It's 'bout that time, eh chaps? The Winter Meetings have come and gone. With it, some of the biggest offseason dominoes have already fallen. The 2017 fantasy baseball draft board is beginning to come into focus. Now it's time to delve into player rankings. As is often the case, we'll start with our 2017 catcher fantasy baseball rankings for December.
This first round of rankings features picks from Kyle Bishop, Nick Mariano, Bill Dubiel, and me. I know I've had my initial lists in place since mid-October, and my colleagues here weren't too far behind me.
This year, we'll begin by presenting our rankings then share a few thoughts round table style.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catchers
Are there any picks you want to defend?
Brad: I tabbed Murphy 24th. Everyone loves Murphy's fantasy potential. I'm included in everyone.
There's just one problem. The Rockies really like Tony Wolters' defensive ability, and he hits enough to start in the majors. So, does Wolters take 300 PA or 450 PA? I don't know yet - I'd guess closer to 450. And that doesn't leave much room for Murphy to provide fantasy value.
Kyle: I'm the high man on Sandy Leon. Do I think for a second he'll flirt with a .400 BABIP again? No, but he has enough pop and plate discipline to be a decent option in AL-only and two-catcher formats. He'll again be part of one of baseball's best lineups and he's good enough defensively to have earned some job security.
Everyone likes Derek Norris more than I do. Again, BABIP regression is likely - this time in the other direction - but Norris's strikeout rate spiked last season and he didn't even get a power boost out of the deal. Also, don't hold your breath on him coming near double-digit steals again now that he's left the Padres and their kamikaze baserunning ways.
Nick: I'm way up on Murphy at #12, which combines his power ceiling at Coors with my disillusionment with the pack. I'd rather grab a catcher who hit .327 with 19 HRs in 321 Triple-A PAs before slugging five bombs in 49 MLB PAs last year. Wolters' plus defense will keep the rotation very honest, but just 300 PAs of Murphy is likely more valuable than most. It also allows you to platoon for a nice composite if you're savvy. And if Wolters gets hurt, look out. All of this gets baked into my ranking, so here we are.
Bill: I'm highest on four-time All Star Salvador Perez, although not by much. I understand my colleagues' trepidation after Perez hit just .247 last year, clearly trading contact for power--he set career highs in homers, ISO and strikeouts. I'm considering last year the outlier, as Perez has never been that kind of hitter in the past. I'm banking on him getting his average back up in 2016.
Sweet sassy molassey I love me some J.T. Realmuto. The dude hit .303 across 509 ABs last year, and while you can chalk some of that up to his .357 BABIP you still have to figure he'll fall within .275-.285 if he stays healthy. Combine that with the fact that he's got at least 15 homers and 10 stolen bases, and there is top-five potential here.
Which picks by others look overly bullish/pessimistic?
Brad: I'll point out a couple of Kyle's. Gattis as the seventh catcher was correct pre-McCann trade. Once Houston trades Gattis, it'll be right again. Until then, we're all wrong (but Kyle's most wrong). Leon at 22nd is crazy, but at least it won't hurt much given the alternatives. Leon looked like a pure fluke while he was raking, then he turned pumpkin down the stretch.
Nick tagged Murphy as the 12th catcher which will look smart if Wolters suddenly ceases to exist. Otherwise, it's quite the reach for Zunino's Colorado cousin.
Kyle: Brad and Bill are driving the Bruce Maxwell bandwagon. I'm not seeing it. He's 26 year old with thoroughly uninspiring minor league numbers outside of a nice run at Triple-A last season, and he's going to have a tough time finding at-bats. Oakland has Vogt, Josh Phegley, and a cadre of 1B/DH types.
Also, none of have Tuffy Gosewisch ranked, which pretty much invalidates this entire exercise.
Nick: Vogt being around #15 is too high for me, as I think he'll still be limited by Oakland's platooning ways (as he should be) and unlike Murphy, Vogt's ceiling does not justify a bump. Out of 35 catchers with at least 250 PAs last season, Vogt's 26.8% hard-hit rate checked in at a meager 31st despite the ninth-highest soft-contact rate of 21%. Not good at 32 years old. If you need roughly 12-15 homers with few strikeouts, then fine, you go Glen Coco. I'll pass.
Bill: Everyone else is higher on Mike Zunino than I am, with Kyle being the highest at 18. The only positive for Zunino that I see is playing time--he doesn't have much in the way of competition, with Carlos Ruiz behind him and Jesus Sucre lurking in the minors. Zunino has struck out in almost a third of his professional at bats, and while the power numbers are nice (.262 ISO in 2015) he's a career .195 hitter in the majors. It's a smallish sample size and he's still maturing as a hitter, but even if he improves, we're looking at maybe .225 with 20-25 homers? He'll be a power boon for rotisserie leagues, but that batting average and the strikeouts are a huge detraction in any format.