Pushing down on me. Pushing down on you. 'Cause it's so poor.
It's not as bad as it could be, though. Yes, the loss of Evan Gattis hurts. He didn't play a single game behind the plate in 2015, making him ineligible there for 2016 -- and that's after ranking No. 2 at the position in both formats this year. But he's replaced by an even better version of himself, Kyle Schwarber, who gets to enjoy at least one year of catcher eligibility after playing 21 games there as a rookie.
I wouldn't feel especially comfortable with my starter after the top eight or nine or so went off the board, but considering it's one of the positions most impacted by injuries year after year, you can never feel too comfortable with it anyway.
I don't like making a hefty investment at catcher ... well, unless it's for one of the top two.
Top 10 catchers for 2016:
2. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Cubs
3. Jonathan Lucroy, C Brewers
4. Brian McCann, C, Yankees
5. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets
6. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds
7. Russell Martin, C, Blue Jays
8. Stephen Vogt, C, Athletics
9. Salvador Perez, C, Royals
10. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
It's probably the easiest top two you'll find at any position. Posey led catcher by more Head-to-Head points than any other hitter led any other position in 2015, and Schwarber is the fashionable upstart whose ceiling distances him from the rest of the pack. Maybe you fear the dreaded sophomore slump for Schwarber, especially since strikeouts were clearly an issue for him, but a quick look at Gattis' 2015 numbers should put your mind at ease. He was plenty flawed himself, but a home run hitter with an abnormally high number of at-bats (which should be true for Schwarber if he makes some or all of his starts in the outfield) goes a long way at catcher.
Lucroy heads a group of five who I don't really think can compete with Posey but who won't give you much reason to upgrade either. He gets a free pass for his underwhelming 2015 because he missed so much time with a fractured toe and, later, a concussion. He was much more himself in the second half, batting .289 with an .808 OPS in 54 games and maintained a low strikeout rate throughout, so I expect him to bounce back at age 29. He's one of the two in this group of five with the best chance of closing the gap on Posey, with the other being Mesoraco. They were right there with him at the start of the year, but then of course injuries interfered. Mesoraco's was the more damaging. He's still working his way back from hip surgery, which explains the gap between him and Lucroy.
In between are probably the two safest bets at the position -- aside from Posey, of course. I think we've finally moved beyond the point where McCann's .230ish batting average and 20-25 home runs disappoint us. They're what he is now, and it's still more than what most everyone else offers at a thin position, especially since he's so consistent about it. It's that reliability that sets him apart from d'Arnaud, who I do think has a higher ceiling. He actually lived up to the breakout label on a per-game basis this year, but of course, missed much of the first half with finger and elbow injuries.
Martin is the last of that less-than-elite-but-still-solid group of five, and he's the least solid of the bunch. His resurgent batting average with the Pirates in 2014 was ultimately too good to be true, but playing in a more favorable park as part of a stacked lineup, his combination of patience and power still made him a top-five option in both formats this year. I worry about the general inconsistency (even the home runs haven't always been there for him) and the possibility of age catching up to him (he'll be 33 in April), but he's still far safer than what follows.
All you Vogt and Perez owners know what I'm talking about. Both faded horribly down the stretch -- especially Vogt, who ranked up there with Posey in the first half -- and it wasn't the first time for either. Vogt's struggles were largely injury-related -- he's a gamer, to his own detriment -- and while the same may be true for Perez, I feel like Vogt's superior plate discipline gives him the higher ceiling to begin with. In any case, ranking them side by side seems appropriate.
Speaking of ceiling, Wieters still has that of a top-five catcher, and hopefully his second year back from Tommy John surgery allows him to play more consistently than the first. His percentages, apart from maybe strikeout rate, were in line with his career norms, so it was really just that playing time holding him back. I'm approaching this one cautiously because we were obviously too optimistic heading into this year, but I think especially if a team offers the free agent a big contract this offseason, you can feel pretty good about a bounce-back season for Wieters.
Next 10 catchers for 2016:
12. J.T. Realmuto, C, Marlins
13. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox
14. Nick Hundley, C, Rockies
15. Derek Norris, C, Padres
16. Miguel Montero, C, Cubs
17. Welington Castillo, C, Diamondbacks
18. Francisco Cervelli, C, Pirates
19. Yan Gomes, C, Indians
20. Wilson Ramos, C, Nationals
And you might as well think optimistically with Wieters because, as you can see with this second group of 10, we're running out of players with the upside to make an honest-to-goodness difference in standard mixed leagues.
Grandal was shaping up to be one of them in 2015, but like Vogt and Perez, he collapsed down the stretch, with the biggest difference being that his team actually lost faith in him, sitting him for 16 of their final 27 games. Of course, he was battling a shoulder injury for much of the second half, which probably contributed to both the slump and the reduced playing time, but it's not like he was a fixture in the lineup before then. It's a shame, too. If he was promised, say, 100 more at-bats, he'd be another Martin at worst.
He, Realmuto and Swihart are the three biggest hopefuls at the position -- players who haven't had that standout season yet but offer reason to believe it's just around the corner. Realmuto was already fairly productive as a rookie this year even though his overall numbers weren't pretty. His strong September, when he hit .338 with an .890 OPS in 24 games, suggests he may have a ceiling in the Lucroy range, complete with a high contact rate and plenty of doubles pop. Swihart also finished strong, batting .330 with a .909 OPS over his final 29 games, and has sky-high potential, but the 23-year-old was forced into the starting role early this year and may not be a finished product.
Hundley had no right to be as good as he was this year, ranking up there with Vogt in Head-to-Head points per game before a neck strain ended his season early, but that's what Coors Field is known for: turning ordinary hitters into good ones (well, and ruining pitchers, but let's keep it positive here). I don't see why it would change for Hundley as long as he's the Rockies starting catcher, but I do worry he's nearing his expiration date with Tom Murphy getting a September callup. Murphy has a big power bat, and unlike the last Rockies catchers who fit that description, Wilin Rosario, he actually deserves to be behind the plate.
I will say this for Hundley, though: He's the last line of defense before the position descends into complete mediocrity, where the best you can hope for is someone who'll play regularly and hit the ball out on occasion. That's basically Norris in a nutshell. While Montero has the plate discipline of a Martin or Grandal, and Castillo emerged as one of the better power hitters at the position in the second half, neither is assured an everyday role; with Montero forced to hold off Schwarber and Castillo entering free agency. And then there's Cervelli, who was actually much more productive in 2015 than my ranking would let on. It was all batting average, though, which doesn't translate so cleanly from year to year.
I'm not ruling out a return to form for Gomes, who was on the verge of top-10 status entering this season, but I'm not completely sold on the idea that a sprained knee in April was still holding him back in September. There isn't a clear explanation for his downfall, in my mind. I do give him a better chance than Yadier Molina, who's probably the most notable exclusion from this list. A second season confirms it: His power is gone. The innings have caught up to him at age 33, and though he retains some value thanks to a high contact rate and heavy workload, you're better off thinking of him as the ultimate fallback option than somebody who's going to help set your team apart. It's a fine line between him and Kurt Suzuki these days.