2012 Fantasy Baseball Head-to-Head Points League Position Rankings: Catcher

This post is the first in a series of position rankings catered specifically to fantasy baseball head-to-head (H2H) points leagues.

While a good player is a good player no matter the league, there can be a significant difference in value in a points league if a hitter strikes out more than league average, offers a high AVG but minimal XBH (SLG) or doesn't find himself in the lineup enough on a week-to-week basis.

All hitters in this post and future H2H points league rankings are based on these scoring values:

(1B x 1) + (2B x 2) + (3B x 3) + (HR x 4) + (R x 1) + (RBI x 1) + (BB x 1) + (SB x 2) + (SO x -1) = Total

Notes on drafting in a H2H points league:

Plate appearances – Scoring in a fantasy baseball H2H points league is fairly similar to fantasy football, where the running backs who get the most touches and wide receivers that get the most targets typically have the most value. The same can be said for hitters who accumulate more plate appearances than their counterparts. More plate appearances mean more opportunities for runs, runs batted in and extra base hits.

Strikeouts - If a hitter strikes out in a rotisserie league it in no way significantly impacts a fantasy owner’s stats outside of a small decrease in AVG per strikeout. Whereas in a H2H points league each strikeout costs an owner 1 point. It might not sound like much, but over the course of a week or a season it can significantly impact not only the players worth in the league, but your success as well. As you'll see in the rankings below, perhaps the biggest reason Carlos Santana didn't receive the top ranking was due to his glaring strikeout total in 2011.

Balance - In a H2H points league you'll want to focus on players with the potential to give you as many points from as many categories as possible. Someone like Michael Bourn or Dee Gordon who only offer stolen bases and runs, is not as valuable as a hitter that contributes across the board, even if no one skill outshines the rest.

OPS - It's important to remember that in a H2H points league, unlike in a standard roto league, BB are worth points and XBH are worth multipliers, whereas in most leagues a BB is worthless and a hit is just a hit unless it leads to a RBI or runs scored. Therefore OPS can be a telling stat in a points league as it combines a players OBP (combination of hits and walks) and SLG (total bases divided by at bats).

Home runs - Home runs offer the biggest multiplier in a fantasy baseball H2H points league, but they also often come with high risk as power hitters tend to strike out more often than contact hitters. Players that come to mind include Mark Reynolds, Mike Stanton, JP Arencibia and Dan Uggla. Make sure that a hitter’s strikeout total and SO% do not cancel out their power production before drafting them.

Read more on H2H point league strategies here.

Notes on catchers:

Plate appearances - It's important to remember that most catchers don't play ever day. Therefore, those that are eligible at multiple positions and find themselves in the lineup more often than not are extremely valuable in a H2H weekly format. This includes players such as Victor Martinez, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer and possibly Buster Posey later in the season.

Depth - Catcher appears to be one of the deepest positions in fantasy baseball for the 2012 season. There is plenty of upside to be had from those ranked outside of the Top 5 or 10, while catchers at the top should make a significant contribution to your team’s roster.

Power - Catcher has also developed into somewhat of a power position as five hit over 20 HR (as many as third basemen) with another two coming in at 19. If you’re league is extremely focused on HR, you might find a sneaky source of power at the catcher position late in your draft.

Youth - There seems to be a youth movement at catcher with eight of the 20 players ranked in this list (technically 21) either 25 years old or younger.

Rankings after the jump:


2012 Fantasy Baseball Head-to-Head Points League Catcher Rankings:

1) Victor Martinez, DET
2011 Points Scored: 431

Martinez’s durability is unmatched at the position and, thanks to his C/1B/DH eligibility (losing 1B in ’12), has had over 600 plate appearances in four of his last seven seasons (he came up just shy in 2011 with 595). I’m no math wiz, but I’m pretty sure more plate appearances means more chances to accumulate points, which Martinez did by finishing first in RBI (103) and second in runs scored (76) at the position . In 2011, his first year with the Detroit Tigers, his OPS was .850, good for third best and in line with his career average of .840. The drop in HR and ISO is something to take note off, but his impressive 8.6 SO% more than makes up for it. His BABIP of .343 could and likely will drop (although not significantly thanks to his solid line drive percentage) and he isn’t getting any younger, but, overall, there’s no reason not to expect another productive fantasy season from the Motor City’s most versatile run producer.

