The demand for catchers at the draft table varies quite a bit on league format, most specifically whether it is a one- or two-catcher league. One thing that doesn’t change, however, is that relative to other hitting positions, elite catchers stay on the draft board longer than any other position.
Today I'm here to take a look at the different tiers of catcher ADP values for 2017, and identify some draft targets and avoids. Undervalued ADPs can be draft sleepers, while overvalued ADPs can cause fantasy headaches.
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Early Round Catcher ADPs
Given that, it makes sense that the top players at the position, Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez and Jonathan Lucroy, have ADPs beginning in the early 40s and spanning to the early 60s. Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy are mainstays, and though they have some years more productive than others, their consistency and production are relatively elite.
In contrast, Gary Sanchez brings intrigue, mystery and debate to the top group. A fantasy expert isn’t needed to know that his HR/FB% will fall greatly from the 40 percent mark he posted last season, but even repeating his 20 home runs from last season and maintaining a batting average above .280 would give him a good chance to return his draft price. Regardless of preference among those three, fantasy owners who value position scarcity and safe production are likely to own the catchers of this top group.
Middle Round Catcher ADPs
For owners more inclined to load up elsewhere early in the draft, there are numerous options spanning from picks 100-150. They include Willson Contreras, Evan Gattis, J.T. Realmuto, Salvador Perez and Yasmani Grandal. Interestingly, the latter half of this list appears to be more locked into everyday at-bats than the first portion of the group.
Salvador Perez will play every night as long as Ned Yost is the manager of the Royals, though that does take a toll on his fantasy production. Last year, he hit just .201 in the second half of the season and over the past three years his average after the All-Star Break drops to .230 as opposed to a .276 average in the first half of those seasons. Yasmani Grandal always piques the interest of fantasy owners due to long stretches of elite performance but injuries have plagued him even if he is not forced out of the lineup.
Stolen bases are a rarity at the position, and with 20 stolen bases over the past two seasons, J.T. Realmuto stands out. There should be some concern about that continuing, however, as he has just a 71 percent career stolen base success rate, which creates the risk that he gets the red light on the basepaths from Don Mattingly. Even more risk is present in Realmuto’s .303 average as it was fueled by a .357 BABIP despite a 16 percent IFFB rate. Unlike Grandal and Perez, Realmuto doesn’t have much pop in his bat to fall back on to prop his value. That makes his floor non-existent.
Evan Gattis and Willson Contreras both face playing time concerns as Miguel Montero and Brian McCann loom behind them and could push them out of the lineup frequently. This is more of a concern for Gattis, though the potential of lost playing time could make each of their value questionable given their ADP. As for skills, Contreras is a rich man’s Realmuto. He will have the advantage of combining a low strikeout rate and superb supporting cast, which should lead to him providing both solid ratios and counting stats on a per-game basis. Meanwhile, Gattis’ power is well established and is his main asset as a fantasy option.
Mid-to-Late Round Catcher ADPs
Recently signed Matt Wieters is the next catcher off the board, and at pick 236 there is currently a large difference in price between him and Molina. As we move further away from his signing and closer to the season, Wieters’ ADP should be expected to climb into the middle of this group and potentially even higher.
McCann, Martin, Molina and Wieters are all known commodities and present different risks. While unspectacular, they come at basically no cost and present a safe floor. Batting average is a concern for Martin and McCann, but they will bring pop to fantasy teams. The opposite should be expected of Molina.
Contrarily, Welington Castillo's value heading into 2017 is less known. His numbers from 2016 look solid, but six of his 13 home runs came in April and he faces the challenge of moving from the N.L. to A.L. this offseason. The positive portion of the narrative is that he should secure the role as the Orioles everyday catcher, will hit in a good lineup, and stays in a good hitting environment.
Rest of the Bunch
Many of the remaining players at the position won’t be drafted in standard leagues with one catcher. Stephen Vogt is the most relevant, though he should sit against lefties. Yan Gomes has been someone to avoid since his breakout in 2014 and now has injury concerns on top of his poor performance. As long as Mike Zunino strikes out over 30 percent of the time, his powerful swing will be overshadowed by a .200 average. James McCann, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Hedges are all more valuable to their teams in real life than they will be for fantasy owners.
Travis d’Arnaud and Devin Mesoraco have chronic injury concerns but both have shown that if healthy, they can return value. They will be drafted and counted on in two-catcher leagues, but their owners shouldn’t get too comfortable with them in their lineup. The Rays’ tried to fix their problem at catcher by signing Wilson Ramos in the offseason, and there are varying reports about when he will return to action with the timeline spanning from late May to July. In nearly any format, drafting Ramos aggressively would be a mistake.
Sandy Leon, Tom Murphy, Cameron Rupp and Blake Swihart all have major playing time questions but have shown themselves to be capable fantasy assets at different points in their careers. They will come into play in deeper leagues and could be steals at the position if given a chance to play regularly for their team.
Have more questions about the position? Ask Dan on Twitter @DanMarcus3.