2019 Catcher Ranking Tiers (Fantasy Baseball)
Catcher is thin as always, and I’m likely to wait on a backstop while prioritizing other positions on draft day.
You could make an argument that the scarcity calls for taking a top-three catcher, but I’d rather have other players at those average draft position (ADP) levels. For example, instead of taking a risk with Gary Sanchez, you could snag players like Lorenzo Cain, Eugenio Suarez, Marcell Ozuna, or Jose Abreu for similar (or much lower) prices. Keep that in mind as we run through this tricky position.
ADP will be a recurring theme throughout this article to provide a sense of exploitable value opportunities. With that, let’s go ahead and dive into the good stuff!
Tier One – Fifth or Sixth Rounders
I don’t mind taking a look at J.T. Realmuto if he’s hanging out in the sixth round. His ADP rests within that range at 54.2, but there’s plenty of variance (and hype) surrounding him. However, there’s also a lot to like about Realmuto, who spearheaded the catching position with 21 homers, 74 RBIs, and a .277 average through 531 ABs last season. He’s in his prime at 27 years old while moving to a better lineup and park in Philadelphia. Go ahead and target Realmuto on draft day (just not too aggressively), assuming it fits into your overall strategy.
Sanchez has a similar ADP to Realmuto at 59.6. Having said that, I’ll probably pass on Sanchez at that mark if Realmuto was taken. Some are calling for a bounce-back season after the Yankees’ catcher disappointed with a .186 average and .304 wOBA through 374 plate appearances in 2018. I’m less optimistic while questioning his health moving forward. It’s hard to pay a premium for a guy who is coming off a terrible season while still having to prove the ailments (and troubling hitting tendencies) are behind him.
Tier Two – On the Contreras
Willson Contreras comes at a sizable discount to the first-tier catchers. His ADP rests at 124.4, which hovers around the 10th round for standard leagues. After a breakout 2017 campaign, Contreras regressed with only 10 HR and a .249 average last season. There’s still legitimate 20-HR upside with a clear path to regular playing time while surrounded by a solid lineup. I’d consider Contreras if he falls substantially, but he’s not really on my radar at the current asking price.
Tier Three – Boring Reliability
To be completely honest, I’m not overly excited about any of these guys. Then again, the catcher position overall doesn’t offer much in the “gusto” category no matter the tier. It’s all relative when comparing these backstops to the rest of the draft pool, but we can decipher some reasonable value in this grouping.
Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal are interesting options with ADPs in the 130s. Ramos got back to his well-rounded ways last season, and another .280 average with 15-20 HR and 70 RBIs seems entirely plausible. Meanwhile, Grandal gets a nice park shift in Milwaukee while finding himself in plenty of run-producing opportunities for a strong Brew Crew offense. He has averaged 24 HR per year over the past three seasons, and Miller Park’s boost could push him closer to 30.
Yadier Molina and Buster Posey are filler picks who probably won’t make my squad. If I still don’t have a catcher at this point in the draft (usually my strategy), I’m going to fall back on the later-round guys listed below. Posey should hold a fine average, but he’s not going to give you anything in terms of power or RBIs. Molina’s HR numbers have crept up over the past two seasons (18 and 20), but that’s probably a hard ceiling rather than a baseline expectation.
Tier Four – Interesting Upside
This is probably where I’m looking to strike with my catcher selection. Of course, this position is more about price and value than other “premium” roster spots. In other words, I’m not stretching to snag any catcher, as I’m content with taking one with my last few picks if that’s how things shake out.
Danny Jansen is generating some pre-draft buzz, but he could still hold value with a 214 ADP. Although the Jays’ catcher is less proven than almost every other name mentioned in this article, he’ll get his shot in Toronto this season. His low-end projections come in at a .250 average with 10-15 HR and 50 RBIs. There’s upside for more given his power and contact blend as a prospect.
It’s kind of awkward to see 31-year-old Welington Castillo grouped with two youngsters in a tier named “Interesting Upside.” However, I believe that accurately describes the White Sox backstop. Injuries shortened his 2018 campaign, and his health will probably be a question moving forward. Still looking good to go for the beginning of the season, Castillo could fall back into his 20-HR ways in a good home-hitting atmosphere. He holds reliable projections in both power and average (.260 or so), making him a reasonable pick with an ADP of 255.
Jorge Alfaro is a true wild card. It probably doesn’t help that the Marlins shut him down until Opening Day due to knee inflammation. He should be able to resume his starting role at that time, but keep your eye on any developments. While the young catcher isn’t the most disciplined hitter you’ll come across, he’s working with some raw power. I don’t expect his current .270 MLB average to hold up, especially with a 35.2% strikeout rate. However, Alfaro has upside at a position that desperately needs it. Keep him in the back of your mind as a lottery ticket draft pick or at least a free agent to watch.
Tier Five – The Leftovers
This is where you realize you don’t have a catcher and are running out of picks. Don’t panic, as that’s a perfectly acceptable strategy when it comes to this uninspiring position.
Francisco Cervelli and Tucker Barnhart are my two preferred options from this tier, holding extremely late ADPs at 259 and 292, respectively. Both of them are locked into their roles while not looking at a frustrating timeshare (see Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki). Cervelli was a serviceable free-agent find in most fantasy leagues while hitting .259 with 12 homers and 57 RBIs last season. That’s pretty much his baseline, but at least it represents a high floor at this stage in the draft.
Barnhart is dealing with a much better home park factor, and there’s hope he could step forward for Cincinnati in his fourth full MLB season. His projections are very similar to Cervelli’s while going a few rounds later.
- Most people treat the catcher position as an afterthought, and that’s a fine strategy. The key here is to consider relative value alongside the best available players at other positions.
- Realmuto is a legitimate candidate if he lasts into the sixth round of standard leagues. Other than that, I’ll probably wait on a catcher until deep into the draft.
- Grandal is one of the few catchers who could legitimately hit 30 home runs this season. Having said that, he’s a streaky hitter with a risk/reward profile whom I wouldn’t overpay for on draft day.
- I find myself looking toward the lowered-tiered options like Jansen, Castillo, Cervelli, or Barnhart. There’s a chance I’ll look toward catchers in the top-three tiers if they fall substantially, but waiting on a backstop is my default approach.
Spencer Limbach is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Spencer, check out his archive and follow him @spencer_jl.