Hello, baseball fans. Spring training is under way, Bryce & Manny have not signed yet, nor Dallas or Craig either for that matter. Luis Severino signed yesterday (4 years $40M), but Jacob deGrom didn’t. CC Sabathia says he is in the best shape of his career……..I mean that he will retire after this year. Such is life in the Big Apple, where the first race is going to be who gets back on the field first?: Yoenis Cespedes, Jordan Montgomery or Jacoby Ellsbury (Remember him?). Finally, pitchers and catchers have reported and we need them to get ready for a long season. Yes, in most leagues owners are required to roster and activate at least one, if not two, catchers to the chagrin of many catcher averse owners.
There are a few strategies for catchers when entering a draft.
- Go for one of the elite catchers and don’t look back. Just know what round you are picking him in and the opportunity cost of drafting a catcher that early.
- Wait until late in the draft. You won’t get an elite catcher, or maybe even a good one, but you will get one cheap nonetheless.
- Go with the flow and swoop in when the last of the elite catchers slips to the 12th to 15th round or so. Looking at you, Yadier. But if this fails, see strategy two above.
This article is broken down into three parts as well. The first seven or eight catchers are the only ones worth drafting in anything but the late rounds and include the only “elite” choices in the group. The next group are players worth a late round draft pick, because, let’s face it, you have to roster a catcher. Finally, the best of the rest. After the top ten or so there is a huge drop off to the wasteland that is “the others”. Maybe you’ll find the next J.T. Realmuto there. Maybe you’ll find a catcher who won’t hurt your batting average too badly, or one that will jack 15 homers for you. Maybe you’ll be forced to try and play the hot hand all season, a thankless, nearly impossible task.
Another issue this season is that most of the top ten catchers are on the wrong side of 30. That is a product of catchers developing later than other players, but also makes the window of elite production a cameo appearance at best. Unless your last name is Molina, anyway.
Today’s trivia Question: Let’s play one of my favorite games. Name that player. Hint: All three are catchers, numbers listed are from 2018.
Player 1. .268/.335/.414 7 HR 45 RBI in 302 AB.
Player 2. .271/.332/.444 12 HR, 50 RBI in 347 AB.
Player 3. .284/.359/.382 5 HR 41 RBI in 398 AB.
So, here goes. My rankings for catchers for 2019 drafts. I hope you enjoy.
Worth drafting, but what round?
- J.T. Realmuto, C, PHI: ADP 52. I didn’t think I would be invited back to the sandbox if I didn’t name Realmuto #1. Based on last season’s numbers, he is #1. Realmuto turned 27 in 2018, so he is at his peak now. If your goal is to own the best catcher, grab him in the 5th. Chances are, if healthy, he will be #1 again in a better Philadelphia lineup. . But catcher is such a fickle and brittle position that anything is possible and nothing is safely predictable. But picking Realmuto at his current early 5th round ADP is likely a fools errand. His power came into view in 2018, hitting 21 HR and both scoring and driving in 74 runs in a putrid Miami lineup. His .825 OPS was second in baseball for catchers after a top-5 showing in BA, OBP and slugging. All this means is I won’t likely own him in 2019. I’m also wondering how his family is going to deal with Pennsylvania winters after years in Miami??
- Gary Sanchez, C, NYY: ADP 52. Spoiler alert: Yes, I am a Yankee fan, sorry. I think Sanchez’s 2018 is
going to be the outlier of his career. If he and Realmuto have identical plate appearances, I think Sanchez could come in ahead of him in these rankings. But, alas, 2018 did happen so I have to rank him behind Realmuto. Sanchez is 26 in 2019 so he is still growing into what he will be for the remainder of his career. He lost time to calf and groin problems and then a shoulder injury that required postseason surgery. There is no sense looking at Sanchez 2018 numbers as they will not tell you a thing. On NY sports talk radio, manager Aaron Boone says that Sanchez came early and has been working on his putrid defense and is in great shape. If he even has his 2017 season (.280, 30, 90), he’ll be worth an early draft pick, but it is risky. His current ADP has him going in the 5th right after Realmuto. I’m going to keep him in leagues I already own him, but not likely going to draft him in those I don’t.
- Sal Perez, C, KC: ADP 117. Perez is likely the most consistent hitting catcher since Yadier Molina donned the tools of ignorance. His 2018 was an exact carbon copy of his 2017, when he hit 27 HR and drove in 90 runs. However, he lost over 30 points of BA and hit .235. He has never been an on-base contributor with his free swinging ways. Most attribute his BA drop to overuse and a thumb injury that was addressed in the off-season and it may be true. He’s going in the 10th round. To me that is too early for a catcher, but it may be right for Perez. Draft him with confidence. He is still only 29 even though it seems he has been around for a long time.
