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It is never too early to start preparing for the fantasy baseball season. As of now, we are less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective teams’ facilities. I know I am getting even more excited for the fantasy season, not only because of the harsh winter here in Illinois, but because a new season brings new opportunities. That new opportunity could be owning a player you haven’t had the chance to own or finally winning that all important league championship. Our fantasy writers here at Six Man Rotation are bringing you our first positional player rankings for the 2018 season and we started with often overlooked catcher position.
The catcher position is usually viewed as a black hole on offense and a waste of a roster spot. However, with some strategy, it can easily become a great contributor to your offense. There are plenty of catchers that can be drafted outside the top 150 that will do more help than harm during your fantasy season. We based our rankings off of the regular 5×5 category scoring system.
Tier 1: The Elite
1) Gary Sanchez (Highest: 1, Lowest: 1): The Kraken is in his own tier here as he is the only catcher with 40 home run potential. If not for the injury in early April of 2017, he could have reached this mark while keeping a .278 average. Sanchez sees time at DH so his ability to play more than 140 games a year is just as valuable as the counting stats.
Tier 2: The Next Best Thing
2) Willson Contreras (Highest: 2, Lowest: 3): Contreras is a consistent contributor across the board. He doesn’t have the crazy power potential that Sanchez does, largely in part due to his 53.3 GB%, but should reach 24 home runs year in and year out. His 10% walk rate makes him that much more valuable in OBP leagues as well.
3) Buster Posey (Highest: 2, Lowest: 4): The recent additions by the Giants’ front office helps the catcher who is about to turn 31-years-old. The power is clearly fading, but his average should be north of .300 once again and you can’t argue with the .400 OBP. Posey has stolen 6 bases each of the last 2 years, so he should be able to swipe 5 bases again in 2018. The additions to the Giants’ lineup should help boost the counting stats that took a hit for most of the 2017 season.
Tier 3: Middle of the Road
4) Salvador Perez (Highest: 3, Lowest: 6): The Royals are a mess after losing Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas this offseason, but Perez is a known quantity. He will get you a .260 average with 20+ home runs and 60 RBI. Beware the 27-year-olds splits though as the 2nd half is never kind to him. In 2017, he had a .290 AVG and .532 SLG in the first half, but dropped to a .230 AVG and .431 SLG. Plan accordingly.
5) J.T. Realmuto (Highest: 4, Lowest: 6): Realmuto doesn’t particularly have one amazing skill, but is a 5-category contributor. He hit a career high 17 home runs so the power is developing for the Marlins catcher. Realmuto will struggle to pile up the counting stats early in the season, but he could gain a lot of value if Jeter ends up dealing him pretty much anywhere.
6) Wilson Ramos (Highest: 5, Lowest: 9): After missing the entire first half of the 2017 campaign, Ramos came back with something to prove. In his 64 games, he put up 11 home runs and a .260 average. With Longoria no longer in Tampa, the lineup surrounding Ramos is very questionable and will limit the contributions to RBIs and runs for the 30-year-old.
7) Yadier Molina (Highest: 6, Lowest: 15): Can Yadi really stay ageless forever? It certainly seems like it after what he showed in 2017. He hit 18 HR and 82 RBI with a .273 average. He led all catchers in steals with 9, but there is some risk with Molina. The drop-off has to come, but we just don’t know when. Prepare to make a move if need be during the season. That good Cardinals lineup and Cardinals magic could keep him young until the time he retires.
8) Welington Castillo (Highest: 5, Lowest: 15): With the move to the south side, Beef is set up to have a great year. The Tigers, Twins, and Royals all have mediocre to bad pitching staffs which will allow him to improve upon his 20 HR and 53 RBI season in 2017. His .282 average may drop slightly, but a .270 average with that much power is a great value at his current draft spot.
9) Jonathan Lucroy (Highest: 6, Lowest: 14): There has to be genuine concern about Lucroy after the year he had in 2017. The 31-year-old catcher slashed .265/.345/.371 with 6 home runs and 40 RBI. Lucroy played 27 games in Coors, but only hit 2 home runs. The power seems to be falling off rapidly and Lucroy is still a free agent. I am only buying if the price is right.
10) Austin Barnes (Highest: 7, Lowest: 13): Barnes took over the catcher spot for the Dodgers during the playoffs and there has been speculation whether Barnes or Grandal will be the Opening Day catcher. It is causing them to come at discounted rates right now. Barnes doesn’t have much power with only 8 home runs in 262 plate appearances in 2017, but does offer a plus hit tool along with a high OBP. You can’t argue with the 2B eligibility in most leagues as well.
11) Yasmani Grandal (Highest: 9, Lowest: 15): Grandal is a risky pick this year until we know how the catcher situation plays out in LA. After receiving 11 plate appearances through the entire postseason, he could split more time with Austin Barnes. Grandal has the higher power upside out of the two LA catchers, but that is most of his value. He offers no speed and is a drag on the batting average, especially in the cold slumps.
