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Welcome to the 2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the American League, a part of the “So-Called” Fantasy Experts Fantasy Baseball Draft Package.

While the NL offers Buster Posey, Kyle Schwarber, and a host of other decent upside plays, the AL catcher situation is a little less exciting. There are a few solid veterans like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, and Salvador Perez, but there’s a real lack of offense at catcher in the American league.

What follows are the 2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the American League. The players are listed alphabetically to make it easy to find the player you’re looking for. We’ve used the 20-game played threshold for position eligibility. If a player did not play 20 games at any position, we used the position they played the most games at.

We also list players at the position they are most likely to be drafted at.. For instance, in some formats Brian McCann is eligible at first base, but smart Fantasy owners won’t be using him there.

Right now the backup catcher situations in the AL aren’t as clear as those in the NL. As Spring Training approaches we’ll add names so that we can satisfy not only the needs of mixed league owners, but the traditionalists out there that play in 12-team AL-only leagues. These 2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles will also be updated all the way up to Opening Day, so remember to check in occasionally to get the latest news.

2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the American League

Alex Avila, Chicago White Sox

Ever since his breakout campaign in 2011, Avila’s career has been sliding downhill. Now, coming off the worst season of his career where he battled injuries, he is on track to be the backup catcher for the White Sox. Last year, Avila posted his third consecutive season with a strikeout rate over 29.5-percent and a batting average under .230. Despite the contact issues, Avila would be a decent bet to reach double-digit home runs along with 50 RBIs if he were to see at least 400 plate appearances. For now, Avila is an AL-Only option; however, he does have two-catcher mixed league upside should something happen to Dioner Navarro. – Fabian Taylor


Jason Castro, Houston Astros

Castro continued his disheartening trend of racking up strikeouts. For the fourth consecutive year he saw his strikeout rate increase, posting a career worst 30.7-percent in 2015. Despite having decent power and counting stats, it is no wonder he has been threatening the Mendoza line over the past two years. With the departure of Hank Conger, Castro has a great shot at being in the Top 10 with respect to plate appearances among catchers. You could do worse than Castro as a second catcher in two-catcher mixed leagues as we are only two years removed from him being a Top 10 catcher. – Fabian Taylor


Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers

Chirinos was the starting catcher for the Rangers through the end of July until shoulder and bicep injuries limited him to only five games from August through the end of the year. Chirinos has a little pop, evidenced by his 24 career home runs over 701 plate appearances. Last year, he posted his best BB/K rate of his career, mostly on the back of a career best walk rate of 10.3-percent. Despite chatter that the Rangers are looking to upgrade the catcher position, Chirinos looks to begin 2016 as the starter once again, as the competition for at-bats behind the plate are pretty weak. Hitting in a solid lineup and in a good hitting environment in Arlington, Chirinos should post two-catcher mixed league worthy numbers. – Fabian Taylor


Steve Clevenger, Seattle Mariners

Clevenger had a decent year in 2015 in limited duty; however, it didn’t do much to impact his uninspiring career stat line, which basically equates to one full season’s worth of work: 446 plate appearances, .228 average, three home runs, 38 runs, and 41 RBIs. He joins Seattle and looks to be part of an underwhelming catcher triumvirate. It appears he will start the year splitting backup duties with Mike Zunino, but if Chris Iannetta continues his struggles from last year, it is not inconceivable that Clevenger takes hold of the starter reigns. That being said, it is hard to see him being anything more than a deep AL-Only option in 2016. – Fabian Taylor


Hank Conger, Tampa Bay Rays

After spending his entire career with the Angels, Conger has now been traded twice within the past 14 months. It is extremely unlikely that Conger will repeat his power performance of last year for two reasons. First, he is moving from the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park to the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field. Second, his HR/FB rate was an extremely fortunate 18-percent, while his career mark is 9.8-percent. Playing time will also be in question as the Rays have a variety of choices behind the plate. Unless Conger gets named the starter and is likely to see at least 400 plate appearances, his place in the Fantasy world is in AL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor


