Welcome to this series of analyzing our site’s points league rankings, compiled by myself and Kyle Bishop. We’re good people, you should get to know us. Points leagues abide by different rules, with walks and strikeouts usually being of notable importance compared to typical 5x5 leagues.
It’s not as simple as that of course, but we’ll go off of ESPN’s default model. For hitters, it's one point per Total Base, Run Scored, Stolen Base, Walk and RBI, with a point deducted per strikeout. First up, as usual, is catcher.
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 Points Rankings: Catchers
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Catcher Points Rankings Analysis: The Tiers
Tier One presents us with Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, Kyle Schwarber* and Gary Sanchez. We’ll assume Schwarbs is catcher-eligible, but obviously just ignore if it doesn’t apply to you! The top four names really don’t require much scrutiny, but we’ll touch on their situations.
Kyle has Lucroy ahead of Posey, while I have them flip-flopped. You’re really not losing with either of course, but I personally see Posey’s power regressing toward Lucroy while he maintains his superior plate discipline. Still, it’s hard to overlook Lucroy’s .208 ISO compared to Posey’s .147. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has also said he wants to give Posey some more rest days in 2017.
Schwarber has totaled 236 plate appearances, while Sanchez has 229 PAs in the bigs. Both made huge splashes with their debut, showing off insane power for all to marvel at. Of course, Schwarber’s hit tool was more well-rounded in the Minors, as he regularly hit above .300 compared to Sanchez. But last season Sanchez hit .282 at Triple-A before delivering a .299 mark in the MLB. Both will frustrate some days with strikeout rates around 25-30 percent, but the excitement is warranted here with many of extra-base hits and counting stats to roll in.
Yasmani Grandal is somewhat like Gary Sanchez, in that he strikes out roughly a quarter of the time but brings some real pop to the party. Manager Dave Roberts said that Grandal won’t be platooned at all, which should give the 28-year-old a true shot at a 30-homer campaign.
I’m not terribly high on Evan Gattis at his current ADP, but perhaps he and Brian McCann will push each other to be great in that potent Houston lineup. I fear more frustration rather than fantasy goodness debating between the two, but we’ll see. Gattis’ improved 19.7% strikeout rate from 2015 slid back to 25.5% in 2016 despite his actually improving on his swinging-strike rate (11.6% to 11.3%). SwStr% isn’t the whole story, but I’d bank on it being closer to 20% again given his promising O-Swing% trend alongside the reduction in misses (40.9% à 36.9% à 32.4%).
Meanwhile, McCann has hit at least 20 homers or topped 90 RBIs in each of the last 11 seasons, but his swinging-strike rate did give back to 7.8% from his usual 6-6.5% mark from the prior three seasons. He should be okay, as it came with harder contact and an elevated walk rate, but it’s worth noting. Owners will just have to deal with his potentially giving some time to Gattis if Houston’s overall health holds—namely Carlos Beltran in the DH slot.
Russell Martin’s ugly 27.7% strikeout rate likely hurt points league owners last season, but he still maintained a 12% walk rate and smacked 20 homers. His 29.6% K rate did calm down to 25.5% in the second half, but drafting him will open the door to a few negative days.
Now things begin opening up a bit, and one can choose between the more consistent average of J.T. Realmuto or the increasing power of Salvador Perez. I appreciate the durability of Perez, but his worsening plate discipline rates do give me some pause in points formats. Meanwhile, I’m not expecting the same line out of Realmuto. Perhaps similar counting stats, but more of a .285-.290 average rather than the .303 mark from ’16.
Once you’re past those bigger names, then it just becomes a game of whose power you want to speculate on. Names like Cameron Rupp, Tom Murphy, Welington Castillo and Matt Wieters could all turn in roughly 20 homers. Now that Wieters has signed with Washington, we can say that all of those catchers play in power-friendly parks (rated above an even "1" on ESPN's Park Factors).
Rupp is only 28 and just turned 419 PAs into 16 homers, and honestly, he has room for more growth in the average department compared to last season’s .252 mark. He hits the snot out of the ball, especially against southpaws, and now with no Carlos Ruiz in the picture, he simply needs to start well and fend off prospect Jorge Alfaro. You could take worse risks, for sure.
Murphy has immense power upside, but those in points leagues will have to suffer through his Trevor Story-like counterweight of a strikeout rate that could sit in the 30s. But if given serious playing time, he could very well smash 30+ homers in the Mile High City. Don’t draft strictly for that upside, but that’s the flier you’re buying into.
The Rest of the Field
Deeper names will include betting on the resurgence of a Yan Gomes or Devin Mesoraco, with the former being a bit of a better buy than the oft-injured latter. Instead of going with their risk, I’d likely just as well take a flier on Tyler Flowers’ continuing to provide modest pop or Andrew Susac becoming a real asset in Milwaukee.
Flowers should be the starting catcher for the Braves in 2017, with Kurt Suzuki spelling him now instead of A.J. Pierzynski. The 31-year-old showcased healthy power for Atlanta as a prospect back in 2006-08, but then floundered for years after being traded to the White Sox. However, he returned to the Bravos last season with a useful .270/.357/.420 slash line in 325 PAs. With Atlanta set to roll out their best all-around lineup in several seasons, Flowers’ piece of the pie could be sneakily useful. I should bump him up.
Francisco Cervelli shouldn’t be cast aside either, as his disappointing average (.264) and one homer from last season was pretty darn un-Cervelli-like. His plate discipline remained as strong as ever (14.2% walk rate), with his reduced hard-hit rate at least somewhat attributable to dealing with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. He’s not a power hitter, but he should’ve had more than one homer to go with the 14 doubles (and one triple) considering his laughably low 1.6% HR/FB rate (7.3% in 2015). His bat plays up better in points formats, so don’t be afraid to nab him in the final rounds.