I had written this exact same blurb about Roberto Hernandez until Colorado signed Torrealba. Makes no difference. Other than the park, there is nothing to see here.