Welcome to the 2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the National League, a part of the “So-Called” Fantasy Experts Fantasy Baseball Draft Package.
Catcher has typically been viewed as one of Fantasy Baseball’s thinnest positions. I’m not so sure that holds true this year, especially in the National League. While Buster Posey is pretty clearly the top dog, there is a large group of mid-level catchers that have the potential to approach his numbers in at least a couple categories. Of course the bottom tiers do get a little ugly in two-catcher leagues, and even more so if you’re playing in an NL-only league.
We’ll delve into draft strategy plenty this spring, but the question at hand is if it’s worth the cost to grab Posey early, or if you’re better off with a couple solid options much later in the draft. I think we can all agree you don’t want to wait too long and basically get locked out of the position. The bottom tier of catchers, not only won’t help your Fantasy teams, but in many cases can hurt them.
I like Posey, and his numbers are very good across the board, not to mention a level of confidence he brings that no other catcher can match. I’m not sure his numbers are so far above his peers, though, that it makes the high cost of acquisition worth it. As far as value goes, I’d rather wait until much later in the draft and pair up two catchers like Nick Hundley and Wilson Ramos, or any of that big middle tier. One definite thing is that if you do want posey, you’ll have to jump early, as he’s going off the board as the 20th player chosen in early NFBC drafts.
What follows are the 2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the National League. The players are listed alphabetically to make it easy to find the player you’re looking for. We’ve used the 20-game played threshold for position eligibility. If a player did not play 20 games at any position, we used the position they played the most games at. We also list players at the position they are most likely to be drafted at.. For instance, Kyle Schwarber played more games in the outfield, most Fantasy owners will be using him to fill a catcher slot. We’ve profiled enough catchers for deep mixed leagues and up to 12-team NL-only leagues.
2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the National League
Welington Castillo, Arizona Diamondbacks
Castillo saw action with three teams in 2015, but it’s when he arrived in Arizona that he caught fire, blasting 17 HRs in just 274 at-bats. While he has shown power in the past, his 18.8 HR/FB% is likely unsustainable going forward. The good news is that his .263 BABIP was also a bit low. With regular playing time, an average in the .250 range with 20 HRs and 65-to-70 RBIs is not out of the question. Castillo will go late in drafts and makes an excellent cheap play in two-catcher leagues. – Doug Anderson
Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli had a solid year in 2015 as he was a Top 10 catcher in his first year as an everyday starter. His near .300 batting average was a result of a .359 BABIP, which seems poised to regress given his unexceptional batted ball profile. In 2016, Cervelli should once again be near the top of the catcher heap in terms of plate appearances, which will support his counting stats. Cerveli’s career in both the majors and minors suggest he should continue his steady performance, but there appears to be very limited upside. He fits in well as a second catcher in two-catcher mixed leagues, since he seems more like a Top 20 catcher than a Top 10 catcher. – Fabian Taylor
Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
d’Arnaud continues to produce whenever he is on the field; however, staying on the field has clearly been an issue so far in his MLB career. Despite playing in only 67 games in 2015, d’Arnaud still finished 12th in homers, 25th in runs, 21st in RBIs, and 11th in batting average among all catchers. Nothing stands out in terms of d’Arnaud’s peripherals last year, which suggests his stats should grow in relationship to his plate appearances. There is talk about having the catching duties split between d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, but looking at their hitting resumes, this seems unlikely. When healthy, d’Arnaud has produced like a Top 5 catcher. Draft him with confidence in 2016, the breakout is coming. – Fabian Taylor
A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ellis continually finds a way to get on base despite a less than stellar batting average. Last year, amongst catchers with 200 plate appearances, he finished with the third best BB/K mark and the fourth best OBP. Caution must be taken extrapolating his 2015 home run total since it came on the back of a HR/FB rate of 14-percent, while his career mark sits just over eight-percent. Barring a long-term injury to Yasmani Grandal, it is difficult to see Ellis having a great deal of Fantasy value. At this point, Ellis is nothing more than an NL-Only option and the upside is not great either. – Fabian Taylor
Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves
Flowers rejoins the organization that originally drafted him in the 33rd round way back in 2005. It looks like the new contact approach undertaken by Flowers did not result in a material improvement to his batting average. In 2015, he posted the highest contact rate, lowest swinging strike rate, and lowest strikeout rate of his career, and the result was basically a career norm in terms of both BABIP and batting average. He also pulled the ball less and recorded a HR/FB rate that was a new career low. When you combine his potential backup/platoon role with the fact that Flowers moves to a more pitcher-friendly park and into a weak hitting lineup, it is difficult to be too optimistic on his 2016 performance. He figures to be a satisfactory grab in two-catcher NL-Only leagues with a little upside. – Fabian Taylor
Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Grandal was a Top 5 catcher in the first half last year as he hit .282 with 14 HRs and 36 RBIs. However, in early August, he took a foul ball off his left shoulder and he played in discomfort the rest of the year. In the second half, the effects of the injury showed as Grandal labored and hit just .162 with two HRs and 11 RBIs. The biggest effects were seen in his fall in hard hit rate from 34.6-percent to 22.6-percent and his increase in pull rate from 29.1-percent to 50-percent. Grandal underwent surgery in October and he appears all set for Spring Training. There should be a good profit potential with Grandal next year as Fantasy owners may just look at his overall numbers in 2015 and not fully understand the impact of the injury. We have seen the upside and Grandal finishing 2016 as a Top 5 catcher is not out of the question. – Fabian Taylor
Nick Hundley, Colorado Rockies
Hundley was solid in his first year in Colorado, despite missing the final month due to a neck issue. He had the typical Coors-induced home/road splits as he hit .355 with seven HRs and 33 RBIs at home and .237 with three HRs and 10 RBIs on the road. Overall, Hundley hit over .300 for the first time in his career; however, given his batted ball profile, his .356 BABIP does not seem to be repeatable. Hundley has a clear path to exceed 450 plate appearances for the first time and he is definitely on the mixed league radar as we head into 2016. – Fabian Taylor
Jose Lobaton, Washington Nationals
Lobaton displayed some potential with the bat in 2013, but he’s been a Fantasy black hole since. There is some pop here, and if he were to get something close to full-time at-bats, double-digit home runs would be likely. Until that time he’s nothing more than a second catcher in deeper NL-only leagues.
Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
Lucroy began 2015 with hamstring issues, lost over a month to a broken toe in May and dealt with concussion symptoms that kept him on the bench for three weeks in September. The injuries took their toll, as Lucroy took a huge step back from a 2014 season that had most people taking him as the second catcher off the board in Fantasy drafts. He walked less (8.7 BB%), struck out more (15.4 K%), and his power completely bottomed out (.391 SLG). Lucroy enters 2016 with a clean bill of health and should come at a value price after his down season. Look for the Brewers to use him at first base against left-handers in an attempt to keep his bat in the lineup and hopefully avoid the injuries that plagued him in 2015. Don’t pay for his 2014 value, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lucroy as a Top-5 catcher at the end of 2016. – Doug Anderson
Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
Mesoraco had a season he would like to forget last year. Fresh off his coming out party in 2014, Mesoraco dealt with a hip injury until he finally decided to have surgery in July ending his season. His power spike in 2014 was the result of new career highs in line rate, hard hit rate, fly ball rate, and pull rate. As we look towards 2016, Mesoraco expects to be ready to catch in Spring Training and appears to be healthy. He is such a wildcard, since there are questions regarding how will he recover from a missed season and how many at-bats he will receive. To me, the risk should keep him out of the Top 12 catchers; however, with the lack of depth at the position and his tremendous upside, I assume not many will wait that long. – Fabian Taylor
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Molina is still a great defender and any Major League GM would be happy to have him on their roster. Fantasy GMs? Not so much. Injuries and age have eroded much of the Fantasy value he once had. He’s still a good contact hitter, so a small bump in average wouldn’t be surprising, but his power has dropped off. Molina underwent a second surgery on his left thumb in December, so we’ll need to monitor that as Spring Training approaches. If he can get past these thumb woes, Molina could provide a little more value than he did in 2015, but at this point he’s nothing more than a marginal second catcher in mixed leagues and a passable starter in NL-Only formats. – Doug Anderson
