The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Catchers, Nos. 21-50
We’ve finally made it. From the 21st of January to the 20th of February, the writers at TDG will be taking you through our rankings position-by-position. As I mentioned in the primer, this year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having my personal rankings up on this site, like last year, these rankings for 2014 are of the consensus variety and being brought to you by all of the TDG staff. Everyone put a lot of work into this project, so we hope you enjoy the end result. And if you are looking for my personal dynasty league rankings, you can find them this off-season at Baseball Prospectus.
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Now the rest of the Top 50 Dynasty League Catchers, starting with a Yankee farmhand we’ve known for a long time:
21) Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 19)
Sanchez’s triple slash line from 2013 might be worrisome (.253/.324/.412) but I contend otherwise. Sanchez had a .353 BABIP in his minor league career but in 2013 his BABIP was .280. However, he posted career bests in K% (14.5%) and BB% (11.8%) in AA. His bat has never been the issue, it has always been his defense behind the plate. The 2013 season went a long way to silence any critics though, as he saw an increase in his CS% (44%) and a decrease in passed balls (13).
22) A.J. Pierzynski, Boston Red Sox (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 23)
Pierzynski is entering his age 37 season and it very well may be his last. We all know what kind of offensive numbers to expect from A.J., .270/.310/.430 with 10-15 HR and 65 RBI if he gets full playing time in Boston. Pierzynski has a BB% of 4.0% and a K% of 11.5% over his career, however that K% rate has been in the 14-15% range the last two seasons. He won’t kill your ratio stats and can provide some positive counting stats in a deep mixed league or 2 catcher format.
23) Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 33)
It has now been three consecutive years that Martin has failed to post better than a .240/.330/.410 triple slash line. However, he has managed to hit roughly 15-20 HR and knock in 55-65 RBI consistently. He will continue to kill your rate stats but can also provide some low cost power numbers in deep mixed leagues.
24) Welington Castillo, Chicago Cubs (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 38)
With 652 PA under his belt at the major league level, Castillo has produced a 60/14/59 stat line with a .269/.341/.407 triple slash. The sparkle is starting to fade of this “catcher of the future” in Chicago. With 2014 being his age 27 season, there is still a glimmer of hope that he can put it together and stay on the field for a full season. There won’t be a lot of runs scored on the North Side, so his only real contribution comes in the form of OBP and if we’re lucky, solo HR’s.
25) Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 28)
Ruiz has only one season in his career where he posted 49+ R, 10+ HR, 54+ RBI and two seasons with a triple slash better than .285/.375/.440 and 2012 falls into both of those categories. After only playing in 92 games last season, it’s hard to believe that he’ll be able to reproduce such a large outlier of a season. Temper your expectations.
26) Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 27)
Oh Alex Avila…you burst onto the scene like a superhero to save the day in 2011 but ever since that fateful season you have slowly faded into the shell of what could have been. A consistently decreasing BB% combined with an ever increasing K%, a dip in ISO for two straight seasons and the fact that you can’t stay on the field leaves this former owner daydreaming of the parallel universe where his 2011 investment in you actually paid dividends.
27) Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
With a total of 131 games to your name, the sample size is small but the promise is big. After an abysmal 2012 campaign in Toronto, you were able to reduce your K% from 28.8-20.8, which still isn’t great but it’s an improvement. You were also able to increase your ISO by 20 points and keep your BB% at a consistent level. If the positive downturn continues and you get ample playing time in Cleveland, I can easily see a .280/.340/.480 line with 15-18 HR this season.
28) Derek Norris, Oakland Athletics (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 16)
Relegated to the small portion (LHP) of a platoon with John Jaso is not quite the future a lot of us expected for you. We all love the idea of Derek Norris, especially that he is still young enough to turn it around, but at this point, I can’t see investing in him in anything less than a deep, deep mixed league and as a backup catcher.
29) Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 6)
As our fearless leader, The Dynasty Guru stated in a discussion about Montero’s ranking, “…it makes my heart sad that you all are leaving him for dead. He’s in a bad way right now and his catcher eligibility is clearly a thing of the past, but he still has more fantasy upside than all but about two or three names on that list.” I hope the Guru is right and Jesus can resurrect his career, but it will probably take more than three days.
30) Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 20)
The downgrade in Swihart’s rank is not as much an indicator of his ability or ceiling, but more about how raw he is and how the real test of AA pitching will be the tell-tale sign of his future status. He posted a rather remarkable .298/.366/.428 in A+ but that came along with only 2 HR over 422 PA.
31) Stryker Trahan, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 21)
In 108 games over 2 seasons at Rookie ball, Trahan posted 15 HR and a .266/.370/.467 triple slash. He grades out with plus power from the left side and a plus arm, however his defensive skill set is quite raw. Arizona will give him a lengthy try out at catcher, but if he is forced to move at the higher levels, he will still hit enough to be an everyday regular at first base or a corner outfield spot.
32) J.P. Arencibia, Texas Rangers (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 22)
This might be the first truly warranted drop in rankings for this season. Arencibia has a horrendous K% (28.7%) over his career and takes a walk approximately once every nineteen at-bats. He does provide decent power numbers and should be in line for an increase in counting stats playing in Arlington, but he is the truest form of average killer out there.
