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Catcher Showdowns

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Often in the midst of your draft, you’ll find yourself deciding between a couple players at the same position. With Player Showdowns, we take two players who are closely ranked and have writers take a side and debate who should be selected first. Whose side will you be on?


Willson Contreras vs. Buster Posey



If there is a Tom Brady of the baseball world, Posey is probably the guy. He has the championships and the consistent greatness and the All-American looks. But to me the fantasy upside of Contreras far surpasses Posey, especially looking ahead to the 2018 season. Posey hasn’t topped 20 home runs since 2014 and he hit just 12 homers in 140 games last year. Contreras could have challenged for 25 or maybe even 30 home runs in 2017 had he not missed a full month with a right hamstring strain. He appeared in only 117 games and still bested Posey in a range of fantasy categories. Posey will turn 31 years old in March. Contreras is just 25. And when you compare the lineups of the Giants and Cubs, the advantage easily goes to Chicago. This is an easy one for me. You’re going to have to reach at catcher in drafts this year to get someone who can provide high-level production. The position is so shallow. I’d much rather reach for Contreras. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)


Posey’s days of being in the running for MVP awards might be over. We’ve seen his home run total go from 22 to 19 to 14 to 12 over the last four seasons, he’s now on the wrong side of 30 and he has a lot of mileage on his legs. That said, the guy is still a fantastic hitter, having put up a .320 average last season while doing his annual thing of boasting one of the best strikeout-to-walk rates in the league (61/66). Posey has batted at least .311 in three of the last four campaigns, and he figures to benefit from what should be an improved Giants lineup in 2018. Contreras could hold a significant power edge over Posey this season, but Posey will have a big average advantage and the latter is much more difficult to find these days. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)


Mike Zunino vs. Welington Castillo



Zunino has been full of hype and promise ever since he was selected by the Mariners with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. For the most part, he has been a major disappointment in his brief MLB career, but he finally took a major step forward during a breakout 2017 season. Strikeouts are always going to be a part of his game, and his career-worst 36.8 K% in 2017 is certainly cringe-worthy. He also shows good judgment of the strike zone though and did walk 9% of the time. He also slugged 25 home runs in only 435 plate appearances, doing so with a HR/FB ratio of 24%. A career .209 hitter, Zunino is never going to be an asset in the category. What you’re paying for here is the power potential, which is intriguing enough that it has pushed him up to eighth overall at the position in early NFBC drafts this winter. Castillo has quietly developed into one of the best and most consistent offensive performers at the catcher position. Sure he has done so in two favorable offensive locations (Arizona and Baltimore), but his new ballpark in Chicago plays well for right-handed power as well. He eclipsed the 20-homer plateau for the first time in 2017 in only 341 at-bats. He’s also slated to hit near the middle of a talented young White Sox lineup. Given that information, it’s justified that he has been the 10th catcher on average off the board in early drafts. My preference on Zunino in this matchup is two-fold. One, while Castillo is safer from a batting average perspective, he doesn’t come close to the power ceiling that Zunino possesses. The second is simply that Castillo will be 31 this season and is presumably on the decline while Zunino (who turns 27 in March) is firmly in the prime of his career. I actually like both players, but head-to-head, give me the M’s backstop every time. – Dave Shovein (@DaveShovein)



From looking at our staff rankings, I’m now realizing that I’m the lowest on Zunino. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like him. In fact, I selected him in our mixed league mock draft for the Rotoworld Draft Guide. By the way, the magazine is available in stores now! It’s hard to question the power potential with Zunino, but I worry about the batting average risk. Yes, he batted .251 last year, but he got there despite striking out more than ever before. He struck out in 36.8 percent of his plate appearances, which tied him for fourth-highest in the majors. Sure, he looked fine if you go by things like hard-hit rate and exit velocity, but you can’t possibly bank on him repeating a .355 BABIP. As for Castillo, he swaps one favorable home ballpark for another after signing with the White Sox during the offseason. He’s no stranger to the strikeout either, but we’re talking about a difference of 10 percentage points. His hard-hit rate has been above average and stable over the past three seasons, so I feel good about him being a consistent contributor if healthy. I certainly understand those who suggest that Castillo has the lower ceiling, but I’d rather not risk Zunino’s batting average dragging down my lineup. - D.J. Short (@djshort)


Robinson Chirinos vs. Matt Wieters



Chirinos is 33 but will enter the 2018 campaign as a No. 1 catcher for the first time in his career. He earned the opportunity by hitting 17 home runs and putting up an .866 OPS in 2017, which ranked third among catchers that had at least 300 plate appearances. The veteran backstop hit a robust .291/.417/.488 down the stretch last season after rising to the top of the Rangers’ catcher depth chart following the trade of Jonathan Lucroy. I’m certainly not expecting anything close to that kind of production, and it is fair to wonder how Chirinos will hold up since he should be in line for the biggest workload of his career. He’s been a solid power source during his time in Texas, though, and I’d rather take a shot on him then Wieters, who has had much more name value than actual value for a few years now. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)


I actually stumped for Wieters against Brian McCann last spring, so the temptation is there to just copy/paste that argument into this space, change all the McCann references to "Chirinos" and call it done. In all seriousness, I'm not a Wieters apologist or even consciously aware of a bias towards the 31-year-old; ranking him higher than my colleagues for two years running is just a coincidence. I can understand the disinterest of my peers, too, after he underwhelmed in his first season in Washington. He's been a better hitter for his career than he was in 2017, though, and hitting in the Nationals' lineup remains one of the premier setups in the game. With a year of familiarity under his belt -- with his surroundings, with his pitching staff, with the organization -- I'm expecting better from Wieters in a walk year. And when you're throwing darts on a second catcher or at the back end of a deep draft, I think that's a worthwhile gamble. – Nate Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)