Opening Day of the 2015 MLB season is less than a month away, which means fantasy baseball is just around the corner. For some leagues, drafts have already begun or will soon begin and Athlon Sports is here to help.
Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman. These are pulled straight from this year’s 2015 MLB Preview magazine, which is available at newsstands everywhere and for purchase online.
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2014.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.
Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB. Positional eligibility for specific players may vary depending on league, as well as other Web sites and resources.
2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catchers
1. Buster Posey, Giants (A)
Posey has had two torrid Junes and frosty Julys in a row, with the latter separating him from the MVP form we saw in 2012. He’s one slumpbuster pill away from being that guy again (.336-24-103-78-1) instead of the still-formidable .303-18-80-66-1 of the last two years.
2. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
Lucroy’s incremental progression into the catching gentry has been in lockstep with his full-season SO/BB ratios: 3.4, 2.0, 1.4, 1.1. His 2014 OPS of .837 may have been short of Posey’s, but no other qualifying backstop was within 52 points of it — hence the abbreviated Tier 1.
3. Salvador Perez, Royals
Perez’s AVG was .298 on June 30, but just .230 afterwards (including playoffs). He wore down from catching 91% of KC’s games, saw his swing compromised (MLB-high 17.3 infield pop-up rate) and flailed at anything with seams. Homers are on pace to settle in the 20s.
4. Devin Mesoraco, Reds
Dusty Baker jacked him around, but Bryan Price trusted Mesoraco, whose response was to enact the largest OPS increase in the National League (min. 300 PAs), from .649 to .893. Led all catchers with 25 HRs, but the .273 AVG is at the upper end of his capability.
5. Yan Gomes, Indians
We pointed out that Gomes would be a Tier 2er if Carlos Santana changed positions. That came to pass, and Yan’s year was a dead ringer for Perez’s. His lack of judgment is equally as dicey, but then again, Brazilians love this dish called feijoada that contains pigs’ ears.
6. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Molina wasn’t quite the usual automaton in 2014, as he dipped to his lowest OPS since 2010. His career highs of a .319 AVG, 22 HRs and 80 RBIs will likely remain so in perpetuity, but he’s a safe option at a position with few.
7. Russell Martin, Blue Jays
The .290 AVG — up from .234 the previous five seasons — was a quirk, but a move to Rogers Centre and better health should inch the homers back into the high teens. John Gibbons has him penciled in as a No. 2 hitter, though, which would menace his RBI chances.
8. Matt Wieters, Orioles (F)
Wieters was swatting 53 points above his career AVG when he was derailed by an elbow injury and eventually Tommy Johned. He’ll be lucky to hit .260 over a full season, but 20 homers and 70 RBIs are even bets, recognizing that his workload may be reduced.
9. Wilson Ramos, Nationals (B, F)
In Ramos’ case, the term “full season” is as meaningful as it was to “Osbournes Reloaded.” He’s been sidetracked by everything from gossamer hamstrings to being kidnapped. Based on his three-year numbers, a 500-AB season would look like this: .268-21-82-51-0.
10. Jason Castro, Astros
The position’s next great offensive hope fell into a quagmire of strikeouts (one every 3.4 PAs), precipitating a 54-point AVG fall to .222. Homers in the teens, RBIs in the 50s are plausible.
11. Travis d’Arnaud, Mets (B, F)
Quietly but dramatically pulled out of a halting career launch to go .271-7-22 in his final 54 games. Had bone chips removed from his elbow in October.
12. Brian McCann, Yankees
McCann is fortunate to be playing in one of the few ballparks that keeps him roto-relevant; 19 of his 23 homers were at Yankee Stadium. Acute pull proclivities beat down his AVG to a shift-stymied .232.
13. Miguel Montero, Cubs
Made a considerable regression from his first three 400-AB seasons (.287-16-78-64-1, on average) to .237-12-57-42-0 in 2013-14. Moves to Wrigley, where’s he’s done well.
14. Wilin Rosario, Rockies (F)
Like many catchers, Rosario can only tell a ball from a strike while wearing a mask. That, the burden of his defensive struggles, and the seeming inevitability of his departure from Coors threaten to eat into the lofty power ceiling he erected with 49 homers in 2012-13.
15. Mike Zunino, Mariners
First player in history to bat below .200 with at least 150 SOs and fewer than 20 BBs while hitting more than 20 HRs. The hooks on which to hang a fantasy hat are that last stat and his perceived potential.
18. John Jaso, Rays (F)
17. Derek Norris, Padres
16. Stephen Vogt, A’s (F)
19. Francisco Cervelli, Pirates (B)
20. Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers
21. Alex Avila, Tigers (F)
22. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Marlins
23. Tyler Flowers, White Sox
24. Nick Hundley, Rockies
25. Rene Rivera, Rays
26. Kurt Suzuki, Twins (E)
27. Josmil Pinto, Twins (C)
28. Chris Iannetta, Angels
29. Robinson Chirinos, Rangers
30. Christian Bethancourt, Braves
31. Blake Swihart, Red Sox (G)
32. Welington Castillo, Cubs (D)
33. Brayan Pena, Reds
34. Ryan Hanigan, Red Sox
35. A.J. Pierzynski, Braves
36. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
37. Hank Conger, Astros (D)
38. Peter O’Brien, Diamondbacks (G)
39. Christian Vazquez, Red Sox
40. A.J. Ellis, Dodgers (E)