Tony Cruz, Kansas City Royals

Cruz used to be the backup to workhorse Yadier Molina, but now he is the backup to workhorse Salvador Perez. I wonder if he gets full time pay for his part time job? He broke into the majors in 2011 and over the past five years he has accumulated a mere 633 plate appearances along with a .220 batting average and just five home runs. A slugger he is not. Even if Perez were to go down with a serious injury, it is hard to see how Cruz is anything more than a deep league NL-Only option. He will go undrafted in most Fantasy leagues and if he does get drafted it must be that it is a four-catcher 20 team league. – Fabian Taylor


Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians

Gomes had a tough start last year as he suffered as MCL sprain in early April and missed just over six weeks of action. He struggled after initially coming back. but turned things around in the second half. After the All-Star Break, Gomes hit .241 with nine HRs and 35 RBIs over 235 plate appearances. For the year as a whole, Gomes was a bit unlucky posting a .285 BABIP (career .312 BABIP) despite an impressive 26.4-percent line drive rate. Another area where Gomes should improve in 2016 is hitting with RISP. Last year he hit just .141 thanks to a .145 BABIP with RISP compared to career marks of .240 and .279 respectively. Expect a strong bounce back campaign from Gomes where he should be amongst the Top 15 at his position. – Fabian Taylor


Ryan Hanigan, Boston Red Sox

Hanigan has been a relatively useful backup catcher over his career. His keen batting eye (career BB/K of 1.0) has contributed to a career OBP of .352. Despite his patience at the plate, Hanigan has limited power, evidenced by a career high of six home runs achieved in 2011. With Blake Swihart slated to be the Red Sox starter in 2016, at-bats will once again be hard to come by for Hanigan. Even if Swihart were to miss a significant amount of time, Hanigan would likely split time with Christian Vazquez. Given his lack of counting stats production, Hanigan should only be rostered in the deepest AL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor


Chris Iannetta, Seattle Mariners

Iannetta, now the starter for the Mariners after signing a free agent contract, looks to rebound off a disappointing season in 2015. His sub-Mendoza batting average was led by a .225 BABIP, which was the result of a career low line drive rate (13-percent) and a weak hard hit rate (25-percent). His batted profile improved slightly as the year wore on and he continued his career trend of finding ways to get on base by once again posting an impressive walk rate. He should see the majority of games behind the plate for the Mariners, as his competition is less than stellar to say the least. Iannetta should be one of the last starting catchers taken come draft day, which leaves him off the mixed league radar in most leagues. Think of him as an AL-Only option with limited upside. – Fabian Taylor


Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles

Joseph filled in admirably well for Matt Wieters who was recovering from Tommy Joh surgery last year. Despite recording just 320 at-bats, Joseph finished 14th in home runs, 17th in runs, and 13th in RBIs amongst catchers. Given his BB/K rate and impressive batted ball profile, it was a little surprise that he only hit .234. As we look towards 2016, Joseph’s Fantasy value took a hit when Wieters re-upped with the Orioles, as there is now no starting spot available for him. He no doubt contains a fair amount of upside, but for now, he seems no better than an option in two-catcher AL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor


Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays

Martin came to the Jays with high expectations, and he delivered on them in 2015. He set a new career high in home runs and his RBI total was the second best of his 10-year career. The home run total will likely not be repeated as his HR/FB rate was 20.7-percent against a career mark of 12.4-percent. This occurred despite near career norms in terms of hard hit rate, fly ball rate, and pull rate. You can’t put it on playing half of his games at homer-happy Rogers Centre, since 10 of his 23 home runs were hit on the road. Despite the looming power regression, Martin figures to be knocking on the door of another Top 5 catcher season. – Fabian Taylor


