Catcher Tiers – August 2014

When one opens a fresh pack of crayons, the scent of those waxy art sticks is often what hits him or her first. If you need or just prefer markers, especially the permanent kind, then you may have enjoyed those whiffs a little more than most of your classmates. Maybe you didn’t even like to color.

It’s back-to-school time, kids. (Of course, according to the average merchant, that period began in early July.) I don’t have any, myself – children, that is, not crayons – so this is more of an opportunity to feel a little nostalgic. Crayons, like catchers, are essential supplies.

The eight classic colors set the catchers apart. No hierarchy from me, just the order in which they appear in an unopened box, from left to right. You, on the other hand, might be inclined to arrange the colors by favorite to least favorite … flavor. Taste the rainbow, little Jimmy.

Jonathan Lucroy
Buster Posey
Carlos Santana

It’s hard to touch this set. Santana has been the most valuable fantasy backstop – by far – for more than a month. In July alone he batted .313 with a .407 OBP, a .615 SLG, eight home runs, and a stolen base. He’s been every bit as good in the past two months as he was bad in the first two. It’ll be a shame when he loses catcher eligibility one of these years, coming soon – perhaps in 2015, because he’s played only 11 games at the position thus far. He’s in serious danger in leagues with a 20-, and not a 15-game, req. Sigh. Let’s hope that the next step isn’t Adam Dunn!

Devin Mesoraco
Evan Gattis
Miguel Montero
Salvador Perez
Yan Gomes

Santana’s teammate, and the reason the Cleveland Indians moved Santana from behind the plate, has been the second-best fantasy catcher in the past month. Which means not a whole lot, in terms of rest-of-season rankings. But Gomes provided pretty steady value all season and is one of only nine catchers (he has 369 plate appearances) who qualify for the batting title. He’s rewarded those who believed that he had a nice potential profit margin coming into this season.

Wilin Rosario
Brian McCann
Joe Mauer

I keep hearing that orange is the new black. I don’t see it. I have a few orange T-shirts and a few black ones. Black is always in style, says the fashion industry. I’m rarely in style. Neither are these catchers, who are better than their numbers suggest and still have a couple of months to out-produce some of the catchers above them. Of course, they still have a couple of months to continue to be out-produced by some of the catchers below them. Mauer (strained oblique) should be back within a week, so I haven’t lost ROS hope for him yet. This campaign won’t have been a waste of catcher eligibility on this non-catcher if he doesn’t hit well in August and September, but it’ll have been a disappointment.

John Jaso
Stephen Vogt
Derek Norris
Wilson Ramos
Russell Martin
Jason Castro
Dioner Navarro

The Oakland Athletics surprisingly traded Yoenis Cespedes at the non-waiver deadline, so playing time is clearly Vogt’s now. He’s probably the club’s regular first baseman, at least against right-handers, for the rest of this campaign. Because of the likelihood of a platoon, and the due negative regression (which started in the past week), his ROS outlook isn’t much different from those of the A’s other catcher-eligible players. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Mike Zunino
Travis d’Arnaud
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Carlos Ruiz
Alex Avila
Kurt Suzuki

Entering play on Tuesday, Zunino is tied for 17th in the American League in home runs, with Miguel Cabrera, Cespedes, Chris Davis, and Dunn. The difference, however, is that Zunino isn’t a qualifier. Not that he or Dunn could win a batting title, with a strikeout rate above 30%. Still, given the drop-off in offense in baseball, Zunino has provided an obvious service to his fantasy owners. He has legit power, and in due time, he should be more of a threat to win a battle title than Dunn ever was, at least.

Welington Castillo
Chris Iannetta
Yasmani Grandal
Tyler Flowers
Geovany Soto
Caleb Joseph

The Baltimore Orioles didn’t trade for a croucher after all, so Joseph is their man from here on out. He’s been a nice positive, defensively, so the O’s are willing to live with his type of offensive production (.218/.283/.373 and five home runs in 163 plate appearances). The club’s pitching staff has been one of the most productive in baseball for the past month and a half or so. The 28-year-old may deserve some serious credit there. Fantasy owners can’t expect much from him, but he seems likely to double his ZiPS ROS allotment of PAs and, thus, probably hit another four or five bombs the rest of the way, possibly with a .250ish average. Possibly.

Flowers is proud. Someone (I apologize, I forget who) informed me that the Chicago White Sox’s backstop swapped his bifocals for contact lenses, and the change coincided with the beginning of his recent surge at the dish. Based on Flowers’ strikeout rate, I don’t doubt that his vision needed correction. Was his previous prescription out-of-date? Anyway, he’s done OK for himself. He could still cede a little PT to a call-up in September, though.

Christian Vazquez
A.J. Pierzynski
A.J. Ellis
Ryan Hanigan
Hank Conger
Yadier Molina

After the Boston Red Sox designated Pierzynski for assignment, it seemed inevitable that St. Louis Cardinals would pick him up. The change of scenery doesn’t do much for his prospects on offense, though, minus the fact that he should get some PAs. For a little while, anyway. Molina (surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb) could return in four weeks. I think that’s an optimistic timetable. We’ll see.

Josh Phegley
Brayan Pena
Robinson Chirinos
Josmil Pinto
Jesus Montero

The old black is just fine. But the catchers in its tier aren’t, so much. Chirinos isn’t out of the picture because Soto could end up right back on the DL after he returns from a strained groin, at the rate he’s going. Pena continues to pick up ABs because Joey Votto (severely strained left quadriceps) is sidelined – and will be for another month, at least. The rest of the members of the tier cling to hope that they’ll have an opportunity to do a little damage in September.

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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

9 Responses to “Catcher Tiers – August 2014”

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  1. Damon says:

    I stream Norris and Jaso. Seems to be working out pretty good

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  2. Yirmiyahu says:

    Interesting observation:

    The defending World Series champions don’t have a single catcher in the top 40. And the A’s have 3 catchers in the top 14.

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  3. Jonathan Sher says:

    That was me who previously noted Flowers’ switch to glasses and improvement at the plate in what was a short sample size that has gotten a bit longer. I say that as someone who personally made the switch to glasses and still flailed as poorly as before. It will be interesting to see if Tyler keeps it up the balance of the season.

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  4. Bill says:

    had to drop zunino from a dynasty league recently. already had D’arnaud and with cutch injured had to pick up an OF (1 catcher league). That 30%+ strikeout rate is worrisome, and comes with below average contact skills. I thought he could hit, but maybe it was all aluminum bat.

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    • Much to early in Zunino’s capacity to hit for average. All things considered, he’s done well, I think. I wouldn’t project a batting title, but I think within a few years, his AVG will be respectable. But does seem to have a steep hill to climb.

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