UPDATED: MARCH 12, 2013: Truth be told, there really wasn't a whole lot of tweaking here in the updated rankings. My original rankings were based on full-season projected performance as well as expected playing time and, for the most part, nothing has really changed this spring. If there's relevant recent news that has caused a change in his ranking, the player has a "FANTASY UPDATE" tag in his write-up. If he's in the second half of the rankings, he's just been moved accordingly.
For years, the catcher position has often been dismissed by most fantasy owners due to the lack of quality and depth of the position. There were a small handful of backstops able to be sound fantasy contributors, but for the most part, if you didn’t want to invest heavily in an over-priced Joe Mauer, you left the position for your late-round dollar picks-ups, as it all looked the same the further you scrolled down the list. However, this year appears to be quite different as the depth is much greater and the quality of backstops is, overall, much stronger. You’re going to be more enticed by the top five or six guys on the list and there is, most definitely, a more definitive set of tiers within the position. While you still might be able to wait a little longer to draft your catchers, if you wait too long, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage this time around. Here’s a look at how the position is shaking out:
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
1. Buster Posey, SF
2012: .336 AVG, 24 HR, 103 RBI, 103 runs, 1 SB
What more can you say about Posey that his collection of hardware doesn't? Two World Series rings, one NL Rookie of the Year, one NL Comeback Player of the Year, one NL batting title, and one NL MVP. The guy hits for both average and power and continues to also get work at first base because the team just can't live without his bat in the lineup. That gives him more at-bats than just your average backstop which is a huge plus in fantasy. He's coming off the boards in the ealry to mid second round and there's even a strong argument for making him a late first round pick if you need him that badly.
2. Carlos Santana, CLE
2012: .252 AVG, 18 HR, 76 RBI, 72 runs, 3 SB
With the reduction in strikeouts last year and that consistent double-digit walk rate, there's still hope that he'll pick up the batting average. Injuries sapped his power last year but he's healthy now and ready to go. Nothing like a switch-hitting power hitter entering his age-27 season and playing a thin position to brighten your day.
3. Joe Mauer, MIN
2012: .319 AVG, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 81 runs, 8 SB
He bounced back from an awful, injury-riddled 2011 to regain his spot amongst the top three catchers with a typical Mauer-esque type season. He hits for a high average, posts a phenomenal OBP and his runs scored always leads the way for all backstops. You'll never see that 2009-type power out of him again, but he certainly makes up for it in the other four categories.
4. Yadier Molina, STL
2012: .315 AVG, 22 HR, 76 RBI, 65 runs, 12 SB
His numbers from 2011 were hard to believe to begin with, but then he turned around and improved on them even more last season at the ripe, old age of 29. While sustaining a .186 ISO might be a bit of a reach for him, it's hard to say that he'll regress that much across the board. You might see fewer home runs and a few less stolen bases, but as the only Molina brother who doesn't look like he just walked out of a Pillsbury factory, you can't bet against him right now.
5. Mike Napoli, BOS
2012: .227 AVG, 24 HR, 56 RBI, 53 runs, 1 SB
After extensive negotiations that saw the Red Sox scrap a three-year offer due to concerns over a hip problem that was revealed after a team physical, Napoli finally signed a oneyear deal to play first base for the Red Sox. Though he still qualifies behind the dish in fantasy, those duties will be handled by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. The move to first, while it will likely ruin his catcher eligibility in 2014, should be a positive one for Napoli, health-wise as the position is far less taxing on the body. Napoli remains a fantastic option as you fantasy catcher and should provide you with plenty of power this season.
6. Victor Martinez, DET
2011: .330 AVG, 12 HR, 103 RBI, 76 runs, 1 SB; 2012: injured
Now keep in mind that he is only ranked here if he qualifies in your league at catcher. You'll have to downgrade him in your overall rankings if he doesn't. But if you're lucky enough to be able to use him here, you should benefit from the fact that he will likely only DH. There's a remote possibility that he plays a few games at first base, but I certainly wouldn't bank on it. With a full season this year, I'm thinking 15-18 taters with a .300-ish average so feel confident, but don't reach too high.
7. Matt Wieters, BAL
2012:.249 AVG, 23 HR, 83 RBI, 67 runs, 3 SB
While he seemed to be forcing it last season which led to an increase in strikeouts and drop in batting average, Wieters did make up for it with another 20-plus home runs and a career-high in RBI production. He'll be enjoying his magical age-27 year this season, so if he can just cut down on the whiffs, the rest is sure to increase.
