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FanRag Sports Fantasy Baseball Guide 2017: Catcher

September 07 2016: San Francisco Giants Catcher, Buster Posey (28) during a regular season Major League Baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the visiting San Francisco Giants at Coors Field in Denver, CO. (Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)
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Top-30 Fantasy Catchers:

 

1. Buster Posey

Buster Posey has been the gold standard at catcher. Last year he showed some kinks in the armor with a depressed BABIP and spike in ground ball percentage. In order to rebound, positive regression in his BABIP will allow his average to bounce back. But Posey needs to generate more fly balls in order for his power to return. Invest in the .306/.368/.465 three-year slash line and hope the home run total returns to its 2015 total of 19, not the 14 last year.

2. Jonathan Lucroy

One of the top-three in the first tier of catchers, Jonathan Lucroy hit a career-best 24 home runs last year. In doing so, he sacrificed some contact and increased his swinging-strike rate in the process. The clear starter in Texas and playing for a long-term contract, his average should regress to the .280s, but if power holds at 20 home runs or higher, he is worth the reach.

3. Gary Sanchez

Second-half fantasy superstar Gary Sanchez had a power surge for the ages. But underneath the .305 average last year, his strikeout percentage rose to 29.7 percent in his second month while his average cratered to .225. Silver lining is his OPS stayed at .833 during the average drop and the power is for real. Price may be too high this year, but his pocket stolen bases will only enhance the pending drop in average.

4. Salvador Perez

Workhorse Salvador Perez once again reached a career-high in home runs, but it was due to a spike in fly ball percentage and hard contact (over nine percent). Is he able to shoulder another huge workload for the Royals? Will he choose average or power this year? All these questions shroud his overall fantasy stat line, but his durability could catch up to him at some point — but could reach 25 home runs this year if healthy….

5. J.T. Realmuto

Part of the allure of J.T. Realmuto as a catcher in fantasy is the opportunity to roster a player who can produce double-digits in home runs and stolen bases. His 60 runs last year are a bonus as well, finishing fourth at the position. His BABIP surge last year should correct and his average is more likely in the .280s than over .300 again, but still a solid target.

September 6, 2016 Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto (11) double to left field during a game between the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies in Marlins Park in Miami, FL. (Photo by JCS/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by JCS/Icon Sportswire)

6. Brian McCann

Moving to Minute Maid Park could enhance Brian McCann’s hitting to the opposite field to beat the shift. Having a short porch in left field could also boost his power for 2017. McCann has increased his walk and strikeout percentages the last two years. He is still a stable skill set and on the positive side of a potential platoon in Houston.

7. Willson Contreras

If you look at catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Willson Contreras would be second in wRC+ for 2016. He finished his rookie campaign with a .282/.357/.488 slash line and 12 home runs in 76 games. Take a look at his underlying statistics compared to Kyle Schwarber and profit as others chase upside in Sanchez and get Contreras 50 draft picks later.

8. Russell Martin

Although the Blue Jays’ offense will be much different this year, Russell Martin should move up in the batting order and see positive regression toward his three-year slash of .252/.354/.428. Like others, he has traded contact for power; if a few of his doubles from 2016 clear the wall, a return to 20 or more home runs is in the offing.

9. Yasmani Grandal

After much hype entering 2016, Yasmani Grandal finally had a breakout in the second half. His .246/.346/.521 slash line after the All-Star break and 15 home runs in 192 at-bats should have fantasy owners’ attention. This does represent his ceiling and some pull back in the power department could be in store this year…or he was finally healthy from shoulder problems which affected him previously. Think average in the .240s, but 20 or more home runs is well within reach.

10. Evan Gattis

Unlike most fantasy owners, the Astros have two strong catchers for 2017. Evan Gattis averaged a home run just under every 14 at-bats last year due to increases in fly ball and pull percentage. However, the signing of Carlos Beltran along with the trade for Brian McCann could cap his ceiling this year. Even with 300 at bats, he could reach 20 or more home runs, but his overall counting stats could decline. Adjust accordingly.

Houston Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis (11) looks on after hitting a line drive scoring Houston Astros Jose Altuve in the eighth inning of a baseball game between the between the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics during a MLB baseball game at Minute Maid Park, Wednesday, August 31, 2016, in Houston. Houston Astros defeated Oakland Athletics 4-3. Photo by (Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)

(Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)

11. Welington Castillo

A BABIP over .330 means a .260-plus average, but a BABIP under .300 puts the batting average below .240. Castillo will give you 15 home runs, 60 RBI and 40 runs. Expecting more is risky, but it is possible with a little luck.

12. Yadier Molina

The power has been missing for three seasons, so don’t expect double-digit power. Molina still makes elite contact and doesn’t strike out much, so you can expect a solid average and 100 combined runs and RBI. He’s an adequate placeholder until something better comes along.

13. Matt Wieters

From 2011 to 2013, Wieters averaged 22 home runs, 75 RBI and 66 runs scored over 516 at bats. He would have reached those totals last year with 77 more at bats. There is still a good hitter in there, but where he signs and how many at bats he gets will determine his value.

14. Wilson Ramos

A second surgery on his right knee and unsettled catching future puts Ramos outside the top-12 instead of in the top-5. Playing half his games at Tropicana Field doesn’t help matters. He’s worth a gamble in two-catcher formats and maybe as an end-draft dart throw for single leagues.

T-15. Stephen Vogt

After two seasons, we have a pretty good baseline for Vogt. A .255 average with 15 homers and 55 each in runs and RBI isn’t great, but it’s solid and dependable. Of all the players outside the top-12, Vogt is the safest, but there is zero upside.