12) Mike Zunino (Highest: 7, Lowest: 16): Zunino finally broke out in 2017, but there should be some skepticism. The .355 BABIP shows that regression in his future, but the power is likely to stay as a part of his game. Expect the batting average to drop below .230 while he strikes out over 30% of the time. Stock up on average early in your draft if you want the power output from Zunino.
13) Evan Gattis (Highest: 6, Lowest: 16): The slugger only played in 84 games in 2017, partly due to the concussion he sustained in early August. There were plenty of weeks where Gattis would only play 3-4 games, which lowers his value significantly. Drawing walks isn’t a huge part of what he does, but if he can stay healthy, expect him to hit 22+ home runs and a .260 average while hitting in the middle of a dangerous Astros lineup.
14) Brian McCann (Highest: 9, Lowest: 15): McCann only hit 18 home runs last year, which was his lowest power output since 2007. He will turn 34 before the season starts, so the years of 20+ home runs is likely gone. Don’t expect much more than a .240 batting average out of the aging slugger either.
Tier 4: Pick Your Poison
15) Austin Hedges (Highest: 10, Lowest: 20): If you are picking Hedges, you likely waited until the last possible moment to pick a catcher. Hedges has decent power as he hit 18 home runs in 2017, but the Padres lineup isn’t anything to be afraid of so the RBI and run upside is limited.
16) Jorge Alfaro (Highest: 12, Lowest: Unranked): Alfaro’s final line from 2017 is quite deceptive. He finished with a .318 average and 5 home runs in 29 games for Philadelphia, but his BABIP was through the roof at .420. Steamer has Alfaro set for a .234/.278/.384 slash line over 42 games. I would expect the 24-year-old to play more games than that, but the slash line isn’t going to be pretty in 2018.
17) Tucker Barnhart (Highest: 15, Lowest: Unranked): Barnhart is the safest of all the catchers in this tier. He doesn’t provide over the top power, but he will give his owners a decent average while batting at the bottom of the Reds’ lineup. He has averaged 47 RBI over the past 2 years, so he little upside in that category.
18) Kurt Suzuki (Highest: 14, Lowest: Unranked): Suzuki resigned with the Braves in late September last year after putting up a career high 19 home runs. He would be great as the everyday catcher, but he has to split time with Tyler Flowers. It is unlikely that Suzuki will see much more time than the 81 games he played this past season, but could be a good fill-in during the fantasy season.
19) Robinson Chirinos (Highest: 13, Lowest: Unranked): Chirinos was another player that benefited from the juiced ball in 2017. He had a career high 17 home runs for the Rangers while keeping his average north of .250. I find it highly unlikely that the 33-year-old is just now breaking out, so don’t expect him to repeat his statline from 2017.
20) Russell Martin (Highest: 12, Lowest: Unranked): Martin turns 35 in less than a month and has already started declining as we saw in 2017. He played in 91 games for Toronto last year, but did lose time due to an oblique injury. Even before the injury he only had a .223 average, 12 HR, and 27 RBI in 81 games. The aging catcher is projected to bat at the end of the Jays’ order, so the upside is very limited across the board.
21) Tyler Flowers (Highest: 18, Lowest: 20): Flowers, as mentioned before, is splitting time with fellow Brave Kurt Suzuki. He is a solid option as a backup catcher with his double digit power and ability to maintain a decent average. The split playing time is why he is so low on the rankings.
22) Travis d’Arnaud (Highest: 16, Lowest: Unranked): d’Aranud found a way to finally stay healthy in 2017 and showed why the hype surrounded him years ago. He hit 16 home runs and drove in 57 with a .244 average last year for the Mets. He does turn 29 soon, but if he can stay healthy for the 2nd year in a row, he has a ton of value as the 275th player off the board.
23) Alex Avila (Highest: 16, Lowest: Unranked): Avila was a huge surprise in the 2017 season with his .264 average, 14 homers, and 49 RBI, but don’t be fooled. He had a sky high BABIP at .382 and is still a free agent. Even if his dad does offer him a contract to return to Detroit, the Tigers offense is going to be atrocious as they are going through a rebuild. Expect Avila to return to his 2016 form no matter what team he ends up with.
24) Christian Vazquez (Highest: 15, Lowest: Unranked): Vazquez doesn’t provide much of anything besides speed. 7 steals from the catcher position isn’t bad at all, but his .348 BABIP shows the .290 average from last year will take a hit.
25) Chance Sisco (Highest: 17, Lowest: Unranked): The highly touted Orioles prospect got his first taste of the majors in 2017. He popped 2 home runs in 22 plate appearances, but hasn’t ever hit double digit homers in the minors once. Sisco will has a tendency to swing and miss, but without the power he isn’t worth taking a risk on.
26) Carson Kelly (Highest: Unranked, Lowest: Unranked): Kelly looks like a great prospect, especially in the Cardinals system, but Yadier Molina won’t cede time to the young catcher unless there is an injury. Don’t expect much out of the 23-year-old this season. I’d expect 2018 to be all about learning from the veteran Molina while adjusting to the majors.