The Cafe has long been known for its vast variety of useful rankings, helpful mock drafts, and insightful articles. Chances are this won’t fall under any of those categories. What I did was appeal to the Cafe’s longstanding contributors, some of the Cafe’s most fantasy savvy and intellectual minds, and asked them to literally do one of the most rudimentary tasks the human brain can function: make lists. The goal being to compile a positional ranking guide for the 2012 season. I then compiled these individual lists, found the mean and median of each score, and created the most basic set of rankings humanly possible. The best part: there isn’t even a uniform “cut-off” on the rankings. Some have 15, some 16, some 18, it really depended on where the massive drop-off happened in the rankings I received (where the “Natural Tiers”* fell off the table, so to speak). Is your mind blown yet?
I then looked at those central tendencies and created what I’m terming ‘Natural Tiers’. Here’s where the fun comes in. These are not based on talent, ability, or projections in the slightest. It’s simply where the naturally occurring gaps popped up within the central tendencies. What determined whether a gap was significant enough to constitute a new tier or not? I eyeballed it and used my better judgement, which, to date, has yet to fail me, save that dead prostitute they found in my hotel room in Cabo. At any rate, I’ll provide a bit of commentary and my own (unwelcome?) insight on each Natural Tier, and hopefully won’t offend anybody in the process. So join me on a fantastical journey as we look at each position set, beginning with the game callers who reside behind the dish.
Natural Tier 1
I don’t know why, but I’m just not buying Mike Napoli as being the No. 1 ranked fantasy catcher when 2012 closes its doors. Sure, that’s easy enough to say about any player, but I’m not even convinced he’ll be in the top five, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him scraping into the top 10. Brian McCann? Unless he suffers some sort of crippling injury, he’s going to be in the top five. At this point I feel it’s like death and taxes. The guy is about as consistent a fantasy player behind the dish that you can find, and while Santana may have more all-around upside, he could also repeat the .240 AVG he flashed last year and not quite live up to expectation again this season. It’s tough to go wrong with these three, but for my money, McCann is the name I want on my roster.
Natural Tier 2
To be completely honest, I think Avila outperforms every other member of this tier this season. There I said it. I see a stat line very similar to that of last year, and Avila has something that almost no other member of this tier can claim to have themselves: elite offensive teammates. San Francisco, Minnesota, Baltimore, and Arizona have nothing that compares to the one-two punch of teammates that Avila gets to share a lineup with this season. Keep in mind Avila did most of his dirty work from the eight-hole last year, but a move higher in the order behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder should give plenty of opportunities to drive in whoever the aforementioned don’t drive in themselves.
Natural Tier 3
Here’s where you start to get into the “could be an absolute bust and provide me nothing but headaches” territory. Not that the previous names are completely devoid of this possibility, but here is where it starts to become an increasing risk for “It’s June, and how did I not anticipate this level of suck?” Does Montero’s minor-league mashing and hot fall translate into success in Seattle? Are Arencibia and the rest of the Toronto lineup as lethal as some project? Can Martin repeat the success he had his first season in pinstripes? Can Soto get his average back to an acceptable fantasy level? Does the loss of Albert Pujols affect Molina’s production? If you’re drafting one of these catchers in a standard league, the good news is you likely got them late-to-very late in your draft, so you won’t mind having to part ways if at some point the other shoe drops. Some fantasy teams live and die off this tier; just hope you’re on the side of the former if that’s the route you choose.
Natural Tier 4
This is where you begin the bewildered feeling of desperation at the catcher position all season long. Where you’re weighing the pros and cons of taking one of these guys, crossing your fingers, hoping for the best, and hoping you’re not hoping that the thin air in Colorado makes Ramon Hernandez forget that he’s pushing 40. Suzuki had a spectacular 2009 but has been dreadful ever since, and back in 2006 Doumit was the most added player in all of fantasy baseball after the Pirates called him up. He’s never really lived up to many of the expectations that were thrust upon him by fantasy owners, but he hasn’t been detrimental in either of the past two seasons. If he bats .280 with 10 HRs and 50 runs and RBIs apiece, you got more than you bargained for out of a guy being drafted in the 300s.
After this, the mean scores drop sharply and become erratic. It’s like throwing darts at a board. What’s interesting about catcher is the large group of guys who all provide a very similar production value from a 5×5 standpoint who are drafted so widely apart from one another. Not that this doesn’t occur across the board, but I feel with catchers it’s even more extreme. If you get a guy who doesn’t totally annihilate your average and can chip in double digit homers and a handful of runs and RBIs, chances are you should be happy. It’s when you’ve got 260 at bats of .210 staring you in the face that you start cursing the day you didn’t draft your catcher sooner. The good news is you’re probably in good company.
Thank you to all those who contributed their personal rankings for this compilation (credit to come at the end of this series), and don’t miss the next installment of Cafeholic Rankings when we take a look at the big boppers at 1B!
Brendan Horton is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brendan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigh0rt.
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