With Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season just a few weeks away, we have a new batch of updated fantasy baseball rankings for you here at RotoBaller. The unpredictable effects of COVID-19 and the implementation of the 60-game season will make the upcoming fantasy campaign the most unique we have ever seen. Not only because of the schedule structure, but because of the inevitable impact of the pandemic.
Drafting healthy players will be like walking through a minefield this year since we've already seen a wide range of players test positive for the virus. Even though these players should recover in time for the beginning of the campaign, the long-term impact could compromise their strength and endurance. The in-season struggle of maintaining the players' well-being will be a balancing act, so we can only hope all players and staff do their part to keep everyone healthy. With two-thirds of games now played within the division and the remaining third versus interleague counterparts, this setup gives some hitters in certain divisions advantages over others. Considering the effect of Park Factors and the pitching staffs they'll face within their division, factoring in these elements is essential in such a short season.
Don't forget to bookmark our main fantasy baseball rankings page which is loaded up with rankings, tiers, auction dollar values, player stats, projections, news and more for Mixed Leagues, H2H Points Leagues, Dynasty Leagues, 2020 Redraft Prospects, Dynasty Prospects and more! With that said, let's analyze the landscape of the catcher position.Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!
Updated Catcher Rankings - 5x5 Mixed Leagues
|Rank||Tier||Player||Pos||Nick M||Nick G||Pierre||David||Riley|
We all know catcher is an unappealing position for offensive production, which is what gives the two names at the top such an edge. Both J.T. Realmuto and Gary Sanchez are capable of making fantasy teams proud, playing on strong offenses in hitter’s parks. Remember these ranks reflect one-catcher formats. Now, forget that he's C-eligible, let's just look at last year's leaders in Barrels/Plate Appearances:
Now I won’t hate on anyone for taking Realmuto over Sanchez, I know there's more to this than crushing taters, and I totally understand seeking out a plus batting average and slight speed from their C slot. But you’ll notice I have Sanchez edging out Realmuto and it boils down to that power and the Yankees lineup. Plate appearances are the alpha currency here, and an offense this potent can turn the order over more often than Philly can. Then there’s the cascade of R+RBI opportunities, though I absolutely recognize his floor is far lower thanks to the strikeouts.
Yasmani Grandal and Willson Contreras are both capable of looking like top catchers rather often, but the ceiling is lower than Sanchez and JTR. Grandal would rise in an OBP league - .380 last year! - and I do love his hitting in a scary White Sox order, but he suffers from the usual catcher plague known as anchor feet. We’ll see where he settles in the order, I'm hoping that he’s around the six-hole.
With Contreras, we need to be sure that last season’s strikeout rise doesn’t occur again (he went from 22.2% to 24.9%) while being mindful of summertime at Wrigley. My hope is that most underestimate the calendar and are caught off guard by the July/August ball flying at the season’s start. The 28-year-old backstop should hit in the .260s with 7-8 homers and surefire 10-homer potential during the short year. But 2019’s 15% swinging-strike rate yields a lower floor. Hope for a power surge!
This is where drafters can start to get cute and read the room. Were the first tiers of catcher going earlier or later than you expected? If the position’s market price is falling lower than you’ve projected then I’d suggest pouncing on these names, but one can wait if there’s inflation still at play.
Look again at that top-10 Barrels/PA list and check the 10th spot. We’ve seen reports that Garver expects to start 40-45 at catcher but had yet to discuss this with coaches, he even mentions 50 games. Of course, Rocco Baldelli said Alex Avila is going to get in there, but we’ll see how often he really can bench Garver if last year’s .995 OPS keeps rolling along.
Meet the #BombaSquad!
Name: Mitch Garver
Career Dingers: 38
2019 Dingers: 31
Career High: 31 (2019)
Dinger Fact: Last season, Garver become the first player to hit 30 homers at catcher since Javy Lopez and Jorge Posada did it in 2003. pic.twitter.com/paGcJ8oafQ
— Twins Dingers (@TwinsDingers) June 25, 2020
Look for the Dodgers’ William Smith to build on a successful 2019 where he crushed 35 homers in just 116 games between Triple-A and the bigs. I can’t project an OPS above .900 just like that, but color me impressed. And he can swipe a handful of bases while he’s at it, but most say last year’s .253 average was at the higher end of expectations in that department. Many projections systems have him around .235 for 2020.
