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2019 Fantasy Baseball: AL Catcher Profiles and Projections

The catcher position is pretty ugly heading into 2019. Our AL Catcher Profiles and Projections do a pretty good job of conveying that. While the players profiled are all from the American League, we’re evaluating them for all the various formats involved in fantasy baseball. We decided to break them up by league so the articles wouldn’t be quite so long and it will be easier to find the player you’re looking for.

The players are organized alphabetically by last name, because frankly it’s hard enough keeping our rankings updated without moving big blocks of text around within our profiles. After you digest our AL Catcher Profiles head on over and check out all of our Fantasy Baseball Rankings and the rest of the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit.

One of the first signs of spring for many of us is the first sightings of Fantasy Baseball magazines at the nearest newsstand. It’s how many of us first learned about Fantasy Baseball. Think of our Profiles and Projections as a modern day Fantasy mag… but better. Our online ‘magazine’ will be updated whenever news impacts the way a player is valued. As of this writing there are still a ton of free agents and tens of jobs hanging in the balance. We’re gonna bust our tails to keep up with all the news. If we miss something, let us know about it in the comments and we’ll address it right away. Enough of the blabber. Let’s start thinking Fantasy Baseball!

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AL Catcher Profiles and Projections

Willians Astudillo, Minnesota Twins

Willians Astudillo 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Astudillo mania swept the nation last year. He became a cult favorite with his aesthetically questionable figure, ability to field any position, and complete disregard for human life while running the bases. He’s also a total anomaly in that only 5.2% of his plate appearances ended in a walk or a strikeout. He’s an elite contact hitter with a line drive approach, although he was able to put three balls over the fence in his 97 plate appearances. He won’t repeat a .341 BABIP with his lack of foot speed and hard contact, but as far as catchers go, he could post one of the better marks of the bunch. With the return of Jason Castro and the emergence of Mitch Garver, however, Astudillo could get squeezed out of quite a bit of playing time. That makes him a risky investment heading into 2019. – Nathan Dokken

Welington Castillo, Chicago White Sox

Welington Castillo 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Where’s the Beef?! That’s a question you could have asked for half of the 2018 season. Castillo was suspended 80 games for a performance enhancing substance and wound up playing just 49 games in his first season with the White Sox. His production was decent while he was on the field, although his power and batting average were down a bit from his previous two seasons. Nothing in his batted ball profile or plate discipline suggest a true decline in his ability, setting him up to be a decent source of some power and average. While the lefty/righty splits between Castillo and backup catcher Omar Narvaez suggest a platoon possibility, Castillo is a good enough hitter to soak up two-thirds of the at-bats in Chicago. He’ll suffice as a back-end option in single catcher formats. – Nathan Dokken

Jason Castro, Minnesota Twins

Jason Castro 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Castro had what we thought was a breakout season in 2013, batting .276 with 18 home runs over 120 games for the Astros. While he still hit double digit home runs every season from 2014-2017, he would average just .221 over those 442 games. The Twins signed him primarily for his stellar defensive chops in 2017, and his first year in Minnesota was fine offensively as he hit .242 with 10 homers. In 2018, however, he would play just 19 games before suffering a torn meniscus that would cost him the rest of the season. He is expected to be fully healthy for 2019 and will battle out primary catcher duties with Mitch Garver and Willians Astudillo. Castro is a better real life catcher than fantasy option, but in two catcher formats he is a fine second catcher. He also gets a slight OBP league boost, with a career 9.8% walk rate. – Nathan Dokken

Robinson Chirinos, Houston Astros

Robinson Chrinos 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Robinson Chirinos was a fun player to have stumbled upon back in 2017. He put up a .360 OBP and 17 homers in just 113 games and rightfully saw a boost in playing time in 2018 as a result, getting a career-high 426 plate appearances. He still hit for power with 18 home runs, but unfortunately his average tanked to .222. His contact rate reached an all-time low at 68.6%, and that fed into an awful 32.9% strikeout rate that was 7.3% higher than it was in ‘17. It’s hard to envision a huge contact improvement at this stage of his career, making it likely that the lower-.200’s average is here to stay. Chirinos joins a potent Houston offense that could help his counting stats, but 2019 will be Chirinos’s age 35 season, so there is the risk that he falls off a cliff. He’s a decent second catcher in two-catcher formats, and gets a bump in OBP leagues. – Nathan Dokken

Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins

Mitch Garver 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Garver performed serviceably in place of the injured Jason Castro, posting a .749 OPS over 335 plate appearances in his first full season. He was much better against righties (.806 OPS) than lefties (.629), which is weird for a right-handed hitter, but if that keeps him on the strong side of a platoon we’ll take it. He improved as the season wore on, but with Jason Castro and Willians Astudillo in the mix, Garver will likely only be a part-time player. That limits him to deep league use only. – Nathan Dokken

Grayson Greiner, Detroit Tigers

Grayson Greiner 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

While Greiner hit just .219 in his pro debut with no homers over 30 games, his 14.7% walk rate gives reason for optimism. The Tigers indicated this offseason that Greiner will be the primary catcher instead of John Hicks, putting Greiner on the deep league radar. His minor league track record indicates double-digit home runs is in play over a full season, although the swing-and-miss is an issue. Expect a low average, but a small bump in OBP leagues is probably in order. He’s an interesting guy to watch early on in the season, but you can’t draft him outside of deep two-catcher formats. – Nathan Dokken

Chris Herrmann, Oakland Athletics

Chris Herrmann 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

After hitting 10 HRs, albeit with a .181 average in 2017, Chris Herrmann barely played in 2018. He’s currently slotted in as the A’s backup to Josh Phegley, who has not exactly been the picture of health. Herrmann does hit from the left side, so there’s a natural platoon possibility in place. If Oakland gives Herrmann even half-time at-bats there’s double-digit power in his bat. AL-Only owners could do worse. – Doug Anderson

John Hicks, Detroit Tigers

John Hicks 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Hicks played most of his games at first base in 2018 with Miguel Cabrera lost for the bulk of the season, but  in fantasy you’re definitely going to use him at catcher. Hicks unfortunately missed the end of the season himself after undergoing hip surgery in mid-August. He was useful for a stretch because he was getting every day at-bats, something you won’t get from him in 2019. He has utilized a career 36.1% hard contact rate to support a career .331 BABIP and .251 average. However, his 26.9% K% and 14.3% pop-up rate from 2018 indicate a regression is likely. His power is nothing to call your mom about, so without much power or average, there isn’t a lot to like with Hicks. Miguel Cabrera is reportedly healthy and the Tigers seemed committed to Grayson Greiner as their starting catcher,making Hicks only rosterable in AL-Only formats. – Nathan Dokken

Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays

Danny Jansen 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

It’s not often an exciting catching prospect makes his debut and instantly becomes fantasy relevant. But that’s exactly what we have here with Danny Jansen. The former 16th round pick made his Major League debut in mid-August and popped three homers in 81 at-bats while posting a strong .347 OBP and .779 OPS. That’s always been the calling card for Jensen. He walks a fair amount and gets on-base at a high clip. During his six-year minor league career, Jansen had a .367 OBP and an 11.0% walk rate. The power has developed nicely too, to the point where you can count on him for 15-20 homers over the course of a full season. Playing in Rogers Centre doesn’t hurt either. Yes, Russell Martin is still in the picture for one more season, but he’s bound to head to the DL once or twice at least and has started playing 3B more and catching less which means good things for Jansen’s playing time in 2019. I have him as a borderline starting catcher in standard mixed leagues already and he’s one you can get for cheap in the later rounds of your draft. A great target. – Eric Cross

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Texas Rangers

Isiah Kiner-Falefal 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Kiner-Falefa, aka “The Falafel”, was a bit of a revelation in deeper fantasy leagues in 2018. Billed as a middle infielder, he played over 20 games at catcher, second base, and third base over his 111 games with the Rangers. If he played any other position regularly he wouldn’t be worth your time outside of AL-Only formats, but since he qualifies at catcher, he deserves your attention. He hit .261 with four homers and seven steals, scoring 43 runs and batting second or third in the order 102 times over 396 trips to the dish. With just a 29% hard contact rate and 23.5% fly balls he won’t provide you with much power, but over the course of a full season he could steal double-digit bases and provide you with a solid average. The fact that he can play all over the diamond could boost his plate appearances and give him more opportunities for runs and RBI. He’s a sneaky upside play at catcher in 2019. – Nathan Dokken

