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Top Values at Catcher & Closer (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 24, 2021

It’s common strategy to punt the catcher position and saves, but you do have to eventually draft players for these positions. If your strategy is passing on early- or mid-round catchers and relievers, here are a few players to target late that carry value.

Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) referenced is using FantasyPros consensus ECR

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Q1. Who is your favorite value pick at catcher?

Mitch Garver (C – MIN) ECR: 228
Garver struggled in 2020, slashing an underwhelming .167/.247/.264 across 81 plate appearances. He was limited to 23 games due to an intercostal strain. His exit velocity was up, but his barrel rate dropped from 15.5% to 8.3% in 2020. Everything went wrong for Garver last season after posting a career-year in 2019, hitting 31 home runs across 359 plate appearances. The 30-year-old will look put 2020 behind him and bounce back in 2021. I believe if Garver receives everyday at-bats, he has the upside and power to lead all catchers in homers. He’s a borderline C1 and currently 11th among all catchers in the latest expert draft consensus rankings.
– Brad Camara (@Beerad30)

In standard formats this season, if you don’t draft JT Realmuto early or decide to grab Salvador Perez, Willson Contreras, Yasmani Grandal, or Will Smith in the middle rounds, there’s really no reason to even think about catcher until the late rounds of your draft. Enter Mitch Garver. In 2019, Garver hit 31 home runs. In 93 games. That’s a 54-homer pace over the course of a full season which is staggering for a catcher. He led all of baseball that season in ISO (.357) suggesting that his performance was not a fluke. But as good as Garver was in 2019, he was equally bad in 2020, hitting just .157 with an anemic .511 OPS and just two homers in 23 games. (Lucas coughs “small sample size” under his breath). Garver battled an intercostal strain to his core, which negatively impacted his ability to swing in what was essentially a lost season for the 30-year-old backstop. Garver is healthy and hitting well again this spring, while occupying a spot in the middle of the batting order of a strong Twins lineup. With a current ADP of 207 per FantasyPros, Garver is the No. 12 catcher coming off the board which makes him a great value at the end of drafts, with a chance to easily finish in the top-5 at his position if he recaptures just some of that 2019 magic.
– Lucas Spence (@lspence24)

Christian Vazquez (C – BOS) ECR: 197
At catcher, I prefer to wait until around pick 150 to nab Vazquez. After the first group of J.T. Realmuto, Willson Contreras, Yasmani Grandal, and Salvador Perez, it’s a little shaky at the catcher position. In 2019, Vazquez hit 23 home runs, 66 runs, 72 RBI, and four steals with a .276 batting average. He followed that up with seven home runs, 22 runs, 23 RBI, and four steals with a .283 batting average. Amongst catchers with at least 500 PA, in 2019-2020, Vazquez ranked top-5 in home runs, runs, RBI, and steals. Vazquez separates himself from most catchers with the handful of steals and solid counting stats.
– Corbin Young (@Corbin_Young21)

I almost never pay for catchers in fantasy, regardless of the format. I always have my targets that I like if they fall far enough, but I’m usually one of the last managers to address the position in redraft leagues. The return on investment just isn’t there, and I can remember at least a handful of times where I picked up a catcher off the waiver wire who finished in the Top 5 at the position for the year. One of those waiver wire catchers from a few years ago is Christian Vazquez, and he’s a favorite of mine again this year. In three of the last four years, he batted .276 or higher, and he swatted 23 home runs in 2019 when he played in a career-high 138 games. Alex Cora loves Vazquez, and he’s going to play at least 130 games this season as long as he’s healthy.
– Mike Maher (@MikeMaher)

Yadier Molina (C – STL) ECR: 286
I’m fine with punting on catcher and grabbing Molina at the end of single-catcher drafts. Molina contributes in three categories, with one of those (average) being very scarce, particularly at the end of drafts for single-catcher leagues. The Cardinals’ lineup is more dangerous than last year (hello Nolan Arenado), which should help Molina accumulate above-average runs and RBI for a catcher. RosterResource is projecting him to hit fifth in the lineup, and that provides a safe floor for plate appearances as well. He likely won’t move much further down the lineup, given that Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill have a lot to prove before moving up. This is not a sexy pick, but one that could provide plenty of value when we look up at season’s end.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

Jorge Alfaro (C – MIA) ECR: 312
Alfaro’s stock has fallen quite mightily — both in fantasy and actual on-field baseball — but the Miami Marlins appear committed to him for the time being. He still has offensive upside — which is clearly important for fantasy managers — and we can cautiously ignore the extreme drop-off in production from his career averages to 2020. Obviously, we’ll need a rebound from Alfaro in 2021 before we get too optimistic about his future, but if he can provide low-level power without sinking our teams’ batting average, he will be well worth the low investment by season’s end.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)

