Here is a look at the value of catchers over the past season in OPS fantasy leagues. This is not meant to be a ranking so much as adding a lens to illustrate their relative value with OPS as a component. They are listed from highest to lowest OPS. Note that I only included players with at least 300 plate appearances in 2012.
Buster Posey – He was already the top catcher in fantasy baseball and is even better when considering his fantastic .336/.408/.549 line. His .957 OPS was not only top among catchers, but was one of the best in the league. This year he improved his walk rate, line drive rate, and contact rate, while posting a career-high slugging. Even if he regresses next year, he should continue to approach a .900 OPS.
Carlos Ruiz – I still don’t believe that he maintained his .325/.394/.540 line over the full year. Earlier in the year I said that he’s always had a nice OBP, but his slugging had never been near what he produced this year. Much of this increase in slugging is due to an elevated home run to fly ball rate. However, it appears that he was trying to be more aggressive, as evidenced by him swinging at more pitches, including those outside the strike zone. He also increased his line drives so he should still be solid next year, although I can’t see him hitting home runs at the same rate.
Jonathan Lucroy – His .320/.368/.513 was a surprise for many people, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. His OPS is significantly higher than anything he’s previously had in the majors, but some of it looks real. His strikeouts are far lower this year and, although his BABIP is a little high, he could reach an .800 OPS next year.
Yadier Molina – With a .315/.373/.501 line that easily represents the best of his career at the age of 30, I think we have the next Paul Konerko. Molina has never had an OPS above .750 until an .814 OPS last year and an .874 OPS this year. I’m inclined to think that he won’t be able to hit as many home runs next year, but at the same time, I’m reluctant to bet against a guy just because I don’t understand him.
Joe Mauer – When I covered him earlier this year, I said that he wasn’t dead yet and his .319/.416/.446 is a return to his career average. He’s an OBP monster again, which places him among the top tier of catchers. This is roughly the same performance I expect from him next year.
John Jaso – Not sure where his .276/.394/.456 line came from, but his home run to fly ball rate definitely played a role in his success. I don’t expect to see him this high next year.
Wilin Rosario – Dude has always had power in the minors so his 28 homers isn’t completely surprising, but I think that’s closer to his ceiling for next year over a full season, despite him only having 426 plate appearances this year. His .270/.312/.530 line is indicative of the player he projects to be going forward: low OBP with high slugging.
Miguel Montero – The thing that most stands out in his .286/.391/.438 line is his OBP. In 2012, he achieved a walk rate of 12.7%, which towers over his previous career high of 9.2%. Nothing else from his stats stands out to me, so it’s possible that he will continue to walk at a higher rate next season.
A.J. Pierzynski – Somehow he hit 27 home runs, resulting in a .278/.326/.501 line. Unless he trains with Yadier in the offseason, I expect his slugging to drop near .400 next year.
Mike Napoli – What an up and down year. On the surface, his .227/.343/.469 line isn’t terrible, but it was a rude awakening for anybody expecting a repeat of 2011. Going forward, I expect him to hover near his career line, which represents a slight improvement in batting average, OBP, and slugging relative to this year.
Salvador Perez – His .301/.328/.471 line was a nice validation of the potential he’d displayed in the minor leagues. I could actually see some growth in the 22-year-old’s numbers next season, particularly if he can increase his walk rate.
A.J. Ellis – Here’s a guy who, at 31, finally got close to a full season’s worth of plate appearances and did a respectable job, with a .270/.373/.414 line. I expect this season to be his best case scenario in future years.
Carlos Santana – His season was awful in the first half and fantastic in the second half, so his .252/.365/.420 line doesn’t tell the full story. His underlying numbers generally improved this year, so I still plan to place a lot of faith in him next year.
Ryan Doumit – Nothing much to say here except that this is who he is. His .275/.320/.461 line was close to his career average and I expect similar numbers next year.
Matt Wieters – He seemed to fluctuate wildly in production from month to month all season. On the year, his .249/.329/.435 line is slightly down from last year, resulting in a disappointing season for fantasy owners. However, there are reasons for optimism since he increased his walks, line drives, and home run to fly ball rate.
Yasmani Grandal – With a .297/.394/.469 line, he would have ranked highly in this list, but did not due to only receiving 226 plate appearances. The rookie does not have a long record in the minors, so I do not have an idea of what to expect going forward. If he can maintain anything near this year’s numbers over a full season, he could be a valuable catcher.
Brian McCann – Arguably the biggest disappointment among catchers in fantasy leagues, McCann’s .230/.300/.399 line pales in comparison to his .279/.351/.475 career line, which had roughly been his production from 2009-2011. The strange thing is that his plate discipline and batted ball statistics really do not indicate any red flags, so I believe that his career-low BABIP may be largely to blame. I cautiously expect a rebound back to an .800+ OPS next year.