8. Wilin Rosario, COL 2012: .270 AVG, 28 HR, 71 RBI, 67 runs, 4 SB
When he blasted 14 home runs in the first half and hit .247 in the first half, you knew there was something about him. When he doubled his walk rate, cut the strikeouts and hit .291 with another 14 home runs in the second half, you knew that something was top five potential. Coors Field is the second-most perfect place for this 23-year old slugging backstop. On your fantasy roster is the first.
9. Miguel Montero, ARI
2012: .286 AVG, 15 HR, 88 RBI, 65 runs
Consistency is the name of the game here with Montero as his numbers have been unbelievebly similar in three of his last four seasons and while the one outlying season was ruined due to injury, when he did play, his numbers were on pace to coincide with his career averages. He had a huge spike in his walk rate last year as well as a high BABIP which both helped to offset the increased strikeouts and keep his numbers in line with his career averages, but look for those numbers to normalize this season while he posts yet another 15-18 home run season with a .280-ish average.
10. Salvador Perez, KC
2012: .301 AVG, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 38 runs
The overall numbers from 2012 might look a little light but that's only because he missed the first half of the season due to surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. When he came back he not only did what most expected -- play sound defense and hit for a high average -- but he also revved up the power and exceeded expectations by posting a .170 ISO and popping 11 dingers in just 305 plate appearances. The overall power may regress over a full season of work behind the plate, but everything else should be cream cheese.
11. Jesus Montero, SEA
2012: .260 AVG, 15 HR, 62 RBI, 46 runs
While the batting average may have been a disappointment for some, given the hype Montero had throughout his time in the minors, the rest of his numbers looked pretty good for a rookie backstop in Seattle who still needed to focus on his defense. He spent a little more than half his time as the DH, but with the arrival of Kendrys Morales, he could be asked to spend more time catching. He could stand to be a little more patient at the plate and take a few more walks, but his overall plate discipline improved as the season progresses. Safeco will continue to hinder his power, but he's still capable of reaching that 20-HR plateau as he gets older. Remember, he's still only 23 years old.
12. Brian McCann, ATL 2102: .230 AVG, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 44 runs, 3 SB
Offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder will keep him on the shelf for at least the first few weeks of the season, but he is supposed to make a full recovery. The primary concern is whether or not the power will fully return. If it does, then he's right where he should be. If it doesn't, then he's ranked way too high. FANTASY UPDATE: On track to return mid-April as shoulder is still a problem. Full recovery is still expected but skeptical with regard to full power returning.
13. Jonatahn Lucroy, MIL
2012: .320 AVG, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 46 runs, 4 SB
You could look at his numbers from 2011 and last year and cite consistency, but then you'd be missing out on the growth we've seen from year to year. While Lucroy matched his overall productivity, he did it in 40 fewer games last year and saw a huge spike in power, as evidenced by his .193 ISO mark. In addition, he also improved his plate discipline cutting his strikeout percentage in nearly half. A full year out of Lucroy could reap big benefits in fantasy this year and potentially put him in the top-10 discussion.
14. Ryan Doumit, MIN
2012: .275 AVG, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 56 runs
Doumit posted career-highs in home runs and RBI last season, but is that because he is getting better or because he finally stayed healthy for almost the entire season and appeared in a career-best 134 games? He's always had decent power for a catcher, but health has continuously been an issue for him. His reduced workload behind the plate will obviously help, so considering he will fill the exact same role as he did last year, there's no reason to think he can't repeat his 2012 numbers. Provided he stays healthy, of course.
15. A.J. Pierzynski, TEX
2012: .278 AVG, 27 HR, 77 RBI, 68 runs
After five consecutive seasons of declining numbers, Pierzynski came from out of nowhere to mash a career-best 27 homers in 2012, a feat that seemed a near-impossibility even as it was happening. Obviously there are statistical outliers, but this one might just raise a few suspicions given the era in which we live. Even in Arlington, a repeat seems incredibly doubtful so while he should still be considered a decent option at a probable low-cost, you may want to hedge your bets this year. It also won't come as any sort of a shock to see a potential 50-game suspension if his power spike last year wasn't legit.
