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Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Prospects: Top 10 Catchers


Today, we kick off Rotoballer’s off-season Major League Baseball positional rankings for dynasty prospects. The most demanding position in baseball is up first with the catchers.

The backstop position is not known for providing a ton of value for fantasy managers because starting catchers are often expected to focus on defense and leadership before offense. Anything provided with the bat is considered gravy. Of those in the 2019 rookie catching class, only four were above-average hitters at their position (based on Weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+). And of those four, only one played at least 100 games — Carson Kelly of the Diamondbacks.

But there is more good talent on the way. Four or five of the catching prospects below on the Top 10 list for the position have a chance at impacting their respective clubs in 2020. All but two of the catchers on the dynasty list will open the year at Double-A or higher. And a few of them could eventually end up as middle-of-the-order run producers.

 

Top 10 Catcher Prospects

1. Joey Bart, Giants, 2020 Level: AA

Bart needs to learn to protect his hands. He was twice hit by pitches in 2019, which resulted in broken bones in his hand — once in April and once in October. The injuries, although not long-term concerns, have taken bites out of his valuable development time. Still, he reached Double-A in his first full season in pro ball. He’ll need to be more patient against good pitching (just 21 walks in 79 games in 2019) but Bart has a chance to hit for both power and average. ETA: 2020

2. Sean Murphy, Athletics, 2020 Level: MLB

Murphy has a good shot at opening 2020 as the starting catcher for the A’s. Injuries took away a huge chunk of his 2019 season but the young catcher still made his MLB debut and appeared in 20 big league games. Murphy showed power at every level and slugged 15 home runs in just 61 games between the minor and the major leagues. His strikeout rate rose in 2019 but he also took more walks, which is an excellent tradeoff. ETA: 2020

3. Adley Rutschman, Orioles, 2020 Level: A+

On pure talent alone, Rutschman — the first overall selection in the 2019 draft — could deserve the first overall ranking on this list. But young catchers’ futures are a tricky thing to project and come with a huge failure — or at least disappointment — rate. Matt Wieters was the last catcher to come out of college with this much hype/expectation and, while he’s had a nice career, he was hardly the generational talent he was expected to be. As a result, we’re being cautious with his ranking until he has a full season of results.  ETA: 2021

4. Daulton Varsho, Diamondbacks, 2020 Level: AAA

Are you surprised to see Varsho ranked this high? You shouldn’t be if you’ve been paying attention. This 23-year-old catcher should have the most positional value of any prospect making their debut in 2020 — with the ability to slot in at catcher or in the outfield. Add in his threat to eventually be a 20-20 (HR-SB) player along with a career .300 batting average, and you have an extremely valuable asset here. ETA: 2020

5. Gabriel Moreno, Blue Jays, 2020 Level: A+

Moreno had an excellent season for any 19-year-old prospect — let alone a catcher. And his numbers would have looked even better if not for a late-season swoon as he played his first full season in pro ball. He’ll need to get stronger to hold up to the rigors of a full season but Moreno showed good pop in 2019 with an isolated slugging rate of more than .200. The ultra-athletic Moreno also showed outstanding bat control with a BB-K of 22-38 in 307 at-bats. ETA: 2022

6. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers, 2020 Level: AAA

Ruiz posted ridiculously-good numbers in the low minors at a very young age but he’s been merely an average hitter over the past two seasons since reaching Double-A. Like Gabriel Moreno above, Ruiz has outstanding bat control as shown by his BB-K of 30-22 in 2019 but it comes with very little power output; he produced just 15 extra-base hits in 85 games this past season. The Dodgers have a strong track record of getting every ounce of talent out of their prospects so don’t count Ruiz out just yet… but he needs a strong bounce-back season. ETA: 2020

7. Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays, 2020 Level: AA

We have our second Blue Jays prospect on the list, which helps to highlight how Toronto has the best young catching depth in baseball, including a big-league tandem of under-25 players (Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire). Kirk, 20, is an interesting prospect with a Pablo Sandoval physique who is still relatively nimble behind the plate and has a career success rate of 38% when throwing out base runners. While playing at two A-ball levels in 2019, Kirk hit .290 with a BB-K of 56-39. Almost half of his 90 hits went for extra bases (including 31 doubles). ETA: 2021

8. Tyler Stephenson, Reds, 2020 Level: AAA

A former first-round draft pick, Stephenson is not overly flashy but he has a solid all-around game and has been getting more consistent on the offensive side of things. He’s coming off a strong Arizona Fall League, which follows up on a very strong second half of the 2019 season in Double-A. Stephenson has outstanding raw power potential but he’s still learning how to tap into it with his swing. After seeing his fly-ball rate increase significantly over the past two seasons, he could be poised for a big break out in 2020 if the balls remain juiced in Triple-A and the majors. ETA: 2020

9. Cal Raleigh, Mariners, 2020 Level: AA

Raleigh came out of nowhere in 2019 to earn a spot on this list. The 2018 third-round draft pick has done nothing but hit in pro ball and reached Double-A in just his first full MLB season. After slugging eight home runs in 38 games during his debut last year, the powerful catcher followed that up with another 29 homers in 121 contests. Raleigh has a lot of swing-and-miss to his game but he also takes some walks and is a switch-hitter. There is some risk that Raleigh could eventually have to move out from behind the plate to another position. ETA: 2021

10. Luis Campusano, Padres, 2020 Level: AA

Campusano quietly had a very good 2019 season. Just 21, he hit .325 in High-A ball while showing developing power despite standing just five-foot-10. He hit 31 doubles and slugged 15 home runs in 110 games while showing an advanced approach at the plate with a BB-K of 52-57. Campusano, along with Alejandro Kirk above, has increased value in leagues like Ottoneu that reward walks. ETA: 2021

Just missed: Sam Huff (Rangers), Andrew Knizner (Cardinals) and Ronaldo Hernandez (Rays).

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