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2012 Position Rankings: Catcher

Draft season is rapidly approaching, and over the next few weeks we'll be revealing our position-by-position rankings, starting today with catcher. Unfortunately, one of the best fantasy catchers around will be a non-factor in 2012. Victor Martinez is expected to miss the season after tearing his ACL during an offseason workout, and he almost certainly would have been a top three fantasy backstop because he was going to DH all season, avoiding the physical wear-and-tear while enjoying more plate appearances than other players on our list.

The rankings were put together with an eye on standard 5x5, 12-team mixed leagues, and the slash lines cited are AVG/HR/RBI. We'll go 25 players deep for each position (more for outfielders and pitchers), but hopefully you won't need to go that deep to fill your roster.

  1. Mike Napoli, TEX - I wouldn't expect another .320/30/75 performance again, but Napoli has legitimate all-fields power and is in the right lineup and ballpark to continue putting up gaudy counting stats. He should also see some DH time to maximize his plate appearances.
  2. Brian McCann, ATL - Six straight years of at least .269/18/71 with an average of .287/22/86, and still only 27 years old (28 next month). Sign me up.
  3. Carlos Santana, CLE - Santana came to the plate 105 more times than any other qualified catcher last year because he started 63 games at first base. His batting average will climb out of the low-.200s once his insanely high 17.2% infield fly ball rate comes back to Earth.
  4. Miguel Montero, ARI -Fully healthy and in the prime of his career, Montero put together a .280 average with 16 homers for the second time in the last three years in 2011. He'll continue to hit in the middle of a stacked lineup and in a great ballpark, and is poised for a McCann-esque year.
  5. Joe Mauer, MIN - The 2011 season was a disaster for the former AL MVP, mostly due to injury. Mauer has hit double digit homers just twice in his seven full seasons, and his freakish hand-eye skills might not be enough to overcome his slowing body, meaning those insanely high batting averages could be a thing of the past.
  6. Buster Posey, SF - The collision and ankle injury get all the attenion, but Posey's production (specifically power) was down in the big way before his season ended. An uptick in ground ball rate and general wear-and-tear following the longest season of his life are to blame, but he has too much talent not to rebound at his age.
  7. Matt Wieters, BAL - Wieters doubled his homer output and posted a respectable batting average last year, but his platoon splits are hard to believe. He's Barry Bonds from the right side and Neifi Perez from the left. Unfortunately, there are more right-handers than left-handers in baseball.
  8. Alex Avila, DET - Avila looked worn down in the playoffs after starting 130 games behind the plate, which might carry over into 2012. Expect his .366 BABIP (and his .295 batting average) to drop if he continues put nearly two-thirds of his balls in the play in the air.
  9. Jesus Montero, SEA - His opposite field power can conquer Safeco, so the real question is whether or not he'll qualify at catcher. With Miguel Olivo and John Jaso on the roster, it's not guaranteed.
  10. Wilson Ramos, WAS - Now the undisputed number one in Washington, Ramos has the power to threaten 20 homers even if his batting average isn't anything worth writing home about.
  11. Russell Martin, NYY - He won't ever be the guy he was in 2007 again, but Martin has enough power to flirt with 15+ homers annually and has plenty of help around him in terms of lineup and ballpark. He's probably the only backstop in the game with a chance to steal double-digit bases as well.
  12. Yadier Molina, STL - The youngest Molina brother had the best season of his career in 2011 (.305/14/65) thanks to his lowest ground ball rate in five years. I keep waiting for the catching workload to catch up to him, but it hasn't yet at age 29.
  13. Geovany Soto, CHC - Soto has alternated .280+ and sub-.230 batting averages for four years now, and is due for a good year in 2012. Too bad it doesn't work like that. Soto is still a threat to hit 20 homers despite the shoulder questions.
  14. Chris Iannetta, LAA - The change in ballparks will definitely hurt, but Iannetta should still sock double-digit homers and draw enough walks to have big value for those of you in OBP leagues.
  15. J.P. Arencibia, TOR - He's just keeping the spot warm for Travis d'Arnaud, but only three catchers hit more homers in 2011. He won't hit for a high average or contribute in any other way, however.
  16. Ramon Hernandez, COL - Hernandez has always hit a good average (for a catcher, anyway), and now he's moving to a park that should boost his power. How will playing everyday for the first time in three years affect his 35-year-old body?
  17. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, BOS - Finally healthy in 2011, Salty produced top-15 homer (16) and RBI (56) totals among catchers last season despite coming to the plate fewer than 400 times. There's more to come at age 26, and he'll get an added boost by his teammates and ballpark.
  18. Devin Mesoraco, CIN - The Reds wunderkind has the ability to pop double-digit homers and provide a solid batting average, he just has to wrestle the full-time job away from Ryan Hanigan. That's expected to happen, but probably not on Opening Day.
  19. Carlos Ruiz, PHI - Catchers that can hit for average are rare, and that's pretty much all Ruiz can do. His OBP will be artifically inflated by getting intentionally walked in front of the pitcher, which helps those of you in OBP leagues.
  20. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL - Lucroy's early season power binge didn't last, and nothing in his track record suggested it would. He can still provide double-digit homers and a solid batting average from fantasy's weakest position, however.
  21. Salvador Perez, KC - The 21-year-old quitely produced a .331/3/21 line in 158 plate appearances after being called up, though I wouldn't expect him to continue to hit for that kind of power. He's shown the ability to hit for average throughout the minors.
  22. Rod Barajas, PIT - Another all-power guy, Barajas has hit at least 16 homers in each of the last three seasons. The only other catcher who can make that claim is McCann.
  23. John Buck, FLA - It's not surprising that Buck was unable to replicate his .281/20/66 season with the Blue Jays in 2010 with the Marlins in 2011, but he has legitimate power and an improved lineup around him. The wildcard here is the Marlins' new stadium and its unknown park effects.
  24. Ryan Doumit, MIN - I like Doumit as a sleeper this year since he figures to get plenty of DH at-bats, though Target Field might be a total drain on his home run total.
  25. Miguel Olivo, SEA - Olivo will hit 15 or so homers for your team like clockwork, but he won't do much else. Montero and Jaso will inevitably cut into his playing time, which is a problem.

Honorable Mention: Jaso; Nick Hundley, SD; Kelly Shoppach, BOS; Kurt Suzuki, OAK; A.J. Pierzynski, CHW


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