Early 2020 Positional Preview: Catcher

October 30, 2019 By Mike Kurland
Mike Kurland is bringing you his early catcher preview for the 2020 season. Who will breakout? Who's a bust? Come and see for yourself!

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 19: New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) in an MLB game between the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals on May 19, 2018 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO. The Yankees won 8-3. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Fantasy baseball season never ends for us over here at Fantrax! Although it is very early in the offseason, it is never too early to look ahead to next season. I am here breaking down the most difficult position to get a grasp of annually for fantasy teams with this catcher preview.

These are my too early catcher ranks and overall outlook on the position. Yes, plenty will change, and players will be moving up and down this list. As more info, signings, and everything else develops in the off season, this will be updated. I will break down my ranks, have tiers and discuss many names individually. With all that said, let’s dive into the early catcher preview.

Early 2020 Catcher Preview

Tier One: Elite

This Tier still feels obvious to me. Although there are up to five players that people may want to include here, I only have two.

J.T. Realmuto is an all category producer. He even stole nine bases last year. He offers a solid, high floor that is unmatched in my opinion. Not to mention a ceiling I feel has yet to be truly reached.

Gary Sanchez is slowly falling out of favor. I get it. His batting average struggles and his injury woes are a constant frustration to fantasy owners. However, not many catchers, or players in general, offer the level of upside he does in the power department. Not to mention he puts up these great numbers even while missing the time he does. I am not a Gary Sanchez guy myself but you cannot ignore the upside and potential.

Tier Two: The Next Best Thing

This tier is where I found myself drafting last year and it was a success. Next season I am targeting a lower tier, but this tier I would be happy to have a player from if the opportunity arose. This tier offers three names that provide a solid floor but also still provide a pretty high ceiling for the catcher position.

Yasmani Grandal is a fringe elite option. I feel he is the next safest option at catcher but just slightly comes up short on the ceiling to put him in the elite tier. Any type of OBP or points league format, he may jump into that elite tier.

Wilson Contreras is another player who offers that upside we all love but he is also another catcher who has issues staying healthy. The health concerns are the only thing keeping him from taking the leap but the upside alone warrants the high rank.

Mitch Garver is the name in this tier that has the most potential for bust. He flashed big things in 2019 and the breakout is backed by tangible change. A change in launch angle paired with an increase in pull rate suggests it was an effort made on his part to be able to hit for more power. This is where the risk/ reward for the position begins.

Tier Three: The Breakouts

This is the tier I will be targeting when the 2020 draft season rolls around. I could easily see a handful of names here make the leap into one of the tiers above. This tier gets a bit deeper with names but they are all names worth drafting within the top 10.

Salvador Perez is commonly being forgot in these early drafts and may just be overlooked overall. He had a year off with TJ surgery but I anticipate Perez to bounce back and be who he always was. Perez is coming back to a better roster than many may realize and should slot right back into the middle of that lineup. He should have more opportunities for counting stats than most catchers.

Carson Kelly had the beginning of a breakout in 2019. A bit of slow stretch to end the season but I love the upside and cannot stress targeting upside enough at the catcher position. He may hit in the 7-hole so upside in the counting stats could be somewhat limited.

Will Smith falls into the same category as Kelly. He is just that solid upside type that flashed potential but also was streaky at times. A full off-season and familiarity with the team should be good for him. Unfortunately, just as I mentioned with Kelly, I could also see Smith hitting lower in the lineup and that too caps the upside.

Jorge Alfaro is my favorite target here. That is mostly due to his price. I believe I am and will continue to be higher than most on him going into 2020. My rank is a bit aggressive but the best part is you won’t have to take him this early in most drafts. He has great hard hit rates and the power is very real. If he can lift his swing just a tad, we could see a full on power breakout. Not to mention he has sprint speed in the 91st percentile so a handful of steals is possible. Alfaro’s biggest concern is the strikeouts. I think there is ultimately a lot of upside to be had here and the price is right.

Speaking of upside, again, Sean Murphy is at number 10 on my list. He is one of the top catching prospects in baseball and now the starter for the Oakland Athletics. I expect him to have the full time gig and hitting in a lineup that is always underrated. I think we see a big leap this year.

Tier Four: Sleepers And The Vets

We start to creep into where the position thins out and where you begin to settle on players at the position. Upside can be found within this tier but most of this tier is filled out with the boring old vet type.

