The catcher ranks were pretty thin as it is, and catcher offensive stats can be be very inconsistent as well. When I wrote my catcher rankings article a month or so ago there were eight legit big league catchers that should be picked before the late rounds. And then there were seven. Sal Perez, one of the most consistent hitting catchers of this generation, will miss the season. Now catching is even more thin.
The tools of ignorance and constant toll on the body tend to make catchers less productive than the rest of your lineup if only because they play only four to five games a week. I don’t care how good a hitter he is, if his only position is catcher, he cannot contribute every day. For that reason, and the propensity for injury, you will never see me draft a catcher before the 10th round. The opportunity cost is far too great to waste that early of a pick on a position that cannot give you full-time production. So, I will not own J. T. Realmuto or Gary Sanchez (Don’t tell anyone, but i own him in three keeper leagues, drafting him before he was the Sanchize), or Sal Perez (when healthy), or either of the Wilson’s (Contreras or Ramos) or Grandal. I don’t look for a catcher until the 15th and then I load my queue with my favorites of whatever is left. Then, I hope they fall a few more rounds.
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. This just adds to the volatility of the position. If he is in his 30’s and still a top catcher, then he is also very experienced and talented. He also is even more prone to injury at that age.
So, who will I pick up in 2019 drafts? I’ll list my favorites to beat their current ADP’s and who will still be available after the 20th round 9plus my favorite 15th rounder). ADP’s are courtesy of Fantrax, but the variation is not huge from other major services. The round listed is based on a 12-team snake draft. I don’t list auction values because I believe if you are in an auction league, they tend to set their own price levels based on the members of the league or the size of the draft budget.
- Yadier Molina, C, STL: ADP 179.95 ADP 15th Round). 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 think about your catcher position for the rest of the season. This is the epitome of consistent and he will never kill you in any category in any league until the wheels fall off. When will that be? He is going in the 15th round on average. If he is still there in the 15th, when my turn comes he is mine.
- Danny Jansen, C, TBR: (ADP 247.15, 20th) 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-10 catcher ability, if he gets enough playing time. This might be a good gamble if you miss out on the top guys. Start looking for him in the late teens rounds.
- Yan Gomes, C, WAS: (ADP 289.2, 24th). 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. He’ll also have competition from 35-year-old Kurt Suzuki who can still hit and get on base after all these years. The good bets are on Gomes getting the bulk of the at-bats and, as your last round pick, he’ll likely pay extra dividends. His wife Jenna was thrilled to get out of Cleveland, and somewhere a little warmer in the winter.
- Mike Zunino, C, TB: (ADP 251, 21st). 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. You ‘ll have to be able to live with an average near .200. He married his High School Sweetheart Alyssa, so if she can live with a .200 batting average so can you.
- Jorge Alfaro, C, MIA: (ADP 223, 19th). 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. Worth a gamble if you still need a catcher in the late rounds.
- Omar Narvaez, C, SEA: (ADP 250 , 21st). 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 Chi-Sox. In 2018, his age 26 season, he also flashed a little power putting nine 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.
Tandems: Which one will win the playing time? Why not draft both?
7. Francisco Mejia, C, SDP: (ADP 181, 16th). The Ying to Austin 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 timeshare 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. I never suggest drafting bench hitters, but if you want to hedge your bets with Mejia, draft Hedges later. Mejia is the better hitter, Hedges the better defensive catcher. We are fantasy players, we want the better offensive player to start.
8. Austin Hedges,C, SDP: (ADP 303, 26th). 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 Francisco Mejia to be relevant. Look for a possible 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. He is a superior defensive catcher to Mejia, but we want the offense.
9. Willians Austudillo, C MIN, (ADP 284.5, 24th). Unless you are in a very deep league, it is doubtful that the Twins catching core is of much if any interest at all in 2019. Jason Castro is being paid too much to ride the bench, but has never been a good fantasy contributor. Mitch Garver looks to be his platoon mate and certainly the better offensive force of the two. Then there is Austudillo. Mostly a catcher in his Twins Milb career, La Tortuga (the turtle) can also play a pretty adequate 3rd base. That may be his ticket to Minnesota in 2019 as Miguel Sano is injured and Marwin Gonzalez will move from super utility player to 3bman until he is back. So, Austudillo could be the backup 3rd baseman to start the season, as well as a third catcher. That also means he is one injury away from an expanded role on the Twins. Austudillo is a unique offensive player. He is a free swinger with extremely high contact rates (91.7%) who seldom strikes out (2.1%), however he also seldom walks (3.1%) either. He has hit consistently in the minors in the .320 to .350 range, and hit .355 in about 100 at bats in his 2018 cup of coffee. This Spring he is hitting .295 with 2 HR and 8 RBI with a .782 OPS, about the same as his AAA numbers from 2018 as well. He also flashed power in 2018 hitting 15 HR combined over his two stops. This will be his age 27 season, but he needs playing time to take advantage of that. You would need bench space to start the season until we see him get some regular at bats, but he is worth a spec pick late in a deep draft.
10. Mitch Garver, C, MIN: (ADP 288, 24th). 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 second half to at least get a shot at the good half of a platoon in 2019 at the age of 28. Jason Castro is the other half of that platoon if he is healthy enough after losing 2018 to knee surgery in May. Garver is the superior hitter. Not likely drafted in any but deep leagues, he may be a good stop gap during the season, especially when hitting righties. Playing time in MIN may come down to Jason Castro’s playing time as well as the aforementioned Astudillo. Sadly, the one I would not want to own from this trio is Castro, the one likely to get the most playing time.
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 of picking spot starters for the next week, something I’ll be doing every week for the rest of the season. Need a guy for a spot start or two? Check out “Pick Your Spots” starting next week for some deep analysis and exploiting good matchups.
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 host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday March 17th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #145 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. Our topic this week is Bullpens and Catchers.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday March 24th, 2019 from 7:30-9:45pm EST for episode #146 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 will be our first LIVE Major League Fantasy Baseball draft show. The boys will be doing a play by play while Kevin Bzdek is drafting in MLFB1. We will be taking live calls from the league owners as well.
Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer, editor, league mate with majorleaguefantasysports.com, and will be the live drafter.