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2020 Offseason Catcher Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Mixed Leagues


It's never too early to start looking ahead to the next baseball season, so here we deliver our 2020 fantasy baseball rankings to those of you looking to scratch your fantasy itch. Whether you're already eliminated from fantasy football contention, or you're getting a head start on next year's keeper selections, RotoBaller has got you covered. We've assembled a collection of stout minds, including the #1 ranked expert from 2018, Nick Mariano, to help you get a jump start on your competition for the upcoming season.

With the Winter Meetings happening and free-agency starting to materialize, there will be plenty of movement with these rankings before the draft season gets into full swing. Be sure to check in frequently during the offseason as we'll have updated rankings as soon as big names begin to change places.

The catching position has already seen a lot of movement this offseason with several backstops shuffling around to new teams around the league. This spot on the diamond features the most platoon situations, so finding an everyday player for your squad can be difficult even in the deeper leagues. We'll help you sift through the tiers of our rankings to determine where the value will be at fantasy baseball's most overlooked position. With several veteran mainstays combined with young emerging prospects on our list, there's plenty to go over, so let's get into the analysis.

 

Catcher Tiered Ranks - 5x5 Mixed Leagues (December)

In case you missed it, our very own "Big Pick Nick" Mariano was named the #1 overall most accurate industry expert ranker for the 2018 season.

Ranking Tier Player Position Nick Nick G Riley
1 1 Gary Sanchez C 71 76 78
2 1 J.T. Realmuto C 89 71 67
3 2 Yasmani Grandal C 138 112 115
4 2 Willson Contreras C 159 171 133
5 3 Mitch Garver C 243 216 129
6 3 Salvador Perez C 233 193 177
7 3 Wilson Ramos C 265 230 156
8 4 William Smith C 208 #N/A 237
9 4 Carson Kelly C 301 298 277
10 4 Yadier Molina C 340 266 274
11 5 Christian Vazquez C/1B 347 290 271
12 5 Omar Narvaez C 434 #N/A 230
13 5 Francisco Mejia C 335 #N/A 332
14 5 Jorge Alfaro C 337 #N/A 344
15 6 James McCann C 403 #N/A 319
16 6 Sean Murphy C 379 #N/A 374
17 6 Travis D'Arnaud C/1B 420 #N/A 338
18 6 Robinson Chirinos C 418 #N/A 363
19 6 Roberto Perez C 530 #N/A 381
20 6 Buster Posey C 466 #N/A #N/A

 

Tier One

It was a tight race for the top-ranked catcher on our board, but Gary Sanchez prevailed after slugging a career-high 34 homers last year. A pair of IL trips couldn't stand in his way from reaching this feat as he established new bests in fly-ball rate (32.7%) and Barrel% (19.1%). The latter was the second-best mark in the league among batters with 270 batted ball events (BBE), but when Sanchez wasn't making contact, it was disastrous. The good news was he hit .047 points better than in 2018, but his .232 BA in 2019 was nothing boast-worthy. Sanchez also tumbled to a career-low in K-rate (28.0%), Chase% (33.0%), and Contact% (70.2%), all numbers well below average even for a catcher. Despite Sanchez leading our ranks, I wouldn't reach for him on draft day with these glaring holes in his swing.

J.T. Realmuto, on the other hand, is a catcher that I would pay full price for in 2020. He led the position in runs (92), RBI (83), and SB (9), all by convincing margins. Not to mention his 25 HR and .275 BA finished as top-five marks, helping him earn his second consecutive Silver Slugger. Realmuto could only measure up to just below half of Sanchez's Barrel% (8.7%), but he trailed his Exit Velocity by less than one MPH (90.3 MPH) and his Hard Hit% by less than 0.5% (40.9%). Admittingly, it will be hard for Realmuto to replicate 145 games again, but he's played at least 125 contests for five years running. The two-time All-Star has the best chance of any backstop to lead the position in all five roto categories, which provides a massive advantage over the field.

 

Tier Two

The White Sox landed Yasmani Grandal to a four-year pact this offseason after a career-year in his age-30 season. His 28/79/77/5/.246 roto line were all lifetime bests, with the exception of his BA finishing a tick below his .247 mark in 2017. Grandal's 153 games played were the most by a backstop since Jonathan Lucroy in 2014, so it's obvious we'll see a regression in his at-bats in 2020. He will cede work to James McCann, and it's unlikely he'll bat in the top-third of the Pale Hose lineup 75 times as he did a year ago with Milwaukee. Grandal is a near-lock button to finish as a top-five catcher, but be aware his counting stats will regress.