Willson Contreras (C – CHC) ECR: 131
Contreras is a lock to hit in a prime spot in the Cubs lineup. Currently, it looks like he will hit second, which is massive for his value. Ian Happ will potentially provide a true leadoff hitter that the Cubs haven’t had in years. Contreras will have plenty of RBI opportunities to go with runs scored hitting from the 2 spot. If he stays healthy, he should provide 130+ games with over 20+ home runs and 60+ runs and RBI with the upside for more. While those aren’t earth shattering numbers, he provides the perfect blend of upside and floor. I still believe we haven’t seen Contreras’s best season.
– Justin Johnson (@JJ_JetFlyin)

Buster Posey (C – SF) ECR: 281
This isn’t a very exciting choice. Posey is the 14th ranked catcher by FantasyPros ECR with an ADP of 280. The ceiling is not high in this stage of his career and he’s shown some decline over the last few seasons. He produced what was then a career-worst .741 OPS back in 2018 and followed that up with a .688 OPS in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns and is back for one last go round with the club that drafted him way back in 2008. I think his floor is safer than many realize. Taking an entire season off had to have been good for both his mental and physical health. The changes to Oracle Park in 2020, which made it much more hitter friendly, should give all Giants hitters a bump as well. Posey is still a .302 career hitter with a .370 OBP. You can’t expect much power but he’ll get on base at a high clip and is locked in as the team’s everyday catcher for what could be his final season in the bigs. It’s not unreasonable to expect a .260-.275 batting average with a .350 OBP over 400-plus at-bats. It’s a boring pick to be sure but he’s going so late that you can wait a while to snag him while building up your lineup elsewhere.
– Jon Mathisen (@EazyMath)

Max Stassi (C – LAA) ECR: 403
Stassi slashed .278/.352/.533 with seven home runs and 20 RBI in just 90 at-bats last season. He finished tenth among catchers (with at least 25 BBE) in Barrels/PA and eighth in average exit velocity. The 30-year-old was a longtime backup for the Astros who was shuffled between Triple-A and the majors and missed considerable time due to injuries. 2020 marked the first time in his career that Stassi had regular playing time. You can wait until the last round to draft him, and if he plays as well this season as he did last season, he has top-five potential.
– Lucas Babits-Feinerman (@WSonFirst)

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Q2. Who is your favorite value pick at closer?

Jordan Hicks (RP – STL) ECR: 255
Hicks is currently 29th among all relief pitchers and that number could rise if he solidifies the Cardinals closer role. The 24-year-old made his spring debut last Sunday and is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. He topped 102 MPH and is throwing without any issues. Hicks converted 14-of-15 saves with a 31:11 K:BB across 28 2/3 innings in 2019. The upside is off the charts for Hicks and if he can stay healthy, fantasy managers are drafting a reliever who potentially saves 25-30 games and post excellent ratios at a bargain price.
– Brad Camara (@Beerad30)

Amir Garrett is likely my 1B answer to this question, but Hicks is my 1A. (And with the recent injury news to Kirby Yates, Jordan Romano should be mentioned as well). In 2019, Hicks had 14 saves with a 3.14 ERA and 0.94 WHIP before succumbing to TJ surgery on his right elbow and then electively sat out the 2020 season due to a chronic health condition (Hicks is a type-1 diabetic). With ample time to recover from his injury, Hicks is back to throwing his 100-102 mph fastball with a terrific complementary slider. Hicks and Aroldis Chapman share the MLB record for the fastest pitch ever recorded (105 mph). Should the 24-year-old flamethrower secure the job at the back-end of the St. Louis bullpen, there should be plenty of save opportunities on a contending Cardinals team. With a current ADP of 217 via FantasyPros and the opportunity to run away with the closer job, there is a clear path to 30 saves here in an otherwise very murky closer landscape this season.
– Lucas Spence (@lspence24)

Greg Holland (RP – KC) ECR: 251
This potential value is all about opportunity. Holland has the inside track to the Royals’ closer gig, and he’s going after guys like Archie Bradley, Jose Leclerc, and Mark Melancon – say what? I like what Holland was able to do last year – I will take a career-best walk rate and 21.4% K-BB rate all day. While he likely won’t have a sub-2 ERA again, I think the six saves he got last year and the willingness of the Royals to bring him back shows that they want him as their closer.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

