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2012 projections: top 10 catchers

Feb 5, 2012, 9:14 PM EDT

Buster Posey

I’ll save the fantasy projections for the Rotoworld Draft Guide, but here are my top catchers for 2012 going by OPS:

.878 – Buster Posey – Giants – 486 AB – .756 in 2011
.868 – Mike Napoli – Rangers – 413 AB – 1.046 in 2011
.867 – Carlos Santana – Indians – 524 AB – .808 in 2011
.855 – Matt Wieters – Orioles – 497 AB – .778 in 2011
.852 – Joe Mauer – Twins – 473 AB – .729 in 2011
.819 – Brian McCann – Braves – 461 AB – .817 in 2011
.816 – Alex Avila – Tigers – 468 AB – .895 in 2011
.799 – Geovany Soto – Cubs – 422 AB – .721 in 2011
.790 – Miguel Montero – Diamondbacks – 473 AB – .820 in 2011
.767 – Ramon Hernandez – Rockies – 338 AB – .788 in 2011

- I have six catchers projected to hit 20 or more homers: Napoli, Santana, Wieters, McCann, Posey and J.P. Arencibia. Arencibia is the lone holdout from the list above; he’s projected for a .290 OBP.

- White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers is another very capable of hitting 20 homers, though it’ll either take an A.J. Pierzynski trade or another Adam Dunn implosion to get him the at-bats. I have him projected to hit .224/.323/.438, giving him a .761 OPS that puts him just below Hernandez here.

- Jesus Montero also misses out, though I’m not sure I would have considered him a catcher for these purposes anyway. I had him projected for an .832 OPS initially, but the trade that sent him from the Yankees to the Mariners pushed him all of the way down to .760.

- As for the bottom of the list, Rod Barajas has the low OPS for anyone projected with at least 300 at-bats (.684). Jose Molina is the low man with 200+ at-bats (.602), and Drew Butera is at the bottom of the 100+ AB guys (.529).

  1. tn16 - Feb 5, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    What about Travis da’naurd he will be a great catcher in 2 years

    • Ari Collins - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:13 PM

      Could well be. But he’s not next year.

    • proudlycanadian - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:22 PM

      The name is spelt d’Arnaud. His brother Chase played for the Pirates last season. He will be playing in Triple A next year and does need the seasoning. Do not assume that he will eventually beat Arencibia. He may not.

    • yettyskills - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:24 PM

      wait for the 2014 projections?

  2. pxeeks - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Chooch is so underrated with how he manages the Phillies staff. There is more to a great catcher than base hits.

    • jwbiii - Feb 6, 2012 at 2:31 AM

      It sure doesn’t show up on the field. Phillies pitchers ERAs were over half a run better with either Schneider or Sardinha in 2011. Even Kratz was better in a ridiculously small sample.

      Not using catcher ERA. Comparing pitcher/catcher duples, and then normalizing to the lower number of innings when comparing the catchers. In virtually every case, ERAs, HRs, BBs, and Ks were worse with Ruiz. Ruiz had a slightly higher K rate than Sardinha. I did the same thing comparing Mike Napoli to Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson and los dos Molinas in Anaheim a few years ago. The effect was less than half as large.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 6, 2012 at 8:25 AM

        I don’t want to say Ruiz is the best catcher in baseball, but suggesting that Schneider or Sardinha are better seems a little strange to me. I thought we have moved on from using ERA to evaluate pitchers, so why would we use a pitchers ERA to evaluate catchers? The other 7 positional players would then impact this analysis no?

        Instead of looking at counting stats, why not look at the ratios:
        K/BB: Ruiz: 3.39, Schnieder 2.71 (This is despite Ruiz catching over 3 times the number of innings.)

        Also a serious question, is normalizing to the lower number of innings the right thing to do? It seems to me that evaluating catcher defense is really hard and not as simple as your normalization. For example, see:

        http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/11/1/2497088/2011-beyond-the-box-score-catcher-defense-rankings

        http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/another-one-bites-the-dust/

        http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15093

      • jwbiii - Feb 6, 2012 at 2:37 PM

        phillyphreak,
        Mike Fast’s methods like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and have Carlos Ruiz as well below average. Matt Klaasen’s methods like Carlos Ruiz and have Jarrod Saltalamacchia as one of the worst. Loved the hardballtimes article.

