John Lepore | February 9th, 2020
To begin the trip around the diamond with our rankings for the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Season, we start with the catchers. Over the past few years, the catching position hasn’t been exactly overflowing with fantasy talent. Sure, there are a few guys who are consistently at the top, but overall it hasn’t been great. This year there are some familiar faces as well as a few guys who have made their way up the chart and look to have a breakout season. Let’s get it started.
Make sure to check out all of our Fantasy Baseball Rankings here.
For the purposes of this article, and the other fantasy baseball rankings we will have for you in the next couple of weeks, we are basing them on standard 5×5 roto scoring. They are also based on redraft leagues. When a player gets a boost or drops in the rankings due to format or scoring, it will be noted with their outlook.Embed from Getty Images
(1) J.T. Realmuto
J.T. stands at the top of the catcher mountain yet again. He already had an excellent floor and now, approaching his age-29 season, he seems to be raising his ceiling quite a bit. We all figured he would get a boost in offensive production heading to Philadelphia from Miami. That’s exactly what happened. He set career-highs in HRs (25), RBI (83), Runs (92), and even games played (145). Looking under the hood at his career year, he doesn’t show any signs of regression. In fact, his xBA has been exactly .278 three of the last four seasons. To go along with that consistency, his HH% has been above 40% the past two seasons and his Average Exit Velocity broke 90% last year. We are seeing a catcher in the middle of his prime who is also looking to cash in as J.T. will be a free agent at the end of the season.
(2) Yasmani Grandal
Yaz moves over to the American League after signing with the White Sox for four years and $73 million. Grandal also set career-highs in HRs (28), RBI (77), and Runs (79) in 2019. He has batted over .240 for the past three seasons and has hit at least 22 HRs in each of the last four. Grandal has a solid floor with a consistent 40+ HH% in four of the last five years and a 90.3 AEV which was ironically tied with Realmuto in 2019. Moving to the AL could hurt Grandal a touch as sometimes players struggle in adjusting to a new league, at least in the first month or so, but Grandal should continue to play well and play a lot as he can now DH.
(3) Gary Sanchez
The Kraken probably has more raw power than any other catcher on this list. The injuries and abysmal batting average in 2018 have lowered his floor though. After batting .284 with 53 HRs and 132 RBI in just 175 games in 2016-2017, he dropped to a .211 BA with 52 HRs and 130 RBI in 195 games in 2018-2019. Still only 27 and with 1,500+ PAs under his belt, he could be entering his prime. He could overtake Realmuto and Grandal by the end of the season if he stays healthy. So while the risk is there and the floor is low, the reward could be huge.
(4) Mitch Garver
To say the Minnesota Twins’ catcher came into his own last year would be an understatement. In his first 125 games between 2017-2018, Garver slashed .259/.329/.405 with seven HRs and an OPS+ of 99. In the 93 games Garver played in last season, he smashed 31 HRs and had an incredible .995 OPS. If you believe in the adjustments Mitch made in 2019 to increase his Launch Angle, HH%, Barrel%, and AEV, then you may take a chance on him as being the number one catcher. If you are risk-averse and want a safer floor before jumping in head first, then take him as the third to fifth catcher off the board.
It seems as though 2018 was an outlier for the Chicago Cubs’ catcher. After only 10 HRs and a .249 BA in 2018, the 27-year-old bounced back last season to blast 24 HRs and hit .272. His Barrel% dipped to 7.3% in 2018 and rebounded last year to 11.5%. Contreras had a major issue with offspeed pitches in 2018 and made an adjustment last season. While a good changeup may still be a bit of an Achilles heel, Contreras, like Sanchez, is 27 and has over 1,500 PAs in the bigs. Willson could be entering his prime and may be joining Sanchez atop these rankings soon.
(6) Omar Narvaez
Narvaez has been a solid hitter his whole career slashing .276/.361/.411 in his 3+ years in the big leagues. Last season the power came out to the tune of 22 bombs in 482 PAs. While Omar’s underlying stats aren’t sexy, he has improved his LA, HH% and Barrel% each of the last three years. He will be in Milwaukee taking the place of Grandal. I am a believer in Narvaez. If he can continue to show progression in his batted ball profile and maintain solid plate discipline, which he’s always had, this could be his breakout season at age 28.
