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2021 Catcher Rankings Tiers (Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Mar 12, 2021

I think it’s time to have a talk.

No, it isn’t about eliminating two-catcher leagues. That’s like screaming into a brick wall. The traditional players don’t want to hear it, for whatever reason.

The talk I want to have is eliminating the catcher position from fantasy. The position is, once again, terrible, and the value you get from taking a catcher is minimal. Seriously, outside of J.T. Realmuto, how many catchers can you advocate taking if they were utility only? 

One? Two, maybe? 

As the game continues to evolve, we need to do the same. That means getting rid of catchers and changing saves to Saves+holds. 

Come, join the fun side of things.

As always, when it comes to rankings, tiers are the best way to go about them, as it allows you to group a set of players together so that you know when you need to take a specific player at a position before that tier runs out.

We’ll reluctantly take a look at catcher ADP based on FantasyPros composite ADP and break them down into tiers for you so you know when to grab the guy who you like.

We should note that these tiers are based on a 12-team one-catcher standard roto league, so adjust accordingly for your league scoring.

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Tier 1: A tier of one

  • J.T. Realmuto

Here he is. The one catcher that’s acceptable to invest in, if you’re so inclined. Realmuto will give you the volume and production that makes him stand out from the rest of the catching field, and he’s especially valuable in best-ball formats or leagues where you’re limited to the number of pickups you can make throughout the year.

Tier 2: Safe options … probably?

It was great to see Pérez return to form after his injury. He feels a little high at second overall, but he belongs in the tier, still. He’s a good bet for volume, and while he’s somehow only 30 years old, his knees are that of a 40-year-old with the volume he’s produced year after year. 

Smith got bumped from second overall to third, because the Dodgers discussed platooning him with Austin Barnes this year. Yes, Austin freaking Barnes may hurt Smith’s fantasy output. It would be shocking if it wasn’t a 70/30 split instead of a 50/50 split. If it’s the former, he could be in discussion for Tier 1.

Contreras built off his bounceback 2019 season and carried it over into 2020. He should catch the vast majority of the Cubs’ games and give you around 18 home runs at the season’s end with a passable batting average. 

Grandal is 32, but he’s still going to give you 140 games or so behind the plate. We’ll need to keep an eye on his K% to see if the 2020 spike to 29.9% was real or not, but he’s arguably the second catcher in OBP leagues with his fantastic walk rate. 

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Tier 3: The rest

This is a big tier, right? Am I crazy? I don’t think. Jaded? Possibly.

Look, is Travis d’Arnaud better than Ryan Jeffers? Probably! He should go ahead of him. Will he make that much of a difference when you should invest him the former instead of waiting to the last round to take a catcher? No, not at all. 

That’s the thing with this tier. If you invest in the guys at the top, you’re passing on valuable pieces at other positions of need.

We’ll give a takeaway on each player, though, because we’re here to help.

After years of waiting, d’Arnaud has been pretty useful for fantasy the past two seasons. The .321 average he posted in 44 games in 2020 won’t happen, but 17 homers and a .260 average in a great lineup? Yeah, you’ll take that.

Sánchez could very well be a top 2 catcher in 2021, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. He could also be a backend streamer, and it wouldn’t shock you, either. That’s been the career of Sánchez summed up so far. Insane power, but it comes at the cost of everything else.

Nola is interesting, because he’s a late-career breakout, which isn’t uncommon for the position. He’s going to be the regular starter in San Diego except win Yu Darvish starts. You’re hoping for an average batting average with double-digit home runs with decent counting stats.

The Mets signed McCann over Realmuto which, OK. I question his actual value for fantasy, but with the contract, they are going to start him as often as possible. Volume > talent at catcher.

Arizona wants to develop Varsho as a catcher still, so you could be chasing fool’s gold if you’re targeting him as your starter in 2021 – even with Kole Calhoun out for a few weeks. He’s a streamer if and when he gets the call.

Murphy was a breakout pick last year for people, and he’s the same this year. He had a collapsed lung at the beginning of Spring Training, but could be ready for Opening Day. He’s the type of catcher you can target for upside in this tier.

