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Fred Zinkie

Fantasy C rankings: Posey headlines top tier

Sanchez, Lucroy could challenge Giants star for backstop supremacy

Fantasy C rankings: Posey headlines top tier

Catcher isn't exactly the most fantasy-friendly position.

Given all of their defensive responsibilities, backstops often have to make offense a secondary priority. Moreover, injuries are commonplace at what is arguably the most grueling spot on the diamond.

Due to the lack of offensive difference-makers at the position, finding at least one useful backstop can be a key component in a league-championship run. The following catchers may be able to help in that quest.

Tier 1: Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez, Jonathan Lucroy

Outlook: Posey, C, SF

Long the gold standard at his position, Posey took a small step back in 2016. During a year in which offensive numbers were on the rise across the big leagues, the centerpiece of the Giants' lineup posted his lowest home run total (14) and batting average (.288) since '11, and his lowest RBI total (80) since '13. But with averages of 19 homers, 88 RBIs and a .309 batting mark over the past five seasons, Posey should be the first catcher to fly off draft boards again in '17.

• Full fantasy catcher rankings

Unlike Posey, Sanchez certainly had little difficulty producing eye-popping power totals last season. In his rookie campaign, the slugger needed just 201 at-bats to compile 20 roundtrippers and 42 RBIs.

Outlook: Sanchez, C, NYY

While the reason for future regression is obvious -- Sanchez is highly unlikely to enjoy a 40 percent HR/FB rate this time around -- the Yankees slugger should provide owners with more than 25 home runs and 80 RBIs.

Those who are leery of investing in the relatively inexperienced Sanchez could opt for Lucroy as their fantasy backstop. Splitting his 2016 season between the Brewers and Rangers, the balanced contributor ranked first among catchers in RBIs (81) and third in home runs (24) while hitting .292.

Outlook: Lucroy, C, TEX

Tier 2: Willson Contreras, J.T. Realmuto, Evan Gattis

For owners who prefer to avoid making a major investment in this physically-demanding position, the second tier offers three diverse options to consider in the middle rounds of mixed-league drafts.

Among second-tier options, Contreras may have the best chance of moving into the first tier this year. Just 24, Contreras delivered a .282 average with 12 homers across 252 at-bats as a rookie in 2016. But to climb the fantasy ladder, Contreras will need to earn a heavy workload on a deep Cubs roster that includes veteran backstop Miguel Montero and catcher-outfielder Kyle Schwarber.

Not many backstops offer a speed component, which makes Realmuto an intriguing option. Though the Marlins' catcher has produced just 21 homers and 95 RBIs combined since the outset of 2015, he has made up for those unremarkable totals by swiping 20 bags in that stretch. Of course, wise owners should be aware that Realmuto is unlikely to log a .303 batting mark for a second straight season after benefiting from a .357 BABIP in '16.

Realmuto swipes second base

Expected to shuffle between catcher and designated hitter, Gattis should bring his booming bat to the dish more than 400 times in 2017. Having belted 59 home runs across a pair of seasons with the Astros, the slugger has the potential to trump the younger Sanchez as the most powerful player with catcher eligibility this year.

Tier 3: Salvador Perez, Yasmani Grandal, Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Welington Castillo, Matt Wieters

Just one of the six catchers in this group managed to hit higher than .247 last season. But for owners who can rely on some of their other draft picks to supply high batting averages, waiting until the late rounds to select one of the veteran sluggers in the third tier could be a wise move.

Perez should rank among the top sluggers at his position in 2017, as he is one of three backstops to produce 20-plus homers in each of the past two seasons. And though the Royals catcher has his drawbacks -- namely, unimpressive on-base skills (lifetime .302 OBP) -- he maximizes his value with extreme durability.

Arguably the most powerful Tier 3 option, Grandal offset the negative effects of his .228 batting average by ranking second among all catchers with 27 home runs last season.

McCann and Martin each offer a skill set similar to that of Grandal, as all are likely to combine 20-plus homers with a low average this season. Now part of a deep Astros lineup, McCann averaged 23 homers, 76 RBIs and a .235 batting mark during his three seasons with the Yankees. And Martin has produced 43 round-trippers, 151 RBIs and a .235 batting average since relocating to Canada before the 2015 campaign.

Fantasy impact of McCann deal

Owners who are looking for a modicum of breakout potential in the third tier may want to tab Castillo with a late-round pick. The slugger had spurts of game-changing power production during his 193-game stint with the D-backs, and he logged a solid .264 batting average a year ago. Now the Orioles' starting backstop, Castillo could top the 20-homer and 70-RBI plateaus for the first time. 

Rounding out the third tier is Wieters, a career .256 hitter who compiled 17 home runs and 66 RBIs last season after missing significant time with elbow problems from 2014-15. More than two years removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2014, Wieters could be set to return to the 20-homer plateau for the first time since '13.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.