2019 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Sleepers
The catcher position is the weakest in fantasy baseball, so identifying potential catcher sleepers is really the way to go. The position is extremely thin and there isn’t a lot to offer after the first few come off the board. There’s no reason for you to select a catcher in the first three-to-five rounds of a draft. In fact, I wouldn’t touch one in the first five or six rounds of my draft. It’s not to say it’s wrong to select Gary Sanchez or J.T. Realmuto in the earlier rounds, especially in two catcher-leagues. I’d rather get a quality bat or arm and just wait it out as long as possible. I know those who took Sanchez and Willson Contreras last season feel me on waiting it out in 2019.
It’s possible to punt the catcher position and still have success in rotisserie leagues. Most catchers are all the same; little bit of pop in their bat, with minimal speed and poor ratios. Only five catchers hit 20 home runs last season, and among those with at least 277 PA’s, only six hit at least .270. Elias Diaz and Omar Narvaez checked in with an average over .270, but neither reached 330 plate appearances in 2018.
Below you’ll see some early round catcher sleepers, mid-round catcher sleepers, and late round catcher sleepers. It’s all about finding value at the draft. Francisco Mejia is not on this list. He may appear as we get closer to the season, but right now the hype is too high for Mejia, which tends to happen with prospects. Mejia is starting to lose his sleeper appeal and quite frankly, I don’t want to spend a top 10 pick at the position for someone who struck out 30 percent of the time last season and will be splitting at-bats with a solid defensive catcher with some pop, in Austin Hedges. Mejia is a fine get in keeper leagues, but he was too swing happy for me as a rookie.
Check out more of my fantasy baseball sleepers:
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2019 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Sleepers
Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals
Fantrax ADP: 161/C7
Every year Yadier Molina falls down draft boards and every year he ends up on my teams. He’s not your prototypical sleeper and he isn’t headed for a breakout season, but I’ve always been pretty satisfied with what he brings to the table. You typically don’t have to spend a high pick on Molina as he’s usually taken outside the top five at his position, yet he has the upside to finish as a top-five catcher. He may not end the season with the most home runs or RBI’s, but he won’t hurt you in any category. In our latest fantasy baseball mock draft at Fantrax, I took Molina in the 12th round as the seventh catcher off the board.
Molina’s .261 average last season was his lowest since 2006, but he’ll enter year 16 with a career batting average of .267. He hit 20 home runs in 2018 (fourth most at the position) and has 38 in his last two seasons. Molina also has 12 stolen bases in those two years, but the biggest kicker of all; he plays every day. Molina plays every day (injuries have hit him in the past two seasons) and he plays on a good team. It’s hard to find a catcher that will get 500 plate appearances, and he was one six to do so last season. In 2017, he was one of four catchers to register at least 500 plate appearances. Molina has had at least 500 PA’s in nine of his past 10 seasons.
Only Buster Posey, Wilson Ramos and J.T. Realmuto have a better batting average than Molina’s .282 since the start of the 2016 season. His 46 home runs rank eighth, his 171 runs third and 214 RBI second. Molina will likely hit from the 5th or 6th spot in what is a good St. Louis lineup.
Omar Narvaez – Seattle Mariners
Fantrax ADP: 390/C24
Omar Narvaez is coming off a season where he registered a career high in games played (97), plate appearances (322), home runs (9), runs (30), RBI (30) and slugging percentage (.429). Last season was year three in the bigs for Narvaez and he split time behind the plate in Chicago, but with the move to Seattle, he should improve on most of his numbers.
Narvaez was traded to Seattle in exchange for Alex Colome and he should be the full-time catcher with the Mariners as they moved on from Mike Zunino. Narvaez’s power came out of nowhere last season. Some may point to his ballpark in Chicago, but he had five home runs on the road compared to four at Guaranteed Rate Field. T-Mobile Park is a bit more pitcher-friendly, but there are some great signs in Narvaez’s game in his three seasons.
Narvaez hit .275 in 2018 and .277 the season before. In fact, his career average is .274 over 734 plate appearances. He also has a solid 12.3 walk rate while striking out 16.9 percent of the time. Among catchers with 200 plate appearances last season, Narvaez led all with a 29 percent line drive rate. He’s someone that has always squared up the ball going back to his minor league days. He won’t hit 20 home runs, but as he enters his age 27 season, don’t be surprised if he flirts with 15 and a .270 average over 450-500 PAs.
Willians Astudillo – Minnesota Twins
Fantrax ADP: 270/C14
Willians Astudillo should be on your fantasy radar, especially if you’re playing in a two-catcher league. He has the potential to help stabilize your ratios if you happen to select a catcher earlier who projects to have a poor batting average. Astudillo only struck out 14 times over 286 plate appearances at AAA last season. He carried it over to the Majors as he was punched out just three times over 97 plate appearances in his rookie season. That’s a 3.1 strikeout rate, which is incredible to think about. Small sample size or not.
His. 355 batting average last season is unsustainable, but he hit .306 throughout his minor league career. Through 61 games in the Venezuelan Winter League, Astudillo is hitting .325 with 10 home runs and just four strikeouts. He’s not a lock to be the everyday catcher, but he played third base six times last season, second base twice, DH three times and even played in left field. The fact that he can move around the diamond is huge for his value.
Danny Jansen – Toronto Blue Jays
Fantrax ADP: 247/C12
Danny Jansen only had 95 plate appearances for the Blue Jays last season, in which he had three home runs and a .247 batting average. The 23-year-old hasn’t shown a ton of power throughout his minor league career (12 home runs in 88 games in AAA last season), but he’s shown discipline while providing a solid on base percentage and I know you’re down with OBP!
The one question I have for him is the same I have for most catchers, and it revolves around his playing time. We can all agree that Russell Martin needs to go away, but that doesn’t mean he will. Jansen projects to have about 300 plate appearances in his first full season in the Majors. It’s definitely a small sample size, but his 47.7 fly ball rate last season ranked fourth behind catchers with at least 90 plate appearances. He also had a .185 ISO which ranked 10th. You have to love the ballpark and division he plays in.
Editor Note: “As a prospect analyst, I love Jansen this season. A rock-solid plate approach and blossoming power give him plenty of appeal if he can get the at-bats this season. He gets a nice little boost in OBP leagues as well due to his strong walk rate.” – Eric Cross
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