Remember that whole not overreacting to 2020? Yeah, I guess people aren’t applying that to Garver, who was a top 5 catcher in ADP last year. He could return tremendous value here as the everyday catcher in a stacked lineup.

Posey sat out 2020, and he showed signs of declining in 2019. He’s still the main catcher for the Giants, but he’s going to be an accumulator at most at this point in his career. Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey are coming soon. 

Speaking of boring accumulators who shouldn’t ever be traded for Mike Trout in real life, Molina is back in St. Louis, which only feels right. It would be nice to free up time for Knizner, but Molina typically – through volume – finds himself as a top 12 catcher. 

Can someone teach Ramos how to not hit the ball into the damn ground so often? BABIP was slightly down, but there’s no reason to think he can’t bounce back in Detroit to being a startable option.

Kelly was another player who fantasy managers were craving to draft last season but have since soured on. After crushing lefties in 2019 and struggling against righties, Kelly flipped the script and hit righties well while struggling against lefties. Such is the position, I guess. 

People drafting Kirk as their catcher are going to be mad online when they realize he isn’t going to make the team. Danny Jansen’s leash is short, though, so he can still make a 2021 impact. 

Alfaro will sink you in average, but he has nice pop and sneaky speed if you’re looking for a last-round gamble.

Severino was probably the most surprising name in ADP here. He’s been off my radar all offseason, and he’s just a body keeping the seat warm for Adley.

Kiner-Falefa having catcher eligibility has to be a Yahoo thing, right? If so, he’s a fantastic target for his stolen base ability. See, here’s the difference. As a SS alone, IKF is a deep MI option at best. With catcher eligibility, he’s a top 10 option.

The pedigree and skillset is still there for Jansen with a boost in OBP leagues, but he’s running out of leash with Kirk and Gabriel Moreno pushing through the system. 

I mean, I guess holding Rutschman in the hopes of a callup in a deep league or best-ball scenario is fine, but the chances he debuts or makes an impact are below 10 percent.

Murphy is a great late-round sleeper. He had some helium heading into 2020 before he got hurt. There’s some nice power there, and he’s much better than Luis Torrens

.245, 10 homers, 40 RBIs, and Runs. That’s Gomes. He’s boring, but he can start all year if you don’t want to stream or chase other options.

The Narváez chasing was fun last year, wasn’t it? He’s attractive in OBP leagues, but him going from Seattle to Milwaukee didn’t really boost his stock other than that. He’s not in a timeshare with Jacob Nottingham. You can do better.

Huff has good power for the position, but he’s more of a dynasty play as his role for 2021 is unknown. What’s more, he’s already dealing with a hamstring injury. 

It was fun seeing Bart last year, but he’s a year away or so from being a trust fantasy asset as long as Posey is still being the plate. Fade him.

Suzuki is 29th in ADP, but it’s his teammate, Max Stassi, that you want in fantasy as a C2. He offers a better fantasy profile (slightly) and should draw more starts. 

Jeffers has seen his ADP climb over the past few months, and if the Garver we saw in 2020 is the real Garver, he could be valuable if he secures semi-regular playing time. Jeffers has 20-homer potential if he can start in 120 games. 

Key Takeaways

  • Realmuto is worth investing in if you don’t want to play the streaming game all season. It has to be the right spot, but Round 5 is a fine spot to grab him if you feel comfortable with your team build as far as an early pitching and offense foundation.  
  • Not surprising from my write up, but I live in the third tier and typically wait until the final round to draft a catcher if it’s a one-catcher league. There’s not enough difference in value to pass up on usable pieces to pick one earlier. 
  • The second tier is tough. If one of these guys falls to Round 10, I may take one just to give myself a slight boost and not have to stream guys if the one I take late doesn’t work out. I have to really, really dislike the other available options on the board, though. 
  • If you are in a deeper league or just want to wait as long as you can at the position, there are some guys outside the top 30 who can provide similar values to guys in Tier 3 this year. The aforementioned Stassi is one who should see the bulk of the starts for the Angels. Tyler Stephenson should be better than Tucker Barnhart, right? Elias Díaz is a starting catcher for the Rockies. That alone makes him someone you can stream for a homestand. Austin Hedges could be useful in Cleveland if he can start over Roberto Pérez.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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