MLB Betting: Ranking Catchers in the AL East Division

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, January 8, 2015 1:18 PM GMT

Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 1:18 PM GMT

Pitchers & catchers will begin reporting to Florida and Arizona soon, so let's start our divisional position-by-position ranking system with the catchers in the AL East and teams' futures odds.

Brian McCann, New York Yankees
McCann left Atlanta as a free agent last offseason and signed a five-year, $85 million deal with New York with a vesting option for a sixth year that could make it $100 million. McCann also got a full no-trade clause. It looked like a no-brainer move for the Yankees as McCann was arguably the top power-hitting catcher in baseball during his tenure with Atlanta. From 2006-13, McCann hit at least 20 home runs in every season but one. His career high was 24, set in '06 and tied in 2011. McCann also knocked in at least 67 runs in every year during that stretch but one. Bringing McCann's left-handed swing to Yankee Stadium and its short right porch should have been a marriage made in heaven. McCann did have a solid 23 homers and 75 RBIs in 140 games with New York last season, but he hit just .232 with an on-base percentage of .286. Last July, former NL MVP Terry Pendleton, McCann's former hitting coach with the Braves, said that McCann wasn't a fit in New York and never would be as McCann is a bit of a country boy as a native of Athens, Ga. That remains to be seen. New York was able to keep McCann's bat at DH and first base occasionally last year but that will be tough in 2015. The Yankees added Garrett Jones to back up Mark Teixeira at first and they are likely to use Alex Rodriguez as the DH. Carlos Beltran also will get at-bats there so he doesn't break down in the outfield. So as long as McCann can handle playing 130-plus games behind the plate, he should  have the best offensive season of an AL East catcher. FanGraphs projects McCann to play 122 games and hit .251 with 24 home runs, 70 RBIs and 60 runs scored.

Current Yankees MLB odds to win AL pennant: +1200 at sportsbooks.

 

Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
Martin was arguably the No. 3 position player free agent on the market this  offseason behind the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez and Giants' Pablo Sandoval, both of whom signed with the AL East rival Red Sox. Everyone had Martin ready to sign with the Chicago Cubs, but the Blue Jays swooped in with a five-year, $82 million deal that dwarfed Chicago's and made it an easy call for Martin, who is Canadian and born in Toronto. Martin, who will be 32 in February, had one of his best seasons in 2014 with Pittsburgh, batting .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs while also setting a career best in on-base percentage (.402). Martin led the majors by throwing out 37 attempted base stealers and finished No. 4 overall with a caught-stealing percentage of 38.5. Martin is considered a great pitch-framer and clubhouse leader. FanGraphs projects Martin to hit .242 with 16 home runs, 59 RBIs and 61 runs this year in a powerful Toronto lineup.

Current Blue Jays MLB odds to win AL pennant: +1200. Those will change if the Jays get in on James Shields as has been rumored.

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Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
Will Wieters be an Oriole all season? He is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season and is represented by Scott Boras. That means Wieters will test the market and the O's could deal him when Wieters is back healthy and performing -- especially if Baltimore is struggling. Health is a major question as Wieters had Tommy John surgery last summer, a rather unusual surgery for catcher. He had the procedure in mid-June and Boras says his client will be ready for Opening Day, but what else would he say? It could be close. Wieters was on the way to possibly a career season in 2014, batting .308 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 104 at-bats before suffering the shoulder injury. His '15 projections are a .246 average, 17 homers, 57 RBIs and 54 runs in 114 games. Wieters might be No. 1 on this list if 100 percent healthy.

Current Orioles MLB odds to win AL pennant: +1000.

 

Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox
This list is based on solely expected 2015 production because the Red Sox probably wouldn't trade Vazquez for any of the three AL East catchers listed above as Vazquez is one of the highest-touted catching prospects in the majors. Though Vazquez doesn't turn 25 until August, he already is considered a plus defender. He threw out 15 of 29 base-runners in limited action last year. The question is whether Vazquez can hit as he batted .240 with a homer, 20 RBIs and .308 on-base percentage in 175 at-bats in 2014. Vazquez is the No. 1 guy, but he will share some time with veteran Ryan Hanigan, who was acquired this offseason. Hanigan, who hit .218 with five homers and 34 RBIs last year with Tampa Bay, is also a good defender. His amount of at-bats will depend on how well Vazquez hits, and Vazquez is projected to hit .248 with five home runs, 34 RBIs and 38 runs in 350 at-bats.

Current Red Sox MLB odds to win AL pennant: +600 (third in AL).

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Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays acquired Rivera from San Diego in the three-team deal with Washington that sent Tampa Bay outfielder Wil Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, to the Padres. Hanigan was in that deal as well to San Diego but then was shipped to Boston in the Will Middlebrooks trade. Rivera has a pretty solid 2014 season with the Padres, batting .252 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs, and he should play nearly every day for the Rays as they have nothing behind him. Rivera is projected to hit .231 with nine homers, 41 RBIs and 39 runs in 402 at-bats.

Current Rays MLB odds to win AL pennant: +3500.

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