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Showdowns: Catchers

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?

 

 

Gary Sanchez vs. Jonathan Lucroy

 

Sanchez

 

Sanchez was on the Yankees’ roster for 57 games last year, in which time he hit .299 with 20 HR and 42 RBI. Prorating that to 162 games would put him at 57 homers and 119 RBI. I write this not to hype expectations for what Sanchez should do in his first full season, but instead to illuminate just how much he could falter and still remain a dominant fantasy catcher. In the last 10 years, only two catchers have hit 30 homers (Evan Gattis with 32 last year and Mike Napoli with 30 in 2011), and Buster Posey (103 in 2012) is the only one to reach 100 RBI this decade. Sanchez seems like a pretty good bet to do the former, and he has a chance at the latter as well, since he figures to hit third in the Yankees lineup and DH at least a couple of times per month. Sanchez started 53 of those 57 games when he was on the Yankees’ roster last year, which is a pace the DH spot could allow him to maintain. I expect Sanchez’s prodigious strikeout rate will catch up to him somewhat this year, lowering his average, but I don’t imagine that anyone is touching his power numbers; he demonstrated elite exit velocity and barreled the ball as much as anyone in the majors last year. I’m taking him over Lucroy and over Posey, as well. – Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)

 

Lucroy

 

The Rangers ponied up big-time in order to acquire Lucroy at the deadline last year, and they reaped the benefits down the stretch as the catcher slashed .276/.345/.539 with 11 homers in 47 games after the trade. Now, at age 30 and by all appearances completely past his concussion issues, the prized acquisition is primed for a monster campaign. He'll be slotted into the middle of a power-packed lineup that also includes Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli. He appears to enjoy hitting in Arlington's ballpark very much based on his .979 OPS in 27 games there -- third-highest of any yard where he has more than 50 plate appearances. That comes as no surprise given the stadium's hitter-friendly reputation and the way baseballs tend to sail in the midsummer Texas heat. While Gary Sanchez might offer the tantalizing upside after banging out 20 homers in 53 games as a rookie, he's bound to come back to Earth as a sophomore, perhaps in a big way. Meanwhile, Lucroy is an established commodity in a terrific situation. – Nick Nelson (@NickNelsonMN)

 

Brian McCann vs. Matt Wieters

 

McCann

 

This is a tough one because we don’t know where Wieters is going to wind up signing and his power projection for 2017 could change greatly depending on what stadium he gets to call home. But let’s go ahead and assume this new park will not be as power-friendly as Camden Yards, because few major league stadiums are. In a vacuum, my friends, McCann is the clear winner. The durability factor: McCann has played in 405 games over the last three seasons, compared to 225 games for Wieters in that same span. McCann will get regular opportunities to rest his legs in Houston with the DH spot available. We don’t know if that will be available to Wieters. The production factor, maybe most important of all: McCann has tallied 69 home runs and 227 RBI over the last three seasons. Wieters has 30 home runs and 109 RBI in that span, and many of those homers were hit in Baltimore. The only way I could see myself drafting Wieters over McCann is if Wieters reaches a deal with the Rockies and is set up to play 75-plus games at Coors Field. For now, McCann looks much safer and might even carry the higher upside. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)

 

Wieters

 

McCann's offensive ability has gone downhill to the point that he's basically a one-trick pony -- he hasn't posted an OPS above .800 since 2011, and he's hit between .230 and .242 in four of his last five seasons. Even his one trick hasn't been all that impressive in recent years, as he slugged a forgettable .406 and .413 in 2014 and 2016, respectively. He's still managed at least 20 homers in each of those seasons mentioned, and in Minute Maid Park McCann's power should once again play; he's a liability on the basepaths, though, and when the ball doesn't leave the yard it's usually going to be an out. Wieters isn't going to blow anyone away with his batting average, either, but he's long produced counting stats that belie his slash line. Over the past five seasons, the two backstops have produced remarkably similar OPS results -- McCann owns a .735 OPS and averaged more homers per 162-game average, while Wieters posted a .736 OPS and hit for a higher average -- so it really just comes down to personal preference. I'll take the younger, more versatile Wieters this year. – Nate Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)

 

Wilson Ramos vs. Mike Zunino

 

Ramos

 

It speaks to the ugliness that is the fantasy catcher position that I have a guy who is only five months removed from ACL surgery sneaking into my top-15. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Ramos was awesome last season. LASIK surgery prior to the campaign seemed to make a world of difference for the 29-year-old, as he was the best offensive catcher in baseball with a .307/.354/.496 batting line, 22 home runs and 80 RBI. Ramos has long been a highly thought of guy and had shown glimpses of being a plus offensive player, so while a full repeat is unlikely, I’m very comfortable in saying that he’ll continue to be one of the better hitting catchers in the game when healthy. “When healthy” is obviously key here, of course, as he appears likely to miss at least the first month or two of the season while rehabbing and probably won’t be a full-time player initially upon his return. However, I’ll still take my chances with 350 plate appearances from Ramos (plus another 150 from a fill-in) than 500 from Zunino. Zunino started off hot last season upon his recall but ultimately reverted back to an all-or-nothing guy who isn’t a safe bet to bat over .200. Neither of these guys are excellent bets for 2017, but I’ll side with the much better player even in a weakened/limited state. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)

 

Zunino

 

This is more about Ramos than it is about Zunino. Coming off his second major knee surgery, Ramos was forced to settle for a two-year, $12.5 million contract with the Rays over the winter. The hope is that he could be ready to go within the first month of the season or so, but things can and often do go wrong with timetables. And while he can be eased into action out of the designated hitter spot, who knows how the knee will impact his production both in the short-term and the long-term. Ramos had a career year before his unfortunate injury last September, but I’d rather go with the guy who I know will be healthy on Opening Day. Zunino has his flaws, which is why he’s ranked here in the first place. He has fanned in 32.4 percent of his plate appearances in the majors, but at least he was more selective last season. And his propensity for hitting fly balls makes him a decent bet for 20 homers with a full season’s worth of at-bats. Lower ceiling? Probably. But I’ll take that over higher risk, at least based on how things stand in February. - D.J. Short (@djshort)