Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto tops the list
As the MLB season approaches, it's time for fantasy baseball players to prepare for their draft. Here's a look at the best catchers for your fantasy baseball team, along with tiers to help you prioritize during your draft.
1. J.T. REALMUTO, PHILLIES
Looked upon warily during his first few seasons because it took him five years to start popping up on top-prospect lists, Realmuto has clawed his way to the apex of the top-catcher list. His four-year average of .280-15-58-63-8 looks positively Ruthian at this abysmal position. Three fantasy categories have improved every season of that span, and he’s the only catcher who projects as a positive influence in four.
2. GARY SANCHEZ, YANKEES
Sanchez’s periodic power couldn’t compensate for his frequent unavailability and a .186 AVG that was defaced by a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) decline from .304 to .197. No other catcher, though, can sniff his potential for 31 HRs and 82 RBIs, which are his career extrapolations to 500 PAs.
3. BUSTER POSEY, GIANTS
Posey has undergone a steady home run drain, and the wear and tear finally caught up with him in 2018. Once Mickey Cochrane, he’s now entered a Joe Mauer career trajectory. He’s still a borderline .300 hitter at a position that flailed to a .233 AVG last year, though. Offseason hip surgery may make for a bumpy April, but eventually reinstate some power.
4. WILLSON CONTRERAS, CUBS
Contreras contracted whatever stat-eating bacteria infected catchers’ boxes throughout baseball in 2018. What should have been a breakout was a breakdown to approximately half his projected value thanks to a .169-1-14-12-0 line after Aug. 1. A retrieval of his .278-23-77-58-5 per 500 PAs of 2016-17 would vault him to No. 1 on the list.
5. WILSON RAMOS, METS
With better luck and better conditioning, Ramos would be capable of the best numbers the position has to offer, but only twice in nine seasons has he held up for 120 games. Even at 382 ABs last year, his 70 RBIs were fourth among catchers, and his three-year .298 AVG stands .0001 behind only Posey’s (1,000+ ABs).
6. YADIER MOLINA, CARDINALS
Molina is becoming the Nolan Ryan of catchers, annually defying baseball’s ageism paradigm. He’s entering his 16th season at the most demanding position, yet is still near the top of his game. Although his .261 AVG was his lowest since 2006, his 10 in a row above .260 tied Ted Simmons for the MLB positional record. Should Yadi match his 20 HRs and 74 RBIs of last year, he’ll be just the fourth backstop of his age to reach those totals.
7. WELINGTON CASTILLO, WHITE SOX
Castillo’s career was peaking when, last May, he suddenly was slapped with an 80-game PED suspension. He returned in September to log nary an RBI in 16 games. Maybe a “clean” start will restore him to his previous three-year average of .261-18-59-42-1.
8. YASMANI GRANDAL, BREWERS
Grandal is an insanely streaky hitter who, in his last 24 months, has hit below .200 in nine different months and above .300 in seven. The longballs, too, come in fits and starts, but he’s settled between 22 and 27 in each of the last three full years.
9. JONATHAN LUCROY, ANGELS
From 2011-16, Lucroy was the current Realmuto (.287-14-65-57-4 average), but then he unaccountably washed out (.253-5-46-43-0). Because he’s just 32 and has suffered only one major injury in the last six seasons, we can’t throw him overboard just yet.
10. DANNY JANSEN, BLUE JAYS
At a position where up-and-comers are as scarce as blacksmith apprentices, Jansen’s ability to hammer heat makes him an intriguing 23-year-old. He could conceivably hang up similar numbers to those of a younger Russell Martin, whom he is in the process of succeeding in Toronto.
11. JORGE ALFARO, MARLINS
He’s going to leave some yards, but Alfaro’s .262 AVG of 2018 is imperiled by a double-whammy of an egregiously high BABIP (.408) and SO/BB ratio (138/18). At least he’s young, but without adjustments, the former ballyhooed prospect might top out in Travis d’Arnaud fantasy territory.
12. MITCH GARVER, TWINS
At this stage of the shallow catching pool, you might as well dip your toe into the dodgier deep end. Garver is still shy of 400 career plate appearances at the advanced age of 28, but if defensive deficiencies don’t derail him and Jason Castro doesn’t break tradition by holding up for a full season, there is promise here.
13. MIKE ZUNINO, RAYS
At 2,000-plus plate appearances, Zunino’s 4.55 HR% is the highest of all backstops since his 2013 debut, but 13 of them have driven in more runs. You can’t get an RBI unless you put bat to ball, so his staggering no-contact rate of 42.98% is fatal to three categories.
14. AUSTIN HEDGES, PADRES
Check out the ratings above and below. Hedges and Zunino are the same player. They even had the identical number of at-bats (387) two years ago. We rate Mike higher because he has the cooler middle name: Accorsi.
15. YAN GOMES, NATIONALS
Gomes salvaged .266-16-48-52-0 respectability with a final two months that included a catcher-leading .320 AVG. That’s well above his median, so there’s more air underneath that than above. Likely to see at least 100 fewer plate appearances, too.
16. FRANCISCO CERVELLI, PIRATES
Cervelli added a leg kick to amplify his power, more than doubling his career HR% and needing only 332 at-bats to generate a career-high 57 RBIs. That’s his absolute upper limit, and at 33, his well-established brittleness becomes even more of an issue.
17. OMAR NARVAEZ, MARINERS
An acceptable batting average floor in the .260s is a plus for this position, although Narvaez’s 2.8 HR% of 2018 is illusory. He went .349-6-22-24-0 across June, July and August, .191-3-8-6-0 over the other three months. The White Sox sold high here.
18. ROBINSON CHIRINOS, ASTROS
He’s strictly a mistake hitter, but Chirinos is strong enough to have run into more homers (35) than all but six other backstops the last two seasons. His 1 RBI per 5.5 ABs in 2018 was way above average, but that was derivative of an aberrant .322 AVG with RISP (.189 otherwise).
19. TUCKER BARNHART, REDS
Barnhart was one of only five catchers who strapped up frequently enough to qualify for the batting title. So there’s that — making him a passable placeholder at a revolving door of a position fraught with liabilities.
20. Austin Barnes, Dodgers
21. Elias Diaz, Pirates
22. Kurt Suzuki, Nationals
23. Manny Pina, Brewers
24. Chris Iannetta, Rockies
25. Brian McCann, Braves
26. Francisco Mejia, Padres
27. Max Stassi, Astros
28. Matt Wieters, Cardinals
29. Carson Kelly, Diamondbacks
30. Willians Astudillo, Twins
31. Russell Martin, Dodgers
32. Grayson Greiner, Tigers
33. Victor Caratini, Cubs
34. Tyler Flowers, Braves
35. Travis d’Arnaud, Mets
36. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers
37. Michael Perez, Rays
38. Sean Murphy, A’s
39. Jason Castro, Twins