Fantasy Baseball Position Preview - Catch My Fastball
Dan Malin takes a different approach to narrowing down his favorite catchers to roster for your fantasy baseball teams.
So we had a pretty big episode of The Bachelor last night. Now before you roll your eyes and think I’m an idiot (although the jury is still out) that watches awful, trashy television. Just know that I’m an idiot that watches awful, trashy television that knows its awful, trashy television. You think ABC and the Disney Company are just throwing garbage, petty melodramatic storylines on my TV screen because they think its solid programming? Of course not! It’s cheesy and low-brow! And they lean right on into it! You think the producers would just keep the little tidbit about Victoria Fuller and Chase Rice dating a secret? Of course not! So it’s no coincidence when she showed up on a one-on-one date with Peter, that Chase is just miraculously on stage about to perform a set. And for that… I respect the show. It’s filled with quirky dates, people just looking for 15 minutes of fame (or more Instagram followers), and for the most part, very few marriages emerge. But I watch. I typically don’t watch it live, I usually DVR it and catch up on this, The Outsider, and Better Call Saul on Tuesday nights (proof that I watch quality television as well). But last night I tuned in… And was struck with inspiration. I’m going to give this some Bachelor-esque flair.
Since I’ve already rambled for over 200 words, I can’t possibly go into detailed feelings/opinions on the Top 20 catchers. But I will narrow it down to one catcher, with four that I’m willing to take on hometown dates with the final two getting fantasy (baseball) suite dates until I find my catcher and we form a harmonious fantasy battery. I only have so much time on the first night’s cocktail party. For the purpose of this article, we can have some fun and call it a “bullpen session.” But 20 catchers will step out of a limo or ride in on a donkey to make a solid first impression. Some guys just won’t make the cut for me.
The First Impression Fastball
J.T. Realmuto obviously takes your breath away upon initial examination so it’s no surprise his ADP is the highest at his position. He’s appeared in at least 125 games in each of the last five seasons and the move away from that dreaded park in Miami gives him a good backstory that we like to see on The Bachelor. He’s in a new environment and it showed last season with career highs in home runs, runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. The ballpark and lineup certainly aid Realmuto and he should be an elite option at his position once again. I could definitely see myself spending my fantasy baseball season with J.T. Realmuto , but we’re only in the first inning so we’ll see how things shake out.
There are some studs at the top, some clear-cut favorites. They’re constantly smacking the ball over the fences and contributing in numerous ways. And then there are your wet blankets. The guys who want attention, but don’t deserve it. Travis d’Arnaud will be off in the corner sipping some IPA wondering why I’m talking to Gary Sánchez so much. Travis is probably thinking “Why is Dan giving Gary so much attention? The guy can’t stay healthy… What’s wrong with me? From June 6th through the rest of the season last year in Tampa, I hit 16 home runs with 64 RBI and a .493 slugging percentage in a cave of a stadium. And now I’m in Atlanta, with arguably a better lineup and ballpark.” Sure Travis, you’re a nice guy and all, but can you guarantee me 400+ at bats? Who is this Tyler Flowers guy? Why haven’t you told me about him? How many plate appearances is he going to be taking away from you? And you’ll likely be hitting towards the bottom of the order in front of the pitcher, who won’t be driving you in much. So I’m sorry, Travis, but you d’Arnaud what you’re talking about! Pun intended!
El Gary? Do you accept my fastball? Of course he does! I’m very excited to keep Sanchez in consideration. When he’s healthy he’s the best catcher in the game. Even in 106 games last season he still hit 34 home runs despite a .232 batting average. Now that isn’t great for fantasy baseball, but the home runs are to die for. You really fall in love with the power and he seems like the kind of catcher you dream about on your fantasy team. However, can he stay healthy? Can anybody in New York stay healthy? Specifically with Sanchez, he missed 56 games last season and 73 games the year before. I’ll definitely keep him around. It’s too early to send him home. But trust is something we’ll need to work on if I’m going to commit to Sanchez.
