Fantasy Baseball

2018 Fantasy Baseball: PECOTA Projection Rankings– Catchers

The rankings this year and every year usually take a beating. They are based on a combination of past performance and future projections. They also cut across multiple platforms as we are expected to look at basic 5×5, six category, and total points universes. We have revisited rankings before, but it is increasingly important that we do it this year. So much of the rankings were thrown in flux due to so many players lacking a home before Spring Training. Some of have found homes, so we will use Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections as a sort of reboot on the rankings.

We are using the six prominent offensive categories (including walks as the sixth category) to form our rankings. We will also include their true average (TAV) statistic as a way to provide some cover in case the player changes teams (or in some cases actually finding one). The other major change won’t manifest itself here, but we will see players that qualify at other positions actually wind up at those positions for the rankings to be more accurate.

1. Gary Sanchez— New York Yankees

PECOTA: .269, 35 HR, 86 Runs, 99 RBI, 4 SB, 45 BB

TAV: .292

Usually, the average TAV hovers between .250 and .260. Of course, it is a big league average so some positions like catcher will range lower. The important thing here is the gap between the top and middle of the pack. Sanchez will likely get some DH opportunities on top of his regular catching, so he will accrue more of the counting numbers than most of these guys.

2. Willson Contreras— Chicago Cubs

PECOTA: .284, 21 HR, 71 Runs, 76 RBI, 5 SB, 51 BB

TAV: .290

True average is done on a per plate appearance basis. Contreras will get fewer plate appearances because he doesn’t have the DH option. So, he won’t put up the counting numbers, but he should be almost as good on a per game basis.

3. Buster Posey— San Francisco Giants

PECOTA: .291, 15 HR, 72 Runs, 73 RBI, 4 SB, 55 BB

TAV: .283

Posey has been on top of the catcher world for seemingly a decade, but Sanchez passed him up last season and we might actually start seeing decline. Like Sanchez, he should get in some games at first base, so the counting numbers should still be good.

4. J.T. Realmuto— Miami Marlins

PECOTA: .273, 15 HR, 76 Runs, 61 RBI, 10 SB, 34 BB

TAV: .261

Rankings aren’t that simple. The gap between Posey and Realmuto is noticeable, so once he clears off the board you can afford to wait awhile. Realmuto’s placement here is a bet that he will be traded and that the home ballpark will be better for him.

5. Evan Gattis— Houston Astros

PECOTA: .250, 23 HR, 62 Runs, 69 RBI, 1 SB, 23 BB

TAV: .268

Gattis appears to be switching back to his primary DH role. He seemed to hit better when he was also catching. Some players just perform better when they play in the field. Even still, he will accrue more counting numbers when playing in 120 or 130 games that he has in the past two seasons.

6. Brian McCann— Houston Astros

PECOTA: .235, 21 HR, 65 Runs, 67 RBI, 1 SB, 45 BB

TAV: .256

The bet here is that he will catch in more games than a year ago. Max Stassi is penciled in as his backup, so he should creep up to 110 to 120 games again. That being said, if the Astros acquire Realmuto then all bets are off.

7. Salvador Perez— Kansas City Royals

PECOTA; .263, 21 HR, 65 Runs, 77 RBI, 1 SB, 23 BB

TAV: .253

If Perez ever makes it to the Hall of Fame he will create a dilemma. We aren’t sure how he will get to the podium, because he sure won’t walk there. Obviously, if you are playing in a standard 5×5 league then you can adjust accordingly.

8. Wilson Ramos— Tampa Bay Rays

PECOTA: .254, 21 HR, 64 Runs, 75 RBI, 0 SB, 31 BB

TAV: .255

Ramos is a forgotten man because of all the time he missed last season, but he finished the season strong. He is a little better than Perez overall, but he has not been quite as durable. Unfortunately, attendance matters in most formats.

9. Russell Martin— Toronto Blue Jays

PECOTA: .235, 15 HR, 59 Runs, 55 RBI, 3 SB, 54 BB

TAV: .260

This ranking is based almost entirely on the inclusion of walks. Martin has always been steady if unspectacular other than that inclusion. Still, he will play almost every day, so he deserves a spot in someone’s starting lineup even if it is the last spot.

10. Jonathan Lucroy— Free Agent

PECOTA: .283, 13 HR, 53 Runs, 59 RBI, 2 SB, 44 BB

TAV: .260

Normally, I would rank Lucroy in front of Martin, but his lack of a home is making me nervous. The rational side of me knows he is likely to be better and will be a regular catcher somewhere, but we can’t be sure as to where and how that will affect his counting numbers.

11. Mike Zunino— Seattle Mariners

PECOTA: .220, 21 HR, 57 Runs, 62 RBI, 1 SB, 34 BB

TAV: .252

Sometimes you have to sacrifice categories to get good production in the other categories. Zunino produces the same power and run production as the other guys above him, but he does it with a lower batting average. Still, he gives you three solid categories.

12. Travis d’Arnaud— New York Mets

PECOTA: .250, 16 HR, 58 Runs, 60 RBI, 0 SB, 40 BB

TAV: .258

Winning fantasy titles is a lot about managing risks. If you choose to punt catcher you have to take some risks. You can bet on someone with the same ability as others, but struggles to remain healthy or you can bet that a durable catcher will suddenly have a career year. I’ll bet on the former.

Catcher Depth

13. Welington Castillo— Chicago White Sox

PECOTA: .247, 17 HR, 55 Runs, 57 RBI, 1 SB, 32 BB

TAV: .252

For those that don’t like the risk of d’Arnaud then Castillo is a good alternative or a good bench selection to provide quality depth.

14. Austin Barnes— Los Angeles Dodgers

PECOTA: .262, 10 HR, 48 Runs, 42 RBI, 8 SB, 41 BB

TAV: .277

Barnes is the choice of the thinking fan. We would have assumed that the Dodgers would have dealt Yasmani Grandal by now, but with him in tow Barnes will get fewer opportunities. If they find a taker for him then all bets are off.

15. Yadier Molina— St. Louis Cardinals

PECOTA: .274, 9 HR, 54 Runs, 50 RBI, 5 SB, 28 BB

TAV: .247

Every year, the prognosticators keep predicting the demise of Molina and every year he proves everyone wrong. Just like when you flip a coin twenty times, you know it has to hit tails at some point. Eventually, Molina will slow down, but I betting for that increasingly feels like a sucker bet.

16. James McCann— Detroit Tigers

PECOTA: .252, 13 HR, 55 Runs, 61 RBI, 1 SB, 30 BB

TAV: .236

He is not the 16th best catcher in baseball. He is probably closer to the 40th best catcher, but he will play everyday and with that comes counting numbers. He is what happens when clubs stop worrying about winning. He will play as long as he is affordable.

17. Matt Wieters— Washington Nationals

PECOTA: .246, 13 HR, 48 Runs, 50 RBI, 1 SB, 31 BB

TAV: .237

On my other site (halloffameindex.com) I’ve talked about why I wait ten years to include a player in the index. Wieters isn’t exhibit A, but he is an example. Early in his career he looked like a potential Hall of Famer in the making. Now, he is waiting around for someone to take his place. Lucroy? Realmuto? It’s bound to be someone.

18. Jason Castro— Minnesota Twins

PECOTA: .234, 13 HR, 52 Runs, 52 RBI, 1 SB, 44 BB

TAV: .242

Castro is an ode to pitch framing. I’m sure it is not a coincidence that the Twins pitchers peformed better last season than they had before. Sadly, none of that counts for you. However, Castro will play more oftne than he doesn’t and that does count for you.

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