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2020 Fantasy Baseball Primer: Catcher

by Alex Altmix | @Altmix_23 | Featured Writer
Jul 2, 2020

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Year in and year out, the catcher position is always one of the hardest for fantasy managers to navigate. The talent pool is consistently weak, and the options available are usually anything but consistent. FantasyPros’ catcher primer is here to help break down your best 30 options for 2020.

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2019 Recap

Aside from the fact that catcher was a terrible position, and that whoever you started probably weighed your team down, there’s not a lot to for me to say here.

J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal were the only two catchers to crack the top-100 rankings at the end of the season. Based upon the Fangraphs’ Auction Calculator, Realmuto finished at 52nd overall while Grandal finished at 97th.

Mitch Garver and Christian Vazquez were two of the only positive surprises at the catcher position last year. Garver had what would easily be considered a breakout campaign at age 29, as he rocked 31 home runs and hit for a .273 AVG. Playing in one of the weakest divisions for 60 games this season should only help out his 2020 numbers. Vazquez had an equally bizarre breakout season at age 28, cranking 23 home runs while hitting .276.

2020 Preview

If nothing else, the catcher position at least offers some intriguing names that could provide upside in 2020. Willson Contreras, Will Smith, and Omar Narvaez are just a few names deeper than the top tier who could all provide value.

How you want to attack the catcher position this year depends on your league’s format. If you’re in a two-catcher league or a league that’s really deep (14 or more teams), you have to at least grab one player in the top-three tiers, no ifs, ands or buts about it. If you play in more of a standard league, I’m very okay with punting catcher until late in the draft. Especially now that the season is shorter, the difference between a player like Tucker Barnhart and Yasmani Grandal just isn’t wide enough to warrant using a high draft pick on a catcher.

No matter which route you choose, have a game plan in mind before drafting. It’s much better to end up with a punt play at the end than realizing you wasted a pick on someone you don’t want.

Let’s take a look.

Grade Legend*

A: A no-doubt stud capable of winning you a category
B: A solid, consistent contributor
C: Won’t lose you the category, but won’t win it, either
D: You can do better here
F: You’re getting NOTHING

(*Grades listed are relative to the position and take positional depth into consideration.)

Tier 1

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
J.T. Realmuto PHI B+ A- A B+ A- Realmuto’s safety and predictability lands him at number one. He isn’t the sexiest of picks, but you can’t go wrong here.
Yasmani Grandal CHW C A B+ B+ F Don’t get me wrong, Chicago’s lineup is good. But is it really better than the LA’s or Milwaukee’s, where he played the last two seasons? Grandal will likely have a good season, but my guess is it won’t be better than his last one.
Gary Sanchez NYY D- A+ B+ B+ F Sanchez will crank a ton of homers and infuriate you in every other AB. Just know that going in with your selection. Also, injury woes take him down a notch.

We already established that catcher is the weakest position in 2020. Grabbing one of these players might be tempting, but unless no one else is available that fits your roster, it’s just hard to justify. Grandal is unpredictable, and Sanchez seems to constantly be battling injuries. Realmuto is at least safe, but the upside isn’t mouthwatering by any means.

Tier 2

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Willson Contreras CHC B+ A- C- B+ D If you wanted to slide Contreras up into the first tier, I would have no issue. He’s the best option of tier two, and he’s solid option for a roster.
Mitch Garver MIN B+ A B B F Who knows if Garver’s 2019 breakout was real. Again, he has a weak schedule going for him in the 60-game season, which at least gives us some hope.
Will Smith LAD B- B+ C+ B C- What will Will look like for 60 games? Your guess is as good as mine. He might live up to the hype, or, maybe more likely, he might end up just like everyone in the tier below.

This tier is Contreras, a very solid option, and two guys who are good enough to be in tier one and/or bad enough to be in tier three or four. Let’s not kid around; this 60-game season will involve a whole lot of luck. How lucky are you feeling?