        I used the methodology from a 2009 Hardball Times Annual essay by Craig Wright on Mike Piazza’s defense and why it was underrated. When I started, I expected that Ruiz would be better than others by, say, a .15 ERA difference, because he has a good reputation and the difference between Mike Napoli and Jose Molina, Jeff Mathis, and others in Anaheim was about .25 in ERA. I was shocked by what I did find: Virtually all indicators bad for Ruiz.

        I repeated the process for the 2010 season and the results were Sardinha (sample size alert), Ruiz, Schneider with peripherals and Paul Hoover’s results varying. This is more what I expected to find.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 6, 2012 at 2:45 PM

        Thanks for the explanation jwbiii.

        I guess that was kinda my point about catcher defense- it’s so hard to measure right now that the results are conflicting. I’m guessing that the Wright article is not floating around on the internet somewhere? If not I’ll have to go find a copy to read somehow.

      • jwbiii - Feb 6, 2012 at 5:22 PM

        To answer two of your questions:

        When you’re comparing pitcher/catcher duples, you get a lot of small sample samples, with all the variability that you would expect. For example, in 2010, Paul Hoover caught two of Roy Halladay’s starts. In 9 innings, he/they gave up 7 ER, with peripherals to match. If, when comparing Hoover to Ruiz, and we normalize up to Ruiz’s 202.7 innings catching Halladay, we’re saying that Hoover had over 200 innings of real awfulness, which is something that didn’t happen and the rest of Hoover’s record doesn’t support. If we don’t normalize at all, then we’re back to catcher ERA and whoever catches a higher percentage of Joe Blanton innings loses. Ruiz catches a relatively smaller percentage of Blanton innings than Halladay, Oswalt, Lee, or Hamels innings, which may help explain the catcher K/W rates you cited.

        I prefer ERA as a descriptive stat and FIP as a predictive stat. I know that ERA ain’t so good for evaluating relievers, but catchers rarely get pulled in the middle of innings, so inherited runners isn’t really an issue for them. RA might have been better than ERA, but ERA works as a check and there was a football game on while I was doing this and I was occasionally distracted.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 6, 2012 at 9:44 PM

        I see what you’re saying. I guess I still have some reservations though. When do innings caught become significant (i.e. are you normalizing to too small of a sample)? And the use of ERA still bothers me as it is influenced by the other 7 position players (and hence out of the control of the pitcher/catcher)

        Question: In the Wright piece, was he normalizing to equivalent innings between catchers or big inning differences like between Ruiz and Schnider?

  3. bleedgreen - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    Chooch is a top 10 catcher in all of baseball. As if all it took to be a great catcher was hitting. Youre overlooking that whole… Catching part of the equation. Theres a reason Doc is a good as he is and a reason hes getting BETTER. The best pitcher in baseball pils Chooch 100 out of 100 times.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:17 PM

      The reason Doc is as good as he is is not because of Carlos Ruiz. I’m pretty sure Roy Halladay would be a great pitcher no matter who he pitched to.

      Matt isn’t overlooking defense. He said top catcher by OPS.

      • bleedgreen - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:41 PM

        Halladay would be great with ME behind the plate, but if you ever listen to him talk about it, he says Chooch is the best catcher out there. And if you’re only choosing by OPS, what distinction does being a catcher have to do with it? I wouldn’t want to have someone who hits like Jose Reyes at SS if he played defense like David Ortiz. To be the best 2nd baseman in the league you have to hit AND play the field, so if you’re COMPLETELY discounting the catching part of being a catcher when you’re ranking catchers, I think thats a bit disingenuous.

      • quintjs - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:02 PM

        Ignoring that Doc wouldn’t go around saying someone else was the best catcher ever, you have missed the point of the article. It isn’t the top 10 catchers in baseball, its rating and projecting catchers offensive production, that is it.

        The first line “I’ll save the fantasy projections for the Rotoworld Draft Guide, but ..”

        the title of the article “2012 projections…”

        If you don’t like the premise of the article, don’t read it.

        You might as well be criticizing him for not including Pujols..

      • Ari Collins - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:39 PM

        It’s a look at his projections for offense at the catcher position, according to OPS.

        There aren’t any pitchers who say, “The catcher on my team isn’t the best. I like the guy I used to pitch to better.”

    • phillyphreak - Feb 6, 2012 at 8:32 AM

      Yea, it’s clearly an offensive oriented article…

  4. whittle79 - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    What about SAlvdor Prez KC

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      Not particularly optimistic about him for the short-term; predicting a consolidation year.

