Is it ever too early to think about the 2018 fantasy baseball season? It’s already almost December, and before we know it, draft season will be in full swing. Over the next month or so, we’re going to rank every position for the 2018 fantasy baseball season, starting with the catcher position.
I know, catcher is usually the most boring position to draft. Most people see the list of available catchers and run like they’re trying to avoid the plague. Outside of the top six to eight options, the position dries up really quickly. That’s why it’s important to grab one of the first eight or nine options so you’re not left with a black hole as your starting catcher. However, there are a few high-upside options to be had in the later rounds.
Note: Kyle Schwarber is losing catcher eligibility in 2018 and won’t be included below.
2018 Catcher Rankings[table “17” not found /]
#1 Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
“The Sanchize” is a throwback to catchers from the steroid era. That’s not me saying he’s juicing, but a compliment to his offensive abilities. No other backstop can match Sanchez’s combination of power and batting average, making him easily the top dog at this position. In 2017, Sanchez slugged 33 home runs in just 471 at-bats and has mashed 53 bombs in 674 career at-bats. That’s one home run every 12.7 at-bats. With some progression, 40 home runs shouldn’t be out of the question in 2018. Don’t forget, he’s still only 25, too. The best is still to come.
#2 Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Seeing the #2 ranking next to Posey’s name looks a little weird, but the 30-year-old no longer has the power to keep ahold of the top spot. However, he’s still a huge batting average asset, and his .320 mark last season was his 6th season out of nine hitting over .300. Posey might not be top fantasy catcher anymore, but he’s still one of the elite options.
#3 Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
Everything went rather smoothly for Willson Contreras in his first full season behind the plate. He hit .276 and slugged 21 home runs with 74 RBI in just 377 at-bats. His .855 OPS was 3rd amongst catchers with 300+ at-bats, behind only Gary Sanchez and Buster Posey. Another modest improvement is possible in his 3rd season, making him a bonafide top-five option at the position. He’s the only catcher that can challenge Sanchez for the top spot.
#4 Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
Over his seven major league seasons, Salvador Perez has traded his high average for a more power-oriented approach. Every season, his home run total has climbed, up to a career-high 27 last season. His 27 home runs, 80 RBI, and 233 total bases all ranked 3rd amongst all catchers. He’s one of the most offensively gifted hitters at the catcher position, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. He definitely needs to be one of the first five backstops drafted next spring.
#5 J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins
There’s always that one safe option at each position. J.T. Realmuto fits the bill here. In three seasons as a full-time catcher, Realmuto has an average stat line of 59 runs, 12.7 home runs, 53.3 RBI, 9.3 steals, and a .281 batting average. Those aren’t spectacular by any means, but he helps you out across the board and doesn’t kill your average like a lot of catchers can. Plus, getting some steals from your catcher is always an added bonus.
#6 Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yasmani Grandal and the next man on this list, Mike Zunino, are in a tier by themselves. A tier I’m calling the Bash Brothers. Grandal has smashed a combined 49 home runs in the last two seasons to go along with 130 RBI. Not many catchers can match Grandal in the power department. His batting average is usually unsightly, but if he can hit around .247 again, and slug another 25 home runs or so, he’ll be a top-10 fantasy catcher in 2018.
#7 Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners
A lot of what I said above about Grandal can be applied here. Mike Zunino has always displayed plus-power, but the batting averages has made him to much of a headache to roster. In 2017, he managed to raise his average to .251 to go along with 25 long balls and 64 RBI. Now that’s more like it. As long as his average can stay north of .230 or so, Zunino will be a valuable starting catcher option in fantasy next season.
#8 Wellington Castillo, Free Agent
On a per game basis, Wellington Castillo was one of the most productive fantasy catchers in 2017. In just 341 at-bats, Castillo hit .282 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI. That was good enough to make him the 9th most valuable catcher last season, even with the low number of at-bats. Let’s just hope he ends up in another hitter-friendly home ballpark.
#9 Jonathan Lucroy, Free Agent
After five productive seasons in a row, Jonathan Lucroy came crashing back to earth in 2017 with his worst professional season yet with a .265 average and only six home runs. And this was coming on the heels of a .292, 24 homer, 81 RBI season in 2016. A late-season trade to Colorado seemed to revitalize him a bit and showed that the talent is still there. Expect a strong bounce-back season from Lucroy in 2018.
#10 Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Just call him old Mr. Reliable. Molina seemed to find his power stroke again in 2017 after three straight seasons in single digits. It was a welcome sign for his fantasy owners, for sure. His average dropped from .307 to .273 in the process, but when it came with 18 home runs and 82 RBI, I don’t think many fantasy owners were complaining. His power output will likely drop, but a .280 average with 10-12 home runs still makes Molina a borderline starting fantasy catcher.
#11 Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians
One of the best offensive catcher prospects to come up in recent years, Francisco Mejia has a clear path to every day playing time in 2018. A career .293 hitter in the minors with blossoming power, Mejia’s name is sure to shoot up draft boards with a strong spring training. A .280, 15 home run season is within reach for Mejia as a full-time catcher.
