With the holiday season behind us, it’s time to begin our positional preview series. This series will include a week-long focus on each position needed to compete in your fantasy baseball league(s). We will cover general rankings, an overview of the position and some target/avoids at each position.
Today we begin behind the plate. While the catching position isn’t the most exciting to roster on draft day, at least one catcher is needed and in many leagues, two are required. For this exercise we will assume a standard 12-team mixed league with two catchers.
The catcher position entering 2017 has an evenly distributed talent pool. There’s enough talent for around half the owners in a 12-team mixed league to roster what I would consider a top-end catcher. If you decide playing in the expensive side of the pool isn’t for you, there’s another mid-tier group that consists of roughly eight catchers. If you decide to shop here, I’d recommend double dipping as the talent level drops considerably following this group of catchers. If you jumped early and selected an elite level catcher, you might feel content waiting until the final picks to roster your second catcher, but remember, any leg up on your competition you can gain will help you finish in the money. Consider attacking the catching position again towards the back-end of the mid-tier pool even with an elite catcher rostered.
- Buster Posey over Jonathan Lucroy: It’s true that Lucroy had an impressive power season in 2016, while Posey saw his overall power game decline. The home ballparks also tend to favor Lucroy going forward. That said, Buster Posey still owns one of the better batting eyes in the game and is making hard contact well above the league average rate. The home run difference between the two catchers should be smaller than it was in 2016, while Posey will edge out Lucroy in batting average, runs+RBI and overall plate appearances.
- Young Catchers: The high-end tier of catchers includes two fairly new additions to the player pool, Willson Contreras & Gary Sanchez. While Gary Sanchez set the baseball world on fire with his insane couple of months in the big leagues last season, Willson Contreras was busy not only catching, but playing the outfield for the eventual World Series Champions. Owners in keeper or dynasty leagues should be excited with either selection. My personal preference long-term is Contreras, who I believe will grow into a high batting average, 20 to 25 home runs catcher, potentially as early as the 2017 season. That’s not to take anything away from Gary Sanchez, who is likely to approach 30 home runs in 2017, but I do worry the batting average, as well as the counting statistics on the 2017 Yankees, will bring down his overall value this season as compared to where he’s being selected in drafts.
The top three catchers will cost you a top 50 pick essentially. The talent available at other positions this early leads me to believe I will not be rostering one of these top three catching options. Fortunately, the pool really opens up after this. As you can see from the chart above, if you’re willing to dive in around pick 100, there will be plenty of top options available. Whether you’re looking for power (Evan Gattis (84), Yasmani Grandal (142), or Brian McCann (159)), or prefer a more rounded first catcher (Willson Contreras (99), J.T. Realmuto (110), or Welington Castillo (186)), there’s plenty to choose during this part of the draft.
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III