Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina held the title of fantasy's best backstop for one season apiece over the past two years. The rubber match has been canceled, but the 2014 title is still very much up for grabs.
The two players with the strongest case for it are Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers and Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves.
After two solid seasons in 2012 and 2013, Lucroy has become an all-around force at the plate.
Going into Sunday's game, the Brewers catcher has hit .333 with 26 doubles, eight home runs, 38 RBI, 37 runs and three steals while playing exemplary defense behind the dish. He's seventh in all of baseball with 3.4 wins above replacement (WAR).
Gattis, whose size (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) makes him a better fit for the Atlanta Falcons defensive line than it does the Braves starting lineup, has blasted 37 home runs in 562 at-bats the past two seasons, including 16 in 208 this year. He's also hitting .298 with 39 RBI and a .922 OPS, and he entered Sunday with a 20-game hitting streak.
Both players are strong fantasy options, but Lucroy is my pick to win the 2014 title.
His superior plate discipline gives him a better chance to sustain his level of production for the rest of the season.
Among players with at least 200 plate appearances, Gattis' 40.8 percent chase rate is tied for 11th worst. He has a 21.2 percent strikeout rate, a 5.8 percent walk rate and a 74 percent contact rate.
Lucroy has walked in 9.9 percent of his plate appearances and struck out in 10.3 percent. His chase rate is 30 percent and his contact rate is 88.8 percent, 17th highest in baseball.
The Brewers catcher also has a more balanced batted-ball breakdown with a 22.9 percent line-drive rate, a 42.1 percent ground-ball rate and a 35 percent fly- ball rate to Gattis' 15.5 percent, 36.6 percent and 47.8 percent, respectively.
Of course, it's advantageous for players with Gattis' power to hit a higher percentage of fly balls, but it will be difficult to keep an average above .290 while hitting so few line drives.
The 2014 season has been a down one for the former cream of the catching crop -- Posey, Molina, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Brian McCann -- but Lucroy and Gattis have stepped up to fill the void and vie for the title of fantasy's best backstop.