It’s been over two months since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, ending the 2016 baseball season. But if you’re like most fantasy baseball owners, those two months probably feel like two years. Considering it’s still another month until Spring Training even starts, late January has to be the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s too late to reflect on last year, but next season is too far ahead to look forward to. Luckily, with a little help from The Dynasty Guru, the next month is survivable, as we’ll be ranking and commenting on a whole lot of players over the next six weeks.
The Dynasty Guru’s hard-working staff has spent countless hours crafting these rankings, and we hope you enjoy and continue to support our efforts by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
With that, we’ll continue our look at baseball’s backstops (1-20 here), beginning with a player who’s bound to go within the first five picks of your dynasty league’s rookie draft this year. The complete list of consensus dynasty baseball rankings can be found here.
21) Zack Collins, Chicago White Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
The buzz on Collins before the 2016 draft was consistent: dude rakes. As the 10th overall pick, he has hit the ground running, by well, raking, en route to an .885 OPS in his first 153 plate appearances as a professional. As an advanced college hitter, Collins should rise through the White Sox system quickly, but doubts about his defensive ability behind the plate could relegate the slugger to a 1B/DH role in the future. Luckily, the bat is good enough to play anywhere on the field, and, if Collins remains behind the plate, he could eventually be one of the top fantasy catchers in the game.
22) Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 17)
Vogt broke out in 2015 with a .261/.341/.443 season with the A’s. Since then, he’s seen his plate discipline erode (his 6.6% walk rate fell precipitously from an 11% mark the year before), though the solid power has remained intact (32 homers in the last two seasons). Vogt should continue to play enough to make a positive contribution in the home run category, and that alone should make him a useful fantasy catcher, considering how barren the position is. Along with the high floor comes some upside as well, as Vogt could outperform those around him on this list if he can rekindle his ability to get on base.
23) Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 15)
Molina has hit for average over the entirety of his 47-year career, which is an awfully important trait to have in the low batting average environment we live in today. Since 2007, Molina has only dropped below a .270 average once, and he hasn’t shown any visible signs of slowing down after slashing .307/.360/.427 in 2016. While Molina’s heavy workload could leave the veteran susceptible to nagging injuries, it should also help create volume for counting stats, something he’ll need given a lack of impact elsewhere in fantasy.
24) Matt Wieters, Free Agent (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 13)
Wieters bet on himself last offseason by accepting the Orioles’ qualifying offer and delivered a perfectly “meh” 2016, hitting .243 with a .711 OPS. In Wieters, you’re hoping for middling power and consistency in playing time (that he hasn’t yet signed with a team throws another wrench in the equation), which does still bring some value. While he wasn’t great in 2016, he did suffer from a .265 BABIP, the second lowest in his career, so we could see a slightly batting average rebound next season. Still, don’t let the name value fool you, as Wieters is about as mediocre as it gets behind the plate.
25) Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 29)
The Orioles’ catcher of the future (unless Wieters re-signs, in which case “The Orioles trade bait of the future”) continued to build his reputation as a solid offensive option behind the plate in 2016 by slashing .320/.406/.422 in Double-A Bowie. Perhaps more important are the reports that Sisco greatly improved his defensive skills at the dish, offering optimism that he’ll stick as a catcher. While Sisco will always carry risk as a prospect because of his position, the increased positional certainty and excellent hit tool mitigate some of the volatility. Now, it’s time to buy some shares and cross your fingers that his power can develop, which could make him one of the better prospects in baseball.
26) Derek Norris, Washington Nationals (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 12)
Norris somehow made the All-Star team in 2014, hitting .270 with a .764 OPS and 10 homers. Since then, it’s been a downhill slide. Perhaps the decline can be attributed to a deadly duo of Padre stink and poor batted ball luck (.238 BABIP last season), and if that’s the case, his move to Washington and a normal regression to the mean might signal an improvement. Still, it’s hard to be optimistic about a player who hit .186/.255/.328 in 2016, so keep your expectations low for now.
27) Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 11)
Let’s start with the good: Gomes can be acquired for essentially nothing right now, has great power potential, is hitting in a strong lineup, and was excellent in 2013 and 2014. Now, here’s the bad news: Gomes swings at everything (his 57 percent swing rate is way above the 46.5 percent league average), can’t take a walk as a result, and has hit .205/.240/.365 over the past two seasons. Still, there’s reason for hope, as Gomes’ 2015 was derailed due to a knee injury and he had .189 BABIP in 2016. A return to normalcy (both health-wise and luck-wise) could signal a bounceback next season, though we’re also betting on production from three years ago, so don’t get too excited.
28) Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 22)
Cervelli is the latest in the long line of “better in reality than in fantasy” players. A framing wizard, Cervelli has struggled to find anything resembling power in his offensive arsenal, and given his .374 career slugging percentage, that’s probably not going to change. He still knows how to handle a bat, however, with a career .280 batting average and .361 OBP. If he can continue to display these skills, and stay healthy to boot, Cervelli can be a sneaky good option, especially in OBP leagues.
29) Cameron Rupp, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 38)
Rupp was a welcome surprise for the Phillies last year as a potentially competent placeholder for Jorge Alfaro. He doesn’t walk enough and strikes out a little too much to be a batting average asset, but he does have some pop and averaged a 95 mph exit velocity against fastballs last season. If he can duplicate his .195 ISO from 2016, he should remain playable for the near future, but once Jorge Alfaro is big league ready (which shouldn’t take long), playing time may be hard to come by for Rupp.
30) Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 43)
Hedges had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2015, but things couldn’t have gone much worse than the .168/.215/.248 line he recorded over 152 plate appearances. He rebounded in a big way in 2016 by deciding to just let ‘er rip, hitting .326 with a .951 OPS and 21 dingers in Triple-A. Alas, this isn’t the massive breakout you might have hoped, as his explosion at the plate occurred in a favorable offensive environment and only lasted until the All-Star Break (223 wRC+ in the first half, 91 wRC+ in the second half). That doesn’t mean we should completely discount his performance, and it’s worth taking a flier on Hedges, but don’t buy shares of this defensive-minded catcher with the expectation of him repeating that 2016 in the big leagues.
31) Jacob Nottingham, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 27)
Acquired last offseason in the Khris Davis trade, Nottingham did not have the campaign that the Brewers were hoping for. He struck out in nearly a third of his plate appearances and didn’t walk enough to make up for it, leading to a .234/.295/.347 line. The good news for Nottingham is that he was one of the youngest players in the league last season, and should get the chance to redeem himself next year and beyond. With even the slightest improvement, his raw power could reclaim for him the luster he had as a prospect in the Astros’ system in 2015.
32) Andrew Susac, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 32)
Susac began his career with the cushy job as Buster Posey’s backup, which is good work if you can get it, but it sure doesn’t provide much room for growth. A deadline deal to the Brewers should give Susac the opportunity to sink or swim on his own merits, starting in 2017. Always a free swinger in the past, Susac managed to cut down on the strikeouts with Triple-A Sacramento last season, a trend that, if it should hold, could make his bat playable for the Brew Crew.
33) Carson Kelly, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
As the heir apparent behind the plate for the Cardinals, Kelly offensively shares a lot of the same traits to the man he hopes to replace. As a result, this is a ‘better in reality than fantasy’ profile, with impressive contact skills but little power. That doesn’t mean Kelly’s a fantasy zero, but he won’t blow any fantasy owners away unless defense is a category. However, with a little #CardinalsDevilMagic sprinkled in, he’ll probably be a seven-time All-Star, you know, just like that other guy.
34) Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 39)
Stephenson hit .216/.278/.324 and somehow managed to creep up five spots from last year’s list (which, if anything, should teach you never to count on catchers for consistency). The former eleventh overall pick had his 2016 season cut short due to wrist surgery, but he’s still quite young and should be back ready to go by Spring Training. The raw power and bat flipping skills that got Stephenson drafted so highly remains intact, so he remains a prospect to keep an eye on, as long as it’s with the intention of being in it for the long haul.
35) Jason Castro, Minnesota Twins (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 34)
Unless you play in a weird league that has “framing runs” as a category, Castro might be tough to keep on the roster. After signing with the Twins this offseason, thanks mostly to his defensive merits, Castro should have plenty of opportunities to hold the starting job. However, after failing to hit above .222 the past three seasons, that might not be such a good thing for fantasy purposes. Expect a low average, low teens home runs, and maybe a stolen base or two (max) if he’s feeling frisky. If that potential line is putting you to sleep, well, you aren’t alone.