2) Carlos Santana, CLE
2011 Points Scored: 389

If his breakout 2011 is any indication (and I’d assume it is), Santana could and should lead these rankings in the not too distant future. However, he will need to drastically cut down on the strikeouts as his 133 were tied for first at the position thanks to a rather ugly 20.2 SO%. That being said, the opportunity for points is oozing with potential as Santana led all catchers with 658 plate appearances while splitting time at catcher, first base and DH. Santana’s 97 BB were the most of any catcher and good for third in the AL. His 27 HR were second at the position and there’s an excellent chance he’ll reach or eclipse 30 in 2012. Oh, and don’t be too concerned with his .239 AVG either as there is room to improve on a fairly modest .263 BABIP.

3) Mike Napoli, TEX
2011 Points Scored: 361

Napoli took the baseball world by storm with an amazing October performance, but it’s his regular season fantasy players won’t soon forget. Napoli’s 30 HR were the most amongst catchers due to a staggering 12.3 AB/HR ratio while his 72 R, 75 RBI, .320 AVG and 1.046 OPS were all career bests. There’s legitimate concern that his AVG might drop as his .344 BABIP is fairly unsustainable, and his 19.7 SO% was a career low to quite a degree. But, don’t let fear of playing time curtail you from Napoli. His C/1B/DH eligibility (barring a significant 1B FA signing) almost ensures he’ll have as many plate appearances (432) in ’12 and his playoff performance could’ve earned him more. No matter what, he still hits in a potent lineup in Arlington aka "Land of the Long Ball."

4) Matt Wieters, BAL
2011 Points Scored: 331

Let me just say that I share Robert’s enthusiasm regarding Matt Wieters and his potential for this season (2012 Early Position Rankings: Catcher Profiles). None of Wieter’s stats or ratios stand out as being particularly unsustainable or unrepeatable, and as Robert mentioned, his .276 BABIP shows there could be even greater things ahead for Wieters in 2012.

5) Buster Posey, SF
2011 Points Scored: 95 (injured)

Posey showed no signs of slowing down from his 2010 NL ROY season in his 185 plate appearances in 2011 prior to his injury and I don’t expect him to when he returns this year. There is a chance the Giants are careful with him in April and May and limit his starts behind the plate, but as the season wears on and the NL West Division race heats up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Posey’s playing time skyrocket, including maybe even a start or two at 1B to keep his legs fresh. His bat is simply too valuable to the Giants, as we saw last season when he was absent from their lineup.

6) Brian McCann, ATL
2011 Points Scored: 313

It’s still early to read too much into ADP, but McCann currently sits at 48 as the second catcher off the board after only Santana. I don’t know about you, but that’s far too rich for my blood with there being a wealth of late upside picks at the catcher position in 2012. Last season marked the third in a row in which McCann’s XBH totals declined (which is significant in H2H point leagues considering the multipliers for doubles, triples and home runs) and his .817 OPS was the lowest of his six full seasons. Health hasn’t been a reoccurring issue, but injuries did arise in 2011. If that’s a start of a trend and Brian McCan’t stay healthy, he’ll have no chance of offering anywhere close to the same PA totals his AL counterparts can provide. When all is said and done, it’s likely McCann puts up the same solid season he always does. I’m just not sure it’s worth the cost anymore.

7) Miguel Montero, ARZ
2011 Points Scored: 334

Were health not a concern, Montero would almost certainly be ranked ahead of Brian McCann at this point. As is, 2011 marked the first season in which Montero had more than 500 plate appearances and he’ll need to do it again before he can be completely trusted. The good news is he made the most of those appearances with a .282/.351/.469 (.820 OPS) slash line, 18 HR, 65 R and 55 XBH (tied for second at the position). His strikeouts are not alarming and with his power potential, hitter-friendly home ballpark and potent lineup surrounding him, Montero has a chance to shoot up the rankings with another injury-free season in 2012 at a cost you can afford. Considering all that, I might even be willing to forgive him for that silly "snake bite" celebration he debuted in the NLDS versus Milwaukee.

