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Catcher Draft Sleepers for 2020

The catcher position is one of the most difficult positions to draft. It is like drafting at the tight end position for fantasy football and has been this way for several years.

When drafting at the catcher position, the dilemma becomes whether or not to take a premium catcher with an early selection or wait until the later rounds to select your catcher. There are pros and cons to each of these decisions. The biggest positive of drafting a catcher early is you should end up with one of the best producers at the position while most of your league suffers here. The con is that even the best catchers in today's game still spend some time on the bench throughout the season because the position is so demanding. The disadvantage of waiting on the position is that you likely will not get as much production from that spot as if you had drafted earlier. The pro would be that you get a solid producer elsewhere on your roster instead of a solid catcher.

This article will try to help mitigate the con of waiting on the catcher position by providing some late-round values at the position. These guys may not produce as much as someone like J.T. Realmuto or Gary Sanchez in the way of counting stats. However, they will certainly give you overall production on the season while still allowing you to bolster your roster at other positions in the early rounds.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro continued his development in 2019 by slashing .262/.312/.425 with 18 HR, 57 RBI, 44 R, and 22 BB. He performed quite admirably as he was ranked in the top 15 at the position. The question heading into 2020 is whether or not he can continue his ascent as a hitting catcher and possibly put himself within the top 10 at the position.

Most of Alfaro's advanced metrics were solid in 2019, especially when you compare them to his career marks. One area where we saw the most improvement from Alfaro was his power metrics. He put up a  10.7% barrel rate, 90.8 mph exit velocity, .455 xSLG, and 44.8% hard-hit rate. Each of these came in above his career norms. They also attributed to him hitting 18 bombs, which ranked him inside the top 10 for the position.

His strikeout rate of 33.1% is a bit concerning, but if he continues to increase his power and provide home runs and counting stats that go along with those, we should be able to deal with the strikeouts. The 33.1% strikeout rate was also a decline from 2018's 36.6%, so it is feasible we continue to see further improvement here in 2020.

Overall, Jorge Alfaro has been on a solid trajectory over the previous two seasons. He has increased most of his power metrics while reducing his strikeout rate. If Alfaro continues to reduce his strikeout rate in 2020, he could potentially have a breakout season, but even if he doesn't, the power metrics tell us he should be somewhere near a top-10 catcher. He makes for a stud second catcher in two-catcher leagues and should be a solid producer as your top catcher.

 

Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

Carson Kelly should make for a solid late-round catcher selection in 2020. Kelly had a solid 2019 by slashing .245/.348/.478 with 18 HR, 47 RBI, 46 R, and 48 BB in 314 at-bats across 111 games. Kelly derives much of his value from his power, and his advanced metrics from 2019 exemplify this.

In 2019, Kelly was solidly above league-average in barrel rate (8.9%), exit velocity (89.0 mph), xSLG (.466), and hard-hit rate (40.4%). These metrics directly resulted in his 18 HR, which ranked him in the top 10 at the position. Kelly also showed he was able to hit the ball to all parts of the park, as noted by his spray chart.

Aside from the power he posses, Kelly is also solid at getting on base. He put up a spectacular walk rate of 13.2%, which ranked him in the top eight percent of the league.

While he is projected to hit near the bottom of the Diamondbacks lineup, it is a lineup that scored the 11th most runs in the league and should be much improved with the addition of Starling Marte in the middle. This will give him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs, as well as score runs when he turns the lineup over. He currently has an ADP of 207, which makes him a 17th-round draft choice in mixed 12-team leagues. Consider him a catcher one and certainly worth grabbing at this ADP.

 

Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics

Sean Murphy enters 2020 with quite a bit of hype surrounding him. The hype comes from his number two prospect status in the A's farm system, as well as the ability he showed during a brief stint in the big leagues in 2019. In just 20 games, Murphy put up a .245/.333/.566 with four HR, eight RBI, 14 R, and six BB. It was a respectable line for such a short stint in the majors. If you look into his stats from the minors, he projects to be a solid run producer, as noted by his 23 HR and 88 RBI per 162 games played. He also is a guy that should get on base plenty as he had a 9.2% walk rate in the minors and an on-base percentage of .341 and paired these with a respectable strikeout rate of 17%.

His power metrics during his short stint in Oakland in 2019 were solid as well. He was above league average in barrel rate (8.1%), exit velocity (90.7 mph), xSLG (.476), and hard-hit rate (37.8%). This translated to him hitting four home runs in just 53 at-bats.

Unfortunately, he had a strikeout rate of 26.7%, but this was way above his minor league rate (17%) and should tick down as he grows accustomed to the highest level. Kelly will also likely hit near the bottom of the order. However, in a lineup that scored the eighth-most runs in baseball in 2019, he will have many opportunities to drive runs as well as score when the lineup turns over similar to Carson Kelly. He currently has an ADP of 273 and is the 16th catcher off the board. This makes him a late 22nd round pick and is certainly worth the price here.

 

Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres

One of the major issues with having Mejia on a fantasy roster in 2019 was his lack of playing time. The Padres often opted to start Austin Hedges over him. This is noted by Hedges appearing in 102 games compared to Mejia's 79. Based on how the Padres handled catching duties down the stretch in 2019 and the fact that Francisco Mejia is currently listed atop their depth chart, it is likely that the Padres give him a solid run at the "every day" catcher duties out of the gate in 2020. Mejia picked up the pace after the All-Star break when he hit .305/.355/.511 with six HR, 16 RBI, and 19 R in 131 at-bats.

His splits tell us that he showed more power from the left side of the plate, as evidenced by his .461 SLG, .773 OPS, and seven HR compared to .377, .700, and one, respectively from the right side of the plate. It should also come as no surprise that he put up significantly better stats on the road, given that Petco Park is a notorious pitchers park.

He also showed a strong ability to hit the fastball and changeup but struggled mightily with breaking balls. This is demonstrated by his batting averages of .280 and .367 vs. fastballs and offspeed pitches, respectively, compared to .197 vs. the breaking ball.

Overall, Mejia showed early struggles in 2019 but also showed that he was capable of being a solid producer later in the season once he settled in. Not having an everyday role can take a toll on a player, and that easily could be attributed to Mejia in 2019. He currently has an ADP of 290 and is being taken as the 18th catcher off the board. This means he is being taken near the beginning of round 24 in 12-team leagues. He makes for a great selection at this position and is someone you can draft for a bench role with the hopes of him sliding into your starting catcher role very early into the season. He is also a great selection at this ADP in two catcher leagues as well as dynasty formats.

 

Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

Yadier Molina may not be a very sexy name in fantasy baseball circles, but he is a reliable option at a volatile position. In 2019, Molina slashed .270/.312/.399 with 10 HR, 57 RBI, 45 R, and 23 BB in 419 at-bats over 113 games. Molina only managed 113 games, thanks to a nagging thumb injury. Even with the injury and missed time, Molina still managed to rank inside the top 14 at the position in terms of RBI, and this, along with average, is precisely where Molina derives his value.

His plate discipline metrics show us that he is superb at making contact both inside and outside of the zone, which is what has led to a career batting average of .282.

His ability to make contact is also what allows him to have such solid run production. He has averaged over 66 RBI per season since 2015, which is solid production from the catcher spot. He is also projected to bat fifth in a Cardinals lineup that scored 764 runs in 2019, which ranked them 19th in the league. Keep in mind this was without Tommy Edman (written about here) atop the lineup for much of the season.

Molina currently has an ADP of 227 and is being taken as the 12th catcher off the board. While he may see a few more rest days than in seasons past given his age, he still makes for a sound late-round draft selection at his current ADP.

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