Well everyone, mitts are popping and bats are cracking across Florida and Arizona. Computer screens are also lighting up as we prepare for the 2013 fantasy baseball season. Future of Fantasy is here to help you sort it all out as you prepare for your own drafts. We will be starting a series of positional rankings featuring the top 15 players according Josh Hill and Josh Culp, as well as composite rankings for our site. These will be general rankings, not based on any one league format or scoring type. Take that into consideration as you do your own research among other sites and begin to build your own boards.
Today we start with catchers. This is an exciting group that shows several young players ready to take the scene. It seems like this position is a bit deeper than it has been in recent years, which is good if you miss out on Buster Posey or one of the other top 5 catchers.
Top 12 Fantasy Catchers for 2013
1. Buster Posey, 26, Giants
Hill Says: The consensus top pick and NL MVP should go in the top two rounds. This is the one catcher I wouldn’t hesistate to take high.
Culp Says: This is a no brainer as #1 catcher. His stats are so good that you will be tempted to play him at First Base since he has 1B eligibility. Don’t make that mistake. He goes from very elite as a catcher to just very good as a first baseman.
2. Carlos Santana, 26, Indians
Hill Says: Another great keeper option, my interest in Santana goes far beyond my Indians fandom. I am expecting a line closer to his 2nd half of the season going forward. After returning from a concussion Santana hit a sizzling .283 BA/.368 OBP/.504 SLG over his final 65 games to close out his season.
Culp Says: Santana is exactly what I want from my catcher… “Out of the Stadium” power and the ability to get on base. I think the basement projection for Santana starts with 75 runs, 20 HR, 75 RBI with a nice chance of a breakout.
3. Joe Mauer, 29, Twins
Hill Says: Slight, and I mean very slight, bump down for me due to injury concerns. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve on his .319/10/85 numbers from 2012, but no one should ever expect another year like he had in 2009.
Culp Says: Like Hill said, don’t expect another 2009. Do expect his runs and RBIs to return to the 90+ range because the Twins offense can’t get any worse than last year. Plus he says he wants to catch a lot of games this year, so he must be feeling healthy.
4. Matt Wieters, 26, Orioles
Hill Says: Wieters has very good keeper value that would have him in 2nd if this were a keeper ranking. He showed great development last year setting career highs in multiple categories and it seems like he is on the verge of being the start we all thought he’d be.
Culp Says: A lot of people were ready to count Wieters as a bust after his first two seasons, but he is only just now reaching his potential. He had a career high BB% last year which tells me his approach at the plate has improved or pitchers are starting to respect him. Either scenario is good. I think we can see a slight improvement from Wieters in 2013.
5. Yadier Molina, 30, Cardinals
Hill Says: 2013 re-draft, I’m a believer. Molina has been one of the steadiest performers over the last 4 years averaging 138 games a year. He hits for average, has developed power the last 2 years and led all catchers in steals last year.
Culp Says: Hill may be a believer, but I’m just not convinced. This pudgy catcher set a career high in almost every category last year. The three that alarm me are his career high BABIP, his career high steals which are almost sure to drop below 10 this year, and nearly doubled his career HR/FB ratio. Don’t expect a repeat of last season.
6. Mike Napoli, 31, Red Sox
Hill Says: All this hubbub about Napoli’s hip this offseason has been overblown. They have basically said that his hip is fine right now, and I like him with the Green Monster as a partner.
Culp Says: Just like Hill says, Napoli’s hip is overblown, and I actually like Napoli even more than Hill. Mike Nappy Roots has a career slash line at Fenway of .306/.397/.710 which compares favorably to his .266/.380/.532 at Rangers Ballpark. The sample size is a lot smaller but no reason to think Napoli won’t benefit from the Green Monster.
7. Victor Martinez, 34, Tigers
Hill Says: Don’t let the year off fool you into thinking VMart will be significantly worse than he was pre-injury. Reports have been good early in Tigers camp and he should spend basically all season at DH lessening his injury risk.