16. Alex Avila, DET
2012: .243, 9 HR, 48 RBI, 42 runs, 2 SB
Given the .366 BABIP coupled with the high strikeout rate, a regression from Avila's 2011 numbers was to be expected. But a regression this bad? Maybe not. While his walk rate continued to be first-class all the way, Avila struggled with strikeouts again and didn't see as much luck in his batted ball data thanks to a massive spike in his GB/FB ratio. But he was also dealing with some lingering knee issues and suffered from a concussion as well. So while it would be tough to think his 2011 production could be repeated, he should, so long as he's healthy, find a happy medium between his stats from the last two years.
17. J.P. Arencibia, TOR
2012: .233, 18 HR, 56 RBI, 45 runs, 1 SB
While he continued to hit for strong power and increased his dismal batting average from 2011, Arencibia still had his struggles at the plate, specifically his plate discipline. A drop in walk rate with an increase in strikeouts are not what you look for when drafting a catcher, but his power potential continues to force you into a second look. Perhaps the absence of Travis d'Arnaud from the system will help him play with a bit more confidence and he is only just turning 27 this year, so keep him on your radar, for sure.
18. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, BOS
2012: .222, 25 HR, 59 RBI, 55 runs
Strikeouts and poor numbers against lefties could ultimately be his undoing, but Salty has fantastic power for a guy behind the dish. The team brought in longtime Atlanta back-up David Ross to complement him but he should remain the primary backstop for the Red Sox again this season. Good, strong power numbers can probably be expected, but a high-strikeout total and a terrible batting average come hand-in-hand.
19. Russell Martin, PIT
2012: .211 AVG, 21 HR, 53 RBI, 50 runs, 6 SB
Like most ranked around here, it's decent power and a low average. But Martin also throws in a touch of speed which gives him added value. A move back to the NL could lend him more opportunity on the base paths, but the switch from Yankee Stadium to PNC Ballpark could also hinder the power he's shown in his last few seasons.
20. Wilson Ramos, WAS
2012: .265, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 11 runs
The 2012 numbers look dismal thanks to a major knee injury that shelved him for all but 25 games last year. He's got fairly decent plate discipline with some nice power potential and could be a solid sleeper coming into 2013. He'll have to outplay Kurt Suzuki for the number one job, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. FANTASY UPDATE: He's recovering nicely from knee surgery and was recently back behind the plate and looking good blocking pitches. Though there's no rush, he's ahead of schedule in his rehabv and should easily regain the starting job once he's at full strength.
21. Carlos Ruiz, PHI
2012: .325 AVG, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 56 runs, 4 SB
At age 33, Ruiz was having a major breakout season for himself and was looking at an outstanding statistical season for himself until a case of plantar fasciitis knocked him out of action for all of August and much of September. But a positive test for amphetamines has now tainted the season for him and a 25-game suspension will be served to open 2013. With that and the lingering nature of the foot injury, something even close to resembling a repeat performance seems unlikely.
22. Chris Iannetta, LAA
2012: .240, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 27 runs, 1 SB
A broken wrist took away most of the 2012 season, Iannetta's first as a member of the Angels, but he still managed toi put up numbers that weren't totally awful. Strikeouts and a typically low BABIP will continue to negate the impressive walk rate and keep both his batting average and OBP on the lower side, but he does have decent power. If he can manage a full season and expected nine-hole hitter Peter Bourjos can hit well enough to keep pitchers from pitching around him, Iannetta could find his way into a decent season.
23. Welington Castillo, CHC
2012: .265, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 16 runs
Castillo did an admirable job taking over behind the plate for the Cubs last season after they traded away Geovany Soto. His strikeouts were obviously high, but he posted a slightly-better-than-average walk rate and respectable power. He should be in line for primary catcher duties in 2013 and based on his minor league totals and career ISO, he can probably hit 12-15 homers with a .260-ish average. Nothing extravagant, but respectable for someone who won't cost you a high draft pick or more than a buck or two in your auction.
24. John Jaso, OAK
2012: 276 AVG, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 41 runs, 5 SB
While Jaso did a solid job in his first year with the Mariners, he was deemed expendable with the expected emergence of prospect Mike Zunino. Jaso should fit in just fine with the A's as he is just Billy Beane's type of guy. He's got strong plate discipline, posting a 15.5-percent walk rate with just a 14.1-percent strikeout rate, and post solid OBP numbers. Jaso doesn't have a lot of power but still might be able to stay in the 10-15 HR range and is likely to get the bulk of the work behind the plate in the long run. He'll probably share duties with Derrick Norris in the early goings of the season but should overtake him as the team's primary backstop soon enough. FANTASY UPDATE: Looks like he's already going to be the primary, but don;t rule out a possible platoon still.