8) Joe Mauer, MIN
2011 Points Scored: 171 (injured)

Oh, how the Mighty Mauer has fallen. There are two scenarios here: 1) His back and knees sideline him half the season 2) He remains healthy and posts close to his career averages, giving you what would likely be the highest scoring catcher. Either is possible at this point. Thus far, Target Field has done Mauer no favors. The aforementioned injuries are obviously a concern, but, the Twins have addressed them by starting him at both 1B and DH regularly. For me it all comes down to his draft position. If you can get him in say the eight or ninth round, I’d go for it. But, anywhere much earlier than that and I’d rather have one of the Monteros.

9) Jesus Montero, NYY
2011 Points Scored: September Call-Up

Jesus Montero’s MLB debut took somewhat longer than expected, but when he arrived, he arrived with a bang. In 69 September plate appearances, Montero posted a .328/.406/.590 (.996 OPS) to go along with 7 HR. His 17 strikeouts and 24.6 SO% are slightly alarming, but not enough to temper my excitement for Montero in 2012. Once he gains catcher eligibility (if he doesn’t have it to start the season), Montero will offer fantasy owners an every day bat (either at DH or spelling Martin behind the plate) in the highest scoring lineup in baseball and could reach enough plate appearances to rival both Martinez and Santana. Praise Jesus!

10) Alex Avila, DET
2011 Points Scored: 328

Avila came out of nowhere in 2011 to post one of the best seasons at the catcher position. The obvious question is whether he is a one-year wonder or if ’11 was the first of many seasons among the elite catchers in the league. At this point I’d have to lean toward the former (although I don’t think he’ll completely fade away) as there are some immediate warning signs when reviewing Avila’s season. First of all, his 23.8 SO% was far above the league average and his 131 strikeouts were the third worst at the position. If his AVG drops significantly or at all, which is possible considering Avila’s entirely unsustainable .366 BABIP, those strikeouts will quickly start chipping away at his point total. He could continue to post solid HR numbers and there is the chance to both score and produce runs in Detroit’s potent lineup, but for me, there are more red flags than checkered ones associated with Avila and I’ll put up the brakes before considering drafting him this season.

11 Yadier Molina, STL
2011 Points Scored: 338

Molina had a career best .305/.349/.465 (.814 OPS) slash line in 2011. His 14 HR were double his previous season’s best and it would be wise to expect something closer to his career average than pay for the chance at a low-teen outburst again. Overall, Molina isn’t what you’d consider a flashy fantasy player but he certainly won’t hurt you either as ’11 marked the sixth year in his eight seasons in which he posted a SO% lower than 10 (8.5).

12) Russell Martin, NYY
2011 Points Scored: 277

Russell Martin was the closest 20/20 candidate at the catcher position in 2011 with 18 HR and 8 SB. Oh, so close! I wouldn’t hold out much hope for it in 2012 either, but a repeat of his ’11 season seems more than possible. In fact, his .252 BABIP suggests his AVG could be due for a spike. And if not, there is always the chance to post solid counting stats as a daily fixture in the Yankees’ lineup.

13) Wilson Ramos, WAS
2011 Points Scored: 235

Of the 20 highest scoring catchers in 2011, Ramos had the second fewest plate appearances (435) and still managed to finish with the fourteenth most points. His counting stats are almost certain to increase and it would seem more than likely that Ramos will reach or eclipse the 20 HR mark in 2012 while still offering a decent AVG somewhere in the .260-.280 range. Expect 100 to 150 more plate appearances and an all-around solid season from Ramos in Washington.

14) Kurt Suzuki, OAK
2011 Points Scored: 253

Suzuki marks the first of three fairly boring, but consistent scorers at the catcher position. He is a sneaky source of low- to mid-teen HR power as he has smashed at least 13 long balls in each of the last three seasons. If his MLB average line drive rate translates to a BABIP (.244 in ’11) closer to the league average, Suzuki ‘s AVG should increase and add another 20 to 30 points to his season total, making him a good bet to reach close to 280 points in 2012 as his 12.4 SO% is not much of a concern.

