These keeper rankings focus on potential values over the next 3-5 years. With that in mind, you won’t see anyone like Carlos Ruiz or Miguel Olivo, under even the deep league listing. Victor Martinez is also not ranked because he’ll likely lose eligibility after 2012, but he’s certainly worth keeping in 12-team mixed formats.
All players listed have played in the major leagues. Prospect rankings will come in a separate article. Age as of 4/1/2012 listed next to player's name.
1. Carlos Santana, 25 - I believe his mix of plate discipline and 25-plus home run power will make him the cream of the catching crop for years to come. Upside for .300/.400 30 HR
2. Buster Posey, 25 - See: 2011 Projection: Buster Posey
3. Matt Wieters, 25 - One of my all-time prospect man crushes finally started to come out of his offensive shell a bit in 2011, cranking out 22 home runs and lowering his strikeout rate for a third consecutive season.
4. Brian McCann, 28 - Consistently a top performer at his position.
5. Mike Napoli, 30 - His 2011 season was spectacular, but I'm not expecting .300-plus AVG again (.344 BABIP in 2011).
6. Jesus Montero, 22 - If they Yankees don't sign a DH this offseason, Montero is likely to get the job. Even though he'll likely DH most of the time, there is a good chance he sees enough games behind the dish in 2012 to gain eligibility there. It is quite uncertain, however, if he can stick there permanently, which affects his ranking a bit. Given how the Yanks dealt with Posada’s iffy defense for years, I think Montero might get enough time behind the dish to remain eligible there for a few years.
7. Alex Avila, 25 - Probably in line for a regression in AVG/OBP (.366 BABIP), but the 18-20 HR power is legit.
8. Joe Mauer, 28 - There is a good chance that Mauer moves out from behind the plate more often. It's unfortunate that he just can't stay healthy.
9. Devin Mesoraco 23 - While I think there will be a learning curve and plenty of split time between him and Ryan Hanigan in 2012, Mesoraco is one of the better catcher prospects in the game. He could hit for both AVG and 15-20 home run power down the road.
10. Miguel Montero, 28 - He's been as solid as they come, when healthy, over the last three years. Still, Montero's not worth keeping over other bats just because he's a catcher.
11. Wilin Rosario, 23 - With power to spare, Rosario could easily become a 20-plus home run threat in Colorado. There are some concerns, however, with this lack of plate discipline and tendency to swing and miss a lot, which could lead to some volatility in his AVG/OBP from year-to-year.
12. Yadier Molina, 29 - Molina had averaged 6.5 home runs per year over the previous six seasons, but he more than doubled that total in 2011. He's an elite contact hitter who has had spikes in HR/FB rate in the past. I'd expect the HR total to come down a bit in 2012, but he has hit .290 or better two of the last three years.
13. Wilson Ramos, 24 - There some things to really like about Ramos: He has good gap power, as evident by his 15 home runs in 2011, but he doesn't try to jerk the ball out of the yard, giving him some room to improve in the AVG category. He does, however, lack any star qualities at the dish, so .275 with 15-18 homers might be his ceiling.
14. Hank Conger, 24 - .280, 15-plus HR potential and Scioscia played preferred Jeff freaking Mathis over developing Conger last season. Mathis may be out with Jerry Dipoto as the new GM , so Conger will likely split time with the newly acquired Chris Iannetta in 2012 (60/40 in favor of Iannetta would be my guess).
15. J.P. Arencibia, 26 - Power? Yes, plenty. Plate discipline? Line drive rate? Not so much. At age 26, there's room for improvement, but it's hard to imagine him hitting for much AVG/OBP at the big league level.
16. Chris Iannetta, 28 - I keep waiting for Iannetta to break out with a 20-plus home run season. Seems like I've been waiting forever, though he's still a good value in OBP leagues. A change of scenery might get him going.
17. Geovany Soto, 29 - Oddly enough, or, evenly enough, Soto, since becoming a regular in 2008, has performed much better in even years than he has odd ones. For deeper formats scratching for keeper value, that might be enough to give him a look for the even year of 2012.
18. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 26 - Salty ended up with a halfway decent season, hitting 16 home runs and collecting 56 RBI, but he's still light-years away from consistent fantasy production. His intense hot and cold streaks coupled with a huge 31 percent strikeout rate make him an extreme risk as a keeper, even if he puts up 16-20 home runs.
19. Jonathan Lucroy, 25 - 2011 may have been right around Lucroy's ceiling. He does some things well at the plate, but nothing well above average. A regression in line-drive rate in 2012, which is very possible, could bring his AVG below .250.
20. Russel Martin, 29 - 2011 was a nice bounce-back year for Martin, as he cranked out 18 home runs, 65 RBI and eight stolen bases. His keeper value is hurt, however, by his age, the concern that he probably isn't going to hit for much AVG and his history of injury issues.
22. Kurt Suzuki, 28 - Suzuki has fallen from mixed league prominence over the last two seasons, having seen a big drop in his BABIP and AVG. That drop corresponds with a sharp rise in infield fly ball rate and general fly ball rate. The rest of his perpherals remain in tact, however, so it's not out of the realm of posibility that he lowers his fly-ball rate and ge's back to the .275, 15 HR catcher he was back in 2009.
23. Nick Hundley, 28 - I don't buy Hundley's .288/.347 AVG/OBP from 2011 in the least. He was limited to 82 games and held a .362 BABIP. That being said, when healthy he's capable of some real big hot streaks and could hit 15-plus home runs. He hasn't played more than 85 games as a major leaguer in a single season.
24. John Buck, 31 – Buck regressed back to his normal self after a .281, 20 HR 2010 season. He still has some pop in his bat, should you happen to be in the type of league where you enjoy the torture of keeping a player for that potential alone.
25. Tyler Flowers, 26 – He has power potential, but the whiffs and strikeouts will be plentiful. Flowers has a good eye at the plate, so he has more value in OBP leagues, though he needs to get the playing time first.
26. Josh Thole, 25 – Might hit .280 someday, but with little else.27. Jason Castro, 24 – Could end up hitting for mediocre AVG/OBP down the road, but there is little to no power potential here.
As @FantasyRundown pointed out on Twitter, Royals catcher Salvador Perez should have made this list, though he wouldn't rank very high. Perez has never had much plate discipline and his numbers were inflated by a .362 BABIP in a small sample of 158 PAs last season. He does have some pop, however, so 15 home runs in his prime is not out of the question, but I wouldn't expect more than .260/.310/.420 at the high end over a full season.