It’s winter time and in some places snow is falling but it’s never too early to start talking about baseball. This is the first in a series of posts that will document the initial Top 20 rankings at each of the major positions (some positions may have less and others have more) as we prepare for the 2014 season. Obviously off-season activity like free agent signings and trades will have a potentially dramatic impact on the rankings but for what we know right now, this is where the FFLockerRoom team stands. On with the catchers.
Buster Posey: He had what appears to be a down season as his homers dropped from 24 to 14 and his RBI fell from 103 to 72. Lost in that is the fact he reduced his K-rate from 15.7% to 11.8% while only dropping his walk rate from 11.3% to 10.1%. The culprit was a BABIP drop from .368 down to .312. He’ll be 27 next year so his upside is still huge making him the #1 catcher in the league.
Yadier Molina: Another catcher who saw his stats drop Molina’s is more concerning as his walk rate plummeted from 8% to 5.5% while his K-rate stayed relatively constant. He still posted a .319 average so he sticks near the top of the catcher list. St. Louis is always a contender and a power-packed lineup should keep his stat elevated.
Carlos Santana: At this point, we know who Santana is. He’ll hit around .270, smack 20 homers, drive in 75-80 and score 75-80 runs. There’s comfort in that security. He’ll turn 28 next season so there’s still considerable upside if he puts it all together.
Joe Mauer: Once the unquestionable #1 catcher Mauer falls to 4th on my list. He’s still a .320+ type of hitter but the lack of production after his contract fueled 2009 campaign keeps him low. In fact, as the season approaches, it’s possible Mauer’s ranking will drop more. The good news? He’s only 31 and without having to play catcher, he might actually keep fresh legs this season and out-produce his previous norms.
Wilin Rosario: A 24-year old catcher who plays in Colorado coming off a .292-21-63-79-4 type of season and I’m buying. The average will probably drop some after an inflated BABIP of .344 normalizes but his age and upside make him too attractive to pass up.
Brian McCann: He’ll only be 30 years old next year but McCann hasn’t seen 500 plate appearances since 2011. He’s been a virtual lock for 20 homers a year and moving to Yankee Stadium with the short porch, he could hit 20 by the All-Star break. The question will be how low in the order he hits and whether he can handle the big stage in NY. There’s upside for sure.
Jonathan Lucroy: Maybe I’m a sucker for a guy named Jonathan but after a .280/.340.455 season in which he smacked 18 homers I’m jumping aboard the Lucroy train. He’s got some wheels for a catcher chipping in 9 steals last year which is a huge bonus for the catcher position. Only turning 28 next year, fresh legs are always welcome for a catcher.
Salvador Perez: 23-years old entering the season you can see a trend in my rankings. Gone are the old guard veteran catchers. I’m more willing to risk the upside with youth. Perez hit .292 last year and with a .311 BABIP there was no luck involved. He’s a legitimate .290-.300 hitter and with a little physical development, he could improve dramatically over the 13 homers he hit last season. If you miss out on the top 3 or 4 catchers, there’s nothing wrong with gambling with the upside of youth.
Matt Wieters: At this point, I think we know who Wieters is. He’s never going to develop into the stud people expected. You take your .250 (or below) average in exchange for the 22 homers and 60-80 RBI’s and runs. It’s certainly the safe way to go but Wieters is a guy who can drop on this list as the season approaches.
Wilson Ramos: In only 78 games for the Nationals last season Ramos hit 16 homers and drove in 59 runs. This year Ramos comes in as the unquestioned top catching option in Washington. I’m probably playing it safe with this low ranking for now. The 26-year old certainly has upside to leapfrog a number currently sitting in front of him.
Evan Gattis: In only 382 plate appearances Gattis hit 21 homers. The problem is it came with a 21% strikeout rate and a weak .243 average. With Brian McCann residing in New York, Gattis should get more opportunities to flash his power and can potentially hit 30 homers. The low average keeps him outside the top 10.
Jason Castro: I’m a sucker for youth once again but Castro is coming off a .276-18-56-63-2 season. The issue with him is that he fans the crowd entirely too often. A 26.5% strikeout rate and .351 BABIP suggests that unfortunately, there’s some downside to his stats from 2013.
A.J. Pierzynski: This man baffles me. He’ll be 37 years old at the end of December yet he still hit .272 with 17 homers last year. Pierzynski is not one of the more well-liked players in the league but his fiery personality will play very well with the band of idiots in Boston. There’s no reason not to expect similar numbers this season.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: The longest last name in baseball Salty will be “taking his talents to South Beach.” Unfortunately for him, that’s not going to help his numbers. Salty was extremely lucky to have a .273 average last year as his .372 BABIP certainly inflated the numbers some. The drop from 25 homers to 14 homers is concerning along with his rise in ground ball rate and drop in fly ball rate. The more I digest the move to Florida, the more I may be convinced that I have Salty too high.
Ryan Doumit: We have now reached the entirely unexciting portion of the list. Doumit is basically a .250 hitter with 15 homer power. The multi-position eligibility gives him a slight edge over similar type hitters. With Mauer moving to 1b, he might get some additional chances to hit which could add some upside to his numbers.
Miguel Montero: A crappy 2013 won’t make me totally forget a .286-15-88-65 season he had in 2012. There’s certainly a chance Montero gets back closer to his 2012 stats. A solid spring training would go a long way in solidifying his ranking.
Devin Mesoraco: In 589 career plate appearances Mesoracio has a .248 BABIP. Either he’s the unluckiest catcher in the league or there’s some upside to the .225 career average. He did hit 9 homers in only 352 plate appearances last year so there’s mid-teens power potential and at 25-years of age, there’s certainly some potential upside to his projections. At this point on the list you’re grasping at straws so might as well go with the youthful upside.
Russell Martin: The complete opposite of Mesoracio is Martin. He’ll be 31 when the season begins and he hasn’t hit .250 since 2009. His defense keeps him in the lineup and he does hit mid-teen homers while adding 5-10 stolen bases. He’s a yawner but the speed is at least a nice touch.
Yan Gomes: Gomes is only 26-years old and he did hit .294 with 11 homers in only 322 plate appearances last year. There’s opportunities for playing time at catcher, first base and DH for Gomes so a potential increase in playing time could give him a big boost. For now, 19th seems fair.
Travis d’Arnaud: Throw 2013 out the window. The top prospect was injured and we can glean nothing from the numbers. In 2012 at Triple-A for the Blue Jays d’Arnaud hit .333 with 16 homers in only 303 plate appearances. Not saying he’ll immediately have that type of success in the big leagues but his upside potential and starting opportunity are too good for him to be left outside the top 20.