From here I’ll take J.T. Realmuto , Gary Sánchez , Yasmani Grandal , Will Smith , Mitch Garver , Wilson Ramos , Carson Kelly , and Sean Murphy on a journey to develop that special chemistry that makes a battery so unique.
Elite Eight: Worthy of a Foreign Trip to Tokyo, London, or some fancy place like… Cleveland
These are the eight I don’t want to pass me by. If I’m not landing any of these guys, l’ll have some trepidation with those that didn’t make the cut. There are names like Omar Narváez , Willson Contreras , Wilson Ramos , etc. that missed the cut. They’re pretty safe options and not awful by any means, but for the purpose (and theme) of this article, I’m looking for a little excitement and some players that drive narratives. And I want to give some “off the beaten path” players some love as well. There are some surprising names on this list like Sean Murphy . Some say he might be too young for this level of commitment. But in my one-on-one time with Sean he says “Hey man, I’m 25. About to be the American League Rookie of the Year and I rip dingers. I’m not perfect, I’ve got some (plate) discipline concerns. But you should take a shot on me and draft me.” That’s admirable, Sean. But I’ve got some absolute STUDS that I’d rather make a commitment of a higher pick to. Realmuto has the consistency, Gary Sánchez has the upside, Will Smith is an up and coming prospect similar to Murphy, but I trust the lineup around Smith a little more. You could make a solid argument for any of these guys and they’re all viable options.
The previous two studs mentioned (J.T. Realmuto and Gary Sánchez ) get the fastball invitations to hometown visit. But I’m torn over the last two. Do I play it safe and take players like a Yasmani Grandal who is getting a ballpark downgrade? Or do I take some risks here? If I’m writing from the heart, I would like to offer my last two fastballs to Will Smith and Carson Kelly . They may be a little bit on the younger side and there are questions surrounding both. But I like the potential and the ADP with these two. In Smith’s case he’s going just outside the Top 150 and he swatted 15 home runs in 54 games last season. The strikeout rate is very high, but he still managed an OPS over .900 last season in a small sample size. A lot of that was due to his power and he’ll likely regress to a more reasonable number, but I still like his upside if he’s finding his way into the sixth spot in the lineup. He’ll likely bounce around between sixth, seventh, and eighth. Eighth would be rough, but you take the good with the bad. The Dodgers’ lineup is loaded so you just have to settle for the fact he won’t be near the top of the order.
Carson Kelly gives me fantasy baseball butterflies. He’s a longshot in the Final Four and he didn’t finish 2020 on a high note. From August 20th to the end of the year he slashed .190/.338/.222 with zero home runs. But for a guy who appeared in his most career games last year, he maintained a respectable walk rate, especially down that weak stretch. He likely won’t repeat the 18 home runs, but 15 home runs would be worth it outside the Top 200 picks. It may be unconventional and a bit surprising, but I’ll give Carson Kelly my last fastball.
Final Four: Hometown Dates
J.T. Realmuto (Philadelphia)
Gary Sánchez (New York)
Will Smith (Los Angeles)
Carson Kelly (Arizona)
I’ve narrowed it down to four great catchers and passed on some great options as well. On my first hometown trip to visit Gary Sánchez at Yankee Stadium, I’m a bit nervous. Cause I’m in enemy territory as someone who grew up a Red Sox fan. Could I see myself drafting the Yankees’ superstar catcher? Yeah, I’ve done it before, but felt more confident back then. He would be the only thing I’ve ever liked about New York aside from its pizza. He’s an elite option, I just don’t know if I can get over the injury concerns. His 34 home runs last season were the most in Yankees history from a catcher. The upside is absurd, there’s no denying that. And he plays in a very hitter-friendly ballpark and if he’s healthy his Round 6-7 ADP could provide plenty of value if he breaks his own record for home runs from a Yankees catcher. Is the juice worth the squeeze? In my heart of hearts… Maybe.