#12 Brian McCann, Houston Astros
Over the past 12 years, there hasn’t been much more consistent power options at the catcher position than Brian McCann. Every season since 2006, he’s hit between 18 and 26 home runs. Unfortunately, the batting average hasn’t eclipsed .250 since the 2013 season. As long as it doesn’t drop closer to the Mendoza line, McCann should still be a serviceable fantasy catcher for his power contributions.
#13 Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays
Coming off a career year in 2016 (22 HR, 80 RBI), Wilson Ramos landed a multi-year deal with the Rays to be their starting catcher. However, a torn ACL cost him half of the 2018 season, thus limiting his fantasy value. His average dropped 47 points, but he displayed more power than he did in his 2016 career year. Monitor his status this spring. Ramos has the offensive potential to be a back-end starting catcher in fantasy leagues.
#14 Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves
Flowers was one of the most popular mid-season free agent add at the catcher position. When 2017 was all said and done, he had 12 home runs and 49 RBI with a .281 average in just 317 at-bats. Kurt Suzuki will steal some of his at-bats, but Flowers should still be good for 350-400 at-bats in 2018 and has a good chance to replicate his 2017 numbers.
#15 Evan Gattis, Houston Astros
Gattis gets dropped out of starting fantasy catcher consideration due to his drop in power and lack of consistent playing time. The retirement of Carlos Beltran helps a tad, but there’s still plenty of mouths to feed in Houston. Unless he’s getting over 400 at-bats, he’s not worth starting in single-catcher leagues anymore. However, a rise in his power output could change that in a hurry.
#16 Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies
This ranking might be a tad aggressive, but catcher thins out quickly and Alfaro has some decent offensive upside. In three of his last four minor league campaigns, Alfaro has hit 15+ home runs and racked up 61+ RBI. He performed rather well in his brief 107 at-bats MLB debut, too, hitting .318 with 5 homers and 14 RBI. Due to his swing-and-miss tendencies, the average is likely to settle in around .260. However, if he gets the starting job, somewhere in the ballpark of 15 home runs and 60 RBI should come with it. Monitor his status closely in the spring.
#17 Stephen Vogt, Milwaukee Brewers
Like Lucroy, Stephen Vogt’s production fell off a cliff in 2017. In 157 at-bats with Oakland, he hit a mediocre .217 with four home runs and a .644 OPS. Maybe all he needed was a change in scenery, because a mid-season trade to Milwaukee rejuvenated his season. He ended up swatting eight long balls in 122 at-bats with Milwaukee and should handle the everyday catcher duties in 2018. Vogt makes for a fine starter in two-catcher leagues.
#18 Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres
If you want power, Austin Hedges has power. Unfortunately, that’s about all he has. He’ll be a popular add when he’s on a hot streak but, he’s not a catcher you want to own for the entire season in single-catcher formats.
#19 Matt Wieters, Washington Nationals
His first season in the National League didn’t go quite as planned. Wieters hit a mere 10 home runs with a paltry .225 average. But hey, at least he made it through the season healthy! His days as an offensive force behind the plate seem over, but Wieters still has the skills to be a strong starter in two-catcher leagues or a decent injury fill-in.
#20 Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays
The third base eligibility will be nice, but the batting average is trending in the wrong direction. After surprisingly hitting .290 in 2014, Martin’s average has dropped all the way down to .221 last season. But hey, that’s what he is at this point in his career. He’s a .220-.240 hitting catcher that should hit you 15+ home runs, but not much more.
#21 Alex Avila, Free Agent
If Avila lands a starting gig this winter, bump him up a few spots. However, it’s likely that last season was the best we’ll see from Avila in his career.
#22 Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies
For nearly the entire 2017 season, I promoted Tom Murphy as a breakout player. A fractured forearm and subsequent poor play kept that from happening. His power at Coors Field is a 30-home run season waiting to happen. All he needs is a chance.
#23 Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers
Chirinos has always had power and he finally put that on display last year hitting 17 homers in just 263 at-bats. With Lucroy out of the picture, Chirinos should get some additional at-bats in 2018 and push for 20+ home runs.
#24 Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles
One of the top catcher prospects in the minors, Chance Sisco has a chance to snag the starting spot in Baltimore with a strong showing in spring training. If he does, expect a decent average and modest power output. All he has to do is beat out Caleb Joseph. That’s all.
#25 Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Once considered the next big thing at catcher, Travis d’Arnaud has settled in as a .250, 15 home run type of fantasy catcher. Since that’s all he can do, he shouldn’t be drafted outside of two-catcher leagues.
#26 James McCann, Detroit Tigers
I’d like you to meet James McCann, who is perhaps the most boring fantasy catcher in all the land. Everything about his numbers are blah and that shouldn’t change anytime soon.
#27 Manny Pina, Milwaukee Brewers
Pina should still get 300 at-bats as Vogt’s backup, and that should net Pina another .275 season with around 10 home runs.
#28 Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers
If Grandal goes down, Austin Barnes will be a top-20 fantasy catcher.
#29 Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox
The defensive wizard can actually hit a little bit, too. Regardless, nobody should be going near Christian Vazquez in mixed leagues.
#30 Kurt Suzuki, Atlanta Braves
Hmm, he has a pulse and hit 19 home runs last season. What? You wanted some in-depth analysis on Kurt Suzuki? Please.
I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question about a player not covered here? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.