2015 Outlook: Montero took on another heavy workload in 2014, piling up 136 games and eclipsing 550 plate appearances for the third time in the last four seasons. His bat has eroded to the point where there's little reason to use him as middle-of-the-order option, but Montero can still hit enough to be a useful contributor for his position. Since 2009, Montero has reached double-digit home runs in all but one season, 2010, when he hit nine despite missing significant time. Even with his regression at the plate, which has come in power (back-to-back seasons with a sub-.400 slugging percentage) and batting average (he's hit .230 and .247 in the last two seasons, respectively), Montero should log heavy playing time thanks to his above-average ability as a defender. The Cubs acquired him from Arizona in December, and while the move to Chicago will put with in him a less hitter-friendly home park, he could continue to drive in a runs at a good clip even with a move down in the order thanks to the rapidly improving lineup around him.
2015 Outlook: Norris handled the bulk of the playing time behind the plate for the A's in 2014 and saw more at-bats than expected because John Jaso and Stephen Vogt missed time with injuries. He produced at an elite clip in the first half and boasted a .294/.402/.477 line before seeing his walk rate slide from 15.3 percent to 8.7 percent in the second half, which coincided with a loss of more than 200 points from his first-half OPS (from .879 to .638). Typical of his career splits, Norris raked against lefties and hit .311/.393/.470 against southpaws, compared to .244/.340/.359 against righties. If he can more consistently generate loft with his swing and hit more fly balls (46 percent ground-ball rate), Norris might be able to offer 15-homer power at some point in the not-so-distant future. After being traded to San Diego in December, Norris should serve as the Padres' primary catcher in 2015. Norris might not be a completely finished product as a big-league hitter and is vulnerable to falling into the smaller side of a platoon in the long run, if he doesn't begin to show progress against right-handed pitching.
2015 Outlook: The biggest shock about Castro's 2014 fall back to earth wasn't the decline in power or batting average, as career highs in HR/FB and BABIP suggested they might be headed downward a bit, but rather, it was the bottoming out of his walk rate at 6.6 percent after three straight seasons north of 10 percent to start his career. He paired that with a jump in strikeout rate, which destroyed both his batting average and on-base percentage. At least he finally stayed healthy, as the knee issues that had plagued him throughout his career were held at bay in 2014. The acquisition of Hank Conger, along with the continued presence of last year's backup, Carlos Corporan, shortens the leash of Castro, but he still holds the highest upside of the trio, by a significant margin.
2015 Outlook: Concussions have stifled Jaso's production in each of the past two seasons since a breakout in 2012. His position alone continues to give him value, but with only one season north of 400 plate appearances (that was five years ago), it is really hard to view him as a legitimate option in anything besides AL-only OBP leagues. Even worse, his value took a big hit in those leagues last year, as his walk rate dropped sharply to 8.1 percent after back-to-back seasons north of 15. When healthy, he is still someone to be trusted on the strong side of a catcher platoon, so on a per-at-bat basis, he should remain a productive asset in his first season with Rays. Perhaps he is best used against weaker righties in leagues that allow daily roster moves, given he amassed a .285/.387/.457 triple slash line against them over the past three seasons.
2015 Outlook: Using BABIP purely as a luck-o-meter is both silly and dangerous. Saltalamacchia had far and away his best batting average in 2013, at .273, thanks in large part to a .372 BABIP, which led many to suggest he was lucky, but a massive 29 percent line drive rate explained the BABIP surge. Although it isn't anything that should have been regarded as sustainable, it wasn't just blind luck, either. His 22 percent line-drive rate in 2014 was in line with his previous career mark, so the accompanying drop in batting average wasn't a surprise. He might have been able to hold more of those 2013 gains if not for a concussion that sidelined him for half of June and seemed to linger the rest of the way. Before the concussion, he had a .237 AVG and .739 OPS, but he batted .207 with a .640 OPS after his return. His home ballpark severely stifles power, so he would be better off recovering that line drive approach to boost his average, but he is more likely to continue to be a modest power source behind the dish.
2015 Outlook: An out-of-nowhere 2012 breakout for Ruiz proved to be the fluke most predicted, as he has hit just 11 home runs in the two seasons since. Sometimes these things are cut and dried. The first five seasons of his career ranged from 4.4 to 8.1 percent in HR/FB rate, and as such, his homer totals ranged from four to nine. All of a sudden, he pops a 15.1 percent in 2012, and from it came a career-high 16 home runs. He was suspended for Adderall use in the ensuing offseason and missed the first 25 games of 2013, which only led to further speculation on the "realness" of his 2012. After a down 2013, he bounced back to pre-2012 levels last year, which is a slightly above-average catcher who derives the bulk of his value via the walk. If he stays near the top of the lineup, it definitely adds to his appeal, even on a less-than-stellar Phillies offense.
2015 Outlook: Flowers ascended through the minors as a legitimate prospect with the Braves and even cracked some top-100 lists back in 2009 and 2010, but he has never been able to turn that minor league promise (.876 OPS in 2,233 PA) into major league production. A guy who strikes out too often is said to have a hole in his swing; with a career strikeout rate of 35 percent in 1,034 PA as a major leaguer, Flowers seems to have seven or eight in his. The power is somewhat alluring, especially in two-catcher leagues, but how much longer will the White Sox dole out playing time to a late-20s backstop who isn't showing any real signs of improvement?