Will Smith makes for great company in Los Angeles. In the event that the hometown date goes South, at least the weather is nice and I won’t complain about a visit to Southern California. Neither ATC, Steamer, or ZIPS project him for 120 games. However, they do still think he could reach, or get close to, 20 home runs. He is still projected for a high strikeout rate and the slugging percentage will regress in all likelihood. I think this is the end of the road for Will Smith and myself. I just don’t see myself gettin’ jiggy with him in fantasy baseball.
Carson Kelly is my Wild Card out of Phoenix, Arizona. He’s getting drafted wildly late and playing time is a big concern. Regression is more than likely on the horizon for Kelly. I think I look at his numbers from last year and really want something magical to be there. If I were to miss out on an opportunity on something more stable and reliable, just to rely on him as my Catcher as a late-round pick, I may end up regretting it. I’d be more inclined and comfortable in our journey together if there wasn’t a humidor in Chase Field, but I’m going to play it safe. There are just too many concerns surrounding Kelly at this point. Carson Kelly will not be getting my fastball.
I’ve never been to Philadelphia, but it’s hard not to like what Realmuto has done since joining the Phillies. He was a fantastic catcher even in his time with the Marlins. He was set free in his chance to join the Phillies and he hit his stride setting career highs in so many categories. He’s a little more stable than Sanchez and he has a good floor. I’m going with my heart with El Gary, but I’m going with my head in regard to Realmuto. He gets my second fastball.
Final Two: Fantasy (Baseball) Suite
So here we are. The cream rises to the top, and to no surprise it’s the two best catchers on the board. I know on the actual show there are three people alive for the fantasy suite, but I’m mixing it up for the sake of fitting my narrative. I’ve written previously how, especially in a two-catcher league, I recommend grabbing a stud, ideally one of these two. And while I’m okay drafting a catcher later in one-catcher leagues, there’s no denying the comfort of having a stud in your fantasy baseball lineup. It’s just a warm, fuzzy feeling you don’t quite get with anyone else. This a tough, heavy, and very difficult decision. J.T. Realmuto is so reliable. He’s safe. He has a good floor, and it’s easy to see him repeating what he did last season in Philadelphia, with some wiggle room for improvement. But Gary Sánchez is a flashy selection and he comes about two rounds later. Fantasy baseball is a game of metrics, stats, and making the smart choice. So I’ll offer up my final fastball to J.T. Realmuto . The numbers are solid and consistent. He’s the kind of guy you bring home to your parents and say “Mom? Dad? Meet my fifth-round draft pick.” You can’t go wrong with Realmuto. You know what you’re getting, and he could be a little bit better this year. He’s still in the prime of his career, but it’s good knowing that by selecting Realmuto you’re getting roughly 20-25 home runs with 80-90 runs and RBI. It’s safe and it makes sense… He’s like Becca Kufrin.
But Wait! There’s a Twist!
For those who don’t know who Becca Kufrin is, she actually won the 22nd season of The Bachelor. All was fine and dandy and everything was going great with Arie Luyendyk. But Arie (in this instance, I’m Arie) had a change of heart. After sleeping on his decision (as I did last night after rolling with Realmuto), he changed his mind. He called off his engagement to Becca and decided to give the runner-up, Lauren Burnham, another shot. And it worked out for those two, they got married and have a daughter now. And I’m making a switch too! I’m going with Gary Sánchez and his amazing upside. There’s passion with Sanchez! It would be a heated fantasy baseball partnership! He’d knock around my Red Sox and it would be bittersweet for me as a Gary Sánchez owner. Sanchez has become my Lauren Burnham… Gary Sánchez gets my fastball as my earling-morning curveball, and ultimately the spot as my fantasy baseball starting catcher. I feel bad for Realmuto and know he’ll find a good owner. He’ll perform well and make somebody really happy. But I’m going with my gut in taking Gary Sánchez and all that upside. Plus if Realmuto can’t get excited about His Own Teammate Sprinting in From The Bullpen to come see him, then he probably doesn’t give a damn about me.