Ryan Pressly (RP – HOU) ECR: 122
Often with closers, we’re looking at relievers with solidified roles, which fortunately Pressly holds. In 2020, Pressly recorded 12 of 16 saves with a 3.43 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 31.9% strikeout rate, and 7.7% walk rate. Pressly boasts a swinging-strike rate of over 17% over the past three seasons with a slider and curveball both eliciting a swinging-strike rate over 23%. His solid skills plus a locked-in role makes Pressly my top closer value pick going near relievers like Raisel Iglesias, James Karinchak, and Brad Hand. It won’t surprise me if he ends up in the Aroldis Chapman ADP range in 2022.
– Corbin Young (@Corbin_Young21)

Jordan Romano (RP – TOR) ECR: 318
I originally listed Kirby Yates in this space, and the article hadn’t even published before Yates sustained an injury. Therein lies the fickle nature of the closer position. Even if it appears that a team will commit to a closer — no small task, these days — we are always on edge for a potential demotion or injury. All hope is not lost as it creates a “next man up” situation. Therefore, I’ll make the swap from Yates to Jordan Romano, as I’m sure others will do in the coming days. The good news is that Romano is no slouch. He was outstanding in a short stint in 2020, and he won’t be just a placeholder — as long as the Toronto Blue Jays rely on him in the ninth inning as they had planned to do with Yates.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)

Anthony Bass (RP – MIA) ECR: 305
I get it, Bass doesn’t strike people out like a closer should. Guess what? It doesn’t matter when hitters can’t square up anything they put in play against him. In 2020, he had a .220 xwOBA against, which ranked third in baseball. The 2.9% barrel per plate appearance against was top-20 in baseball. He is a lock for the Marlins closer role despite Yimi Garcia being a solid reliever. Brandon Kintzler had 12 saves in 2020, and Anthony Bass is a much better pitcher than him. Expect 25 saves, with 30 or more being a possibility.
– Justin Johnson (@JJ_JetFlyin)

Tanner Scott (RP – BAL) ECR: 385
I’m from the Razzball School of SAGNOF (Saves Ain’t Got No Face), so I rarely pay top dollar for one of the premium closers, depending on the format. Instead, I spend my money in the middle tiers and know I’ll be able to grab a couple of closers throughout the year to help make up the difference. I also like to snag one or two high-upside relievers who haven’t officially been given the ninth-inning job but who should settle in sooner rather than later. This year, that reliever is Tanner Scott, who has a clear path to the closer’s role in Baltimore with Hunter Harvey hitting the 60-day injured list. Scott has electric stuff and pitched to a 1.74 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings last season, and he could be an early source of saves and strikeouts in most formats.
– Mike Maher (@MikeMaher)

Amir Garrett (RP – CIN) ECR: 248
I haven’t drafted a top-end closer in years because there tends to be so much turnover at the position. I typically go after pitchers with very good ratios on mediocre teams as they’re often overlooked. Conventional wisdom states that a bad team will produce less save opportunities but that isn’t always the case. Enter Amir Garrett. He’s gotten off to a slow start this spring due to forearm soreness in his pitching arm, which sounds worse than it really was. He made his Cactus League debut last Saturday and struck out the side without experiencing any setbacks. Lucas Sims, another solid reliever with impressive ratios, is in a competition with Garrett for the closer role in Cincinnati but he’s been dealing with an elbow issue and hasn’t made his spring debut yet. Garrett has improved every single year he’s been in the bigs, lowering his ERA and xERA in four-consecutive seasons. He put great numbers in 2020 with a 2.45 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 26:7 K/BB ratio with six holds and one save over 18 1/3 innings. He’s seen more high leverage work the last few seasons, securing 43 holds combined in the 2018-19 seasons. It feels like the Reds have been grooming him for the closer role. Archie Bradley and Raisel Iglesias are both gone and the job feels like it’s Garrett’s to lose at this point. He was outspoken this offseason about his desire to close games and definitely has the mental fortitude needed for the role. The injury concerns and supposed competition with Sims has pushed his ADP down, making him a bargain. I think he opens the year as the closer and holds the job all year long.
– Jon Mathisen (@EazyMath)

Craig Kimbrel (RP – CHC) ECR: 170
Kimbrel’s numbers last season were ugly – 5.28 ERA and a 7.04 BB/9 – but he settled in after a rocky first week of the season and from August 14th to the end of September. He had an 18.47 K/9, 4.97 BB/9, 1.42 ERA, and 2.05 xFIP. Zeile projects a 3.60 ERA, which is more than 50% greater than his 2.17 career ERA. I’m betting on a return to elite form from Kimbrel, whose decline has been as much connected to his troubles in free agency as it has been his stuff on the mound. He hasn’t had a good offseason of preparation since 2018, and his curveball still generates WHIFFs 48.4% of the time, and his fastball generates WHIFFs 30.5% of the time.
– Lucas Babits-Feinerman (@WSonFirst)

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