Catchers Set to Bust in 2017

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Catcher is a pretty thin position for big time offensive stats, so many fantasy owners tend to a get a little too excited over a good numbers at the plate from a backstop. Career years sure are nice when they happen, but counting on sustainability when the data tells you otherwise is a road to fantasy disappointment.

We saw some nice career years and fantasy surprises at catcher in 2016, but that doesn’t make some of these guys good draft picks in 2017. Don't get me wrong - there might be some decent enough fantasy players here, but not at the spot where they're likely to be drafted. Let someone else make the mistake on taking these guys too early and find someone else to man the catcher position for your fantasy team in 2017.

Here are the trio of catchers that are going to end up drafted too high in most leagues and will not match their 2016 output.

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Catcher Bust Candidates

Evan Gattis, Houston Astros

Evan Gattis led all fantasy eligible catchers last season in home runs, launching a career high 32 bombs in 499 plate appearances. Other than the general practice that it’s safer to keep expectations low after career year performances, there are a couple other reasons to doubt Gattis has another 30+ homer year in him for 2017.

First, it’s his competition for at-bats. The Astros signed another catcher, Brian McCann, this offseason and also added veteran slugger Carlos Beltran to grab a lot of the DH at-bats. Sure, Beltran could play the outfield, leaving the DH spot open for Gattis, but he’s going to be 40 in April, he only played 18 games in the outfield last season, and the Astros also signed a Gold Glove outfielder in Josh Reddick. There just seems to be too many new guys getting in the way of Gattis’ playing time for 2017.

Then there’s the issue of his home run rate compared to the fly balls he hit in 2016. Last season he hit home runs on 24.1 percent of the fly balls he hit, compared to a career HR/FB rate of 18.1 percent. Most players are going to have a hard time sustaining a rate above 20 percent, especially when we have a track record to go by from Gattis. He can still be an effective fantasy player this season but those 32 home runs will likely get him drafted too high in many fantasy leagues.

 

J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins

J.T. Realmuto was a popular fantasy catcher last season, with a breakout season at the dish and even contributing some bonus stolen bases. His .303/.343/.428 slash line was nice production from the usually thin catcher position and his home run (11) and RBI (48) totals were consistent with what he put up a season before.

But, the 25-year-old backstop was blessed with an unsustainable .357 BABIP in 2016. This was especially noticeable against right-handed pitching, where he had a .374 BABIP and outperformed his performance against righties from the season prior by a significant margin. In 2015, with more a more normal BABIP of .275 against righty pitching, he hit .253/.282/.389. But against righties in 2016 with the sky-high BABIP aiding him, he hit .322/.361/.445.

We can expect some of that to come back to Earth in 2017, and even though he could still end up a top 10 fantasy catcher, he’ll probably be drafted too high for the production that he’ll provide. Catchers like Yasmani Grandal and Salvador Perez are being drafted after Realmuto and are likely to provide better production overall. And really, as nice as the 12 stolen bases were to get from the catcher position last season, there are other places where fantasy owners can find a dozen or more stolen bases.

 

Sandy Leon, Boston Red Sox

Sandy Leon had a breakout season last year, coming up to the bigs in June and grabbing the starting catcher job in Boston with a .310/.369/.476 triple slash line in 283 plate appearances. This led to him out-preforming some higher profile fantasy catchers like Salvador Perez and Russell Martin in 2016, but fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a repeat of this in 2017.

Prior to last season, Leon had never had more than 114 at-bats in a season at the big league level and he was aided by a .392 BABIP. And as a catcher, Leon is not going to leg out many infield hits, so the idea that he could sustain a high BABIP is pretty unlikely. Still, he is expected to have the starting job in hand as the season starts and he is part of a good lineup on one of the top teams in the American League. But, he will also have catching prospect Blake Swihart looming, so even his status as a full time starter in 2017 isn’t a complete certainty.

He’s probably a fine option as a second catcher in deep leagues, but he’ll end up getting drafted as a starting catcher in many fantasy leagues, which will be way too high for the production that he will provide.

 

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