The catcher landscape at the Major League level is mostly a barren landscape. Just check out our catcher rankings in the Fantasy Baseball draft kit for evidence of this. You usually have a handful of solid options each year followed by a bunch of question marks and/or poor batting averages/OBPS. But have no fear, when looking at the current crop of MLB’s top prospects, there are many intriguing catching options, most of which are due to make their Major League debut within the next couple of seasons.
In my top-250 overall dynasty prospects, a whopping 13 catchers made the list which was more than what I anticipated when I began concocting the list. And honestly, I probably could’ve included two to four more if I really wanted to. But regardless, there are around 15-16 catching prospects right now that I’d feel comfortable with as my catcher of the future in dynasty formats. Those catchers fall into tiers one and two below. The catchers in tier three need to remain on the radar, but currently lack the upside of a starting catcher in fantasy leagues.
Check out all of Eric’s top-25 team by team prospect rankings here and don’t miss his top-250 overall prospect rankings for dynasty leagues. Also, make sure to check out the Fantrax Dynasty Podcast with Nathan Dokken, Van Lee, and Ron Rigney.
Top Prospects by Position – Catcher
*Overall rank in my top-250 overall prospect rankings will be in parenthesis*
1. Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants (41)
2. Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres (58)
3. Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks (71)
4. Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays (73)
5. Keibert Ruiz, Los Angeles Dodgers (116)
6. Ronaldo Hernandez, Tampa Bay Rays (122)
7. MJ Melendez, Kansas City Royals (127)
8. Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics (155)
No matter how you look at it, these are the top-8 catching prospects for dynasty leagues right now. Whether it be in my team top-25s or FYPD pieces, you’ve heard me ramble on about my love for Joey Bart and how he’s the best catching prospect in the land. Ranking him 41st overall in my top-250, nearly 20 spots ahead of any other catcher cemented that status. Bart has the best combination of hit tool and power out of all the catching prospects and has the defensive skills to remain behind the plate long-term, which is obviously huge for his value.
Giants Joey Bart – Incredible physicality & strength, looks larger in person. Chiseled chest, arms, legs. Body maxed out. Bat in hands is a twig. Power product of raw strength & bat speed. BP swings NME. Controlled approach FWD, kept hands back -> separation. Resembles 2018 swing pic.twitter.com/bG4X7muUEQ
— Prospects Live (@ProspectsLive) January 20, 2019
Speaking of remaining behind the plate, that’s a question for two players in this tier, Daulton Varsho and Francisco Mejia. For Varsho, questions surrounding his defense and game calling have many, myself included, thinking that a move to the outfield is in store for the 22-year-old. But don’t let that scare you off from him in dynasty leagues. The man is well within my top-100 for a reason. Varsho has .280/20/20 upside and has the athleticism to make it work in the outfield. While his future might not be behind the plate for much longer, the offensive upside here is still grand.
It’s a slightly different scenario for Mejia with the presence of Austin Hedges in San Diego. Mejia is an adequate defensive backstop, but has to fight for time with Hedges who is considered one of the top defensive catchers in the game. Even with Hedges in town for a few more years, Mejis should still get enough work in behind the plate to retain his catcher eligibility moving forward. So don’t worry.
Danny Jansen might seem like one of those “better in real life” players, and honestly, he is. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t carry plenty of fantasy upside. I got to see him several times in Double-A New Hampshire over the last couple of seasons and was thoroughly impressed by the approach. There’s legit .275/.380 upside with the potential to hit 20-25 homers annually and rack up 140-plus R+RBI.
Some have asked me about my low Keibert Ruiz ranking. Simply put, I don’t envision him hitting for a ton of power. But with that being said, I do see a strong batting average from him and solid counting stats. He’s still a very good dynasty target.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) June 19, 2018
Out of the remaining three in this tier, I can see Ronaldo Hernandez and MJ Melendez making the biggest jumps 6-12 months from now. All Hernandez has done since being signed out of Venezuela is hit and now the power is showing up consistently in games. If he can continue to hit for power and average, he’ll find himself well within my top-100 next spring. With Melendez, it’s all about the raw power. The average might only be in the .260 range or so, but there’s 25-plus homer pop in this bat.
9. Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers (179)
10. Miguel Amaya, Chicago Cubs (185)
11. William Contreras, Atlanta Braves (196)
12. Zack Collins, Chicago White Sox (210)
13. Andrew Knizner, St. Louis Cardinals (227)
14. Andy Yerzy, Arizona Diamondbacks
15. Bo Naylor, Cleveland Indians
16. Cal Raleigh, Seattle Mariners
This is an intriguing tier with a few that we could see jump into the top tier in short order. Let’s start with those guys. Like with Varsho above, Andy Yerzy is no defensive wizard, but has made strides defensively over the last year or so and now looks more likely to stay behind the plate moving forward. He’ll likely never become a strong defender, but has the offensive upside to make an impact and potentially jump into the top tier next year. Over the last two seasons, Yerzy has hit a combined .297 with 23 doubles and 21 homers in 464 at-bats.
Speaking of strong performances, Cal Raleigh started strong in the short-season Northwest League after being drafted in the 3rd round last June, hitting .288 with a .367 OBP and eight dingers in 146 at-bats. There’s no speed here and his defense follows this below-average trend we’ve been on, but Raleigh has a chance to hit for moderate power with a solid batting average. The same can be said for Bo Naylor, who reached base at a .381 clip in his 33-game stint in the Arizona Rookie League last season. He’s another backstop with the ability to contribute a decent batting average and hit for power.
Fun Fact: Both Naylor and Yerzy are from Canada.
If you’re in OBP formats, give a guy like Zack Collins a small boost up the rankings towards the top of this tier. Though his career minor league batting average sits at just .232, a strong 19.0% walk rate has led to a .379 OBP. That’s Collins in a nutshell right there; A low batting average, strong OBP, and 20-homer pop. Andrew Knizner is a tad different. The 2016 7th round pick has displayed strong contact skills with modest power potential. He might not walk as much as Collins or have the same power upside, but his high average leads to strong OBPs and there’s the potential for 15-20 homers here with an average close to .300. He could really shoot up rankings over the next several months as he progresses into the upper minors.
17. Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds
18. Diego Cartaya, Los Angeles Dodgers
19. Jake Rogers, Detroit Tigers
20. Connor Wong, Los Angeles Dodgers
21. Anthony Seigler, New York Yankees
22. Will Banfield, Miami Marlins
23. Josh Breaux, New York Yankees
24. Francisco Alvarez, New York Mets
25. Meibrys Viloria, Kansas City Royals
This is a tier where most guys do one or two things well, but don’t quite have the all-around skill set to be a starting dynasty league catcher. Yet. I wouldn’t by any means close the book on these guys in dynasty leagues, but I also wouldn’t be putting all my eggs in their baskets. A vast majority of this tier will get to the Majors because of their defensive capabilities, but if they hit enough to be a viable fantasy catcher is another question. A great example of this is Jake Rogers of the Tigers. Rogers is considered by many to be one of the best defensive backstops in the minors. But that defensive prowess has come with a career .240 average, including a lowly .219 last season. There’s 20-homer pop in his bat, but I question if he hits enough to fulfill that power upside.
A couple catchers that get overlooked due to the presence of Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith ahead of them, are a pair of Dodgers backstops, Connor Wong and Diego Cartaya. Like many others here, Cartaya is an above-average defensive catcher with some questions about his overall offensive potential. The contact skills are solid, so Cartaya should hit for a respectable average at least, even if there’s not a ton of power to go along with it. Wong is the opposite, with above-average raw power and below-average contact skills. The nice thing about Wong, though, is that he’s quick for a catcher and possibly could chip in double-digit steals over a full season.
Both Will Banfield and Anthony Seigler were drafted in the top two rounds this past June but don’t currently have overly enticing fantasy skill sets. Still, there’s some upside here with both. Enough to at least keep an eye on both of them.
Another one to monitor here is Francisco Alvarez. A 2018 J2 signing by the Mets, Alvarez has yet to take a swing in a professional game but possesses a fairly high offensive upside with the ability to hit for both average and power down the road. That’s still a long ways away though as Alvarez is barely 17, but the upside makes him one to keep an eye on at the catcher position.
Others to Monitor
Ali Sanchez, New York Mets | Garrett Stubbs, Houston Astros | Roldani Baldwin, Boston Red Sox | Alex Jackson, Atlanta Braves | Seby Zavala, Chicago White Sox
Photo/Video Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire, Prospects Live, Lance Browdowski
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
Fantrax is one of the fastest growing fantasy sites of 2018. With multi-team trades, designated commissioner/league managers, and drag/drop easy click methods, Fantrax is sure to excite the serious fantasy sports fan – sign up now for a free year at Fantrax.com.