One of the most important elements of winning in fantasy baseball comes down to finding those players that take a step forward and outperform their draft positions by breaking out or having their career years. We will be reviewing certain players at each position and discussing whether their fantasy value will be on the rise or decline heading into the 2014 baseball season and if you should target or avoid them in your draft. The first position on the table is catcher, which seems to have more intriguing options than usual headed into 2014. Now, let’s take a look at the catchers who could improve or hurt their fantasy value in the upcoming baseball season.
Brian McCann - I’m sure you have heard by now that the former Atlanta Braves star catcher will be joining the New York Yankees in 2014. After spending most of the past 2 seasons battling injuries, McCann could stand to benefit from the move to the American League, where he can spend some time at DH to help stay fresh and keep his bat in the lineup when he isn’t behind the plate. Even though he has battled recent injuries, McCann has put up at least 20 HR’s in each of the past 6 seasons. Plus, the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium could become McCann’s new best friend. When this backstop signed with the Yankees he created a dream scenario for his fantasy owners, and he should now be one of the top 5 catchers to be drafted in fantasy leagues next year.
Jason Castro - The Astros backstop made his 1st All-Star Team last year. Castro took a big leap forward in 2013 by blasting 18 HR’s with a .275 BA. Many will see his 2013 season as the breakout, and expect a possible regression in 2014, but the young catcher finally started to live up to the hype that made him the #10 overall pick in the MLB Draft back in 2008. Castro has dealt with injuries that derailed his first few MLB seasons, so the injury risk will be there. But I could see a healthy Jason Castro taking another step forward in 2014 as he continues to develop and the Astros lineup will begin to improve around him. He will turn 27 years-old during the upcoming season and is approaching the prime years of his career.
Wilson Ramos - Ramos has been one of my favorite deep sleepers the past few seasons. In November 2011, the backstop dealt with a home invasion in Venezuela and was kidnapped and held hostage for ransom. He was rescued and reunited with his family unharmed, but I have to believe spending time held hostage must be a very psychologically damaging experience, not to mention I am sure he wasn’t eating the healthiest and was obviously missing workouts. So I waited until 2013 on Ramos, but in spring training his season was derailed by injuries as he barely saw the field the first 2 months of the season. Once returning, Ramos logged only 78 games in 2013, but accumulated 16 HR’s and 59 RBI’s in that time. Those are solid numbers to put up in a full season at catcher. If Wilson Ramos can stay on the field for 120 games in 2014, you might get a top 10 catching option and great sleeper pick for late in the draft.
Joe Mauer – The Twin’s backstop is expected to move to 1B in 2014. The position switch should help the catcher stay fresh and log more AB’s, but what are you really getting with Joe Mauer? In the past 4 years, Mauer’s HR totals have been 11, 10, 3, and 9. In 2 of the past 4 seasons he has failed to log 50 RBI’s. Mauer topped 65 runs in only 2 of the past 4 seasons. He has 9 SB’s total in the past 4 years. Is it really worth drafting one of the first catchers off the board for a hollow batting average? Omar Infante will go 10 to 15 rounds later, puts up close to the same stat line, and plays an equally weak position going into 2014. With the depth at catcher this year, why not wait and draft one of the many solid options capable of 15-20 HR’s much later in the draft?
AJ Pierzynski – This backstop is likely headed out of the hitter’s haven that is The Ballpark in Arlington. Pierzynski will also be 36 years-old in 2014. His 27 HR’s in 2012 was an outlier and will never happen again. If you draft Pierzynski as your starting backstop, you are hoping he does just enough in each fantasy category to be about league average. Why take the risk on drafting this older catcher with no upside while so many younger, more interesting options will be available in the middle to late rounds? A.J. was still a free agent when this article was published, so where he ends up will affect his fantasy value. But unless he can work his way into a great situation, avoid the risk and go young at catcher next season.
Carlos Ruiz – Similar to Pierzynski, Ruiz had his career year in 2012 with 16 HR’s and a .325 batting average. Then Ruiz missed time in 2013 with a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. Could that have fueled this catcher’s breakout 2012 season at the age of 33 years-old? After returning from suspension, he failed to hit the way he had in 2012. In his 7 other full seasons in the majors, Ruiz has never topped 10 HR’s. His career batting average is .274. Ruiz was recently re-signed by the Phillies to a 3 yr. $26 million dollar contract. He will be 35 years-old headed into the 2014 season. He’s old, he’s comfortable, and he’s off the juice. Look elsewhere for your starting catcher in 2014.
Which catchers do you think could break-out next year?
Which catchers will be over-drafted in 2014?
Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below...