2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Catcher tiers 1.0 – CBSSports.com

Three truths in Fantasy Baseball: Quality trumps quantity with any trade proposal, projecting
Hanley Ramirez
is a mostly futile exercise, and catcher is always, always one ugly mess of a position.

You might even say it’s an inherent quality. Those guys take a beating back there, which not only confines them to regular rest but also subjects them to attrition. And the toll is felt not just within a season, but from season to season, reducing them all, over time, to sort of a base-level mediocrity.

The tiers provide us with a visual representation of that. Just look at all the bunching in the middle:

The Elite:
Buster Posey
Gary Sanchez
Jonathan Lucroy

The Near-Elite:
Evan Gattis
Willson Contreras

The Next-Best Things:
Wilson Ramos
Russell Martin
Salvador Perez
Yasmani Grandal
J.T. Realmuto
Brian McCann

The Fallback Options:
Yadier Molina

The Last Resorts:
Stephen Vogt
Matt Wieters
Travis d’Arnaud
Cameron Rupp
Tom Murphy
Welington Castillo

The Leftovers:
Nick Hundley
Mike Zunino
Sandy Leon
Devin Mesoraco
Austin Hedges
Derek Norris
Jason Castro
Francisco Cervelli
Yan Gomes
James McCann
Tyler Flowers

There’s a little more bulk at the top than last year, at least. Sanchez, the top catcher on a per-game basis last year, and Lucroy, the top catcher overall, join The Elite, ensuring that Posey is no longer by his lonesome. But the union of those three is as much a statement on Posey himself, conceding that he’s not as worth the reach as he used to be. While The Elite at most every other position will be gone by Round 2 or 3, Posey probably shouldn’t go off the board until Round 4, and that’s a correction you’ll need to apply all the way down the line.

Gattis looked like he’d be part of The Elite until the
Houston Astros
acquired Brian McCann and
Carlos Beltran
this offseason, likely relegating him to part-time duty. But again, that’s par for the course at this position, where he’s still, at least among proven players, the best pure power hitter (we’ll see about Gary Sanchez). Likewise, Contreras’ playing time is in question with
Kyle Schwarber
returning from injury and
Miguel Montero
still in the mix.

Players with those kinds of red flags wouldn’t come close to the top tier at most any other position, but at catcher, anyone who shows plus offensive potential is a standout. It’s why Ramos leads the group of also-rans who’ll form the bulk of your league’s usable catcher pool even though he’s likely out until June. He was a card-carrying member of The Elite before tearing his ACL and meniscus late in 2016, and four months of set-you-apart-type production is worth more to me than six months of keep-you-afloat production.

That isn’t to say The Next-Best Things are worthless at this position, but at least in a 12-team league, provided every team starts only one catcher, you can get one without even trying. We’re 11 deep by the end of the tier, and again, it’s not like you have to worry about anyone doubling up at the position, given its inherent weaknesses. What about that 12th owner? Well, Molina, with his low contact rate and excessive playing time, is basically just as good in Head-to-Head points leagues. He gets a tier to himself as sort of a reconciliation of the two formats.

It’s a big drop-off from there, but of course every position has its breakout candidates. I haven’t completely given up on d’Arnaud yet, and Murphy could be a big home run threat if he secures regular at-bats for Colorado. Mesoraco was a stud before two hip surgeries, and Hedges just had a surprisingly monstrous year at Triple-A. Those are players you can leave for two-catcher leagues, though (unless, of course, you’re the one who drafted Ramos).


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