2015 Outlook: Posey's skill set hardly seems like one that should generate wild fluctuations in production from month to month, but even a low-strikeout, 20-homer power bat can run hot and cold for extended stretches. Despite nearly identical plate-discipline numbers between the first and second halves, Posey's OPS was 221 points higher (.978) after the All-Star break than it was before. The final results in 2014 nearly mirror his career line (.308/.374/.487), and the Giants are perfectly content to give him a heavy volume of playing time by getting him regular work at first base when Brandon Belt is injured or in need of a day off. There's a gaping hole in the San Francisco lineup following Pablo Sandoval's offseason departure to Boston, which may chip away at Posey's counting stats and enable opposing pitchers to attack him with more pitches outside the strike zone. But even with a downgraded supporting cast, Posey has earned the position of first catcher off the board in many drafts.
2015 Outlook: Lucroy turned in another strong season in 2014, carrying a career-high .373 OBP on the strength of a 10.1 percent walk rate and setting a new record for doubles by a catcher (53). In the past, he showed more favorable splits against left-handed pitching, but his numbers were nearly identical across his lefty-righty splits last season, and 12 of his 13 home runs were hit against righties. In addition to providing a steady bat capable of racking up plenty of RBI in the heart of the Brewers' batting order, Lucroy is an excellent defender behind the plate. He also takes on a workload at the high end of the scale for a catcher, thanks to his ability to cover first base when the Brewers need a right-handed option to make a spot start at the position. At age 28, there is little reason to think he'll slow down in 2015, though a hamstring strain, suffered in early February, has clouded his status for the start of the year. The Brewers are still hoping Lucroy will be ready for Opening Day, but if not, Martin Maldonado will begin the year as the team's primary option behind the plate.
2015 Outlook: Mesoraco suffered an oblique injury late in spring training that forced him to begin the year on the disabled list, but he hit the ground running upon returning to the lineup soon after Opening Day before a hamstring injury put him back on the DL in late April. Even with the lost time, Mesoraco led all catchers in home runs (25) and was on plenty of championship teams last season, while his breakout happened in a year in which the Reds' offense struggled as a whole, with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce missing significant time. There were signs of fatigue in the second half, or perhaps the league started to put together a book on him, as he hit just .237/.341/.446 after the All-Star break while hitting just nine of his 25 homers over the final 54 games. Further, his 20.5 percent HR/FB mark was nearly double his previous career level, which suggests that a slight drop in long balls might be on the horizon even if he avoids injuries and takes on a larger workload in 2015. That loss may, however, be offset by gains in the RBI and runs-scored categories if the Reds' offense rebounds with better health from Votto and Bruce.
2015 Outlook: Gattis appeared to be proving his doubters wrong last season by hitting .290/.342/.558 in the first half while showing an improved 21.8 percent strikeout rate. But in late June, a bulging thoracic disc in his back led to a DL stint, and his numbers in the second half suffered. He hit just .221/.278/.293 after the All-Star break, fanning in 27.8 percent of his trips to the plate. Behind the plate, his defense graded out much more favorably last season, but the Braves decided to ship him to Houston in January as part of their rebuilding process. With a move from behind the plate to left field expected, Gattis should be able to take on a larger volume of playing time, which should bolster his counting stats and give him an opportunity to push the 30-homer mark if he's healthy. Of some concern is that he's hit just .241/.297/.469 over the past two seasons against right-handed pitching, a likely indication that the .263 average he posted in 2014 is somewhere close to his ceiling in the category.
2015 Outlook: It's rare that a player posts a career-high homer total only to have to his season be considered a disappointment. Perez might have achieved that feat in 2014, thanks in large part to a .260/.289/.403 line that marked his second straight season of decline in each of those three markers. The Royals have allowed their young catcher to shoulder extremely heavy workloads in each of the past two seasons, and it's fair to wonder whether a slight reduction in playing time might actually help his overall production. Perez offers plenty of raw power, and he's always managed to carry a low strikeout rate (career 12.2 percent), but he plays half of his games in one of the most pitcher-friendly environments in the American League. Defensively, he's outstanding, which fortifies his playing time even when he goes through a prolonged slump. Groin and knee injuries might have led to his slide in the second half, which included an ultra-aggressive approach and complete unwillingness to take bases on balls -- he posted a 1.2 percent walk rate over his final 64 games. Perez is on the short list of catchers capable of hitting 20 home runs, and he'll have a chance to make that happen this season if the second-half struggles were indeed the result of injuries and overuse.