A couple of IL stints limited Willson Contreras to 105 games last season, but he still managed to set new bests with 24 HR and 57 runs scored. He doesn't "wow" you in any particular category, but he's sturdy across the board as he sat in the top-five in all four roto counting categories in 2019.

 

Tier Three

I'm more bullish than my fellow rankers on Mitch Garver for several reasons. Among batters with at least 220 BBE, his 50.0% Hard Hit% and 15.5% Barrel% were both top-10 marks, with the former leading all major league catchers. He finished only behind Sanchez in Barrel% and HR (31), but Graver was able to produce a much more respectable .273 BA in 93 games. The 28-year-old also had an elite 35.4% fly-ball rate and 47.8% Pull%, the essential ingredients for a slugger. With Jason Castro hitting free-agency, Garver will take over as the everyday backstop with newly acquired Alex Avila playing second fiddle. Garver proved he could finish as a top-five backstop in a timeshare in 2019, and he'll get even more volume in 2020 for a chance to repeat.

Salvador Perez was one of the top power bats at the position through the 2017-18 seasons, averaging a 27/55/80/1/.253 line before missing all of 2019. The six-time All-Star will slide back into the meat of the order for the Royals and could be a sneaky option in 2020 due to some recency bias.

After a late-July callup, Will Smith dominated big-league pitching clubbing 10 long balls with a .299 BA until the end of August. He failed to hit fastballs (.194 BA) in September, which slowed him down considerably with just two HR and a paltry .175 BA over the final month. Smith undoubtedly has 25-homer power, but be aware that he won't contribute a high batting average with an elevated K-rate (26.5%), and if he continues to slump against heaters.

 

Tier Four

Carson Kelly had a successful first full season in the majors with the Diamondbacks, but his splits paint a polarizing picture. He smoked left-handed pitching to a .356/.462/.667 slash line while struggling to keep up with righties (.203/.303/.405). Kelly also surprisingly found more success outside of Chase Field with a .294 BA and 14 HR on the road versus a .192 mark with four round-trippers at home. The 25-year-old's L/R splits are more of a concern, but not as much as his .192 BA over the final two months. Kelly helped himself by drawing the free pass more often during this stretch (16.0% BB%), but he'll have to show much more consistency in 2020 to take the next step in his career.

Through four big-league seasons, Christian Vazquez had just 10 career dingers before slugging a whopping 23 bombs and nearly doubling up his Barrel% to 6.2% in 2019. I believe he can sustain a .270 BA, but these one-off power years can be risky to chase if you don't keep your expectations in check.

 

Tier Five

The White Sox signing of Grandal took a considerable hit to James McCann's fantasy value after a breakout year where he hit .273 with 18 HR as the team's primary cleanup hitter. His .226 BA in the second half has some cause for concern, but barring any further lineup additions, he should slide into the lineup as the DH regularly for the South Siders. McCann makes an intriguing two-catcher league option, but don't bank on a repeat in the BA column.

In his first season as an everyday starter, Omar Narvaez produced single-catcher league value with a .278 BA and 22 HR with the Mariners in 2019. His batting average didn't surprise anyone, but few expected to see his home run total rise thanks to a 4.8° increase in launch angle and an 8% increase in FB% from 2018. Now in a friendlier home ballpark and a part of a stronger Brewers lineup, his counting stats will flourish if he can make it four seasons in a row with a .275 BA or higher.

Francisco Mejia is a player I refuse to quit on even after a disappointing season with the Padres. Inconsistent playing time led the switch-hitter to an atrocious .167/.207/.259 slash line through his first 19 games, but he impressed between IL stints from June 18 until the end of August. Mejia's .298 BA in this span was good enough for second among qualifiers as he forced the team to get him in the lineup more often. Mejia doesn't measure up defensively to teammate Austin Hedges, but the Padres can't afford to play his .176/.252/.311 slash line any longer. The sooner the Padres realize this, the sooner Mejia will become a top-10 player at the position.

 

Tier Six

It appears the Athletics are handing the job behind the plate to Sean Murphy after non-tendering Josh Phegley this offseason. He held his own as a 24-year-old rookie hitting .245 with four big flies, but his glove is the main reason he's baseball's number four catching prospect. The A's will likely add a veteran backstop before the 2020 season begins, but Murphy should put up respectable fantasy numbers that are playable in two-catcher formats.

Travis d'Arnaud had a resurgent year with the Rays in 2019, finishing with 16 HR, 52 R, and 69 RBI in 103 games. The 30-year-old received most of his ABs in the top-third of the Tampa Bay batting order, but figures to slide down to the bottom-third of the Braves lineup in 2020. Less volume paired with ongoing health concerns makes d'Arnaud a risky pick even at a low cost.

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