Tier 3

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Yadier Molina STL B B- C+ C+ B- The absolute perfect candidate for a huge lift by only playing 60 games this season.
Omar Narvaez MIL B+ B B+ B- F He’s got a great walk rate and a good average and is moving to Miller Park. Look at what Yasmani Grandal did in that lineup and park last season. There’s upside here for sure.
Salvador Perez KC C- B C- B- F In a 162-game season, Perez would be squarely ahead of Garver and Smith in tier 2. I just don’t have a whole lot of faith that Perez will be able to shake off all of the rust in 60 games.
Wilson Ramos NYM A+ C C B- D- Ramos is an average resource at the position, leading all catchers in batting average last year. He is in a good lineup, which will help. Don’t count on immense upside.
Carson Kelly ARI C+ B+ B C+ D- Kelly hit .356 off lefties and .203 against righties in 365 total plate appearances in 2019. If he can’t improve those numbers, don’t be surprised if Stephen Vogt steals ABs down the stretch.
Christian Vazquez BOS B- B C+ B- C+ Let’s head to the ole’ casino again and try our luck, why don’t we! Seriously, your guess is as good as mine with 60 games of Christian Vazquez.
Sean Murphy OAK C C- C+ B- D- I like Murphy, but his value lies more in OBP leagues with his good walk rate.
Jorge Alfaro MIA C A- C- C+ D+ Average catcher in a bad lineup. You could do better, but I guess you could also do worse.

Tier three is the tier that I absolutely do not want to go past before I draft my first (and in most leagues, only) catcher. It isn’t that the list drastically falls off from tier three to four, but the floor pretty much drops completely out for any of the tier four players. In fact, many of them do not even play every day.

Tier 4

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
Robinson Chirinos TEX D+ C B- B D- Chirinos was serviceable last season for the Astros, and he should be serviceable again for the Rangers.
Francisco Mejia SD C+ C+ C- C D+ Will Mejia ever get the chance to start every day in San Diego?
Danny Jansen TOR D C C- C D- I’m not sure if Jansen will be anywhere near his pre-debut hype, but he surely can’t be worse than last year.
Tom Murphy SEA B+ B C- C- D- Murphy actually has some real upside, but he’s in Seattle and is surrounded by Triple-A-caliber hitters.
Travis d’Arnaud ATL C- C+ B- B D- Wait, d’Arnaud actually did something last year? If he gets hot, maybe he’s worth a pickup. Otherwise, don’t worry about him.
Buster Posey SF C C- C C+ D Poor Buster Posey. He could really be in tier five, but maybe there’s a drop of juice left in the tank somewhere. Maybe.

I hope that you didn’t hit tier four still needing a catcher in any sort of standard league. If you did, ouch. The best floor on this list might actually be Tom Murphy. Seattle has gotten hot every once and a while for no apparent reason, so maybe there’s a glimmer of hope in his upside.

Tier 5

Player Team Avg HR R RBI SB Notes
James McCann CHW B- C+ D+ D+ C- He’ll get exactly five games started behind Yasmani Grandal. Oof.
Tucker Barnhart CIN C- C C+ C+ D Actually not the worst option ever, Barnhart could benefit from playing in a sneaky good Cincinnati lineup.
Willians Astudillo MIN C+ D+ D D D- You can’t not love this man. He’s a legend. He just isn’t the best fantasy option.
Roberto Perez CLE D B+ C C+ D- Cleveland isn’t exactly improving their lineup, which used to be one of the only good things you could argue for playing Perez.
Kurt Suzuki WAS C+ C+ C- C+ D- If I’m in a two-catcher league, I’m grabbing Suzuki and teammate Yan Gomes.
Jason Castro LAA D C- C+ C D- He’ll start in Anaheim, but no one should be intrigued.
Yan Gomes WAS D C- C C+ D See Suzuki, Kurt.
Mike Zunino TB F C+ C- C- D- He had a 33.9 K% last year.
Tyler Flowers ATL D C- C- C D- He, too, had a 33.9 K% last year and is now behind d’Arnaud.
Austin Romine DET C+ C- D+ D+ D Romine can actually help you in the average department, but that’s absolutely it.

Even in two-catcher leagues, I’m not hyped about any of these guys. Aside from Gomes and Suzuki, you’re better off paying up a little bit more to avoid tier five.

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Alex Altmix is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive or follow him @Altmix_23.

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