19 August 2016: Oakland Athletics Catcher Stephen Vogt (21) [9076] at bat during a game between the Oakland Athletics and the Chicago White Sox at US Cellular Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

T-15. Tom Murphy

Murphy has shown us he can hit for power and average in the minors. However, he has strikeout issues and full-time at bats are questionable with Tony Wolters in the mix. This is a questionable upside pick for a second catcher, and what could be a popular waiver wire pick in one-catcher formats.

T-15. Mike Zunino

The Mariners keep giving him chances, but so far he hasn’t hit better than the .214 posted in 2013 and his strikeout percentage was above 30 the past three seasons. All that power potential means nothing if he can’t hit for average and continues to strike out.

18. Cameron Rupp

Rupp has shown steady growth the past few years and earned the trust of his manager. Short of a Jorge Alfaro breakout, Rupp should be able to duplicate his 2016 and has the potential to come close to Brian McCann in total production. Definite sleeper material.

19. Travis d’Arnaud

Odds are d’Arnaud will be drafted much higher than his ranking, and one of these years he will deliver a healthy 20-home run season with corresponding counting stats. Until that day, he is a a soon-to-be-28-year-old underachieving injury risk to gamble on late.

20. Devin Mesoraco

After missing the better part of the past two seasons with hip and shoulder surgeries, can Mesoraco return to being the 25-home run hitter from 2014? It’s possible, but he’ll have to beat out Tucker Barnhart for the majority of at bats to even get a chance to prove it.

(Tommy LaPorte/Icon Sportswire)

(Tommy LaPorte/Icon Sportswire)

21. Francisco Cervelli

Cervelli had something of a down year in 2016, both because of an extreme lack of power and missing more than a month with a fractured hamate bone in his left hand. The Pirates’ backstop was actually more like himself at the plate after his midseason DL stint, sporting a .270/.380/.352 slash line. Cervelli’s line drive approach and strong plate discipline make him a worthy target for the No. 2 catcher slot, despite his lack of thump.

22. Yan Gomes

For the second straight season, Yan Gomes experienced a substantial decline in batting average and missed extensive time with an injury. This time around, it was a separated right shoulder that took Gomes out of the lineup, and when he did play, a 16.3 percent line drive rate helped to limit him to a .167 batting average. Gomes should rebound, but abysmal plate discipline will render him no better than a No. 2 catcher.

23. Derek Norris

Norris is coming off his worst season to date, as a surging whiff rate and fluky-low .238 BABIP conspired to drag his batting average down to .186. He has bounced back from similar trends before, and now with the Nationals, Norris has a better chance to produce runs than he did with the Padres. He could be surprisingly productive as a No. 2 catcher.

24. Austin Hedges

Austin Hedges worked his way into just eight games with the Padres last season, but he enjoyed a power breakout with Triple-A El Paso. His increased fly ball rate may not generate the same results at PETCO Park as in the Pacific Coast league, but the .272 Iso he compiled with El Paso makes Hedges someone to target late, especially now that the 24-year-old figures to inherit a starting role.

25. Chris Herrmann

Herrmann has never made more than 178 plate appearances in a season and is part of a crowded catcher scenario in Arizona, yet he is an intriguing late-round option. In 56 games with the Diamondbacks last season, he posted an .845 OPS, thanks to enormous spikes in his hard-hit rate and average fly ball distance. Those may have been small-sample artifacts, but in a largely-barren catching landscape, Herrmann is worth a flier.

28 APRIL 2016: Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Chris Herrmann at bat during the Major League baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. (Photo by Wilfred Perez/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Wilfred Perez/Icon Sportswire)

26. Tyler Flowers

Tyler Flowers quietly had his best season at the plate in 2016, as more frequent hard contact and walks led to a .270/.357/.420 slash line. He will be hard-pressed to make a .366 BABIP stick, but with increased playing time, Flowers could still contribute as a No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues.

27. James McCann

McCann owns a career .284 on-base percentage and has just moderate power, but his defensive prowess should provide him with steady playing time. When it’s endgame time on draft day, that counts for something, and it gives McCann some fantasy appeal for those who missed out on the No. 2 catchers they really wanted.

T-28. Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon was an unexpected fantasy hero last season, when he began to get regular starts for the Red Sox in early July. Over the final three months, Leon batted .290 – with help from a .367 BABIP – and he compiled a .158 Iso. He had a .187 batting average entering 2016, so some skepticism is warranted, but if even some of his success carries over into 2017, he could be viable as a second catcher in mixed leagues.

T-28. Jason Castro

Jason Castro’s main fantasy asset has been his home run power, but he achieved most of that at Minute Maid Park. Now that he’s moving to Target Field – a park that is tough on left-handed power hitters – he could have little to offer fantasy owners, other than an above-average walk rate. He will be strictly an option for deep leagues.

30. Andrew Susac

The Giants did Andrew Susac a favor by trading him to the Brewers at the Aug. 1 deadline, getting him out of the shadow of Buster Posey. He also goes to a park that is a better showcase for his power skills and to an organization that has a special appreciation for his strong plate discipline. In some ways, it’s an ideal situation for Susac, but he will still have to battle Jett Bandy and Manny Pina for playing time. Particularly in deeper leagues, Susac is a nice upside play.

Others receiving votes: Tucker Barnhart, Nick Hundley, Geovany Soto

Player write-ups 1-10: Greg Jewett; 11-20: Jim Finch; 21-30: Al Melchior

Next up: Buyer Beware…

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