33) Dioner Navarro, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)
Navarro had a career season last year with 13 HR and a .300/.365/.492 triple slash over 89 games. He had three consecutive seasons as a starting catcher in Tampa, but has been an otherwise perennial back up. He is now slotted into the starting role with Toronto and over the course of a full season, you can expect some regression from his 2013 performance. I’d say a safe bet is 10 HR and a .265/.320/.450 slash line.
34) John Jaso, Oakland Athletics (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 31)
As stated in the Derek Norris comments above, Jaso is the larger half of the catching platoon in Oakland. When used accordingly, he can provide you with some cheap counting stats and a slash line that won’t kill you (31/3/21 and .271/.387/.372 in 2013). It’s obvious why Norris is ranked higher even though Jaso gets the bulk of the playing time.
35) Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Murphy was a 3rd round pick in 2012 out of a cold weather school (Univ. of Buffalo), so it was expected that he would be a bit raw and that with some regular playing time he’ll start to come around. He did exactly that in 2013. In 100 games across A/AA he produced a 64/22/83 line with a .289/.376/.571 triple slash. Murphy is a personal favorite of mine as I had him ranked at #22 in my personal rankings. If you can get him this year do it, before the price skyrockets.
36) Reese McGuire, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
2013 1st-round pick had a strong debut season both offensively (.323/.380/.380) and defensively. Keep an eye on him as he enters full-season ball this year.
37) A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 37)
His injury-plagued 2013 came on the heels of a breakout 2012 season at the late age of 31. The Dodger’s primary catcher. If healthy, Ellis’ daily presence in the Dodgers’ potent lineup makes him a quality, cost-effective #2 catcher for your fantasy team.
38) Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 32)
Prospect catcher whose phenomenal defensive skills generate raves while his bat generates pessimism. May not see steady playing time in the majors any time soon as he is likely blocked for the next few years in San Diego by Yasmani Grandal.
39) Ryan Doumit, Atlanta Braves (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 26)
Aging, injury-prone catcher whose above-average bat is capable of occasional prolonged hot streaks when healthy. His multi-position eligibility makes him a good option as a backup catcher who can fill in at other positions in a pinch for your fantasy team.
40) Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians (Age: 18, Previous Rank: NR)
18 year old had a breakout season with the bat in Rookie Ball in 2013. Still several years away from the major leagues and possible fantasy relevance.
41) Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta Braves (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Another fantastic defensive catcher who can’t hit. Bethancourt has power but struggles to make contact. Will play in the majors for a long time but will likely never be a good fantasy option.
42) Max Stassi, Houston Astros (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Young catcher on the verge of the major leagues with real potential in his bat. Could even be an option at DH for the Astros, which would greatly help his fantasy value because he is unlikely to supplant Jason Castro behind the plate in Houston.
43) Hank Conger, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 34)
Offensive-minded catcher coming off a disappointing season in 2013. If he ever gets hot long enough to earn the majority of the playing time for the Angels he could become a good fantasy catcher. Until then he just doesn’t get enough at-bats to be an option for your team.
44) Geovany Soto, Texas Rangers (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 44)
After dismally poor years in 2011 and 2012, Soto hit well last year in limited duty. Pegged to be the primary catcher in Texas this year, but don’t expect much.
45) Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 46)
2012 Supplemental 1st-round pick out of Purdue. The 23 year old polished college veteran has hit well in the low minors, including an .838 OPS in Low-A and High-A in 2013. If he continues to hit in the upper minors he could see major league time in 2015 and become fantasy relevant in 2016. Could see a swift ascent up the prospect charts this year, be ready to pounce in dynasty leagues.
46) Clint Coulter, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 30)
2012 1st-round pick out of high school. Struggled with the bat in Low-A last year and was sent back to Rookie ball, but he is still expected to be a good major league player. He is almost three years younger than Plawecki, so it is not unexpected for him to produce weaker stats at the same level. Poor defense may get him switched to an easier position.
47) Josh Phegley, Chicago White Sox (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
Nothing to see here. Not a good hitter and unlikely to ever become one. Generated some interest with a hot start to his major league career in July 2013, hitting 3 home runs in his first 5 games, but cooled off rapidly and permanently after that. He ended the season with a .522 OPS in 65 games. Will split time with Tyler Flowers for the White Sox in 2014.
48) Tony Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
The prospect star has faded for this soon-to-be 26 year old minor leaguer. He may yet have a major league career but all those predictions of stardom will go unfulfilled.
49) Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 29)
The future never came for this long-time “Future Star”. His flashes of brilliance are all too rare. He splits time with Hank Conger, which makes neither of them a fantasy option.
50) Ryan Hanigan, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 45)
Hanigan is a defensive wizard behind the plate and has had some OBP success in the majors, but he is coming off a hugely disapointing season which caused him to be dumped by the Reds this winter. Now with Tampa Bay, he will likely not get enough at-bats for fantasy relevance.
Commentary by Andy Barnes and Nick Doran.