Culp Says: V-Mart is getting old but he hasn’t had a wRC+ of less than 119 since 2003. The guy can flat out rake.
8. Wilin Rosario, 24, Rockies
Hill Says: A power-hitting catcher who calls Coors Field his home is a good recipe. Rosario makes enough contact to make his power useful, and he has room to improve at only 24 years old.
Culp Says: The dude crushes home runs. One out of every four flies balls he hit last year went over the fence, I kid you not. I just don’t like the price you got to pay to get him this year.
9. Salvador Perez, 22, Royals
Hill Says: Perez is a guy I really like going forward. The guy can rake (he’s on par with Vlad Guerrero in his prime at hitting balls outside of the zone) and he’s got some pop to go along with it. This is a guy who could easily end up in the top 5 by the end of the season.
Culp Says: Salvy sported a 128 wRC+ during his 158 Rookie plate appearances. Then last year he maintained a 114 wRC+ after returning from injury midway through the season. This guy can flat out hit, and is only 22 years old. He is keeper league gold.
10. Miguel Montero, 29, Diamondbacks
Hill Says: Montero has been pretty consistent as Arizona’s starting catcher. An average in the .280 range with 15-18 HR and around 80 RBI is definitely useful.
Culp Says: Miggy Montero is the definition of a boring catcher. It’s even more disappointed when you see he doesn’t take advantage of Chase Field’s hitter-friendly confines, as he’s hit better on the Road every season since 2008. His BABIP was alarmingly high last year which tells me his average will likely return to the .275 range instead of climbing closer to .300 in 2013.
11. Jesus Montero, 23, Mariners
Hill Says: I expect Montero to take a step forward this year. He has enough power to overcome his stadium factors, and they also have moved in the fences in a way that fits his strengths like a glove.
Culp Says: It’s put up or shut up time for this “can’t miss” prospect. Just like Matt Wieters, the expectations to contribute were too high on Jesus. Their career paths are eerily similar, and I expect Jesus to put up similar numbers to Wieters third season in the bigs. For the lazy, that was 72 runs, 22 HR, 68 RBI, with a .262 batting average.
12. Brian McCann, 29, Braves
Hill Says: I can’t bring myself to drop McCann any further than here. He will miss the beginning of the season, but should be back by mid to late April. If you’re taking McCann, you just need to find a plug-in for the first few weeks then enjoy one of the better offensive catchers for the rest of the year.
Culp Says: Sadly I think McCann’s days as an elite catcher are over. In 2012, McCann’s wRC+ dipped below 100 for the first time since 2007. You can blame injuries or bad luck but personally I am going to avoid McCann entirely.
Yasmani Grandal – Grandal is a Top 5 catcher once he returns from his 50 game suspension. Especially since the fences at PETCO are coming in dramatically. Don’t let Grandal sit on the waiver wire if you’re in a keeper league. He is going to be elite for years to come.
Carlos Ruiz – Another suspension, only 25 games for Ruiz though. He was the #2 fantasy catcher on a Per Plate Appearance basis. Definitely worth owning once his suspension is over.
A.J. Ellis – He’s got a career wRC+ of 112 in the majors, and is hitting in a lineup full of All-Stars. I think I could drive in 50+ runs in the Dodgers lineup.
Jonathan Lucroy – I think last year’s .320 BA was a bit fluky. I would expect something more in the .270-.280 range to go along with low teens HR and 50-60 RBI. Useful, but we’re now talking guys who won’t hurt you instead of being an impact player.
A.J. Pierzynski, 36, Rangers – His mouth might get him in trouble, but his bat gets him out of it. He has continued to hit as he’s gotten older, and a move to Texas should keep the hits coming.
Ryan Doumit – Doumit makes it 2 Twins on this list and should again catch enough games keeping Mauer healthy to retain positional eligibility. This is also another case where taking time at other positions should help to reduce the injury risk.