2015 Outlook: Gomes' emergence in 2013 enabled the Indians to move Carlos Santana out from behind the plate last season, and the Brazilian-born backstop picked up right where he left off during his second year in Cleveland. In addition to providing excellent defense behind the plate, Gomes was one of just six catchers to hit at least 20 home runs in 2014. One area of concern is that he doesn't draw many walks (a career .318 OBP and 5 percent walk rate), making him a slight liability in leagues that use on-base percentage, but he's shown an ability to make consistent hard contact (career .323 BABIP), which may stabilize his batting average floor somewhere close to his career .275 mark. He's also shown significant lefty-righty splits, as he hit just .256/.292/.453 with a 25.1 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching last season. The Tribe will likely allow Gomes to shoulder another heavy workload in 2015, which should make him an asset in the power categories again. However, he will need to put more balls in play against righties in order to repeat his breakout season.
2015 Outlook: Molina won his seventh consecutive Gold Glove in 2014, singlehandedly earning his paycheck with his defense despite his bat taking a considerable step back from his 2011-2013 levels. A sprained thumb cost him significant time in the second half, but his numbers before the injury put him on pace to disappoint the owners who paid a premium for his services on draft day. The biggest change in Molina's profile was a surge in his groundball rate, which spiked to 50.6 percent -- his highest mark since 2010 -- and it certainly goes a long way to explain the power outage. Further, it's become increasingly likely that the 22 home runs he hit in 2012 will go down as a career high, fueled by an outlier 13.8 percent HR/FB, as he's hovered below 8 percent in each of last two seasons. Without a shift in his batted-ball profile, a .300 batting average may be a stretch, but Molina doesn't strike out much (12.4 percent K percent last season) and will continue to benefit from the talented lineup around him.
2015 Outlook: Year 1 of McCann's five-year deal with the Yankees did not go entirely as planned, at least if he was expected to hit at a level close to his career .272/.343/.466 line. McCann still has pop, and he turned his highest total of plate appearances (538) since 2010 into 23 home runs, marking the eighth time in his career he has reached the 20-homer threshold. Defensively, he continues to be an asset behind the plate, and if he can avoid further erosion of his batting eye, the Yankees might break even on his contract for a few more years. Primarily a pull hitter, opposing teams can effectively employ shifts against McCann, making it likely he'll continue to hit between .230 and .250 rather than making a return to that aforementioned .272 career mark. Of course, he could erase some of those concerns if he proves capable of altering the approach in his age-31 season, but a .240 hitter with 20 home runs and plenty of RBI is still a valuable commodity in the catcher spot.
2015 Outlook: Martin cashed in on his best offensive season since 2007 while also reaping the benefits of a weak crop of catchers on the free-agent market, inking a five-year, $82 million deal with the Blue Jays in November. At the very least, Martin brings a huge upgrade defensively to Toronto, which should pay off for the pitching staff. Jays manager John Gibbons has suggested that Martin may profile as the team's new No. 2 hitter, a role that will enable him to pile up plenty of runs scored if he's able to sustain even a share of his 2014 gains at the plate. The move to Rogers Centre from PNC Park is a more favorable environment and should portend an uptick in power, but Martin's batted-ball profile didn't change significantly last season and he still managed to see a 70-point spike in BABIP (.336) -- to a level that is nearly 50 points above his career .289 mark. A career .259 hitter with a good eye at the plate (11.6 percent walk rate), Martin will have a chance to exceed his 2014 counting stats even if he falls well short of repeating his batting average from last season.
2015 Outlook: Wieters began experiencing forearm pain in April, which was diagnosed as elbow soreness in May. It was determined that Wieters had a torn UCL in his elbow, but he attempted to receive treatment with the hope of returning to action in 2014. That return never materialized, and Wieters had Tommy John surgery in June, in addition to a procedure to remove a nerve and shave down a bone spur in his elbow. In the 26 games that he did play last season, Wieters produced at a career-best clip, hitting .308/.339/.500 and putting himself on a 25-homer pace. Part of that increase in production was the result of fewer grounders and more line drives, which pushed his BABIP to .329 (career .285). If that shift was the result of an adjustment to his approach -- specifically against right-handed pitching -- it might be bankable skills growth. Even if it was simply the result of a hot streak in a small sample size, Wieters' floor as a catcher with three 20-homer seasons under his belt and a regular place in a strong Baltimore lineup is quite valuable. Further, he may come at a discounted price because of the major injury, even though he's expected to be ready for Opening Day.
