h2h Corner ~ 2011 head-2-head Catcher Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

Not since my little league hay-day, when I was a switch-hitting catcher like Mickey Tettleton (before he left the Orioles, cause afterward I hated him – I didn’t understand free agency) with the speed of Craig Biggio, has the catching position been manned by so many interesting specimens.

As my twitter followers know, I have, again, become obsessed with baseball cards. I’ve bought a number of 2010 Topps packs and have been blessed with a few Buster Posey (ranked: #2 catcher, 45 overall) rookie cards. I’m as shocked as you are by Posey’s immodest ranking, to be honest. Usually, my rankings really deflate catchers. Posey is that special. I honestly believe Posey will finish in the top 5 among catchers in four of the five main categories. You can’t make that same claim with Mauer, given his schizophrenic power numbers. The only thing that hasn’t forced me to push Posey higher is his relative lack of at bats and Mauer’s awesome average potential. This is such an atypical rank for me (I am also typically way down on sophomore phenoms) that I’m more confused than anything else. So, let’s move on.

While Posey, Mauer and Carlos Santana seem to be claiming all the catcher fantasy headlines, I’ve become a big Geovany Soto (6, 107) fan. Clearly, his abysmal 2009 burned many-a fantasy owner. But his 2010 (.280/.393/.497) showed me enough to put him back in my good graces (especially in OBP leagues). As a backstop who won’t kill your ratios (think .270 AVG, .370 OBP) and has 20+ HR upside, he’s a very good low-risk selection. Honestly, I was tempted to put him higher and could see arguments for tabbing him over Posada, but I’d be confident with him as my backstop.

Going into 2010, the only concern with Miguel Montero (7, 115) was how much playing time Chris Snyder would take – well Snyder’s been exiled to Pittsburgh and Montero is healthy. While he doesn’t possess the 20 HR upside of Soto and those catchers above him, Montero should settle into the 14 – 18 range and provide a non-life-threatening average in the .270s. He is, by no means, a sexy pick, but I think a relatively safe one.

In the past, I have been concerned about young players with relatively little track record (Chris Davis, Dallas McPherson, Brandon Wood, etc.) who are getting tons of hype and picked high without much major league experience to back that up. I do not think Carlos Santana (8, 128) fits in there; however I also don’t see him as a surefire top 5 catcher. I like him at number eight and in the 12th round or so because there is very little risk. If you are picking him in the top seven rounds, you’re likely passing on a 200+ K pitcher or a solid contributing outfielder for a guy with 192 MLB PAs who might go .260/.380/.440. In OBP leagues, he gets a huge bump. But in AVG leagues, I don’t see his 20+ HR potential making up for the real batting average risk. Quite simply, Posada, Soto and Montero are safer and likely cheaper options.

Mike Napoli (9, 150) might be too low on my rankings. He did receive a significant bump after the trades, but I’m worried my significant bump might be too cautious. A perennial 20+ HR threat (if given the PAs), Napoli is moving to an incredibly hitter friendly ballpark and away from a not so offensive-healthy environment. He could really push 30 HRs, but probably will struggle to bat above .250. He is definitely a needs-based selection – if you can forego batting average and need power, he should be your catcher.

Sleeper sofas:

Chris Iannetta (#15 catcher, 215 overall): he was a sleeper last year until, somehow, Miguel Olivo posted the best first half of his life. However, that didn’t sway the interesting and clearly intelligent Rockies front office as they continue to believe in the underlying statistics for Iannetta. As the Rockies have brought in career backstop back-ups, Iannetta will be the starting catcher. I think his floor could be a Miguel Montero-lite: .245-.255 AVG, 15+ HRs. I also think there is upside here, potentially to 22-25 HRs and a .270 AVG.

Ryan Hanigan (20, 224): never has Hanigan seen over 300 PAs in a season. However, he should be the “starting” catcher for the Reds this year, which should earn him around 100 games and the near 400 PAs that go along with it. I don’t think there will be much counting numbers with him (think single-digit HRs), but he could provide nice, non-painful ratios. I see him capable of hitting .275 at the least with upside to .300. He should also post a very good OBP (has a career 12.6% walk rate). At the end of drafts, or two-catcher leagues, he makes a lot of sense.

Josh Thole (23, 239): If you are looking for power, Thole (who never had a SLG% higher than .430 in the minors) isn’t your guy. However, he has shown a keen eye at the plate (11.5% walk rate in AAA) and 10.6% in 227 MLB PAs last year. It’s unclear how much playing time he will get – he might only see spot duty (think 70 games and 270 PAs), but he will put up decent ratios: .280 AVG and .360 OBP. If he could luck into full time duty, you’d have a catcher with good peripherals and 8-10 HRs.

A.J. Ellis (24, 248): With the corpse that is Russell Martin in New York, Ellis could finally get the chance he deserves. Ellis, who will be 30 in April, has just 141 career MLB PAs, yet has consistently posted .380+ OBPs in the minor leagues. Sure he hasn’t added any pop whatsoever, but I think we can see a low-teens walk rate and a .275 AVG if he gets to play. Rod Barajas is no good.

I think the moral of the sleeper story is to get one of the top nine catchers.

You can get full catcher ranks here.

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

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4 responses to this post.

  1. […] Mauer is the consensus top spot at the catcher position (although I believe Posey is nipping at his heels). However, where that #1 overall catcher should go is a matter of […]

    Reply

  2. […] Iannetta – I have talked about Iannetta a lot for a long time and been wrong. Still, I went ahead and traded for him in my most important […]

    Reply

  3. […] Iannetta – For the millionth year in a row, I tabbed Iannetta as a sleeper. Well, even a broke fantasy writer is right twice a millennia. Over the last seven days, Iannetta […]

    Reply

  4. […] Iannetta – For the millionth year in a row, I tabbed Iannetta as a sleeper. Well, even a broke fantasy writer is right twice a millennia. Over the last seven days, Iannetta […]

    Reply

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