Salvador Perez comes back from missing 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and having his return in 2020 delayed by a positive COVID-19 test, but he should be ready to go come Opening Day. He’d hit exactly 27 homers with 80 RBI in 129 games in both 2017 and 2018, giving him roughly a 12-homer pace for 60 games. He hasn’t had an OBP above .300 since 2013, but his contact is so dang loud and he’s a presence behind the plate where the volume will be there. That Barrels/PA leaderboard circa 2018 had Perez 25th (out of 249), behind only Sanchez among catchers.
Here are some steadier options that are unlikely to be your champion, but they shouldn’t scorch you either. You'll notice I'm significantly lower than my cohorts on this tier as a whole. This is not an indictment of the players, but rather a reflection of my philosophy when it comes to drafting catchers. Beyond the top five, I don't want to bank on them being consistent producers.
Ramos is a consistent average producer on one of the strongest NL lineups around, with the DH helping the R+RBI potential at the bottom of the order. And while Omar Narvaez’s glove won’t win over anybody, that should tell you his bat is worth the pains. Or is it?
His overall average exit velocity of 85.5 MPH is discouraging, but maybe an uppercut swing yields horrid grounders and useful flies? Nope. His 88.8 MPH mark on flies and liners ranked 235th out of 250 qualified hitters, sandwiched between Yolmer Sanchez and Mallex Smith. Yikes. I hope Milwaukee helps his case, but that's not good. Still better than Tony Wolters, though!
Then there’s Carson Kelly, who gets to bang in the humidor-laden Chase Field. So it’s not the powerhouse of old, but it still plays up right-handed bats. What’s funny (ish) is he was actually awful in Arizona last year, hitting just .192 with four homers in 178 PAs versus delivering a .294 clip with 14 homers in 187 PAs on the road. His walk/strikeout rates were nearly identical, as were his fly-ball rates, so I’m trying not to read much into it.
Look for Jorge Alfaro’s potential to leap up the charts thanks to sneaky speed and Miami’s shorter walls. While my rank is tied with the lowest on the staff, I do like him! Again, I think this range of catcher is also generally overvalued -- I’m probably loading up on pitchers and waiting until the last round for my C.
That said, Alfaro is still a great late target thanks to strong contact (82nd percentile hard-hit rate) and a snazzy sprint speed in the 90th percentile. But raw speed isn’t everything, as he was still caught on four-of-eight steal attempts in ‘19. Also, he strikes out 33% of the time, an unproductive out coming in one-of-three PAs. Perhaps Miami’s shallower walls help him out -- they can't hurt!
Yadier Molina and Christian Vazquez are more consistent, with Danny Jansen hoping to rebound after a crummy 2019. The 25-year-old mustered a .207 average and .640 OPS over 384 PAs, but his .230 BABIP is almost sure to rise. Most projection systems give him an average in the .240s, making him a cheap ticket to Toronto’s blossoming squad. As you can see, I’m on the pessimistic side.
Tier Six and Below
This is where I highlight my favorite offseason riser, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I liked it better when he wasn’t grabbing the headlines, but his draft-day price is still happily suppressed. Thanks to a rejuvenated approach at the plate, his penchant for connecting with the ball (career 94% zone-contact rate) has earned him praise from manager Chris Woodward.
While nothing official, Chris Woodward acknowledges what has become clear: Isiah Kiner-Falefa has "edge" to be starting corner infielder. Would mean Frazier to 1B. IKF "has been our best guy."
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) July 15, 2020
Now with a shot at being their primary 3B, Kiner-Falefa has more paths to playing time without wearing down his body behind the dish. Robinson Chirinos is also dealing with an ankle injury that may limit him in July. Conditioning is less of a concern in a 60-game season, but still. With a 90-foot split time in the 66th percentile, he has viable speed. That’s the same split as Yasiel Puig, Jose Peraza, and Alfaro. Getting 3-5 steals from your C slot could be critical for certain draft strategies.
Other bats of interest here are Francisco Mejía, who could see additional playing time with the DH instead of worrying about Austin Hedges splitting time. Of course, if Hedges doesn’t hit well then it’ll be all Mejía. Jason Castro is another strong name of interest in the Angels stacked order, but Mike Trout’s uncertainty does have a trickle-down effect on the entire offense. Kurt Suzuki and Travis d’Arnaud bring a little average help to go with modest pop and make for late 2-C targets. If you’re like me and wait until the bitter end to take a second catcher in those formats, Jacob Stallings is barely drafted but should see plenty of playing time for Pittsburgh. You can leap for Joey Bart and bail if San Francisco doesn’t commit to him at no cost