Looking for 2016 Fantasy Breakout Catchers is a little easier than at other positions, in my opinion. That’s not to say these are bona fide locks – if they were, then they would be drafted higher than where they’re currently going, and that would completely change their Fantasy Baseball value.
The reason I say looking for 2016 breakout catchers is a little easier than other positions is because most catchers come into the league as Fantasy Baseball dregs – players that are rarely expected to produce and help Fantasy owners.
Remember that catchers develop at a slower rate than other position players because they have many more duties to consider as minor leaguers and players coming out of college. They have to learn pitching staffs, how to call a game, defensive duties like blocking pitches, framing pitches and throwing out runners, and field management. They have to learn all of that – while also learning how to hit professional pitching.
It makes sense now that 12 managers in the majors this season are former catchers, right?
If you take a look at our 2016 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings, you’ll notice a few things that stand out. The only catchers to become top-15 players at this position after their rookie season are Brian McCann, Buster Posey, Yan Gomes and Kyle Schwarber, who is actually more of a left fielder now. Understand, however, that those four players is a much higher number than what we’d see about a decade ago, which points to a trend in improved young catchers at the plate.
Some stories of failed young “breakout catchers” include Matt Wieters and Tyler Flowers, but there aren’t many young catchers that enter the season as starters, either. For instance, Blake Swihart was a prized catching prospect last season, but it took a while before the Red Sox eventually brought him up and started him regularly behind the plate. Really, they had to wait until they were pretty much out of contention.
So my argument seems to go against my point that it’s easier to pick out 2016 Breakout Catchers than it is for other positions. Actually, if you know what to look for, you can really focus on a small group of breakout candidates. Plus, remember that the catchers position is pretty light on Fantasy talent to begin with, so a slight bump in average hitting numbers will make a much bigger dent in the catcher rankings than it would in the first base or outfielder rankings.
For instance, the 15th-best catcher in points leagues last season was Arizona’s Welington Castillo, who hit 17 homers, but knocked in just 50 RBI, with a .255 batting average. If we increased his points total by 20 percent, which would make him a breakout player, landing him eighth at his position in 2015.
But if we do that same exercise with the 15th-best first basemen, Lucas Duda only climbs from the 15th spot up to the 11th spot, by increasing his Head-to-head points by 20 percent.
2016 Breakout Catchers Candidates
Enough discussion – let’s start looking for 2016 Breakout Catchers that we believe can go from the middle of the pack in drafts this spring up to being ranked among the top echelon of Fantasy catchers at the end of the season. If you’re looking for 2016 Catcher Sleepers, players ranked at the back of the position with a chance to become mid-round picks by next season, then that’s not this article. For the most part, we’re looking for experienced catchers that were once labeled great hitting prospects at the catcher position.
Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
Hearing Wieters name bandied about among the “Breakout Catchers” conversations through the years is nothing new. Ever since he was a top-five pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, Fantasy owners have been ready to make him a top-five backstop. He is a prime example of a young catcher that had too much to deal with to really become a star at the plate. (This article should really impress on you how amazing the early seasons were for both McCann and Posey.)
The Orioles wasted little time with him, promoting him to work behind the plate at Camden Yards in 2009, when he was just 23 years old. Wieter’s early years were actually really good from a Fantasy perspective, but he couldn’t compete with what Posey was doing. He flashed a mix of big power and low batting average, peaking in 2012, when he smacked 23 homers and knocked in 83 RBI, with a .249 batting average.
Now, though, he’s a 29-year-old veteran that’s nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and he struck out way too much last year, with a career-high 23.8% K-rate. That’s just enough bad news to push Wieters down into the back end of the top 10 catchers coming into this season. Really, though, only a few catchers have a higher ISO than Wieters’ .175 since 2012, and along with his 6-foot-5/230-lb. frame, that makes him a candidate to lead the position in homers.
”Wieters has three seasons of 450 at-bats. In those three years, he’s hit at least 22 homers with 68 RBI and 59 runs scored. Only two catchers in baseball – Brian McCann and Russell Martin – matched all three of those numbers last season. Only 30 years old, coming off two partial seasons which haven’t done anything to harm his legs, I have no issue with Wieters being my first catcher and neither should anyone else.” – Flowers
At a current ADP of 165 (Round 14), Wieters is proving to be a great value for a player with Fantasy breakout potential.
Yasmani Grandal, L.A. Dodgers
Another stellar catching prospect a few years ago, Grandal has seen his own value ride a roller coaster through the years. The Cuban catcher doesn’t have Wieters’ frame, but he was also a high first-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.
In one of the more lopsided deals of the past five years, the Reds traded Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez to the Padres for – Mat Latos. #SadTrombone
However, some of the luster came off of Grandal’s shine, after he was suspended 50 games in 2012 for using testosterone. He rebounded strong in 2014, though, bringing back some believers. Then San Diego moved him to the Dodgers last offseason in the Matt Kemp deal.
The Dodgers love Grandal because he’s one of the better pitch framers in the league and he has plenty of offensive upside. The first half of 2015 is what you’re banking on when you draft the University of Miami product in the latter rounds. He posted a slash line of .282/.401/.526 with 14 home runs in the first half of last season, and his .399 wOBA in those games ranked him sixth among all positions, behind Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Anthony Rizzo.
But a foul ball hit him in his left shoulder, and his stats plummeted thereafter. He eventually underwent shoulder surgery to repair the A/C joint, but his labrum didn’t need any repair. That nagging injury, though, forced him to pull the ball more and hit more grounders in the second half – when he had just 23 hits in the final 46 games of the season (.162 BA), but the Dodgers needed him behind the plate, so they endured it.
” This spot might not be wise for him in a late-March draft if his shoulder recovery doesn’t go as planned. But as of Feb. 9, I’m willing to take the chance in a mock to make a point. Grandal’s first half (.282-14-36) was stellar for a catcher, and progress in a slow but promising growth curve for the former top prospect. However, shoulder inflammation sapped him of useful offense down the stretch. I’m not hoping for a true extrapolation of his pre-break numbers, but a 20-homer season could be well within reach if he shows no signs of struggle in spring ball.” — Heaney
As I went through my own personal 2016 Fantasy Catcher rankings, I think I have Grandal too low at 15, and now I’m looking at swapping him outright with Yadier Molina at No. 12.
When looking for 2016 Fantasy Breakout Catchers, aim toward former top hitting prospects that are still within their prime power ages (26-32 years old).
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