Miguel Montero, Chicago Cubs
In his first year as a Cub, Montero continued his decline from being one of the top hitting catchers in baseball. A career worst strikeout rate contributed to Montero posting his third straight season with a batting average below .250. Despite a batted ball profile last year that was consistent with his career averages, he posted an unrepeatable HR/FB ratio just shy of 18-percent versus a career mark of 11.7-percent. In 2016, Montero should continue to sit against most southpaws and he will also cede catching duties to David Ross whenever Jon Lester takes the hill. No longer an obvious mixed league starter, Montero should still be worthy of a starting spot in NL-Only leagues and also in two-catcher mixed leagues. – Fabian Taylor
Derek Norris, San Diego Padres
Norris reached the All-Star break with 11 homers and looked to be a decent source of power at the catcher position. After the break the power disappeared, though he did hit for a .278 average. Norris is entering his age 27 season, so there’s still room for a minor power breakout, but don’t set the bar too high. Expect an average in the .250s and double-digit homers with 20 as his upside. With Christian Bethancourt and Austin Hedges as options, and Wil Myers blocking any playing time at first base, Norris may be fighting for at-bats in 2016. While Norris is an acceptable option in two-catcher mixed leagues, he’s the catcher you settle for; not the catcher you go looking for. – Doug Anderson
Brayan Pena, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cards signed Pena in order to shore up their backup to Yadier Molina. Due to various injuries on the Reds, Pena has played a lot the past two years, posting back-to-back seasons of 372 and 367 plate appearances so we have a good idea of what he can do. In total over the two-year span, he hit .263 with five HRs and 44 RBIs, so you can see what the upside is heading into 2016. Pena is best described as a contact hitter and in 2015 among catchers with 350 plate appearances, he had the best contact rate and the third lowest strikeout rate. He also coupled that with the lowest hard hit rate and highest soft hit rate. While Pena may be great in the clubhouse, his play on the field leaves plenty to be desired. Even in the unlikely event that Pena were to see north of 400 plate appearances, I can’t envision a scenario where he is relevant in anything more than NL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor
A.J. Pierzynski, Atlanta Braves
The now 39-year-old Pierzynski showed he had something left in the tank last year as he hit .300 for the first time since 2009. When you look at his peripherals you see an increase in contact rate, decrease in swing rate, and a career best line drive rate. As for 2016, it looks like it will be tough for Pierzynski to exceed his at-bat total from last year given both his age and the possible platoon due to the signing of free agent Tyler Flowers. He also seems unlikely to repeat his 2015 success with RISP, where he hit .330, which was greater than 40 points above his career mark of .287. The reduction in counting stat opportunities should push Pierzynski down to being right on the fence in terms of being viable in two-catcher mixed leagues. – Fabian Taylor
Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets
Plawecki’s call-up from Triple-A last year was the result of another Travis d’Arnaud injury. His numbers suggest he was not ready, especially when you compare his batting average and strikeout rate to his minor league numbers. Plawecki figures to be nothing more than a backup in 2016; however, as we have learned, being Travis d’Arnaud’s backup can be a busy job. In the event that d’Arnaud misses significant time, I still doubt that Plawecki’s production would be mixed league worthy, even in two-catcher leagues. Consider Plawecki a deep NL-Only option with some upside with increased at-bats. – Fabian Taylor
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Buster Posey has spoiled us. It seemed like a quiet year, but Posey put up exactly the numbers we’ve come to expect. He played a career high 150 games and the additional time out from behind the plate helped him maintain his production late in the season. His career-low 8.3 K% says that .300-plus batting average is here to stay and his position in the Giants batting order makes 100 RBIs well within reach. Expect more of the same from Posey in 2016, with possibly even more time at first base to get his bat in the lineup as much as possible. Buster Posey is the top catcher in Fantasy and there’s no signs of that changing anytime soon. – Doug Anderson
Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
