Catcher Rankings Debate: Who’s Number One?

Beginning next week, and continuing the first Monday each month, we’ll be doing a fully updated version of the 2011 Catcher Rankings.  We’ll go over the risers and the fallers and talk about who could be climbing up the rankings on a more permanent basis and who’s washing out.  But while we’re heading into the first set of updates, we have a pretty big debate on our hands.  Who’s the number one catcher out there?  Does Joe Mauer’s slow start/DL stint/illness knock him out of the top spot?  Has Brian McCann’s consistency helped move him up?  Has Buster Posey proven himself enough to be the top fantasy backstop?  And where does Victor Martinez fit in with all of this?  These were the four names in the top tier.  These were the four names, in order, from the top tier back before the season started.  Now the question is whether or not that order has changed.

I suppose, if you’re a Mauer fan, then you’re probably dismissing the slow start.  You’re citing an un-Maueresque .276 BABIP and a viral infection that is sapping his strength and abilities.  You believe he will rebound from all of this and maintain his status as the premier backstop.  Obviously, I do not believe so.  If I did, then this article wouldn’t exist.  I think we’re done with Mauer as the top dog, to be honest.  Not that he’s done or that he still won’t be one of the top options out there, but he’s no longer the top option out there.  I think it’s time for a change.

For me, to be the top option, you need to be the total package.  The fact that Mauer peaked in 2009 and had a poor follow-up in 2010 is a big deal to me.  Sure, he should always hit for a high average, but with the current illness and the usual back issues that have lead us to a gradual reduction in plate appearances and the lack of punch to be found in the middle of the Twins lineup these days, it’s hard to see the runs scored or the RBI being maintained at a high level.  Again, I know it’s early, but for Mauer to really regain his status, we not only need to see him improve his own game, but we also need major improvements around him in Justin Morneau and even Delmon Young.  Counting on one guy stepping up his game is one thing, but needing three makes it vastly more difficult.

So if it’s power I’m looking for, then is V-Mart my choice?  20 or more HR in 5 of his last 6 seasons with 3 100+ RBI years mixed in there as well?  Not too shabby looking on the resume, but between the current and more frequent stops on the DL, I’m just not so sure.  How about McCann with his steady 20+ HR power, solid run production and decent, albeit inconsistent, batting average?  He makes a great choice, but I just don’t see him maintaining a .382 BABIP the rest of the way.  The reduced walk rate and increased strikeout rate aren’t helping me either.

And that leaves us with Posey, my personal choice for number one catcher out there.  If we’re talking keeper leagues, then it’s a complete no-brainer to me.  He’s got 20+ HR power and bats cleanup in the Giants lineup.  He’ll have ample RBI opportunities and with a resurgent Pablo Sandoval and a potentially dangerous Pat Burrell hitting behind him, the runs scored should be plenty.  Couple that with youth and (knock wood) durability seemingly on his side, and what more could you ask for?  I’d keep him over any of the other three right now and moving forward as he will likely be a fixture in the middle of the Giants lineup for years to come.

For re-draft leagues, my opinion really doesn’t change.  He’s already been performing at a high level to follow up his NL Rookie of the Year campaign, he’s doing it all with a fairly normal .321 BABIP so it’s not like he’s just getting lucky out there, and based on his ZiPS for the rest of the season, he will potentially outperform the other three.  If that’s the case, then how can you argue against him being the number one stud out there?

I’m actually really curious to hear what the FanGraphs readers have to say on the matter.  I’d be hard-pressed to have my mind changed, but would love to hear some of you try.  I’ll keep a very open mind and see if someone can toss me a more compelling argument, not so much against Posey, but in favor one of the other candidates.  If not, then we’ll all look forward to seeing the 24 year old FSU product sitting atop the rankings in just his second season.

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

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I personally would probably go with the reliability of McCann, but all 4 I feel are very very close. I can understand the Posey pick, but I would rather not risk a sophemore slump (despite no signs of one thus far). Also, in 2009 Mauer started the season on the DL and after returning in May he exploded for one of the greatest months any catcher has ever had. It probably won’t happen again, but he’s still the best option if he is healthy.