Today’s fantasy catcher landscape leaves much to be desired after the first few guys off the board, making the idea of hitting on a deep sleeper even more intriguing. But we are here to dig deeper, and try to find some catcher draft values and sleepers for the 2017 fantasy baseball season.
Below are a handful of catcher that could be available late in drafts or even post-draft, that could give fantasy owners more than they bargained for in 2017.
Editor's note: You can find more draft values and potential sleepers in our running list all preseason long, and be sure to also check out our rankings dashboard which is loaded with lots of great analysis.
Deeper Catcher Draft Sleepers
Derek Norris, Washington Nationals - ADP: 321
If you hadn’t been paying attention to baseball since 2014, you’d wonder how Derek Norris could ever be considered a sleeper. That was the year he slashed .294/.402/.477 in the first half and made the All-Star team as a member of the Oakland A’s. But it was all downhill from the second half of 2014 on, and the fifth year backstop hit rock bottom last year with an atrocious .186/.255/328 line in 458 plate appearances with San Diego. It can’t possibly get worse, can it?
The Padres cut bait this winter and dealt Norris to the Washington Nationals, where he was expected to split time behind the dish with Jose Lobaton, before the Nats signed Matt Weiters. Now he's expected to be traded, but regardless of where he ends up, he's due for a bounceback season as long as he gets the playing time. Even with the batting average below the Mendoza line, his hard contact rate, at 34.4 percent, was better than his career average and he still managed to tie his career-high mark with 14 homers in 2016. And he’s leaving one of the league’s premier pitcher’s parks in San Diego. Sometimes when a guy has a year as bad as Norris had, a change of scenery can make a world of difference.
Jett Bandy, Milwaukee Brewers - ADP: 407.5
Speaking of a change of scenery, Jett Bandy is another player who was dealt this offseason, and the move could provide a nice sleeper opportunity for him. Bandy, who took over as the Angels’ main catcher midway through last season, was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers where he will be competing for playing time with Andrew Susac and Manny Pina. The 26-year-old Bandy might be the one that ends up winning the majority of time behind the dish for the Brew Crew.
He is regarded as an excellent defender and was sixth best in MLB at throwing out would-be base-stealers, gunning down 39.6 percent of runners. He also showed some nice pop last season with eight bombs in just 231 plate appearances, and he did that while playing most games in a home ballpark that produces below-average offense. Bandy will find Miller Park much more to his liking, and if he emerges from spring training as the Brewers’ main guy at catcher, he could be worth keeping an eye on for fantasy owners.
Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies - ADP: 249.7
I don’t think I could put together a list of sleepers without including a catcher on the Rockies that many people have never heard of. Tom Murphy is that catcher. Fantasy owners have to be licking their chops at the idea of Murphy getting 200+ plate appearances at Coors Field this season, as the 25-year-old catcher hit five bombs in just 49 plate appearances during his September call-up last season and flashed some big-time power in the minors. It’s a small sample size, but Murphy has put up an OPS+ of 133 in 32 games as a big leaguer, so it’s easy to dream of 20-25 homers from this guy as the Rockies’ regular catcher. But, he hasn’t earned the starting gig yet. He’ll share time with Tony Wolters, and with Wolters being a lefty hitter while Murphy bats righty, Murphy might find himself on the short side of a more traditional platoon. He could club his way into the lineup more regularly though and is certainly worth taking a flier on as a backup catcher.
James McCann, Detroit Tigers - ADP: 272
James McCann has a nice year for the Tigers in 2015, slashing .264/.297/.387 as a rookie, but last year he appeared to take a step back, as his OPS was down (.629) while strikeouts were up (109). The one thing he did to generate some optimism in the Motor City was hit 12 bombs in 373 plate appearances. It’s too bad that had to come at the cost of more strikeouts and a dismal .221 average and .272 OBP. However, a closer look at the power surge shows he hit the ball in the air way more than he did the year prior (40 percent fly balls in 2016 versus 27 percent in 2015), and the homer rate on fly balls was up to 12.6 percent from 8.4 percent. His hard contact rate was up as well, from 26.6 percent to 33.9 percent.
Does that mean McCann has taken his power game up a level now at age 26? It’s possible, and he’ll get the chance as Detroit’s starting catcher in 2017 to try to continue to put it all together. Many fantasy owners may stay clear of McCann at one look of that batting average and strikeout total from last year. But he’s worth taking as a backup catcher in deep leagues on the chance that power surge turns out to be sustainable.
Chris Herrmann, Arizona Diamondbacks - ADP: 432
Chris Herrmann took a big step forward in production last season in his first year with the Diamondbacks, posting a career high 118 OPS+. The problem is he did it in only 166 plate appearances, as his season ended prematurely when he fractured his hand. Also, a .364 BABIP has left fantasy owners skeptical. The skepticism is certainly warranted, but the Diamondbacks still non-tendered Wellington Castillo, effectively handing Herrmann the starting job going into 2017. He’ll have some veteran competition from Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta, but all indications are the Diamondbacks plan to go into the season with three catchers on the roster.
Herrmann also brings another element to his game that fantasy owners find appealing: versatility. In addition to handling duties behind the plate, he also got some time at both corner outfield positions and first base last season. Fantasy owners can expect Herrmann to continue to move around the diamond this season, add some extra positional eligibility and log 350+ at-bats if healthy. Increased playing time and a home ballpark that is extremely favorable to lefty hitters could keep Herrman’s numbers at closer to his 2016 level than years prior.