Brian McCann, New York Yankees

2016 AL Catcher Projections and Profiles - Brian McCann

At one time, McCann hit for a high average along with his plus power. The average is gone, but 20-plus HRs and 80-plus RBIs are almost a given if McCann can stay healthy. McCann has bumped his HR totals up in each of the last three years, but it’s hard to see that trend continue in his age-32 season. McCann finished 2015 as a Top 5 catcher, and it could easily happen again in 2016. Just realize there’s also a decent chance that age starts catching up to him very soon. – Doug Anderson


James McCann, Detroit Tigers

The other McCann unexpectedly saw plenty of action last year filling in for the injured Alex Avila. With his glove being his best asset, McCann still handled himself fairly well with the bat, as his numbers were basically on par with what he had done in the minors the two previous seasons. Learning how to take a walk should be one of his goals given his putrid 3.8-percent walk rate. He enters 2016 as the starter for the Tigers and he figures to be just outside of the Top 20 catchers. McCann should provide adequate production as a second catcher in two-catcher mixed leagues. – Fabian Taylor


JR Murphy, Minnesota Twins

The Twins traded for Murphy to provide competition and support for incumbent Kurt Suzuki. Murphy posted decent numbers as Brian McCann’s backup in 2015; however, despite a solid batted ball profile, his .357 BABIP seems prime for regression. If he were to get a full year’s worth of at-bats, his minor league numbers suggest an upside of low double-digit home runs, 50 RBIs and a .250 or so batting average. It looks like a time-share at best for Murphy, so it will be difficult for him to carve out any significant Fantasy value. He looks to be an AL-Only option at this point in his career, but if he had a full time role, he could sneak his way onto the two-catcher mixed league scene. – Fabian Taylor


Dioner Navarro, Chicago White Sox

Navarro looks to start over, again, as he joins his sixth team since 2010. Coming off his career year in 2014 with the Blue Jays, he took a backseat to Russell Martin last year. Now with the White Sox, he appears set for a timeshare with Alex Avila. Given their recent career paths and superior contact skills, it seems like Navarro is the better bet to lead the platoon. Navarro was a Top 10 catcher in 2014, when he saw over 500 plate appearances, so we know what the potential looks like. The upside is intriguing and Navarro makes for a decent grab late as a second catcher in two-catcher mixed leagues. – Fabian Taylor


Carlos Perez, Los Angeles Angels

When you look at the minor league career of Perez, Fantasy monster is not the first thing that comes to mind. His Triple-A numbers from 2013 and 2014 averaged out to four 4 HRs, 31 Rs, 33 RBIs, two SBs, and a .264 batting average. Seemingly due to the inconsistencies of former Angels backstop Chris Iannetta, Perez saw a decent amount of playing time in his rookie year, especially when you consider he didn’t get promoted from Triple-A until early May. With only Geovany Soto to compete with for at-bats, Perez could once again be in line for a fairly steady workload if he wins the battle in Spring Training. At this stage of his career, Perez is not on the mixed league radar and he should be left to those competing in AL-Only leagues. – Fabian Taylor


Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

2016 AL Catcher Projections and Profiles - Salvador Perez

One way or another Salvador Perez always provides solid value for his owners. When he first came up he was a high average hitter with middling power. Over the last two years he’s added power, but it’s come at the expense of 30 points of batting average. At first glance a lower BABIP seems to be the culprit, but then you see that his FB% over the last two years are higher than anything he ever put up before. This is a change in style/approach. Regardless, Perez plays as much as any catcher in baseball and is likely to continue producing at 2014-15 levels. He’s not a sexy option who’s likely to completely break out, but he is a reliable option that probably deserves more Fantasy love. – Doug Anderson