Ramos has been a popular sleeper for the last few years due to his good power numbers in limited at-bats. All he needed to do for Fantasy owners was stay healthy. Well he pretty much stayed healthy in 2015, but the breakout never came. A career worst 20.0 K% didn’t help, but it was the shrinking 15.8 HR/FB% that really cut into his value. Ramos is still a solid option in mixed leagues, and a correction to his .256 BABIP would restore some of his value, but for any hope of even a mini-breakout, Ramos will have to reverse the negative power trend we’ve seen over the last few years. – Doug Anderson
J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins
Despite minor league numbers that showed little reason for optimism, Realmuto was a usable Fantasy option in deeper leagues in 2015. He kept his average at a respectable level and showed more power than expected. Fantasy owners were pretty happy with the eight stolen bases as well. Don’t get too excited though, there’s just not much room for growth. He won’t take a walk (4.1 BB%) and his minor league stats say a power breakout is unlikely. Despite the prospect label, Realmuto is likely close to his ceiling right now. That ceiling likely tops out as an NL-Only option and an injury fill-in in mixed leagues. – Doug Anderson
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
Ruiz is in the twilight of his career. Last year, Ruiz continued his trademark of being a contact hitter as he posted the second best contact rate amongst catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he also posted the lowest hard hit rate with a mark of 15.9-percent, which alarmingly was the worst in his career, and this comes after he recorded a 23.2-percent mark the year before. He now seems destined for a backup role, as Cameron Rupp appears set to take the starter reigns. With the combination of age and playing time both trending the wrong way, Ruiz is only going to be relevant in deep NL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor
Cameron Rupp, Philadelphia Phillies
Rupp started off 2015 as the backup to Carlos Ruiz, but as the season wore on he passed the veteran on the depth chart. In addition to an unimpressive batted ball profile, both his line drive rate and hard hit rate were below league average, but he produced decent counting stats. He looks to at least lead the time-share with Ruiz in 2016 as the Phillies look toward the future. He does not have a stellar minor league track record, but with a potential increase in playing time, Rupp has a decent shot to outperform his 2015 numbers. Until we see more, Rupp is most suited for two-catcher NL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor
Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
Thank you Joe Maddon for those last two games at catcher! After a blazing start that saw him rock 12 HRs in his first 47 games, Schwarber cooled off and finished the regular season in a funk. His performance in the playoffs however, has Fantasy owners salivating. The natural tendency is to fight the hype, but in this case the hype may not do Schwarber justice. The power is unquestioned and with 500-plus plate appearances, 30 home runs is is in play. Schwarber does strike out a ton, so he’ll probably never be the .300 hitter he was at every stop in his minor league career. His .293 BABIP seems low though for a player whose 39.7 Hard Hit percentage would rank 11th in baseball if he qualified. His projected .270 batting average is based on a .325 BABIP. The ceiling is higher. Buy the hype on Schwarber. The only question is where he’ll play and how often he gets pulled for defense.
Andrew Susac, San Francisco Giants
Susac has the unenviable task of being Buster Posey’s backup. At least we can say he role is well defined. In his limited playing with the Giants over the past two years, Susac has struck out plenty (29.2-percent K%), but his minor league career suggests a long-term rate closer to 20 percent may be achievable. He has also been relatively productive, especially if you extrapolate his career numbers over 500 plate appearances. I understand the dangers of extrapolating, but just for fun it would work out to a .240 average, 12 home runs, 55 runs and 68 RBIs. Do you know how many catchers hit 12 home runs, scored 50 runs, and drove in 50 runs in 2015? The answer is six. He has little value assuming Posey stays healthy; however, he would become a decent pickup if Posey was forced to miss a considerable amount of time. He is only a deep NL-Only option as of now, but there is some upside if he were to have an everyday role. – Fabian Taylor
We’ll be updating the 2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the National League, right up until Opening Day. There will undoubtedly be some names we add to the list and some we need to get rid. Check back regularly and let the “So-Called” Fantasy Experts get you ready for the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season.
Also please check out the rest of our 2016 Projections and Profiles
NL Catcher | AL Catcher | NL First Base | AL First Base | NL Second Base | AL Second Base | NL Third Base | AL Third Base | NL Shortstop | AL Shortstop | NL Oufield | AL Outfield | AL DH | NL Starting Pitcher | AL Starting Pitcher | NL Relievers | AL Relievers |
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