2015 Outlook: Throughout his career, Iannetta has taken tons of walks, not struck out too much and showed some decent pop. It seems he should have been better during his career, yet it all adds up to a tick above average through his first 2,758 PA. Of course, the power seems to have been highly influenced by his residence in Coors Field early on, as he always had sharp home/road splits and now has three straight sub-.400 SLG seasons with the Angels. The departure of Hank Conger should help Iannetta's playing time, though, as new backup Drew Butera is a defense-only option with a career .508 OPS, but there just isn't a ton to get excited about with the 32-year-old Iannetta, even if you happen to play in an OBP league.
2015 Outlook: Chirinos' 2014 numbers weren't spectacular by any stretch, but he did finish with a .239/.290/.415 batting line along with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs in just 93 games. The 30-year-old catcher is the lead candidate to enter the 2015 season as the Rangers' top catcher, but his stability at the position beyond that is unclear with Jorge Alfaro progressing through the minors. The backstop's power numbers were surprisingly lower at home, as Chirinos slugged more than 100 points lower at Globe Life Park (.364) than on the road (.467). He figures to hit near the bottom of the order in 2015, but should benefit from a healthy Rangers lineup around him following a 2014 season in which the team was decimated by injuries. Chirinos could see some good pitches to avoid reaching the top of the order, making him a candidate at catcher for those in AL-only leagues.
2015 Outlook: The loss of catcher eligibility really dents the already-marginal fantasy value of Vogt. The 30-year-old utility-ish man was blazing hot for June and July (.911 OPS) before getting equally cold during the final two months (.549), and though his minor league production would suggest the hot streak wasn't completely out of the norm, he was always old for his level, making it tough to put too much stock into the .305 AVG and .833 OPS he amassed in 2,567 PA. If he does find a steady role, it is definitely going to be as part of a platoon since he has always struggled against southpaws. The recent trade of John Jaso bodes well for Vogt to quickly re-establish his catcher eligibility, which will give him back the scant value he had last year. Of course, that assumes the A's don't acquire more catchers between this writing and Opening Day.
2015 Outlook: Hundley started the 2014 season in San Diego before being traded to the Orioles in May following an injury to Matt Wieters. The backstop struggled offensively for the Orioles, batting .233/.273/.352 with just five home runs and 19 RBIs over 50 games and 159 at-bats while splitting duties behind the plate with Caleb Joseph. Hundley would have been stuck behind Wieters heading into the 2015 season if he had stuck with the Orioles, but he wound up signing a two-year deal with the Rockies. The club offered him more money and provided him with a clearer path to more at-bats due to Wilin Rosario's defensive woes behind the plate. Still, the 31-year-old likely will need to perform at the plate to find some playing time, though his numbers should receive a boost just by playing his home games in Denver. Hundley could be an option for those in NL-only or two-catcher leagues looking for a catcher that could take a starting job with a strong spring training, though he will have to outperform both Rosario and Michael McKenry to do so.
2015 Outlook: Bethancourt has long been considered an elite defensive prospect with little offensive upside, and his first stretch of regular play in the majors did little to dispel that notion. Bethancourt slashed .248/.274/.274 in 117 plate appearances in 2014, while showing off the glove and pop times that led to his being considered one of the Braves' future regulars. The 22-year-old will split time behind the plate with the newly acquired A.J. Pierzynski and likely start over the veteran more often. Bethancourt doesn't have to do much to justify playing regularly, thanks to the immense value his defense brings to the table. Any unexpected development on offense will be gravy for Atlanta, possibly giving them one of the best young catchers in the game.
2015 Outlook: Pinto showed his tiny sample from 2013 wasn't indicative of an impending breakout, despite earning some sleeper status coming into the season. A massive 21 percent walk rate in April made his production look markedly better than his true talent level. Once pitchers realized they could challenge him more, his production all but vanished (.555 OPS in May and June), and he was demoted in early June, a move made easier by Kurt Suzuki's production. He did hit again once back in Triple-A, but Suzuki was re-signed to a three-year deal, so Pinto remains blocked from a full-time gig. His pop is appealing enough that he could steal some time at DH, especially if Kennys Vargas isn't quite ready for prime time after he skipped Triple-A and held his own for 53 games in the majors.
2015 Outlook: All catchers are knocked around behind the dish -- there is a reason the gear is called the "tools of ignorance" -- but it seems Avila takes a bigger beating than most back there, with three DL stints and 13 day-to-day injuries that have sapped his offensive production since that 2011 breakout during which he clubbed an .895 OPS for the Tigers. The production has declined yearly since then, down to a .686 OPS in 2014. His 11 home runs and 47 RBIs matched his 2013 production, but he did that with 78 more plate appearances. His strikeouts have become a problem his walk rate can no longer mask, with 30 and 33 percent rates the past two seasons. Throw in an increasingly large platoon problem -- four sub-.600 OPS against LHP seasons in his past five -- and it is hard to get too excited about Avila in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Wait, so you mean to tell me Navarro's inexplicable 1.123 OPS with six home runs in 71 PA against lefties in 2013, after seven seasons of a combined .703 OPS, wasn't sustainable? Weird. It was enough to earn him a full season of play in Toronto last season, but all that did was expose just how fluky his 2013 was, as he managed fewer total home runs, despite getting just about double the playing time. On the positive side, he did rake in his new home with a .300/.333/.456 slash line and nine of his 12 home runs coming at Rogers Centre. Despite Russell Martin's coming in to take over the catching duties, Navarro is penciled in to be the primary DH for the Blue Jays, so that favorable ballpark remains an asset. Slot him in as a second catcher for long homestands or as a cheap backstop when you want to save money in daily games.