Even I can admit I am probably too low on Wilson Ramos here. But it goes to show I am a man of my word and practice what I preach when it comes to targeting upside. Ramos is aging and lacks the upside of the names in the last tier. Not to mention he has a history of injury. I like him as a fall back option, but I know he will not be available this late and I will own little to no shares of Ramos in 2020.

Travis d’Arnaud really appeared to work on his swing in Tampa Bay and paid dividends. Although there is an extensive injury history, the price is right on him and if he lands in the right spot as a free agent this year, he will provide some profit where you’re able to draft him.

I am finally the high man on Francisco Mejia. The year where I expect everyone to give up and move on, I am going to take my chance. There is still upside to be had. Mejia was once a top prospect and had a solid hit tool in the minors. We have yet to see the transition to the majors we had hoped for and I am not saying it will happen this year, but that team is improving around him and he should be given the opportunity to run with the starting job. At this point within the position I want anyone with the “boom” potential, and no one left really offers a bigger boom than Mejia. Conversely, he could become waiver wire fodder rather quickly as well.

I find myself really having a hard a hard time ranking this area of the position. Omar Narvaez, Christian Vazquez, and James McCann all kind of just seem interchangeable. I noticed from our recently published consensus ranks for the catcher position that I am the low man on Narvaez. His profile, outside of the batting average, seems to be a product of the juiced ball. There just appears to be big regression coming in 2020 and I will not own him this year outside of two catcher formats. Similar can be said for Vazquez and McCann.

I am even lower 0n Yadier Molina. Its obvious that his best offensive days are behind him. I feel he just offers slightly less upside at this point in his career. He is essentially a safe number two catcher in two catcher formats.

Danny Jansen was a huge riser entering 2019 and he was a bust. He did share time with Reese McGuire down the stretch last season as well. This is a situation worth monitoring entering next season.

Robinson Chirinos is home run or bust as a catcher. I typically avoid catchers like this due to the abundance of power late in drafts in recent years. He can be a negative to teams who are not built to absorb the batting average. If you are, however, his 20 home run potential can be useful if you miss on the power elsewhere late in drafts.

I feel like I am committing a crime having Buster Posey this low. This just feels so wrong but the production is what it is these days. Maybe he finally transitions to first base for his health and it can keep his bat in the lineup. If that transition does occur, Posey just may have some value left in the tank.

Tier 5: Deep League Dart Throws

This is just plain painful. There are some wild cards with little upside within this tier. I can tell you one thing for certain, I prefer this to not be the tier of catcher I’m banking on as my starter entering 2020. I have touched on every player up until this point. With this tier I will highlight only a few of the ten names listed.

Kurt Suzuki I find myself constantly moving around my ranks. A lot will matter where or if he plays next season of course. He will be a big mover throughout the offseason.

Tom Murphy did very well in a back-up role last season. This is a big reason why I am so down on Narvaez. The fact that the back-up has the potential to outperform the starter concerns me. I would not be surprised if he is platooning and then starting outright at some point next season.

Stephen Vogt did pretty well with his opportunity last season. If Posey does get to play first on a more regular basis, Vogt could be a sneaky catcher to grab up late in drafts. Assuming the Giants resign him

Lastly, I will discuss Zack Collins of the Chicago White Sox. If you are in points or OBP format, this could be a guy you want to roster for your catcher slot. He will likely hit for a low average but there is some pop in that bat. Collins could also spend a good portion of 2020 bouncing between DH and 1B. In doing so, that would allow him to remain in the lineup on a regular basis. That would boost his value for sure, especially in two catcher formats.

Conclusion

This concludes my early 2020 catcher preview. The position is always a tough one to get through but we did it! This outlook and list will be updated throughout the off-season of course. The position is not all that bad compared to past years it feels. Maybe I am blindly optimistic and once I start getting into the other positions I will be reminded of just how bad catcher is. Ultimately, I will remain optimistic and try to exploit the value within the position the best I can. Good luck everyone and stick around for future positional previews!


Also, check out our early 2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP


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Mike Kurland :Mike Kurland is a fantasy sports contributor for FantraxHQ covering both fantasy baseball and fantasy football. He began with Fantrax in June of 2018. He is also the creater and host of the Bases Loaded Podcast (@BasesLoadedPod) which is a fantasy baseball podcast. He also hosts a second podcast on occasion known as the Double Switch Podcast (@DoubleSwitchPod) Mike is new as a whole as a fantasy sports analyst but he has really embraced it with open arms. Feel free to reach out to Mike on Twitter @Mike_Kurland with any of your fantasy baseball questions, he is always happy to answer them.