- Yadier Molina, C, STL: ADP 156. My favorite fantasy catcher for a decade now. Molina just keeps on going and is putting up even better power numbers than he did earlier in his career. He has 11 straight seasons of over 500 plate appearances and will turn 37 during the 2019 season. His brothers Benjie and Jose played into their late 30’s as well, but Yadi might be a border line HOF’er. His days of hitting .300 may be over but pencil him in for double digit HR, 70 RBI and a .260 to .280 BA and don’t even look at the wire all season for a catcher. This is the epitome of consistent and he will never kill you in any cat in any league. Until the wheels fall off. When will that be? He is going in the 13th round on average. If he is still there in the 15th, he is mine.
- Buster Posey, C, SFG: ADP 162. How the mighty have fallen. We all know what Posey can do with the bat. He has an OPS above league average for his entire career. We also know what he has given those of us who drafted him early the last couple years only to get burned and waste a pick. In 2018, he had a hip problem that was supposedly taken care of in the off-season. At 32 years old, he is either going to stay healthy and rake again, or he is the next Joe Mauer, albeit in the NL with no DH. Depending on which you think it is, it all comes down to draft position. Where will you draft him? Currently going in the 14th round, he could be a bargain if he falls any farther. I’d take a chance on the Mauer version if I’m picking in the high teens. But if someone wants to take him in the usual Posey territory, let him have him and wish him luck. One thing you can’t take away are his rings. His own and the one he gave to Kristen Posey.
- Wilson Ramos, C, NYM: ADP 133. We know Ramos can rake. We also know he has only amassed 500 plate appearances in a season twice and will turn 32 during 2019. . Now he is back in the NL where there is no DH, but knowing the Mets he’ll be their cleanup hitter all season. Or, knowing the Mets, he’ll have some freak injury that no one will know the name of and miss 3/4 of the season. That is risky catcher picks 101. I’d certainly be happy leaving spring training with him behind my plate, but not where he is going now in the 11th or 12th round. No, he’ll have to fall to the 15th or more to entice me to pick him. But, if he is healthy, expect 15, 70 .300. Not bad for a fantasy catcher.
- Yasmani Grandal, C, MIL: ADP 144. Grandal is the consummate HR hitting/low BA catcher. Right now, he is hitting enough HR to roster and leave alone through his slumps. A move to the Milwaukee lineup and ballpark could be good for him. Eventually, though, he will fade into the Russell Martin category of catchers who will hit you double digit HR and not much else. I don’t think he is there yet, he just turned 30, but the 12th round is still too early for me. Pencil him in for mid 20’s HR and a .240 average, but that is more like 15th round territory again for me. As you can see I am not looking for my catcher until the 15th, and damn I hope Yadi is there for me.
- Wilson Contreras, C, CHC: ADP 109. Good, not great hitting catcher. I would not be able to draft him at his current ADP of the 9th/10th round. That is way too optimistic for me. But, in the 15th, I’d bank on him getting close to the form he had in 2018 and pencil in 20, 80, .280. That may be optimistic, but sans any undisclosed injury, he may have just had a bad season. He turns 27 in 2019 and, if you have been reading my articles over the years, you know that is my favorite age for hitters to bust out. So, I get to the 15th round and I don’t have a catcher yet. This is likely. If ANY of the above catchers are still there, I’d be drafting him. If not, I’m waiting until the end and grabbing one of the next group.
Late rounders who might earn a profit:
9. Yan Gomes, C, WAS: ADP 314. This could be a big time bargain. Playing time will be the issue, but Gomes can hit when he is on. He will be 31 in 2019 but there is not a lot of mileage on him.
10. Austin Hedges,C, SDP: ADP 303. He’d likely be the Miami cleanup hitter had the Padres been successful getting Realmuto. But, alas, he has to ward off the hot rookie Mejia to be relevent. Look for a trade mid-season. Hedges is only 26 himself and came into the league with high expectations. The power is there but the plate discipline has yet to show itself.
11. Francisco Mejia, C, SDP: ADP 181. The Ying to Hedges’ Yang. Mejia comes with some good minor league credentials and could take the job from Hedges. He is only 23, so could even end up back at AAA. I see a time share between him and Hedges to start the season until the cream rises. Worth a spec pick whether you have your catcher or not by then. As recently as 2018, Mejia was a top 5 to 20 ranked MLB prospect by the three main prospect boards. A good chunk of that is for his defense, but he has shown power and plate discipline at the AA and AAA levels.
12. Mike Zunino, C, TB: ADP 251. We know he can hit HR. We also know he can kill your BA. Now he’ll be playing in TB. I’d draft him for sure at the end of the draft. There could be value here. He;’s hit at least 20 HR in both his age 26 and 27 seasons, so at 28, I think this is make or break territory.
