For standard, one catcher leagues, I either want one of the top four catchers (where Schwarber qualifies at catcher), or I want one of the last catchers. The top four catchers seem to be valued properly, but if one slips, go for it. While any individual taken fifth through eleventh in the catcher world could be decently better than the twelfth catcher, you likely can find an adequate replacement on waivers. That is, the field of twelfth through twentieth catchers should likely yield a better value than using a mid-round pick on a catcher.
Thus, it makes more sense to gamble on an upside catcher at the end of the draft. If the player flops, you can just replace him with an adequate waiver claim. If you instead drafted a low-ceiling catcher at the end of the draft, you would be limiting your upside without gaining much in terms of floor.
This strategic consideration will run through my valuations. In two-catcher leagues, however, that goes out the window; second and third tier catchers would hold a lot more value.Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
MY RANK: 215
Hedges was a recent top twenty prospect by Baseball America, and a top thirty prospect by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. Yes, those ratings were largely based on his defense, but they suggest he has talent, and catchers’ bats typically develop later. Last year in 82 games in AAA (yes, the PCL), he hit .326 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs. In 82 games, he had 42 extra base hits: more than one every other game. He had a reasonable strikeout rate. He is just 24 years old, and he may be coming into his own.
With a spot in the lineup, and Tom Murphy suffering a broken arm, there is no better upside play than Hedges. With an ADP of 297, you should be able to get him in the last round. Take the gamble, and if he flops, go to the waiver wire for one of the many, higher floor options.
MY RANK: 357
I don’t like players coming off of injuries, but Ramos is not being drafted in most standard leagues (ADP 271). Why not draft him in the last round, put him on your DL, and then pick up a player such as Hedges off of waivers to fill the roster slot? I had suggested Ramos as a late round flier last year, and he did not disappoint: he posted a line of .307/22/58/80. While that may seem like an extreme outlier, his 162 game career averages are .269/23/62/89. Even though catchers don’t play 162 games, it still shows that Ramos has been a steady hitter with upside. Because you can stash him on the DL, he should be drafted and stashed, freeing up another roster slot. My ranking only reflects his value for the year as a non-DL stash, so I would still recommend stashing him despite my rank.
MY RANK: 267
Along those same lines, while Tom Murphy has a late round ADP, with his injury he likely will go undrafted. Selecting him in the last round, and stashing him on the DL to pick up Hedges would also be wise. Yes, Murphy was in Colorado Springs in the PCL, but he did post a line of .327/19/53/59/1 in 80 games. Moreover, he had 52 extra base hits in 80 games! In 21 MLB games, he hit .273 with five homers, eight runs, 13 RBIs and a steal. The strikeouts will likely keep the average down, but he could give you loads of power and a few steals, making him a great value. You could also snag Wolters, who has a chance to put up 10 homers and 10 steals with a .260 average, while waiting on Murphy; if Wolters does well, you win. If not, Murphy likely takes over.
MY RANK: 105
Contreras is going 90th. He did burst onto the scene with a hot start, but after the break (52 games), he hit .271/7/22/19/2. Project that to 130 games, and you get .271/18/55/48/5. Steamer is projecting .271/13/48/54/5. Those numbers do not jump off the page to me, and his minor-league numbers don’t scream anything much different. Yes, he hit for a high average in the minors the last two years, but he did so with less power one year and BABIPs of .370 and .382. Even if Contreras were to go .280/20/60/60, that does not make him worth the 90th pick. There, I would rather go with a closer (Ken Giles), an infielder (Jose Ramirez), an outfielder (Jose Bautista), a starter (Danny Duffy), or someone who has a higher ADP but slipped. The waiver wire can probably provide slightly less production than Contreras, but you cannot get a similar closer, starter, or infielder/outfielder as easily off waivers.
MY RANK: 213
My knock on Perez is less about his performance, and more about the fact that I do not want a non-elite catcher here. Perez has been very steady, as these are his last three years:
Steamer projects .263/19/54/65/1. That seems reasonable. But why take him at 131, when catchers who can do similar things (Vogt, McCann, Martin, Wieters) are going much later? And that is if you choose not to play the waiver wire. At 132, you are passing up players like Jake Lamb, Michael Fulmer, Byron Buxton, Francisco Rodriguez, Sam Dyson, Aledmys Diaz, and Tony Watson, who are all being drafted from 131-150. For a slight downgrade in catcher, if any, you can get a major upgrade on one of these other positions. Wouldn’t you rather have a decent closer and a slightly worse catcher, than Perez and whoever is available in the last round? It seems like a no-brainer.
In two catcher leagues, Wieters, Vogt, and Grandal may be some value plays to target, with an eye on Travis D’Arnaud as a bounceback candidate. I would not, however, draft these players at their ADP in one catcher leagues.