36) Chris Herrmann, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Drafted in the 6th round back in 2009, Herrmann had been a Minnesota Twin for his entire career until this past season, when he served as the platoon-mate to Welington Castillo in the desert. Herrmann became a herrMANn in 2016 by launching 6 homers in just 166 PAs, and now that Beef Wellington is in Baltimore, Herrmann will have a shot at the everyday job at catcher for 2017. He’ll have to beat out Chris Iannetta for the job, but considering Iannetta’s light bat, that wouldn’t be a surprise. At 29-years-old, it’s not impossible that he has turned a corner and can provide league-average offense from behind the dish, both for Arizona and perhaps your fantasy squad.
37) Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Seen as a key piece to the Dee Gordon deal back in 2014, Barnes still has not gotten a proper opportunity to showcase what he can do in the Major Leagues. Barnes is a unique catcher, equipped with speed (30 stolen bases over the past two years) and the ability to play an acceptable second base. With nothing left to prove in the minors, Barnes will be given the backup catching job to start next season. Since he’s stuck behind Yasmani Grandal in Los Angeles, playing time will be hard to come by, but some utility work around the field could give Barnes enough at bats to leave an impression. A good batting average and on-base percentage, non-minimal power, and phenomenal speed for a catcher make Barnes a decent candidate to move up this list next year if he can make the most of his chances.
38) James McCann, Detroit Tigers (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 28)
McCann is still young enough to improve his profile, but he looks like your classic low-average, decent-power catcher who struggles with the K’s but has the defense to get regular at-bats. He’s far lower than other one-dimensional bats on this list because that one strength, power, isn’t much better than average. Still, he swatted 12 homers in a little over 350 ABs last season, and is bound to see both figures increase next season since his main competition for playing time is Alex Avila. The Tigers will give McCann every chance to prove he can be their everyday catcher, but I don’t think he will have anyone confusing “McCannon” with the better hitting McCann in baseball—Brian.
39) Max Pentecost, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 40)
Feeling lucky? Pentecost was a unique player coming out of high school as an athletic catcher with a solid feel for hitting. While his tantalizing offensive upside remains, Pentecost’s long-term position has been left up in the air after three shoulder surgeries. This is a classic case of a player whose value lies almost entirely in his final position, as Pentecost could be a great catching prospect in a year or two…or a middling outfielder with limited upside. The high risk and distant ETA keeps Pentecost’s stock down, but his strong bat means he should remain on dynasty owners’ radar.
40) Meibrys Viloria, Kansas City Royals (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Viloria went the entire 2015 season without recording a single extra-base hit. Think about that… not one double, triple, or home run in over 150 at-bats. Fast forward to today, and he is now one of the most exciting young catching prospects in the low minors. Viloria flirted with a .400 average for much of the season last year, finishing with a league-leading .376 mark along with six homers and a .230 ISO in Rookie-ball (259 at bats). Considering his age and the fact that he appeared to be batting with a toothpick the year before, that’s awfully impressive despite the low level of competition. If he’s assigned to full-season ball and starts off 2017 hot, it may be too late to acquire his services, so act now before it is too late. If he keeps it up, I may be naming one of my future children ‘Meibrys,’ since I like the ring to it. “Clean your room, Meibrys!” Yeah, I like that.
41) Tomas Nido, New York Mets (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Much like Viloria above, Nido had an extremely underwhelming 2015 season and was not considered much of a prospect heading into last year. But something ‘clicked’ with Nido last offseason, as he led the Florida State League in batting average and was named the Mets’ 10th best prospect by Baseball America. I still want to see what he can do in his next big test—facing Double-A pitching—though if he can hold his own there and flash some more power as he moves up the ladder, he could continue to climb prospect rankings. But keep in mind that, like Viloria, this is an incredibly volatile player-type, so be careful when investing.
42) Luis Torrens, San Diego Padres (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 47)
If not for missing all of 2015 with a torn labrum, Torrens would likely be higher on this list. Still, the 20-year-old looked fully recovered in about 200 at bats last season at A-Ball and flashed enough promise to be taken in the Rule-5 draft by the Reds, and then traded to the Padres. Originally a Yankee, this raw catching prospect should have little chance at sticking in San Diego, but the Padres are tanking hard right now and could potentially hide Torrens on the 25-man roster. It’s still highly unlikely he sticks all year, and that’s probably a good thing as Torrens risks having his development stunted like an eight year-old addicted to Starbucks if he spends the full season riding the pine (especially after missing 2015 as well). Outside of this odd Rule-5 situation, though, Torrens shows a solid bat that could carry him to an above-average regular role one day. He’s still forever away from the big leagues though (despite currently being on an MLB roster), and the risk is sky-high, so Torrens belongs on a watch list, not a dynasty roster, for now.