15) AJ Pierzynski, CWS
2011 Points Scored: 264

See Molina, Yadier. Like Molina, AJ Pierzynski is anything but flashy and is more likely to help you win a bar brawl than a fantasy championship. With that being said, Pierzynski will almost never hurt you the nights he is in your lineup. His 33 strikeouts were by far the lowest amongst the Top 20 2011 catchers and while his 6.6 SO% was impressive, it wasn’t that far out of line from his 10.9% career average or even his career best (5.3% in 2004). If all you’re looking for from your catcher is two or three points a night to complement your superstars, Pierzynski is your man.

16) Carlos Ruiz, PHI
2011 Points Scored: 248

Once again, what you see from Ruiz is what you get and it would be smart to assume nothing more than a repeat from his 2011 performance. But, that’s something you can live with as his 248 points were good for twelfth best at the position, putting him on the border of a number one catcher in most 10 to 12 team leagues. The Phillies should continue to score runs, despite the early absence of Ryan Howard, and Ruiz figures to be a part of that once again.

17) JP Arencibia, TOR
2011 Points Scored: 224

Finally back to some upside! JP Arencibia smacked 23 HR in his rookie season with the Toronto Blue Jays, good for fourth best at the catcher position in 2011. Unfortunately when he wasn’t knocking balls over the fence, he wasn’t really knocking them anywhere at all as he had 133 strikeouts (tied for second worst with Santana) and an awful 27.4 SO%. Until he is able to cut down on the whiffs, Arencibia will remain fairly irrelevant in H2H point leagues, which is a bummer since there is the opportunity for points in Toronto’s high-powered offense.

18) Geovany Soto, CHC
2011 Points Scored: 194

Soto and Arencibia are almost interchangeable as their 20 HR potential is appealing in standard scoring leagues, but almost worthless in H2H point leagues due to their high strikeout totals (124 for Soto in 2011). With that being said, where there are home runs there is the potential for scoring and were either able to stabilize their SO% they would quickly surpass the Ruizs, Pierzynskis and Suzukis of these rankings.

19) Chris Iannetta, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 242

I’m all in on the Angels in 2012 with their offseason acquisition of King Albert, Iannetta included. His 426 PA were the lowest amongst Top 20 catchers in 2011 and he could be in line for an increase, depending how much time Hank Conger steals away from him. While leaving Coors Field could dip into his HR totals, a change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered for Iannetta. The Angels’ clubhouse is sure to be abuzz with excitement this season with Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and other veterans in pursuit of their first World Series Championship, and their lineup just might be able to deliver it.

20) John Buck, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 208

Once you get to this point in the rankings plate appearances and platoons start to enter the equation and deter you from catchers like Saltalamacchia, Torrealba and others. Fortunately for John Buck, that’s not a concern as he posted 466 plate appearances in 2011 and should do so again this season with no prospects nipping at his heels. He still was able to hit 16 dingers in 2011, nowhere near the regression some expected when he took his talents from Toronto and the Rogers Center to South Beach, meaning Buck could be a solid bet for mid- to high-teen HR numbers going forward. The addition of Jose Reyes to the lineup, along with a healthy Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton should mean that RBI opportunities won't not be scarce for Buck in Miami in 2012.

Honorable Mention:

Devin Mesoraco, CIN

Personally I don’t share quite the excitement over Mesoraco as some fantasy baseball pundits. I can see the upside, promise and potential, but without plate appearances, it’s all rather irrelevant. Best case scenario, barring an injury to Ryan Hanigan, I’d guess Mesoraco gets a similar number of plate appearances to Ramon Hernandez’s 328 from last year which would add up to around 170-180 points over the course of the season. That’s not enough to get me excited. If he’s still around in the last one or two rounds of your draft then sure, go for it. But he isn’t someone I would reach for.

Is there a catcher you're excited about that didn't make the cut? Feel free to comment below on the rankings or any ask any other H2H points league questions.

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