Now that we have completed our consensus position rankings for 2014, it is time to address rankings for those of you in AL only and NL only leagues. Ray has already begun posting his NL only positional rankings and you can find them here:
In case you missed the consensus mixed league position rankings and projections that we have published to date, you can find the links to each post below:
I will be posting my AL only rankings over the course of the next week. Today, we’ll start with catchers.
The AL catching scene is strong in 2014 thanks to the emergence of Jason Castro last year and the crossing over of Brian McCann. The AL catchers have the luxury of being able to DH on days they are not catching and some players at the position are good enough to do so. Even so, there are some platoon situations and teams with above-average backups who have more than one catcher that may be worth rostering in your league.
Joe Mauer is the top guy this year and it looks like this season will end his reign on top of the AL catcher rankings. The Twins moved Mauer to first base to alleviate the wear and tear of the position for a player who battled injuries at times throughout his career. I’m not really a fan of Mauer at first base because he lacks the power that I usually look for at that position but I can see Mauer posting a career high in plate appearances and would bet on his premium batting average to have a larger impact this year than in years past. Also, the addition of Kurt Suzuki and the growth of Josmil Pinto enabled the Twins to make this move and I think they both can have a bit of value for their draft position. Suzuki gets the nod in the rankings because he’ll likely get the greater number of at bats.
It’s looking like Joe Mauer won’t be the only AL Central backstop changing positions this season. Carlos Santana will likely see time all over the diamond in 2014; playing some first base, DH, catcher and even third base. Know your league’s eligibility rules because Santana could be a guy with a rare mix of position eligibility and his bat will play at any of the positions for which he’ll qualify. Santana’s eligibility and consistent production led me to rank him just ahead of Brian McCann who has a legitimate shot at hitting 30 home runs in Yankee Stadium.
Jason Castro broke out in a big way last season and you can read more of my thoughts on him here. Salvador Perez is another rising star who’s been on the radar a little longer than Castro. At only 24, Perez has been one of the top hitting catchers since he got the call in 2011. He’s a career .301 hitter and finished behind only Joe Mauer in batting average in 2013 among AL catchers with at least 350 plate appearances. He also hit 13 home runs and tied Matt Wieters for the RBI lead among the same group. If Perez can stay healthy again this season, he will provide a premium batting average with decent pop at a position that often hurts lacks those categories.
Matt Wieters should continue to be one of the leaders in home runs and RBIs at the position but he has gotten progressively worse against right-handed pitchers and it doesn’t look like he’ll ever hit for the average we were expecting of him. Dioner Navarro slugged 13 home runs in only 89 games last year with the Cubs and now moves to a much better offense and one of the most home run-friendly ball parks in the bigs. He’s only 30 years old and I can see him being an under recognized contributor this season. Yan Gomes was only service time away from being a candidate for 2013 AL Rookie of the Year and stands to see more playing time in 2014. His .294 average was buoyed by a .342 BABIP but he has enough power to hit 18 or more home runs and be pretty pedestrian in the other categories.
A.J. Pierzynski will get the majority of the playing time with the Red Sox but he’ll be 37 this year and David Ross is one of the better back up catchers in the league. I think they share more at bats than Pierzynski owners would like to see and it drags his value down a bit. Mike Zunino struggled in his big league debut last season but he was a top prospect and showed the bat in college and minors. He’s going to be the everyday guy in Seattle and has some upside if he can put it together.
I really like Derek Norris and John Jaso but would like them even more if they were their team’s primary catcher. Since they are platoon partners and I like Norris’ power and little bit of speed more, I ranked them together giving Norris the slight edge. Tyler Flowers won the starting job in Chicago and could hit 15 home runs but he might also hit .215. Hank Conger is a better defensive catcher than he gets credit for and I’m a believer in his bat. I think there’s a chance that he takes Iannetta’s job at some point this season but Iannetta gets the higher ranking because in AL or NL only leagues, playing time is a larger part of the equation.
J.P. Arencibia – Please refer to Tyler Flowers and deduct .020 from the batting average.
You can follow Zack on Twitter at @FantasyNinja8.