FANTASY BASEBALL – 2016 C Rankings: d’Arnaud Devotion
by Garion Thorne | 6:00 am, January 21st, 2016
Thorne’s 2016 MLB Fantasy Preview
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Thorne’s 2016 C Rankings
- Buster Posey, San Francisco
- Kyle Schwarber, Chicago
- Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee
- Travis d’Arnaud, New York – I’m all in on d’Arnaud in 2016, which, considering the safety and consistency of the class of catcher below (McCann, Perez, and Martin), carries a little risk. I mean, there’s nothing the soon to be 27 year-old has done while physically on the field that would warrant scepticism – since the beginning of 2014, among catchers with at least 600 plate appearances, d’Arnaud’s .330 wOBA sits seventh, his 114 wRC+ ranks sixth, and his .191 ISO trails only Evan Gattis, who no longer qualifies at the position. In fact, if you remove 2014’s awful first half, the former Blue Jay farmhand’s isolated power jumps to .213 over his last 479 PAs. That’s positionally elite. The problem, simply, is d’Arnaud is often not on the field, accumulating several DL stints over his brief pro career. Plus, there have been rumblings that fellow sandwich round selection Kevin Plawecki (more on him later) could split time with d’Arnaud behind the plate this season in New York. While not ideal, I’m not overly concerned. d’Arnaud’s talent should win out.
- Brian McCann, New York
- Sal Perez, Kansas City
- Russell Martin, Toronto
- Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati – Welcome to the perfect storm of uncertainty. It’s not enough that Devin Mesoraco was a massive, injury-induced bust in 2015, compiling just 51 plate appearances all of last year. But, because of this, his incredible success in 2014 is still without any precedent. Now, apparently, Mesoraco is healthy following hip surgery from last season – that’s obviously step one. Also, those 2014 numbers are too good to just be ignored. The Red’s .260 ISO sat sixth in all of baseball among players with 400 PAs, this elite-level power stemming from Mesoraco’s complete aversion to going the other way – he was dead last in baseball hitting only 13.7% of balls to the opposite field. This likely means if any aspect of 2014 was an outlier, it was the catcher’s .273 average. Still, expect 20 home runs if nothing else.
- Matt Wieters, Baltimore
- Stephen Vogt, Oakland
- Yan Gomes, Cleveland
- J.T. Realmuto, Miami – There’s a lot trending in the right direction for J.T. Realmuto heading into 2016. The sophomore took advantage of everyday opportunities in the second half of last season, posting a respectable .320 wOBA over 211 plate appearances with a fantastic 86% contact rate overall. Realmuto is also the beneficiary of the Marlins roster construct. Not only will he be part of an offence welcoming back Giancarlo Stanton from injury, but Realmuto’s back-up is set to be Jeff Mathis, who is simultaneously hitting below the Mendoza line and is a negative WAR player for his career. That combination doesn’t exactly scream vultured at bats. Realmuto is also due for some much needed normalization when it comes to his situational splits. Somehow, even with a lower strikeout rate, the Marlin hit just .229 with runners on in 2015, compared to .281 with the bases clear. This bad luck is only magnified when you discover that Realmuto’s .322 BABIP with no one on was over 100 points higher than his mark with RISP. Unless you truly believe in “clutch”, believe in Realmuto this season.
- Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles
- Derek Norris, San Diego
- Welington Castillo, Arizona
- Blake Swihart, Boston – Defence is not generally something that factors into fantasy rankings, but when it comes to Boston’s stable of backstops, at least this season, it might be of some importance. Now, there’s no denying that Swihart is a top-end prospect – a 23 year-old, switch-hitting catcher will always turn heads, however, at his current NFBC ADP of 211 (he’s in a tight fight with Grandal for C12) I think there’s too many questions surrounding his path to 2016 plate appearances. Remember that the only reason Swihart was with the Red Sox last season was a bevy of injuries with both Ryan Hanigan and Christian Vazquez missing significant time. It’s the latter name that’s the most important. Dave Dombrowski has already stated Vazquez will be physically ready for Spring Training and, even if he does start the year in the minors, he’ll be with Boston sooner rather than later. So, while Swihart is likely the better offensive option of the two, his unsustainable .359 BABIP and near 25% strikeout rate aside, on a team Clay Davenport projects to be third in the MLB in runs, is offensive punch behind the plate all that necessary? Fielding Bible had Swihart as a -9 in defensive runs saved in 2015. They had Vazquez saving 6 in a little over 450 innings in 2014. That’s a clear advantage. Its an odd situation to project, but I’d air on the side of caution with Swihart.
- Nick Hundley, Colorado – It’s a pretty simple argument for Hundley’s fantasy value: Coors Field. Really, let’s not make this too complicated. Yes, prospect Tom Murphy seems ready to make the jump (like Plawecki, more on him below), but as long as Hundley is the starting catcher of the Colorado Rockies – he’s relevant. Heck, it’s not as though Hundley’s above average positional power is completely tied to the altitude. Consider that while the veteran hit a home run for every 36.6 at bats in 2015, back in 2013 he averaged a long ball every 28.7 at bats – while playing in much less hitter friendly San Diego. Sure, the .359 BABIP is likely to regress next season, yet, with Colorado ranking as a Top 5 BABIP team each of the past four years, including leading the league in 2014 and 2012, the drop might not be all that severe.
- Miguel Montero, Chicago
- Yadier Molina, St. Louis
- Wilson Ramos, Washington
- James McCann, Detroit
- Francisco Cervelli, Pittsbugh
- A.J. Pierzynski, Atlanta – Much like Cervelli above, Pierzynski will prove to be vital this season in two-catcher formats, even at the advanced age of 39. He’s just a perfect complimentary piece for so many at the position, contrasting the plus power of a Kyle Schwarber or Mesoraco with consistent high contact rates. Now, it’s unlikely that the former White Sox, will manage to hit .300 again in 2016, yet, considering his .282 career average, minuscule 8.5% strikeout rate last season, and, as mentioned, his 87% contact rate, there’s no reason to think the average won’t be more than respectable. Tyler Flowers will steal some plate appearances against left-handed opposition, but Pierzynski should still see enough of the diamond to make an impact.
- Jason Castro, Houston
- Robinson Chirinos, Texas
- Dioner Navarro, Chicago
- Kevin Plawecki, New York – With the fact that in most standard formats no more than 15 to 18 catchers will be rostered at any time, the back end of these ranks can devolve far quicker than any other position into strictly upside and potential, i.e. Prospects. Sure, in a two-catcher league you might need to know about Carlos Perez, but, for the layman, this year’s Swihart is far more important. Plawecki gets the top spot in this mini-tier based on situation. With 258 MLB plate appearances, the 24 year-old has the most big league experience and, as previously mentioned, New York’s incumbent starter, Travis d’Arnaud, has a bit of a history with injury. Next, Sanchez is by a wide margin the most talented, just last year he slugged 18 home runs in 400 PAs across Double-A and Triple-A, good for a .211 ISO, however, with Brian McCann currently blocking his path, his 2016 returns look bleak. Finally, Murphy lacks the pure pedigree of his prospect brethren, but he also showed plus power in the minors and did hit three home runs with Colorado in a brief major league stint last season. Coors knows no age requirements.
- Gary Sanchez, New York
- Tom Murphy, Colorado
- John Jaso, Pittsburgh