13. Jorge Alfaro, C, MIA: ADP 223. The new Marlins cleanup hitter. 🙂 Ok maybe not, but he is the beneficiary of the Realmuto trade. He’ll get a prime spot in that lineup and we’ll see if he is as good as his minor league showing projected. This could be the bargain of the season. I would not hesitate to enter the season with this 26 year old as my catcher. He could stand to take a walk now and then, and strikes out far too often. If he can turn that around I could see much better numbers.
14. Mitch Garver, C, MIN: ADP 288. Mitch was quietly the # 6 fantasy catcher in the MLB in the 2nd half of 2018. While never considered a top prospect he likely did enough in the 2nd half to at least get a shot at the good half of a platoon in 2019 at the age of 28. Not likely drafted in any but deep leagues he may be a good stop gap during the season, especially when hitting righties.
15. Kurt Suzuki, C, WAS: Undrafted. Another safe BA like Cervelli. Now 35, don’t expect the HR he hit in 2018. I look at him as a great stop gap bandaid who likely won’t hurt you.
Answer to this week’s trivia question:
Player 1. Mitch Garver, C, MIN, Undrafted in 2018. Rookie season.
Player 2. Kurt Suzuki, C, WAS, Undrafted in 2018. 12th season.
Player 3. In 50-100 more at bats, Buster Posey, C, SFG. Just saying. Watch how high you draft your catcher.
16. Omar Narvaez, C, SEA: ADP 250. Likely the new starting catcher in Seattle. Narvaez has shown good plate discipline and mid .270’s averages in his first two season with the Chisox. In 2018, his age 26 season, he also flashed a little power putting 9 pitches in the seats. This could be a good sleeper pick and is going in the 20th to 21st round in most drafts. He’ll be playing at the age of 27 in 2019.
The Rest. They’ll be on the wire if you need them. I’ll only list the area(s) that they might be able to help you. And it might be the only area they help you. These are also good for 2 catcher leagues:
Wellington Castillo, C, BAL: ADP 272. Consistently average. Won’t kill you but won’t win your league either. Now 32, don’t expect any improvements as 2017 may have been a career year.
Franciso Cervelli, C, PIT: ADP 283. About as safe a BA as you can get from a C off the wire. He is 33 now though. Maybe this will be his last hurrah.
Robinson Chirinos, C, HOU: Undrafted. Good power, lots of K’s Playing time could be an issue. Now 35 years old.
Tucker Barnhart, C, CIN: ADP 351. Steady Eddy. Could surprise in both power and average. Or not. He is only 28.
Danny Jansen, C, TBR: ADP 175. Jansen will be 24 in 2019 and likely the Jays new starting catcher. He has elite plate discipline for a 24 year old catcher and his K/BB is about 1 to 1. He’s been raking in AA and AAA the past two seasons, flashing double digit power as well. He is someone to watch closely. He could even have top 12 catcher ability if he gets enough playing time. This might be a good gamble if you miss out on the top guys.
Isiah Kiner-Kalifa, C, TEX: ADP 278. No, you don’t draft catcher for SB no matter how many they have. Izzy led MLB catchers with 7. The biggest issue is how much playing time he will get. Isiah is 24 and can also play 2b and 3b, so this bears watching.
Kevan Smith, C, LAA: Undrafted. Could be the Angels new starting catcher. Ignore him on draft day but keep an eye on him. He is 31, so it is not like he is new to this.
Brian McCann, C, ATL: ADP 378. Still has an ADP. Probably out of respect for his career. Expect double digit HR and nothing else at this point. At 35, he is back in Atlanta where he started, but will likely get similar playing time as he did in HOU.
John Hicks, C, DET: ADP 366. Another ignore on draft day, but watch in the early season kind of guy. He’ll get a share of the Tigers catching at bats but also backs up the corner infielders and plays some DH. He’ll be 29 in 2019.
Chris Iannetta, C: Undrafted. Homers, in bunches. Streaky hitter. When do you deploy him? Your crystal ball is better than mine if you know the answer to that. He has a cool last name too. Almost the same as mine, but at 36 he is almost as old as I am too.
That is all for this week. I hope this helps you slog through the mire that is the catcher position. It can be a black hole, especially for those who want top claim the advantage at a shallow position. You may find yourself wading in the kiddie pool in your standings if it fails. See you next week when I start the daunting task or ranking relief pitchers. Sure, closers are easy. Try going 50 or 60 deep. Not for the faint of heart.
As always I’ll be on Reddit all day talking catchers and all other things fantasy. If you want to reach me directly, my Email and Twitter are below.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 14th, 2019 from 8pm – 9:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the A.L. Central.
Be sure to check out our Sunday night show February 17th from 8pm to 9:30pm EST. They will cover the N.L. Central.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 17th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #138 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. Central.