Josh Phegley, Oakland Athletics

Phegley had a solid year in 2015 as a backup on the A’s. Despite not holding down a starter’s job, he finished among the Top 30 catchers in home runs, RBIs, and runs. His minor league numbers support his hitting prowess as in 2014, his last full year in Triple-A, he hit .274 along with 23 home runs, 69 runs, and 75 RBIs. Since he has only seen time at catcher over his brief major league career, his playing time is directly tied to the health of starter Stephen Vogt. Phegley has to be considered one of the top backups at the catcher position so that alone puts him in the conversation as an AL-Only starter in all non-shallow leagues. If Vogt were to get injured, Phegley would definitely become a must add in all two-catcher mixed leagues. – Fabian Taylor


Geovany Soto, Los Angeles Angels

You always know what you are going to get from Soto, power and strikeouts. Last year was no different as he managed to hit nine home runs in less than 200 at-bats and he also posted a horrendous strikeout rate of 30-percent. Amongst catchers with 200 plate appearances, Soto finished 38th out of 45 in terms of contact rate. However, when he did make contact, he made it count as he had the sixth best hard hit rate and 13th best line drive rate. He likely heads into 2016 as a backup once again, this time for the Angels. The home runs are nice, but the batting average will be a drain and like everyone else, his counting stats will be tied to playing time. Deep AL-Only Fantasy players should be the only ones calling Soto’s name out on draft day. – Fabian Taylor


Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota Twins

Suzuki had a bit of a breakout with a .288 average in 2014 and to be fair, he did cut down his strikeout rate about 2.0 percent. The bulk of the batting average jump, though, was due to a BABIP that was .065 higher than 2013 and way out of line with his career numbers. The BABIP and the K% returned to career levels in 2015 and with those so did his batting average. In looking at his career stats, 2014 looks like the clear outlier. Suzuki carries little upside and is an injury fill-in at best in mixed leagues. He’s a respectable option in two-catcher AL leagues, but could lose significant playing time to JR Murphy. – Doug Anderson


Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox

Swihart got the call from Triple-A at the start of May, but didn’t do much before succumbing to a foot injury that sidelined him for three weeks. However, after returning, he posted a solid line over 168 plate appearances in the second half: .303 AVG, four HRs, 31 Rs, 20 RBIs, and three SBs. For the season as a whole, Swihart’s stellar line drive rate of nearly 27-percent helped support a lofty .359 BABIP. Given both his batted ball profile and his minor league career, an above average BABIP should be the sustainable norm going forward. To take the next step, Swihart will need to cut down on his K%, which was just under 25-percent last year; however, his track record in the minors suggest a sub 20-percent should be expected as he matures. A solid batting average combined with a little pop and speed should keep Swihart right on the cusp of mixed league starter status in 2016. – Fabian Taylor


Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics

Vogt had a great first half last year as he was the best catcher not named Posey when he hit .287 along with 14 home runs, 43 runs and 56 RBIs. He couldn’t find his way in the second half, but part of it was probably due to a couple of injuries that he sustained. He ended the year healthy, so there should be no major injury concerns as we head into 2016. For the year as a whole, his peripherals were very similar to his career marks, the main explanation for his increase in production has to do with an increase in playing time. This should increase your confidence on whether or not Vogt can repeat his performance of a year ago. In 2016, expect Vogt to once again post a Top 10 catcher season. – Fabian Taylor


Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles

Not surprisingly, Wieters struggled in 2015 as he returned from Tommy John surgery. It is a small sample size, but he did finish the year strong as he hit .305 along with three HRs and eight RBIs in just 71 plate appearances once the calendar turned to September. For the most part, his batted ball profile was in line with his career averages except for the fact that he hit fewer fly balls and more line dives. His main issue in 2015 had to do with making contact as he posted a career high strikeout rate and swinging strike rate. Since he will have a regular offseason to prepare, there’s a good chance Wieters will bounce back and be a Top 10 catcher with plenty of upside. – Fabian Taylor

 

Hopefully you enjoyed our 2016 Catcher Projections and Profiles for the American League. If we missed a catcher you think will have Fantasy value, let us know about it in the comments below. Also make sure to check out our othe projections and profiles. Getting to know the player pool is the first step to winning your 2016 Fantasy Baseball leagues.

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