I realize that Catcher is probably the least exciting position in Fantasy Baseball. It's not sexy at all, but the position is still important and should not be overlooked. As recently as three years ago, the position lacked depth and a heavy emphasis was placed on drafting an elite catcher early. Considering there were very few elite options to choose from (namely Joe Mauer and Brian McCann), these players were being drafted as early as Round 2. Very fortunately, the position has gotten much deeper since then, thus eliminating the "need" to draft a catcher that early.
Top 20 Catchers (C) - 2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings
As you'll come to find via my rankings below, there are plenty of rock-solid catchers to choose from in 2014. Those of you who participate in leagues that use one catcher should have no problem finding a decent starter for your team that you can be confident with when you set your lineup. Even those of you who are required to start two catchers should at least walk away with serviceable players for your team.
While my fellow RotoBaller, Shawn Caswell, went above and beyond to include dollar values, a personal Baller Rating (BR) and other statistics (OBP, OPS, SLG) in his Top 25 Outfielders piece, I've limited my catcher projections to the standard 5x5 stats. Most importantly, I feel that dollar values are too subjective and league-dependent to include them here in my rankings. Still, the omission of these stats and values does not mean that the forecasting process was easy. I didn't just make up numbers for each player. In fact, I used Mike Podhorzer's Projecting X system that uses advanced formulas to account for metrics such BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), GB%, FB%, LD% and HR/FB (Home Runs Per Fly Ball) -- just to name a few. The forecasting process for each player demanded a considerable amount of time and analysis, so trust me when I say that you're in good hands. That's not to say that these projections will be 100% accurate-- that obviously won't happen-- but they should be fairly reasonable, nonetheless.
So without further adieu, here are my Top 20 Catchers for 2014 Fantasy Baseball with Tier and Player commentary below:
Tier 1 is DEEP because realistically, any one of these players could finish the 2014 season as the Number 1 overall Catcher. I won't argue with you if you want to make a case for Buster Posey, Carlos Santana or Joe Mauer as your #1-- that would be fine by me. That said, I can guarantee you that I won't be the first to draft a catcher in any of my leagues. I'll let someone else take first dibs because I'll be much happier getting a better value on the similar leftover options. With his move to New York, Brian McCann is shooting up the catcher rankings again with owners drooling over his home run potential in Yankee Stadium. He seems like a shoo-in for 20+ homers for what would be the seventh straight season, but don't ignore the injury risk.
Speaking of injury risk, I should probably remind you that ALL catchers face increased risk of getting hurt due to the physical demands of the position. This is common knowledge, but many fantasy baseball managers still fail to account for such risk in their projections.
I contemplated including "El Oso Blanco" himself, Evan Gattis, in Tier 1 since his projections are right in line with McCann's, but Gattis carries a bit more risk. Who knows? Gattis could fall flat on his face and be back in the minors in June (which is why the Braves traded for veteran Ryan Doumit as insurance). Still, the power is legit and Gattis could potentially surpass the numbers that I've projected for him. I wish I could rank Salvador Perez higher. He's one of the few catchers who will get full-time at-bats and won't kill your batting average, but until his power fully develops, he merits a lower ranking. Jason Castro had a breakout season for the Astros last year and was an excellent FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget)/waiver add. There are some injury concerns with him, but the Astros will bat him third or fourth in the lineup and use him at DH when he needs a break from duties behind the plate. Count on Wilson Ramos to be the most hyped "sleeper" pick at catcher this year. I dig the power (16 home runs in 78 games last year), but he, too, can't seem to stay healthy.
There are plenty of serviceable options in this tier. Among my favorites are Yan Gomes, who will be the "starting" catcher in Cleveland this year, and Travis d'Arnaud, whose rookie season was marred by injury and ineffectiveness. D'Arnaud's ranking might be too high, but his minor league profile suggests he should at least be an average hitter in the majors. I like his upside, and with John Buck now in Seattle, the path is clear for d'Arnaud to get semi-regular at-bats with the New York Mets. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a nice year for Boston last season, but is due for some regression now that's he's with Miami. He will have a tough time sustaining his .372 BABIP from last season, which could cause his batting average to plummet back down to the .220-.240 range.
Mike Zunino is an intriguing power option if he can nail down the starting role in Seattle. I mentioned before that the Mariners signed veteran John Buck, so he will have to earn his playing time after struggling last season as a rookie. At least he's the far superior talent. A lot of sites I've frequented are forecasting Miguel Montero as a bounce-back candidate this season, but I'm reluctant to agree. He had back issues last year and recovering from any injury that affects your core strength is a tall order. He may never be the same.
Ryan Rufe booked his first fantasy sports win at age eleven. He's a RotoBaller through and through and also contributes as an MLB Beat Writer for RotoWire.com. For more from him, follow him on Twitter @RyanRufe.