Sandy Leon, Boston Red Sox

Sandy Leon 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Back in 2016 Leon looked like a breakout catcher, hitting .310 in 252 at-bats. Who knew a .392 BABIP could do so much good? The last two years have been a different story. Leon gets a pretty even share of the Red Sox catching work, so a certain amount of at-bats are guaranteed. Your fantasy baseball squads don’t need these at-bats though. Leon offers no power, no speed, and at age 30 is unlikely to change. Bypass Sandy Leon and get a younger catcher who might not sink your team’s batting average. – Doug Anderson

Jonathan Lucroy, Los Angeles Angels

Jonathan Lucroy 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

We will remember the good Lucroy years fondly. Sadly, those years seem to be gone. Lucroy managed to total 454 plate appearances with the A’s in 2018. While the volume is nice, the production was not. Among 27 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Lucroy’s wRC+ of 70 was second worst (only James McCann posted a lower total at 58). He has 10 home runs over his last 249 games, and is no longer the .280-.300 hitter he once was. Even in two catcher formats, you can do better for your second catcher. – Nathan Dokken

Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays

Russell Martin 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

What happens when an aging catcher is no longer your best option behind the plate? Why you make him a super-utility guy… though to be fair Martin wasn’t very super in 2018. Martin still offers decent pop, but the swing and miss has increased with age. Late last season the Blue Jays started playing youngster Danny Jansen behind the plate and he appears to have the upper hand heading into 2019. The days of mixed league viability are done for Martin, but he’ll still get enough ABs to be of use in AL-Only formats, especially if it happens to be an OBP league. – Doug Anderson

James McCann, Chicago White Sox

James McCann 2019 Fantasy Baseball

McCann signed with the White Sox this offseason after being non-tendered by the Tigers. The Tigers didn’t want to spend a mere couple million on McCann, and that makes it pretty obvious that he isn’t worth much in the fantasy realm, either. He’ll play the backup role to the much more fantasy relevant Welington Castillo. McCann has been over 100 games played four straight years, but expect that streak to run dry in 2019. He’ll give you a little power if you’re in a deep AL two-catcher league, but that’s the extent of his value. – Nathan Dokken

Omar Narvaez, Seattle Mariners

Omar Narvaez 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Omar Narvaez is one of the better catchers you probably don’t know about. He has a career walk rate of 12.3%, strikeout rate of 16.9%, .274 average, and 28.3% line drive rate. That’s over the span of 734 plate appearances! Obviously Narvaez isn’t a household name, and that’s because of his extreme lack of power. He has a career ISO of just .104, with 12 career bombs. However, last year he bumped his hard contact rate up to 28.6%. While that’s the highest mark of his career, it’s still below league average. Nine of his 12 career homers came in 2018, so are we seeing a power outbreak? The short answer is no. His FB% was still just 29%, but his HR/FB% shot up to 14.5% compared to his previous seasons under 4%. He’s a spray hitter with a line drive approach, so unless that changes, we should expect less power with a consistent batting average. Narvaez should have every opportunity to catch 120-plus games in Seattle, making him a bit of a sneaky play with the current state of the catching position. – Nathan Dokken

Michael Perez, Tampa Rays

Michael Perez MLB Projections

Perez is a smallish left-handed hitter with a quick bat and a bit of pop. His early minor league numbers were nothing special, but he started showing a little something in 2017 and was looking like the Rays catcher of the near future late in 2018. That future changed when the Rays traded Mallex Smith to the Mariners for Mike Zunino. Zunino will get probably three-quarters of the time behind the plate, meaning Perez will be of little use in even the deepest of leagues. If Perez were to get even half-time play he’d be one of those catchers you use to keep from employing a batting average drain like Roberto Perez.

Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians

Michael Perez MLB Projections

The Indians value the defensive chops of their catchers over their offensive production. This was proven rather loudly when they shipped Francisco Mejia off to San Diego in 2018, leaving them with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez to man the day-to-day catcher duties. Gomes got the bulk of the work, leaving Perez just 210 plate appearances. With a career .205 average and 21 homers in 295 games, he’s wasn’t exactly deserving of a larger look, but it looks like he’ll get one anyway with Gomes now in Washington. His contact rate was a career-low 70.2% in 2018 and he doesn’t appear to be trending positively in any way heading into his age 30 season. He’s a low end option in AL-Only leagues and even then may not be worth the dame to your batting average. – Nathan Dokken

Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

Salvador Perez 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Someone get this guy a bellhop! Perez missed most of April due to an MCL tear in his left knee sustained while carrying his luggage. Go figure. Despite the missed time, Perez was still able to match his 2017 totals in games played (129), home runs (27), and RBI (80). Since increasing his launch angle back in 2016 he has yet to post an ISO lower than .190, becoming one of the most consistent sources of power behind the dish. As one of the best hitters on the Royals, he is also consistently hitting in the middle of the order, putting him in position to remain among the leaders in runs and RBI at the position. Unfortunately, with so many fly balls comes a suppressed BABIP, and that kept his average at .235 in 2018. His BABIP and average should rebound a bit in 2019 if he can repeat his career-high 45.9% hard contact rate and limit the pop-ups. Points and OBP leaguers take note of his career 3.5% walk rate though, and discount him appropriately. – Nathan Dokken

Josh Phegley, Oakland Athletics

Josh Phegley 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

There was a time when we thought Phegley might be turning into an interesting fantasy option. He hit nine homers in 2015 along with a .249 average in just 243 plate appearances in 2015, his first year with the A’s. Since then, however, he has a combined six homers over three seasons. His batting average is barely north of .200 since the start of 2017. Phegley’s strikeout rate skyrocketed over 10% to 26.5% in 2018, although his contact and swinging strike rates remained similar to prior seasons. If he can’t keep the K’s in check, he’ll have little chance to provide an improved batting average. As it stands now Phegley looks to get the vast majority of time behind the plate for the Athletics. That doesn’t mean you have to give him the same shot. He can be ignored everywhere outside of AL-Only two-catcher leagues. – Nathan Dokken

Austin Romine, New York Yankees

Austin Romine 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

After years as a defense-first backup catcher, Romine broke out the big stick for short stints in 2018. With Gary Sanchez struggling and injured Romine took advantage and popped 10 homers in just 242 at-bats. Don’t think this was some mid-career power breakout though. Romine’s 17.5 HR/FB% looks very out of place against a bunch of single-digit career numbers. Romine will serve the same role in 2019, getting in plenty of games because of Sanchez’s defense. Just because the Yankees use him doesn’t mean you should. Romine is nothing but an injury replacement for your second catcher in AL-Only leagues when the wind is blowing out and he’s facing Chris Tillman. Roll with him that day, otherwise stay away. – Doug Anderson

Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

Gary Sanchez 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Ouch. You could say that the 2018 season was a rough one for Gary Sanchez. First and foremost, his AVG dropped nearly 100 points down to a paltry .186. Even the Mendoza line scoffs at that batting average. Yes, a 107-point drop in his BABIP had something to do with that, but it was clear from the get-go that Sanchez didn’t quite have it in 2018. He still managed strong counting stats with 18 homers, 53 RBI, and 51 runs in 89 games, but those numbers aren’t good enough to offset that batting average. Now, with all that being said, he’s still my top-ranked backstop for the 2019 season. Sanchez is simply too good of a hitter to not bounce back to a .250-plus AVG. Expect numbers closer to his 2017 output and a return to the top of the catcher ranks. – Eric Cross

Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles

Chance Sisco 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Talk about fizzling out. MOst of the questions regarding Sisco entering the 2018 season were about his glove. His minor league numbers suggested that he would eventually be one of the better hitting catchers in the AL, even if his power was nothing special. Well, nothing worked out for Sisco and doesn’t even project him to make the Major League roster. Why do a profile on him then? Here’s the thing. If I’m in an AL-Only league, there are a lot of catchers with batting averages that are going to give them negative value overall. I’d rather take a shot on Sisco figuring things out at the plate than roster Roberto Perez or Grayson Greiner. You know the Orioles would love to see Sisco seize their catching job. You should too. – Doug Anderson

