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2016 Free Agents: Catchers

The worst offensive fantasy position needs filling, one way or another.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

As the second half is upon us, keeper and dynasty owners must start looking into the futures of many of their current players. In the first installment of this series, I am reviewing the Catchers who presently have expiring contracts. Here is what we have, followed by what I think.

Team

Player (age)

DET

Alex Avila (29)

LAA

Chris Iannetta (33)

TB

John Jaso (32)

TOR

George Kottaras (32)

TBR

Jose Molina (41)

TOR

Dioner Navarro (32)

CIN

Brayan Pena (34)

ATL

A.J. Pierzynski (39)

BAL

Matt Wieters (30)

First lets get the names I that shouldn’t interest you unless you play in way too deep of a league. Chris Ianetta, George Kottaras, Jose Molina, Brayan Pena are all either defensive catchers or backups. They’re living the dream of playing major league baseball, but they don’t belong on 99% of fantasy rosters.

The second group are primarily fringy guys for one reason or another.:

  • Alex Avila has played 42 games and has a .179/.318/.268 line. But he’s hit 10+ home runs, and has a career 13% BB rate so I can’t totally write him off. It would take an intense league to own him, but those leagues do exist.
  • John Jaso has always been an annual favorite of mine. The strong side of a platoon for years, who has absolutely raked against righties. Unfortunately, concussions have taken their toll on Jaso, and he hasn’t caught a game this year, and will lose eligibility in the 2016 season. Jaso only being a DH doesn’t quite do for us what him formerly being the DH who occasionally caught did for fantasy owners. Only leagues and 20 teamers should still be interested, but after that, he’s unfortunately off the fantasy radar.
  • Dioner Navarro has been the only loser in the Russell Martin signing so far. He broke out in 2014 and has since lost all of his playing time to Martin, and doesn’t slot in as a DH with Encarnacion, Smoak, Bautista, and Colabello rotating positions and needing DH days of their own have left Navarro out. Free agency presents him with an interesting opportunity depending on his landing spot. Another backup role could kill his fantasy career at age 32. But a short-term deal using him as a stop gap before a better prospect or before a better free agent class comes along wouldn’t be a terrible move.
  • A.J. Pierzynski is quietly plugging a .294/.330/.431 season at age 39. He hasn’t said anything notable about retirement, so another year of AJ seems to be on the way. He’s cut his strikeout rate far below his career average while improving his walks above his career average. His Babip, hard hit rate, and batted ball info doesn’t indicate he’s been lucky, and his improved plate discipline can only help his future outcomes. In all likelihood, the Braves are signing him to another one-year deal or sending him on his way to another one-year deal to give Christian Betancourt another shot. Pierzynski is the last catcher drafted in a 15 team mixed league and represents minimal upside with zero risk, shallower scenarios leave him untouched or unnoticed.
  • The last name is obviously the biggest. Matt Wieters came up with star potential and always seemed to be a disappointment for inexplicable reasons. This season after Tommy John surgery he has seen his typically very strong K% spike to 25% after never posting a rate over 20% prior, and his homerun power has evaporated due to a career low fly ball rate. With his pedigree, and history of scattered success, and excellent defense, there is sure to be a very high bid on his services, which the Orioles likely won’t be able to afford. I expect Caleb Joseph to fill in for a year while the team attempts to decide if Chance Sisco can stick behind the plate, or search for a better deal with another catcher.

The top catchers with minor league eligibility for most lists are presently deeper down or presently injured. Jorge Alfaro will likely need another year in the minors to rehab his surgically repaired elbow before stepping up in Philadelphia. Tampa Bay is notoriously slow to bring along their prospects and Justin O’Conner has not had a good offensive year in the minors. Lastly, Gary Sanchez continues to have Brian McCann in front of him, along with his own defensive woes. It’s good to see Sanchez back to hitting as was once expected of him, but I wouldn’t anticipate him up prior to September 2016 unless an injury gives him a spot to move into. So in the comments below, mention any potential catching situations you think a team needs to address.