Catcher Position Preview - Hot Springs
Dan Malin takes a look at some of the more impressive Spring Training performances from a handful of catchers, including some not on our fantasy baseball radars.
This is quite an unprecedented time we find ourselves in right now. Almost every professional sports league has been suspended for the time being, save Esports and a couple soccer leagues. With Major League Baseball suspending the rest of spring training and delaying the start of the 2020 regular season, we’ll be taking a look at some catchers who were performing well prior to the league’s hiatus. By the time the league gets back up and running we will likely have forgotten all about the preseason, so we’ll try and shine a light on some players that were doing well through the first few weeks of spring training.
J.T. Realmuto (Philadelphia Phillies) – To the surprise of nobody, Realmuto looked solid during the Spring. In just nine games he went 7-for-23 with two home runs, a triple, and two doubles with three walks. Realmuto is a safe bet at the catcher position. The price tag is high with him, he’ll cost you a fifth-or-sixth-round draft pick in your fantasy baseball draft. But he comes with stability, but can he repeat last season’s numbers? If the spring training numbers are any indication, he should have no trouble performing as a top three catcher in 2020.
Danny Jansen (Toronto Blue Jays) – I wrote about Jansen last week in the “Spring Forward / Fall Back” edition of the Catcher preview. But Jansen had been raking in spring training before the shutdown. His spring slash line is hilarious: .556/.619/.1.389 which gives him a 2.008 OPS. That’s outrageous and obviously when the regular season starts up we will see regression. Jansen struggled at times last season, but that’s to be expected with rookie catchers. In 18 at-bats this Spring he had four home runs, a triple, a double, 13 RBI, and 25 total bases. He’s looked phenomenal so far, but temper expectations a little bit. He’ll definitely improve this year but may stumble out of the gates with the MLB season starting almost two months late.
Jason Castro (Los Angeles Angels) – The Angels have a very good lineup as we head into the 2020 season. One of the more subtle acquisitions they had this offseason was bringing in Jason Castro from the Minnesota Twins. Castro didn’t garner the attention that Mitch Garver did last year, but in 79 games in 2019 Castro had 13 home runs with 39 runs scored. That’s nearly a run scored every other game. The slash line wasn’t impressive last year with a sub-par .232 batting average, but prior to spring training being cancelled, Castro was 5-for-20 including a home run, two doubles, and six RBI. He will likely receive most of the starts behind home plate for the Halos and he’ll probably hit ninth, which isn’t awful if you consider the hitters at the top of the order that could drive him in. He’s largely going undrafted and could be a decent source of runs with some power potential. He’s definitely a player I’m okay taking a shot on in the later rounds of two-catcher leagues.
Victor Caratini (Chicago Cubs) – Caratini would need a serious injury to Willson Contreras in order to gain significant playing time, but that hasn’t kept him from showcasing the hot bat he’s been swinging in spring training. Caratini finished the Spring going 8-for-19 with four extra base hits. Caratini is a switch-hitter who has been showing more pop, according to Kris Bryant , from the right side of the dish. Again, he’s the backup, but if the power translates to the regular season then he’s worth monitoring on waivers in deeper leagues. Contreras is no stranger to injuries or IL stints as he’s missed over 100 games in the last three seasons so there is even a mild chance for fantasy relevance with Caratini.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (Texas Rangers) – Kiner-Falefa may not have catcher eligibility. About half of his starts last season came at catcher and the other half at third base so, in my opinion, he should be eligible at catcher. But if we’re being completely honest, he’s on nobody’s draft radar for catcher or third base. Kiner-Falefa only has five career home runs in 176 games over the last two years. However, his brief Spring performance has been pretty noteworthy. In 15 games IKF went 14-for-37 with four home runs, 11 RBI, and 11 runs scored. He’s made a solid case for himself to make the roster coming out of training camp. You have to imagine he did enough this month to make the Opening Day roster, whenever that may be. While he won’t maintain the Spring numbers, if the increased power translates to the regular season then he’ll provide some depth in deeper leagues with plenty of roster flexibility if his performance pans out.
Austin Romine (Detroit Tigers) – Romine hasn’t lit up the stat sheet by any means, but he’s done well through spring training and he is listed atop the Tigers’ depth chart at the catcher position. In nine games, Romine went 5-for-18 with a home run and a double. But the plate discipline has looked solid for Romine as well. He had just one strikeout during spring training in addition to three walks. Now, this is a small sample size and if you want to keep an eye on Romine, by all means, go ahead. Keep in mind he has a career 22.5% strikeout rate compared to just a 5.3% walk rate. So, he is a risk in points leagues, but he could get most of the starts behind home plate. Sadly, the rest of the lineup is just as risky.
Joey Bart (San Francisco Giants) – I won’t speak too highly of Bart because prior to the cancellation of spring training he was sent down to minor league camp. However, he was pretty hot at the dish before getting demoted. In nine exhibition games, Bart was 7-for-16 with two home runs and a double. His power looked great, but it wasn’t enough for the Giants to keep him around. That doesn’t mean he won’t get the inevitable call up in 2020 though. The scheduling is a bit of a mystery at this point and it could impact when certain players get brought up. Bart is expected to make his debut this season and eventually succeed Buster Posey at catcher. The presence of Bart could benefit Posey if the Giants move him to first base as a more spry player behind home plate could be beneficial. Time will tell. Unfortunately, with MLB in a shutdown, Bart’s debut is delayed.