25. A.J. Ellis, LAD
2012: .270 AVG, 13 HR, 52 RBI, 44 runs
Ellis had himself quite a season last year that was unexpected by most in the fantasy community. His 13 home runs and .144 ISO were better than any year he spent in the minors and while that was a nice boost for those you snagged him off the waiver wire, there is also a general consensus that he will regress next year as his .329 BABIP was a little high and his 22.9-percent line drive rate was way out of character for him. His 1.37 GB/FB is more indicative of what you'll see from him next year, so make sure you're not paying for last year's numbers.
26. Tyler Flowers, CHW
2012: .213, 7 HR, 13 RBI, 19 runs, 2 SB
It's been tough for Flowers to break into the White Sox lineup, especially with A.J. Pierzynski posting career numbers last year. But now that AJP is off to Texas, Flowers will get the opportunity to take over full time responsibilities behind the plate. He'll obviously need to improve his plate discipline, particularly in the strikeout department, but he's shown fantastic power potential at all levels, including his part-time play in the majors. He may not be knocking the cover off the ball anytime soon, but 15 home runs in a full season are certainly within reach.
27. John Buck, NYM
2012: .192 AVG, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 29 runs
The veteran backstop comes to New York to basically keep the position warm until prospect Travis d'Arnaud is ready to come up and assume full-time responsibilities. While Buck's numbers have been in an obvious decline the last two seasons, there's a good amount of blame to be put on the cavernous dimensions of the ballparks in Miami. That's not to say that he won't have any issues at Citi Field, but they are moving the fences in and making it more conducive for power hitters. Another thing that might give you a bit of hope is that while Buck's power suffered in Miami, he did increase his walk rate substantially each season. He just might be able to do enough to stave off d'Arnaud most of the way, but obviously that depends on how the kid hits in the minors. FANTASY UPDATE: Still in danger of losing the starting job to d'Arnaud, but even if he starts out as the primary, it's just a matter of time before he loses it.
28. Nick Hundley, SD
2012: .157 AVG, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 14 runs
Health has been Hundley's biggest obstacle in his career and injuries have completely derailed the last two seasons. Elbow surgery in 2011 appeared to fix the problems as he finished the last two months of that season batting .367 with six home runs, but he was unable to build off of that last year as a knee injury hindered for most of the first half and eventually put him on the shelf for the rest of the season. He was deemed expendable as the Padres had prospect Yasmani Grandal in-house, but a 50-game suspension for PEDs use puts Hundley back in the number one slot. He'll need to produce early or he'll be replaced with Grandal after the suspension, but could also be traded and retain his starting catcher status.
29. Rob Brantly, MIA
2012: .290 AVG, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 14 runs, 1 SB
In truth, Brantly doesn't offer much more than the potential of a decent average and solid OBP. He's got modest power and while both his walk and strikeout rates looked strong last year, the sample size of 31 games is hard to use when projecting his 2013 performance. If he can keep the whiffs to a minimum still and draw some decent walks, then he'll have acceptable low-level numbers for a second catcher. But just don't rely on him to be your primary backstop in fantasy.
30. Derrick Norris, OAK
2012: .201 AVG, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 19 runs, 5 SB
Norris was called up in June last season and while neither his average nor on-base percentage looked too appealing, he hit with some power and was strong enough defensively to supplant Kurt Suzuki as the starter and allowed the club to deal their former number one backstop away. His biggest asset should be found in OBP-leagues as he posts a decent walk rate, but unless the power he showed in the minors translates to the bigs, he's not going to be of too much use.
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
31. Yasmani Grandal, SD
32. Kurt Suzuki, WAS
33. Ryan Hanigan, CIN
34. Jose Molina, TB
35. Jason Castro, HOU
36. Travis d'Arnaud, NYM
37. Erik Kratz, PHI
38. Francisco Cervelli, NYY
39. Devon Mesoraco, CIN
40. David Ross, BOS
41. Austin Romine, NYY
42. Taylor Teagarden, BAL
43. George Kottaras, KC
44. Hector Sanchez, SF
45. Lou Marson, CLE
46. Jose Lobaton, TB
47. Ramon Hernandez, COL
48. Martin Maldonado, MIL
49. Mike Zunino, SEA
50. Geovany Soto, FA
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at email@example.com.