      .271/.306/.394 in 424 AB

  5. normcash - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    Why the predicted OPS fall-off for Avila? Also, Posey did have 486 ABs in ’11—he was injured and didn’t play after May…Maybe that was his’10 number…My guess is Avila and McCann will be 1 & 2…

    • pkers - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:07 PM

      Pretty sure the ABs Matthew is providing are his projections for 2012, not a look back at how many were accrued in 2011.

      • normcash - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:01 AM

        Predicting ABs????What a silly exercise!

      • cmutimmah - Feb 6, 2012 at 9:34 AM

        Avila’s at bats should go up as he’s projected to bat higher in the lineup to start this year… he should slightly regress from an OPS standpoint, but he has always been a decent contact catcher with pop. I don’t see it droping more than .015-.050.

  6. scout144 - Feb 5, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    Lucroy, Milwaukee,long shot but up and coming

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      LuCroy gets a .252/.320/.372 line from me. As much as he struck out last year, I just couldn’t project any improvement in his overall line.

  7. mtr3618 - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    Don’t forget Yadier Molina. He is one of the best behind the plate, one of the hardest guys to strike out and has the possibility to hit .300. He may not hit home runs, bit I would take defense and average over pop anyday.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:42 PM

      Molina’s very good (especially when you factor in defense!), but I’m guessing he just missed the top 10 in an OPS projection. Probably around .750 would be my guess, though you could certainly project higher if you weigh last year more heavily.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      Definitely one of the game’s five best catchers in an actual ranking. I don’t think he’ll hit quite so well again, though. Ari actually nailed it — I have him at .286/.347/.402 for a .749 OPS.

  8. pkers - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:09 PM

    Matthew, I think you might need to edit the title of this article to let people know that you are ranking for fantasy baseball purposes, not real-life purposes.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      Yeah, I probably should have just stuck OPS in the title, avoided some of the confusion.

  9. spudatx - Feb 6, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Mauer is the most likely to spend time at DH and other positions this year… this projection seems to be doubtful of his health considering his opportunity to be at these less intense positions?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:40 PM

      473 AB is kind of a compromise projection, I’ll give you that. Like you wrote, because he will see some time at first and DH, he has a realistic chance of getting 520-550 at-bats if he stays healthy.

  10. Lucas - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    So…Avila hits 19 home runs last year but isn’t listed as “capable” of hitting 20 this year when someone else is? Seriously?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:36 PM

      Sure, he’s “capable” of hitting 20 homers. I just don’t think he will. This isn’t the place to be writing detailed writeups of every player.

  11. farvite - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:50 AM

    Jesus.Montero………..

    • cur68 - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:00 AM

      Leave Jesus Alone…

      • yankeesfanlen - Feb 6, 2012 at 8:31 AM

        Close to copyright infringement, buddy.

    • marinersnate - Feb 6, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      “Jesus.Montero………..”

      Maybe when the list of DH’s comes out.

  12. jlhc5530 - Feb 6, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    Looking at Posey’s splits through my own giants-watching prism, I think a more accurate long-term projection for his seasonal averages is .290/.340/.440, starting this year. Not bad at all, but he’ll be no messianic lineup-savior, leaving alone the fantasy monster purported here.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:38 PM

      I like him a whole lot better than that, with the caveat that one never knows if catcher-related injuries will take a toll. The guy had a .200 isolated slugging percentage as a 23-year-old rookie in 2010.

  13. shea801 - Feb 6, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    Not sure I agree with a list of catchers based solely on their ability to hit. I would rather have a great defensive catcher and one that can call a good game and handle his pitchers. If he can hit, great, but it ain’t the end all for catchers…

  14. stex52 - Feb 6, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Let me jump on board with several of you guys with the observation that OPS is not a very good way to measure a catcher’s contribution. More significant to 1st base, 3rd base, or corner outfielders.

  15. deathmonkey41 - Feb 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    What a BS list- where is the hard-hitting Francisco Cervelli on it? You just lost all credibility Matthew.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:35 PM

      I know I’m playing with fire there… three homers in his last five games last year. It was tempting to go to .900 on him.

  16. weaselpuppy - Feb 6, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Wieters goes up another 75 OPS?…good luck with that hitting 270

    Overprojected on this list? Wieters and Santana

    Underprojected? Avila and Napoli

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