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Staff Post: Catchers to Target in 2016

The Fake Teams staff offers you the catchers they would target in drafts this season, including Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto, Blake Swihart and others.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

When preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts, it is a must to have a strategy before going into your draft. To assist you in your strategy, we have provided you with our Consensus Top 30 catcher rankings for 2015, tiered rankings, and NL-only and AL-only rankings as well.

Now that we have provided you all these tools you need to prepare for your drafts, your fantasy draft preparation would be incomplete without some catchers to target and avoid, which we provide you today.

We asked each of the fantasy baseball writers to provide you with the catcher they would target in fantasy drafts this season, and you can find them along with their reasoning below.

Catchers to Target in 2016

Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers (Ray Guilfoyle)

Grandal performed how most of us thought he would perform in 2015, hitting 16 home runs and walking a ton. His end of season slash line of .234-.353-.403 says he wasn't that good once he swung last season, but his season was a tale of two seasons. Here are his first and second half slash lines:

First half: .282-.401-.526

Second half: .162-.280-.218

Yeah, so Grandal couldn't hit a lick in the second half. Well, there was a reason. He was dealing with a shoulder injury and could barely swing the bat, but remained in the Dodgers lineup due to his defensive skills. Grandal hit 14 of his home runs in the first half last season, and now that he has had offseason surgery to clean up his shoulder, I see a 20 home run season from him, and he could easily finish among the top 5-6 fantasy catchers with good health. He is currently the 12th catcher off draft boards according to the NFBC ADP rankings, and he can easily outperform that ranking in 2016.

Miguel Montero, Cubs (Jason Hunt)

Montero is actually a bit underrated in my opinion in part because he's the second-best catcher on the North side of Chicago. He's someone who will get the majority of at bats at catcher, will be hitting in an extremely potent Cubs lineup, and can be grabbed near the end of your draft. A .250, 15 home run season is a reasonable expectation from him, and is there's still the potential for a little more upside beyond that.

Travis d'Arnaud, Mets (Daniel Kelley)

A commenter on my Travis d'Arnaud piece from Monday said that the downside of drafting d'Arnaud, as I recommended, was that his injury history more or less forces you to draft a backup catcher. So instead of rehashing all my arguments from Monday here (which: powerful, excellent hitter, happy to use him most of the season and fill in when he's hurt; there, rehashed), I'll address that. If you're in a league where most owners are taking only one catcher (as they should), then there will be guys on the waiver wire like Yasmani Grandal, Francisco Cervelli, J.T. Realmuto. Heck, Nick Hundley had an OPS of .807 last year, and I've seen him ranked in the 20s. The nice thing about d'Arnaud is that, when he's hurt, on the DL, you know he's out. Draft d'Arnaud early, pick up one of the bunches of options when you need him. Even with an oft-injured guy, don't burn an extra pick.

Devin Mesoraco, Reds (Tim Finnegan)

Mesoraco's 2014 season was incredible, and I think goes a little overlooked in just how good it was. Mesoraco's .260 2014 ISO is tied with Mike Piazza's 1995 ISO for 27th all time among catchers with at least 400 PA in a single season, and his 146 wRC+ is 43rd. This skillset is extremely valuable in leagues that use slugging in the scoring criteria, like an OPS league. Of course, he is a risk because he's coming off hip surgery, but the surgery is reflected in his ADP, which is currently around 170. He is also expected to be fully healthy for the start of spring training, and will shake some of the rust off with a full camp. To draft him in the 170-200 range gives tremendous upside, and a healthy Mesoraco can realistically outperform this draft slot by season's end.

Yan Gomes, Indians (Rob Parker)

After an injury-plagued and mostly terrible season in 2015, fantasy owners may have forgotten about his breakout season in 2014. I believe the power will return with a fully healthy offseason and he just needs some better BABIP luck in 2016 (career BABIP is 0.312, 2015 BABIP 0.285) to go with that power and he could hit close to 20 home runs with a 0.260 average. But don't target him in OBP leagues, though, because he never walks.

Blake Swihart, Red Sox (Domenic Lanza)

The catching well is rather dry nowadays, with multi-category contributors being few and far between. Despite having a disappointing rookie season by top-prospect standards, Swihart ranked fifth among catchers with at least 300 PA in batting average and tenth in runs - and I believe this represents something close to his floor. Called-up on May 2, Swihart struggled for the first month or so of his career, bottoming out at .091/.130/.136 at the end of his first week in the Majors. From that point forward, however, he hit .289/.335/.414 with 5 HR (102 wRC+) in 286 PA. And after the All-Star break, he hit a robust .303/.353/.452 with 4 HR (118 wRC+) in just 168 PA. Swihart's BB% and K% improved over time, and he tapped into his average to slightly above-average a bit more regularly, as well. He may not be an all-around stud, but in a strong lineup he could put up a .280/.330/.420 slash line with double-digit home runs, and 65-plus R and RBI.

J.T. Realmuto, Marlins (Michael Schwarz)

Reasonable projections for Realmuto include 12-15 home runs, 12-15 steals, .270/.330/.430, and solid run production thanks to an improved and healthier Miami lineup, all of which will come with a draft-day discount (he appears at #21 overall in our consensus rankings at catcher).  Realmuto's speed separates him from the many basepath-choking plodders who occupy his position.  In 2015 he led all major-league catchers with 8 steals and 7 triples.  At three different minor-league stops between 2011 and 2014, he averaged 13 steals per season.  In 2016 I expect Realmuto to provide the fantasy value of a top-10 catcher, which is why I will be targeting him in the late rounds rather than spending a mid-round pick on Jonathan Lucroy, Salvador Perez, or Travis d'Arnaud.

Wilson Ramos (Jack Cecil)

After hearing about how a full season of Ramos could add up to fantasy greatness season after season, every owner was disappointed by the .229/.258/.358 stinker of a line he put up in 2015.  This low of all lows does not give many hope, and truthfully, i'm not anticipating a 162 pace extrapolation on one of his best partial seasons going forward.  What I do expect is Wilson to supply you with pop, and come at the incredible price of the 18th overall catcher or pick 246.  Paying for catchers is a scary way to construct a team, and I intend on avoiding all of them at the draft table until I absolutely have to.  I typically live and die by the waiver wire at this position so I made my target the latest NFBC player that I could stomach starting at the beginning of the year.

Welington Castillo, Diamondbacks (Heath Capps)

A career .251 hitter who hit .237 last season is my target? Yessir! Here’s the deal with catcher: hardly any of them hit for average anyway. So when a guy launches 19 bombs and gets a major park boost in Chase Field, you should pay attention. Castillo was maybe a bit unlucky last year with a .263 BABIP, as he has a career mark of .308 and hasn't been below .288 in that department since 2011. If the average rebounds to .250 and he's offering plus power in that stacked Arizona lineup, his counting statistics could help to vault him into the upper tier of catchers. Castillo is a third tier catcher according to the general consensus here at FakeTeams, and that seems a safe ranking to me based on his power potential, home park, and surrounding lineup.

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