2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit: Catcher Rankings

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2012

2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit: Catcher Rankings

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    Welcome to the first edition of the 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. This time around, we'll rank the top catchers in five tiers, then take a look at one sleeper for each statistical category.

    Heading into the 2012 season, the catcher position is at once deep and top-heavy. The top four players stand alone as premium fantasy assets.

    Below them, the middle field is upwardly mobile, but risky. The bottom of the barrel is a combination of rolls of the dice and guarantees of mediocre production.

    As always, these rankings are based on a traditional 5x5 league.

    If you have any questions, rankings-related or otherwise, tweet me or drop me a note on my B/R profile page.

Tier 1: The Elite

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    Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers
    Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
    Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
    Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks

    This tier is the best of the best. Of the four, McCann is the surest bet to post elite production, but you really can't go wrong with any of these guys.

    Some might view Napoli as a bit of a risk and it's true, he probably won't match last season's production, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't deserve placement in this top tier.

    His BABIP will normalize and drop his batting average down into the .270 range, but Napoli still has 30+ home run power and plays in an offense that gives him an opportunity to top 75 in both R and RBI.

    One final note: If you play in an OBP league, Carlos Santana gets his own tier. He's the only catcher with a chance get on base at a .400 clip; no catcher reached that plateau last season.

Tier 2: Upwardly Mobile

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    Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
    Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
    Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
    Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

    Catcher is always a thin position, and heading in to 2012, it gets risky right off the bat. All four of Tier 2's occupants have significant risk.

    Mauer and Posey both have Tier 1 skills, but until they overcome their respective injury issues, they're stuck at this level.

    Avila was fantastic last season, but without a long-standing minor league pedigree, there's no guarantee that he can do it again. His BABIP will certainly regress, but his outstanding walk rate and ISO aren't going anywhere. He'll be on the fringe of the top five catchers all season long.

    Matt Wieters has an undisputed pedigree and since his disappointing debut season, he's steadily cut his strikeout rate and boosted his ISO, both fantastic signs for a player with power potential.

    Wieters has a chance to really break out this season, but for the first time ever, he's money in the bank as a top ten catcher.

Tier 3: Last of the Starters

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    Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels
    Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
    J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays

    Iannetta has burned me before, but god help me, I love him. The underlying stats are so strong, it's hard not to be optimistic about a situation that puts him in a very good offense with no established challenger for playing time. He's a risk, as any Scioscia-managed catcher is, but Iannetta's got a high ceiling.

    Yadier Molina has been a model of consistency, and he is the best batting average investment you can make at this position. However, he'll always reside on the fringes of the top ten because of his lack of home-run power, something that will never be an issue for Arencibia.

    For the purposes of these rankings, I'm assuming that Jesus Montero will not have catcher eligibility. If he does in your league, he'd fall into this tier.

Tier 4: Risky Business

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    Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox
    Russell Martin, New York Yankees
    Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
    Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
    Miguel Olivo, Seattle Mariners
    Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

    Flying well under the national radar, Olivo bashed 19 home runs in Seattle last season. His batting average won't be pretty, but he'll offer the most power potential you can find this late in your draft.

    Russell Martin hit 18 home runs last season, but I can't count on his inconsistent power heading into this season. Without the speed that used to make him a novelty at the position, he derives nearly all of his value simply from hitting in a great lineup.

    Ramos was consistent across the board in his rookie season in Washington. As he develops and the Nationals offense improves around him, he'll have the best chance of anybody in this tier to break into the top ten.

    Soto has all of the tools, but last season's contact-rate faceplant can't be ignored.

    At this point in their careers, we know what Salty and Ruiz are, and that's exactly what they'll be in 2012. Both players will benefit from playing with a talented offensive group, but won't contribute much beyond a solid batting average.

Tier 5: The Dregs

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    Devin Mesorasco, Cincinnati Reds
    John Buck, Miami Marlins
    Johnathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
    Kurt Suzuki, Oakland A's

    There is still some quality down at this level, but all of it is flawed.

    Lucroy has plenty of skill, but he has yet to wrest the job fully away from George Kottaras.

    Mesorasco is a good investment if you can afford him, but he won't start to pay off until the second half of this season, at the earliest.

    Buck has great power potential, and he could take off if the Marlins offense jells quickly.

    Kurt Suzuki is not good. He just barely makes this list and shouldn't be drafted in one-catcher leagues. He hits in a terrible lineup, won't crack a .250 batting average, and has never hit more than 15 homers.

If You Need... Runs

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    Russell Martin, New York Yankees

    Unless you happen to play in a league loaded with Yankee fans, Russell Martin will stick around until the late rounds of your draft. If you're in need of run-scoring at that point, there's no better investment at the catcher position.

    Martin's base-stealing days are behind him, but he still has nice wheels for a catcher and can get on base enough to let Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, et al, hit him in. Assuming at least 500 plate appearances, count on Martin to chip in 65-70 runs.

If You Need... RBI

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    Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs

    Poor plate discipline pushed Soto's batting average off a cliff last season, but his power (.183 ISO) remained strong.

    His contact woes keep him out of the higher tiers, but as one of the better hitters on a bad team, he'll still have plenty of opportunities to produce on offense.

    Soto will hit in a premium spot in the Cubs lineup, and with a bounceback in BABIP, he'll drive in 65-plus runs.

If You Need... Home Runs

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    Miguel Olivo, Seattle Mariners

    It would seem misguided to turn to Seattle for power potential, but late in drafts, no player delivers more home-run upside than Miguel Olivo. In fact, your competitors will probably overvalue the impact of hitting in an unfriendly location.

    Take advantage.

    Even playing half of his games in Safeco, Olivo's ISO ranked with the top players at the position in 2012. Don't expect a change in that this season; he'll top 20 home runs.

If You Need... AVG

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    Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

    Carlos Ruiz made contact on over 85 percent of his swings in 2011, a better rate than Brian McCann and Miguel Montero, and just a few percentage points shy of former batting champion Joe Mauer.

    This late in the draft, you won't find a better combination of job security and batting average.

    Ruiz hit .302 in 2010 and .283 last season. He won't reach his 2010 production this year, but expect him to settle in right around .280.

If You Need... SB

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    Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels

    Frankly, if you need stolen bases, look to another position.

    In the 2012 class of catchers, Iannetta is the only player whose talent and situation make him capable of reaching double-digit swipes.

    He has enough speed to sneak up on the defense every once in a while, and he'll be playing for the most aggressive running team in baseball.

    Assuming that Iannetta gets the lion's share of the playing time in LA, he's got a great chance to reach 12-15 steals this season.