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Dynasty Lookout: Catcher

Each Baseball America composes a team by team breakdown of top prospects and projected lineups a few years down the road.  This year they break down the projected lineups for 2016.

For fantasy purposes, it can be useful to have this broken down by position. Today we’ll look at the catcher position.

Team 2016 Catcher
Baltimore Orioles Matt Wieters
Boston Red Sox Blake Swihart
New York Yankees Gary Sanchez
Tampa Bay Rays Mark Thomas
Toronto Blue Jays Travis D’Arnaud
Chicago White Sox Tyler Flowers
Cleveland Indians Carlos Santana
Detroit Tigers Alex Avila
Kansas City Royals Salvador Perez
Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer
Houston Astros Jason Castro
Los Angeles Angels Chris Iannetta
Oakland Athletics Derek Norris
Seattle Mariners Mike Zunino
Texas Rangers Jorge Alfaro
Atlanta Braves Brian McCann
Miami Marlins J.T. Realmuto
New York Mets Kevin Plawecki
Philladelphia Phillies Tommy Joseph
Washinton Nationals Wilson Ramos
Chicago Cubs Welington Castillo
Cincinatti Reds Devin Mesoraco
Milwaukee Brewers Jonathan Lucroy
Pittsburgh Pirates Russell Martin
St. Louis Cardinals Yadier Molina
Arizona Diamondbacks Miguel Montero
Colorado Rockies Wilin Rosario
Los Angeles Dodgers Tim Federowicz
San Diego Padres Yasmani Grandal
San Fransisco Giants Buster Posey

Many of the catchers of the future are also the catchers of now, though many of the names on this list have yet to obtain any major league experience.  Newcomers ranking among the mlb.com top 100 prospects are Travis d’Arnaud (#6),  Mike Zunino (#23),  Gary Sanchez (#36),  Jorge Alfaro (#88).

Not projected to claim the starting role, but still ranking in the top 100 is Austin Hedges (#73) who is currently blocked by Yasmani Grandal in San Diego.

Also notable is that this list was composed while d’Arnaud was still a member of the Blue Jays.  Presumably he would now be the projected starter for the Mets, displacing Kevin Plawecki from the list.

For dynasty purposes, we tend to focus our interest on the prospect types, and less on the MLB mainstays.  I think this is a fine approach as the current MLB starters are more of a known commodity, with MLB stats readily available.

Buster Posey and Carlos Santana are two young catchers with loads of talent who contribute at a star level already.  Both should see more time at 1B to rest their legs, which should allow them to see more ABs than other catchers.

Matt Wieters was perhaps the top hitting prospect entering the 2010 season.  While the batting average hasn’t been what many had hoped, he has delivered in the power department.  While not particularly fantasy relevant, he has also won back to back Gold Glove awards, so there is no question he remains at catcher for the long haul.

Salvador Perez is young and has been outstanding in limited major league experience.  His lack of prospect pedigree means he can be had at a cheaper price than Posey or Santana.

Travis D’Arnaud will likely start at AAA, but I expect him to be a solid contributor sometime this year.  Likewise, Mike Zunino looks primed to move through the minors quickly, though the Mariners surely want to give Jesus Montero one more shot to prove that he can’t  be a major league catcher first.  Of the two, John Sickels slightly prefers Zunino, primarly due to age.

Gary Sanchez in the Yankees system is a bit farther away, but he could be ready to help the big club as soon as 2014, as the current set of Yankee backstops doesn’t look to be a long term solution.

Yasmani Grandal of the Padres will open 2013 on a 50 game suspension for testosterone use.  The former Reds top prospect has put up excellent numbers thus far, including unexpected power– especially in San Diego.  However, due to his suspension and questions surrounding the effects of PEDs, his price should slip.

Devin Mesoraco was a premium prospect entering last season, but the combination of Dusty Baker’s famous affinity for veterans, and Mesoraco’s poor performance in what limited playing time he saw, he has not been a valuable fantasy asset.  To that end he is a particularly good upside play that you can probably nab more cheaply than most.

 

Dynasty leagues can take so many formats that its difficult to discuss strategy in a generic way.  However, I personally value players who offer immediate impact, or an easily projectable short path to the majors.  I also think catcher is a high risk position in fantasy… the day-to-day toll of playing behind the plate is higher than other positions.

With Buster Posey, you’re going to have to pay a positional scarcity premium as well as an MVP premium.  He also may have had a career year… its hard to project much upside beyond what he did in 2012.

Santana’s upside is right up there with Posey, but he should come significantly cheaper, to the point where I would consider him as a target.

After Santana, however, I think catcher is deep enough that you can wait to grab a young upside play like d’Arnaud, Zunino, or Mesoraco, and an un-sexy veteran to bridge the gap until your catcher of the future arrives.

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Players mentioned in this post
Carlos Santana
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Matt Wieters
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