Fantasy Baseball Position Preview - Punting Catchers?
Dan Malin examines the importance of drafting catchers early as opposed to simply punting the position during your fantasy baseball drafts!
As we get deeper into draft prep season for fantasy baseball, I’ll be covering the catcher position on a weekly basis. This could include anything from ADP analysis, to a player profile (although I’ll try and leave that to Greg and Colby), a rankings dispute article, etc. It’s a free form piece and this week I’ll offer my thoughts on punting the position. Without stealing too much thunder from Justin Vreeland, be sure to check out his Value of Catchers article for the MLB Draft Guide where he breaks down the players to target for the 2020 season while discussing the important of the position.
Catchers are so difficult to gauge and there are fantasy baseball leagues out there crazy enough to actually require two catchers on your roster. That’s insane. Can you imagine playing in a 12-team league and having to roster two catchers? That would mean 24 catchers could be started at any point and there were only 21 catchers to log 350 plate appearances last season. That number dwindles to 14 that registered 400 plate appearances, and then down to eight that made 450 plate appearances. It’s a position that features only a true handful of full-time guys.
This isn’t to say that catchers suck. Gary Sánchez hit 34 home runs in 106 games last year. That’s one hell of a home run rate. But again his batting average was .232, and he struck out 28-percent of the time while walking nine-percent. And I’m not arguing that he was an awful hitter, he clearly wasn’t. The power has always been there for Sanchez, but we’ve seen the plate discipline wane in recent years.
If playing in a two-catcher league, I would absolutely grab one of the more elite catchers available like J.T. Realmuto . He’s easily a Top-70 pick, but he provides some stability at an otherwise unstable position. According to various ADP reports, it looks like only three catchers are currently being drafted in the Top 100 (J.T. Realmuto , Gary Sánchez , and Yasmani Grandal ), while nine are being drafted in the Top 200. For a two-catcher league I can’t recommend grabbing an elite catcher enoug,h and you should expect them to go a little earlier in drafts, similar to how quarterbacks go faster in two-quarterback leagues, but not at the same rate for catchers. Sure, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get two stud catchers in this format, but even one reliable catcher gives you an edge. It’s similar to having the safety net of Travis Kelce or George Kittle in fantasy football for tight ends. The cream rises to the top.
In a one-catcher league, I’m a little more open to passing on the top catchers and waiting a while. However, for picks earlier in the draft, it’s perfectly fine to draft the best player available (BPA) or let these players pass you by. And more often than not, I will pass on the more elite options in a one-catcher league. If you can put the pieces together, that typically means I’ll punt the position. But I don’t go into the draft knowing right away that I’m punting the position. If the best catchers go early on, and I don’t get one, then so be it. There are a few reasons for me doing this. For starters, the depth at the position isn’t great. I’ll join a majority of the league in finding a catcher later in the draft or working with options on the waiver wire.
But if you look at the players getting drafted around even J.T. Realmuto , I’d rather fill those positions over catcher. Players like Giancarlo Stanton , Anthony Rizzo , Zack Greinke , and Paul Goldschmidt are being drafted around the same time as JTR. While Realmuto is the best at his position, there are still elite players at their positions available on the board that can produce at his level and provide more depth at their respective positions (i.e. starting pitching and outfield).
Two players you can draft a little later on are Will Smith and Carson Kelly . Both of those guys are featured in Vreeland’s article mentioned above and you should seriously give it a read. Both players have power upside, especially Smith who hit 15 home runs in 54 games with a .908 OPS in his small sample size. That rate does put him on pace for 45 home runs across 162 games, but a starting catcher will likely never play a full 162-game season. But still, in that lineup and with a full season under his belt, Smith’s current ADP (about 150th overall) is hard to pass up. Kelly is capable of getting to about 20-25 home runs in a season and he’s going much later than Smith. Plus he gets a bit of an upgrade in points leagues because of his plate discipline. If you do miss out and wait on a catcher, these two are definitely worth mid-to-late-round picks.
As always, there are options on waivers. Fantasy-relevant players always emerge on waivers. The waiver wire is so friendly in fantasy baseball. So even if you do choose to punt the catcher position, it’s not a huge deal. Get solidified players at every other position and fill in the leak at catcher as the season progresses. Will Smith was largely a waiver wire option in 2019 and he rewarded his owners in the latter months of the season. And you don’t even necessarily need to find a long-term option at catcher. Don’t pull your hair out if you’re left streaming catcher on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Utilize the waiver wire column, check the weekly planner to see which teams play the most games, and monitor the amount of playing time and plate appearances as well.
As always Fantasy Alarm offers plenty of tools to help you find the catcher that’s right for your team. And it’s entirely your prerogative as well. I’m fine passing on the position and addressing it at a later time. But we’ll have you covered with the cheat sheet, waiver wire help (twice a week), and a great way to practice drafting catchers is to take part in the Mock Draft Army, which has been underway for the last week. Best of luck FANation!