(7) Salvador Perez
He missed the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of last year. While the timeline would likely put Perez ready for the 2020 season, the Royals may opt to give him some time at first base and DH to start the season. Before his injury, he had eerily similar seasons in 2017 and 2018. He had exactly 27 HRs and 80 RBI in 129 games each season. His .235 BA in 2018 was quite unlucky when you consider his .245 BABIP while having a 47.5 HH%, 91.2 AEV, and 10.8 Barrel%. I expect the power to be there and he should bounce back in the BA department. I may drop him a bit in OBP leagues.
(8) Wilson Ramos
On one hand, Ramos hits the ball fairly hard with a 90 mph AEV and a HH rate of 42.2% in 2019. On the other hand, he had a 0.0 LA and he outperformed his xBA last season by .025 (.288-.263). Ramos did make the most contact of his career(13.2 K%) and walked at a solid clip (8.4%). All in all, he has a fairly safe floor and while he doesn’t have the power of many guys, if he can improve his LA a bit and continue hitting the ball hard, a 20-HR season isn’t out of the question.
(9) Carson Kelly
In parts of three seasons in St. Louis, Kelly had 131 PAs and zero HRs. Yep, That’s right…none. He finally got a starting gig with the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and showed what he can do. In 111 games, he slashed a solid .245/.348/.478 with 18 HRs. Kelly’s 13.2 BB% stands out as well at such a young age (he’ll be 26 in July). All of his other metrics like LA, AEV, HH%, and Barrel% were above the Major League average. I’ll be looking for Kelly to break out this season and show why he was a second-round pick out of High School in 2012.
(10) Christian Vazquez
Here is another player whose power showed up last year. Vazquez blasted 23 HRs in 521 PAs last season after hitting only 10 in 999 PAs previously. He has increased his batted ball metrics over the past three years, and more consistent playing time last year certainly seemed like it helped. Vazquez should keep the power stroke, but he overperformed his xBA by .022 (.276 BA – .254 xBA). He may dip in that area but with another 500+ PAs, 20 HRs should be easily attainable.
(11) Jason Castro
Castro could be a steal as he is looking at some major playing time. The Angels’ new catcher has basically no competition. Castro also had some nice statcast numbers last season with a 17.2% Barrel rate and an AEV of 91.5 mph. Even though Castro had a 32.2% K rate, he still walks at a good pace at 12.0%. He is a little more valuable in OBP leagues and has great upside if you choose to punt catchers early.
(12) Will Smith
The young catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers came on the scene with the kind of power Gary Sanchez showed breaking into the league in 2016. Smith had 15 HRs in just 196 PAs. While we don’t know how he will do in a larger sample size and over the course of a whole season, we see a solid batted ball profile with a 39.2 HH%, 23.7 LA, 89.5 AEV, and 10.8 Barrel%. All of those metrics are solidly above average. The opportunities should be there as well for Smith especially in the stacked Dodger lineup.
(13) Yadier Molina
This will likely be the final year of Yadi. He needs to start 119 games behind the plate to reach 2,000 for his career. A milestone I think he will get. If he does, he will have a typical Yadi season: Plus average and decent counting stats for a catcher.
(14) Danny Jansen
The Toronto Blue Jays catcher was one of the unluckiest in the game last season. He had a .230 BABIP despite a 40% HH rate, 16.1 LA, and a solid 88.7% Barrel rate. Jansen batted .207 and had a .275 wOBA. His xBA was .247 and his xwOBA was .314. He is the man behind the plate for Toronto and will see 120+ games behind the plate. Jansen could be a sneaky late-round pick.
(15) Francisco Mejia
Although Austin Hedges is a far superior defensive catcher, his bat is dismal. Mejia got off to a slow start with a .599 OPS before the All-Star break. In the second half, he slashed .305/.355/.511 with six HRs in 141 PAs. The question is not with Mejia’s talent, it’s whether the Padres will find him enough playing time.
(16) Chance Sisco
Sisco holds the strong side of the Orioles’ platoon behind the plate. He is also a better hitter and he’s improving. From 2018 to 2019 his K% went from 35.9% to 30.8%, his BB% went from 7.1% to 11.1%, and his HH% went from 28.7% to 39.6%. You get the idea. He will be 25 in a couple weeks and he could be ready for a breakout. I’d consider him more in dynasty.
(17) Tom Murphy
Now that Narvaez is in Milwaukee, Murphy should see the bulk of the work behind the plate for the Mariners. He had an impressive 44.8 HH% although he severely outperformed his expected stats (.273 BA – .218 xBA, .355 wOBA – .301 xwOBA). Murphy does have some pop but his plate discipline (6.8 BB%, 31.0 K%) tells me his BA is due for a drop.