43) Brett Cumberland, Atlanta Braves (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
A second-round pick in 2016’s Amateur Draft, Cumberland’s ranking here is solely a result of his senior year college performance: 16 home runs in 52 games with a .344/.480/.678 line. While he struggled to make contact in his professional debut last season, Cumberland can really hit and should be able to find his stroke next season. Unfortunately, his catching skills are…suspect, at best, and he may have to move off the position. Still, a strong 2017 could see his stock rapidly improve.
44) Jett Bandy, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
I looked up ‘Jett Bandy’ in the dictionary and it said “Andrew Susac seat warmer.” Traded for Martin Maldonado and Drew Gagnon this offseason, he could begin the year as the starter in Milwaukee, but for us dynasty leaguers, Susac is the beer-maker you want. Still, it’d be fun to chant “J-E-T-T JETT JETT JETT!” every time he got a hit. Also, to be ‘bandy-legged’ is essentially the same thing as bow-legged, so please exchange the two in your vocabularies immediately. Thank you.
45) Sandy Leon, Boston Red Sox (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
Tied with 40-homer sluggers Mark Trumbo and Khris Davis with a 123 wRC+ last year, Sandy “Cheeks” Leon was one of the biggest fantasy surprises out of anyone, let alone catchers. From 2012-15, Leon had a 32 wRC+ in the big leagues, and things weren’t much better in the minors: he carried a .654 OPS in his minor league career. Needless to say, Leon’s production last year in just over 250 at-bats is wildly unsustainable. His .392 BABIP and steady offensive decline throughout the season are huge red flags for 2017, as is the playing time crunch he may endure with Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez waiting in the wings. That said, Leon did have massive improvements in average exit velocity (fifth biggest jump in the big leagues) and launch angle (11th biggest), so there’s hope that some of last year’s explosion is real. Still, the best possible prediction I can make for Leon is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ , meaning it’s probably best to let someone else to take on that risk.
46) Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 37)
Chirinos was able to last a few months with some job security, after top prospect Jorge Alfaro was traded to the Phillies, but was relegated to a backup role at the trade deadline with the Rangers trading for Jonathan Lucroy. While Chirinos does have some pop in his bat and a solid eye, he’s backing up one of the best catchers in baseball and would need an injury to Lucroy to become worthy of a roster spot.
47) Miguel Montero, Chicago Cubs (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 18)
After a third straight subpar season and the emergence of Willson Contreras, Montero slides from #18 all the way down to #47 on these rankings. Now a backup in Chicago, Montero will, like Chirinos, need an injury to his team’s starter to become fantasy relevant. Miggy does still have some life left in the bat, and could be intriguing if given the chance in this Cubs lineup, but for now he’s best left on the waiver wire.
48) Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 24)
Once thought to be a good back-up plan in case Travis d’Arnaud didn’t work out (note: he didn’t), Plawecki has now had two poor seasons in a row and is the Mets’ third string catcher. Plawecki does still have age and some prospect pedigree on his side, but whether he’ll ever be able to hit big league pitching is very much in question. Given d’Arnaud’s durability (or lack thereof), it’s worth keeping an eye on Plawecki, but the odds are high that he’d disappoint if given legitimate playing time.
49) Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
Prior to this season, Barnhart was seen as a defensive-minded backup catcher. However, injuries to Devin Mesoraco provided him the opportunity to receive over 400 at-bats last season, and Barnhart did the best he could with them. He hit 7 homers after hitting just 4 in the last two seasons combined, and his walks, strikeouts, isolated power, and batting average were all above his career averages. Given Mesoraco’s injury problems and lack of talent in the Reds’ high minors, Barnhart could be the recipient of 300+ at bats next season, and, at just 26-years-old, he could have a little bit more upside left in that bat.
50) Garrett Stubbs, Houston Astros (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
A 2015 8th-round pick out of Southern California, Stubbs played center field, left field, and second base along with catcher in college. While Stubbs’ size (5-10/160) will prevent from hitting for much power, the 24-year-old has used the mobility to his advantage by showing impressive agility behind the plate and surprising speed on the basepaths (17 stolen bases in just 106 games last season). Stubbs will need to remain at catcher to be fantasy relevant given the lack of power, and there are questions over whether he can shoulder a full-season workload behind the plate, but there’s a decent chance he sticks as a backstop. If that’s the case, Stubbs’ sneaky speed and potentially plus hit tool make him a candidate to shoot up these rankings next season.
Commentary by Mark Barry and Ryne Alber