Kevan Smith, Los Angeles Angels

Kevan Smith 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

The Angels snatched up Jonathan Lucroy to fill their starting catcher role. As far as backup catchers go, however, Smith is not a bad option. He has strong contact skills (84.8% contact in ‘18) which led to a minuscule 9.6% K% with the White Sox. He has a career .281/.318/.376 slash line over 497 plate appearances, so while you’re not getting any power from him, he’s got decent on-base skills for a catcher. Compare that to Lucroy’s .253/.319/.348 slash line over his past two seasons and you might wonder why Smith was a waiver claim and Lucroy just got $3.35 million. Still, it would be a surprise for Smith to usurp Lucroy, keeping him in AL-Only territory. – Nathan Dokken

Max Stassi, Houston Astros

Max Stassi 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Stassi drew a career-high 250 plate appearances in 2018, walking at an above average 9.2% clip while posting a .167 ISO. Those are the highlights. The rest of the profile explains why he remains an afterthought at the position. Not only will he be second on the depth chart at best, he strikes out nearly 30% of his trips to the dish, and his 67% contact rate indicates a batting average around the Mendoza line is more likely than anything else. Only in two-catcher AL-Only leagues should he be rostered. – Eric Cross

Andrew Susac, Baltimore Orioles

Andrew Susac 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

At one time Susac was viewed as a future starting catcher. That seems like a long time ago now. He’s shown absolutely nothing offensively and will back up Austin Wynns in Baltimore if he even makes the roster. Feel free to ignore him in all formats. We’ll let you know if anything changes. – Doug Anderson

Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox

Blake Swihart 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

At one point Swihart had a bit of prospect juice going. Looking back at his recent minor league numbers, it’s hard to figure out why. Must be one of those defense things. Swihart hasn’t hit more than fiver HRs since 2014 in Double-A. His highest average at any level over the last three years is .258. If you have a thing for weak hitting back-up, back-up catchers and like to use them in your lineup, you’re in luck. Swihart sneaks in enough games elsewhere on the field to be eligible in the outfield and fist base depending on your league’s requirements. To be fair if Swihart were traded into a significant amount of at-bats, he might be able to post a decent empty batting average. We can deal with that scenario on the waiver wire. – Doug Anderson

Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox

Christian Vazquez 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

After Sandy Leon’s fake breakout in 2016, Vazquez took his turn in 2017, hitting .290 in 345 at-bats. The Red Sox had a fullseason of Halloween last year as both Vazquez and Leon turned into pumpkins. Vazquez doesn’t strike out a ton (17.7 career K%) so an average above .250 isn’t so far fetched. With just 10 HRs in 922 career at-bats, a power binge is a lot less likely.  If you have to draft one Boston catcher in your AL-Only league Vazquez is probably the one. Just don’t reach for him until the very last few rounds of your draft. – Doug Anderson

Austin Wynns, Baltimore Orioles

Austin Wynns 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

Wynns got the call midway through the 2018 after Chance Sisco’s bat could make up for his defense. Wynns has a bit of pop, but is definitely a defense-first catcher. While Wynns may be of use in AL-Only leagues, his real fantasy impact may be in blocking a second chance for Sisco. If Wynns can hit anywhere close to .250 again his defense will likely allow him to hold onto the starting gig. Maybe drafting Wynns and Sisco is the ticket. If Wynns keeps the job it’s because his bat isn’t hurting too much. If Sisco grabs it, it means his bat is starting to live up to the hype. Win-win! We won’t mention what happens if both tank. – Doug Anderson

Mike Zunino, Tampa Rays

MIke Zunino 2019 Fantasy Baseball Projections

“Mike Zunino can hit for average!” Proclaimed the Zunino truthers after he hit .251 in 2017. Unfortunately for them, Z hit under .215 in 2018, just as he had every other season in his career. While one of the best sources of power among catchers over the past two seasons (45 combined HR), Zunino’s atrocious plate discipline destroys his batting average. Since the start of the 2017, his 36.9% strikeout rate is the second highest mark in all of baseball (Chris Davis “leads” the pack). His whiff-happy ways are always going to keep his batting average around the Mendoza line. He also went extremely pull-heavy in 2018, pulling 58.7% of his batted balls. That led to a career-high 37.5% shift rate, a number that is only going to make his BABIP worse if he continues to pull the ball at such a high rate. He’ll give you power, but you’ll need to reinforce your batting average elsewhere if you draft him. – Nathan Dokken

Hopefully you enjoyed our 2019 American League Catcher Profiles and Projections. If you have a beef or think we’ve left someone out, let the writer know about it on Twitter or leave your mark in the comments below.


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