(18) Kurt Suzuki
The Nats’ catcher has found a power stroke the past three years. Suzuki has had 48 HRs over the last three seasons in 1,006 PAs. He also makes contact striking out only 11.7% of the time. Kurt hit .264 last season despite a .248 BABIP and had an xBA of .278. The major question with Suzuki is the playing time while sharing duties with Yan Gomes.
(19) Yan Gomes
Gomes is in a timeshare with Suzuki and should see about 75-95 games behind the plate. He should bounce back somewhat and still get about 350+ PAs just as last season. He’s never been the hitter Suzuki is but should put up numbers closer to 2018 now that he has a year in the NL under his belt.
(20) Jorge Alfaro
The BB and K percentages scare me a bit with Miami’s catcher. He strikes out around a third of the time and hasn’t gotten to a 5% BB rate yet. His LA isn’t very good at 4.7 but he did manage 18 HRs last season with a .262 BA. With a .266 career BA along with a .241 xBA, regression is on the horizon.
(21) Roberto Perez
He finally got a chance to show what he could do last year as the Indians’ full-time catcher and Perez held his own with the bat. He caught 118 games in 2019 and that workload should at least stay the same with only Sandy Leon there. Perez barrels the ball well (11.0%) and hits it hard consistently (41.3%). Although he doesn’t get the ball in the air well, he should still have decent production in the power department.
(22) Jacob Stallings
He is the starting catcher in Pittsburgh and should get at least 100 games behind the plate. Stallings can hit a little also. He got a taste of semi-regular playing time last year. In 71 games, he had a respectable .708 OPS and six HRs. Jake had a solid batted ball profile as well with an above-average HH% (37.2%) and AEV (88.8 mph). The power may not be earth-shattering, but his rate stats won’t kill you if you need him as a fill-in.
(23) Buster Posey
The decline is real. Posey will be 33 years old in March and 2019 was the worst season of his career by nearly any measure. He had the lowest slash of his career at .257/.320/.368 and struck out more than 15% of the time for the first time since 2012. He also only had seven HRs and 38 RBI despite having 445 PAs.
(24) Sean Murphy
He had a nice little cup of coffee with the Oakland A’s last year hitting four HRs in 60 PAs. The sample size is way too small to glean anything from it. He could have some value if you believe in the draft pedigree and clear opportunity to playing time.
(25) Robinson Chirinos
After spending last season in Houston, Chirinos heads back to the Texas Rangers in 2020. He’s always been fairly consistent with the bat. The major question is if Chirinos will see the 400+ PAs that he’s had the last two seasons with both Jeff Mathis and Blake Swihart on the Rangers.
(26) James McCann
Now that Grandal is in Chicago, it will be interesting to see how much playing time McCann gets. He had somewhat of a breakout year last season. The problem is that many things point to regression including a .359 BABIP, outperforming his expected stats, and a 28.8 % K rate. I would avoid McCann.
(27) Pedro Severino
There will be a battle for playing time which makes Severino someone you can avoid especially as the weak side of the platoon for the Orioles. If you draft Sisco and have a huge roster, he’ll be worth grabbing but that’s it.
(28) Travis d’Arnaud
He’s been kind of an enigma in his career. He was the centerpiece to the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays. d’Arnaud was supposed to be the next in line of Mets’ hitting catchers. It didn’t quite work out. Now he is on the Rays and will be sharing time with Tyler Flowers, who is a superior defender. At this point, I wouldn’t expect much.
(29) Tucker Barnhart
Barnhart’s production hasn’t progressed to the point of a fantasy-relevant catcher. He hit a career-high 11 HRs last season and that is likely pretty close to his ceiling. He is also going to be splitting time with Curt Casali.
(30) Mike Zunino
The Tampa Bay Rays’ backstop had a year to forget last season batting only .165 with nine HRs in 289 PAs. While the power may bounce back a bit, Zunino has always been an all or nothing kind of hitter. If you are looking for cheap power in a two-catcher league, he may be worth a flier. Otherwise, he is avoidable.
Questions and comments?
Follow Us on Twitter @thescorecrow
Follow Us on Reddit at u/TheScorecrow
Follow Us on Facebook at The Scorecrow
Follow Us on Instagram at The Scorecrow
Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow John Lepore on Twitter @jball0202
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images