2015 Outlook: Injuries were once again a limiting factor for d'Arnaud in 2014, as a concussion in May put him on the shelf for two weeks and led to a slump that punched his ticket back to Triple-A in June. D'Arnaud went on a tear during his 15-game stint with Las Vegas and hit .436/.475/.909 with six homers. Upon returning to the Mets, he pushed his OPS to .795 in July and maintained a similar level throughout the second half (.787). One key aspect of his growth was an improved strikeout rate, as he fanned just 12.3 percent of the time in the second half, after an 18.1 percent strikeout rate in the first half. He also displayed more consistent power, as he slugged .474 after the All-Star break and ranked fifth among catchers in that category during the second half (minimum 100 plate appearances). Right elbow soreness limited his playing time in September, and d'Arnaud was shut down late to undergo surgery that removed bone chips from his arm. He should be healthy for the start of the season and has legitimate breakout potential in 2015, with a regular spot in an improving Mets lineup.
2015 Outlook: Grandal was getting some sleeper love prior to the trade to Los Angeles, and the move to the Dodgers only makes him more desirable. He had a near-equal strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first two seasons (57 strikeouts and 49 walks), but it was only an 88-game sample, and the strikeout rate specifically ran counter to what he had shown in the minors. He continued to take walks in his first full season of play last year, but the strikeout rate jumped from 17 to 26 percent. His real level probably remains unknown at this point, but at least he is still drawing walks, even with the elevated strikeout rate. After hitting half his homers in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, he should enjoy the boost Chavez Ravine offers as goes from the 24th-best home run park to the fifth best, according ESPN's Park Factors page.
2015 Outlook: Prior to last season, Rosario was establishing himself as an elite bat with the added bonus of being miscast by the Rockies as their starting catcher. Defensively, there are still plenty of issues with his work behind the plate, and Rosario might be ticketed for a move to first base once Justin Morneau's contract runs out after the 2015 season. But the big issue is that Rosario's bat took a big step back a year ago. Health may have been the culprit, as left wrist soreness cost him a few games in April before the nagging injury pushed him to the DL in late August. Rosario pounded lefties (.989 OPS) and raked at Coors Field last season (.928 OPS), and though six of his 13 home runs came on the road, he put together a brutal .185/.212/.321 line outside of Coors. Even with those factors working against him, Rosario improved his strikeout rate to a career-low 17.1 percent and still managed to hit .267. Though it's possible the Rockies will entrust more playing time behind the plate to Michael McKenry, Rosario should still see another 450 plate appearances as the primary catcher and potential right-handed hitting-platoon partner for Morneau at first base. With that volume of playing time and half of his games still coming in Colorado, Rosario remains an enticing option once the elite backstops are off the board.
2015 Outlook: Ramos has overcome a multitude of injuries and obstacles during his big-league career, and 2014 was hardly an exception. After he was surprisingly removed prematurely on Opening Day, it was revealed that Ramos had previously suffered a broken left hand. He had surgery on his hamate bone in April, and was sidelined until early May by the recovery process. In June, Ramos returned to the disabled list with a hamstring strain, and by the All-Star break, he had appeared in just 37 games. The second half was much better in terms of health, as he played 51 games and hit eight of his 11 home runs. While his overall offensive production slipped last season, Ramos has the raw power necessary to push the 20-homer plateau, and he could parlay his steady contact skills (career 16.1 percent strikeout rate) and starting role in the deep Washington lineup into top-tier production as a catcher. It's just a matter of health at this point, and he should report to spring training with a clean bill to begin his age-27 campaign.
2015 Outlook: The Mariners made Zunino their primary catcher last season, and while his defense graded out favorably thanks to his underrated ability as a pitch-framer, his bat showed no real sign of progress. Zunino struggled to make contact consistently and fanned in 33.2 percent of his plate appearances, and the 22 home runs and 60 RBI he racked up were offset by a .199/.254/.404 line. The second-half splits don't reveal any signs of improved plate discipline, which raises questions as to what his ceiling might be as a big-league hitter. For a right-handed bat, it's certainly impressive that he clubbed 10 of his 22 long balls at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, which suggests that 20- to 25-homer power can be expected. The third overall pick in the 2012 draft, Zunino was promoted through the Mariners' system aggressively, which offers at least a glimmer of hope for a more refined approach as he begins his age-24 campaign.