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2019 Catchers - Early Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings


Catcher is a tough position to evaluate, as many teams utilize multiple catchers and it is rare for one to play 140 or more games in a season. Wear and tear as a backstop limits offensive value for sure, but there are still a group of solid catchers that can contribute in multiple categories. Beyond the top tiers of catchers, most fantasy value comes from mixing and matching catchers on the waiver wire. For those that cannot stream the catcher position, it is probably wise to look for value later in the draft if you cannot grab one of the top catchers.

Our mixed-league staff rankings come straight from our resident baseball junkies: Nick Mariano, JB Branson, Pierre Camus and myself. We’re breaking down all our rankings into tiers and evaluating them for your benefit

We'll be updating our rankings on a regular basis, so be sure to keep checking in on our fantasy baseball rankings dashboard for the most updated lists. While you're at it, check out our first base rankings analysis too. Here are the rankings for catchers leading into the 2019 MLB season.

 

2019 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: Catcher (January)

Rank Tier Player Position Nick Pierre JB Chris
1 1 Gary Sanchez C 88 70 90 72
2 1 J.T. Realmuto C/1B 92 91 75 93
3 2 Wilson Ramos C 131 164 149 143
4 2 Salvador Perez C 185 157 136 124
5 2 Willson Contreras C 171 156 157 137
6 2 Buster Posey C/1B 194 179 188 153
7 2 Yadier Molina C 179 202 177 161
8 2 Yasmani Grandal C 203 171 179 168
9 3 Francisco Mejia C 269 236 265 236
10 3 Danny Jansen C 251 266 257 234
11 3 Mike Zunino C 318 231 302 224
12 3 Jorge Alfaro C 314 371 324 228
13 3 Welington Castillo C 261 356 308 331
14 3 Yan Gomes C 270 364 336 292
15 3 Isiah Kiner-Falefa C/2B/3B 339 436 322 255
16 3 Robinson Chirinos C 389 373 313 294
17 4 Willians Astudillo C 419 421 305 248
18 4 Francisco Cervelli C 404 400 343 289
19 4 Tucker Barnhart C/1B 426 452 351 260
20 4 Austin Barnes C 315 408 387 502
21 4 Tom Murphy C #N/A 448 435 349
22 4 John Hicks C/1B 499 511 371 321
23 5 Austin Hedges C 561 410 378 375
24 5 Jonathan Lucroy C 534 404 440 381
25 5 Travis D'Arnaud C #N/A 441 #N/A 451
26 5 Tyler Flowers C 460 499 359 497
27 5 Brian McCann C 585 390 445 414
28 5 Kurt Suzuki C 463 434 419 533
29 5 Chance Sisco C #N/A 565 #N/A 423
30 5 Blake Swihart C/OF 508 514 #N/A 481

 

Rankings Analysis - Upper Tiers

Tier One

There are just two must-have catchers this season and, even with these two, there are issues. While Gary Sanchez has all of the potential in the world, and plays in a top-five hitter's ballpark with a top-five lineup, he is coming off of a season where he was basically replacement level. J.T. Realmuto is coming off of the best season of his career, but the uncertainty of where Realmuto will play in 2019 provides more questions than answers for his 2019 stock.

Sanchez had a lost season in 2018 but looks to bounce back in 2019. After posting a .278/.345/.531 slash line in 2017 (and 1.032 OPS in 53 games in 2016), Sanchez slashed just .186/.291/.406 in 2018. While this is not good, Sanchez only played 89 games last season and hit 18 home runs; he has averaged 43 home runs and 113 RBI per 162 games for his career. No matter Sanchez’s issues, he still looks like he is going to be slotted in the middle of the Yankees lineup. With OBP studs like Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge in front of Sanchez in the Bombers’ lineup, look for Sanchez to approach 100 RBI once again if he is able to stay healthy and bounce back. Depending on where Realmuto lands going into the 2019 season, Sanchez may be the top catcher leading into the 2019 season.

Realmuto has seen his OPS rise in each of his five MLB seasons and he had a .277/.340/.484 slash line last season for the Marlins. The 27-year-old also grades out as a top defensive catcher, so the Marlins have set his price on the trade market extremely high (looking for players like Cody Bellinger from the Dodgers and Ozzie Albies from the Braves). While there are very good reasons to buy into Realmuto, he has seen his batting average drop in each of the last two seasons and only stole three bases in 2018 after stealing 20 bases in 2016/2017. That being said, he has also seen his run production and power each jump year-over-year and he is one of the safest options at catcher.

Tier Two

As we move past the top-two catchers (and outside of the top-100), there are still solid options at catcher in the second tier. Of course, catcher is a volatile position (and one that could be streamed as freely as SP in weekly leagues), but, if you have players in either of the first two tiers, you should be set at the position for a majority of the season. In this tier, we find players that will likely hit 20 home runs, a former MVP, and two hitters that will likely hit at (or around) .300.

This tier opens with Wilson Ramos who, in limited time, has shown that he is as much of an offensive threat as any catcher. Including a poor 2017 season, Ramos has a .298/.343/.483 slash line over the last three seasons, hitting 48 home runs in that time period and posting 47 extra-base hits in 2016. The issue is that Ramos has only averaged 102 games in that time period and has never played more than 131 games in a season (2016 with the Nationals); in fact, he has been under 100 games played in four of his eight full seasons. Mets fans and fantasy owners need to be pleased that Ramos had a .337/.396/.483 slash line in 33 games with the rival Phillies last season and will hope that he is healthy and productive next season.

Willson Contreras and Salvador Perez come next in this tier and (along with Yasmani Grandal) each should top 20 home runs this season. Contreras was a massive disappointment in 2018, playing 138 games, but posting a .249/.339/.390 slash line with just 10 home runs and 54 RBI. This came after he had a .276/.356/.499 slash in 2017, hitting 21 home runs and knocking in 74 in just 117 games. A dip in hard-hit rate (35.5% to 28.9%) was a big reason for his power to fall, but his HR/FB rate fell from 25.9% to 9.3%; if Contreras has more luck on fly balls, look for him to regain his power.

As for Perez, he has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last four seasons and 27 in each of the last two. His batting average dipped to .235 last season, and his OBP has not been over .300 since 2013, but his power and run production (80 RBI in each of the last two seasons) is a nice addition from the catcher's position.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are each of the wrong side of 30, but each should be safe options at catcher this season. The 2012 MVP (and still a top-10 MVP candidate in 2015), Posey is now 31 and has played fewer games in each of the last four seasons (just 105 last season). After posting a .320 batting average in 2017, Posey's average dipped to .284 last season and his OPS was at a career-low .741. A healthy Posey will fill in at 1B as well as catcher and, at a minimum, is likely to see his batting average rise closer to .300.

At 36, Molina has seen his batting average dip in each of the last three seasons (to .261 last season), but his 20 home runs last season were the second-most of his 15-year career. He also has 156 RBI over the last two seasons, showing that he is still a run production threat. It would be nice if his batting average were closer to the .307 mark he had in 2016, but three straight seasons with a .750 OPS shows that Molina has a safe floor.

 

Rankings Analysis - Mid-Level Options

Tier Three

At this point, streaming catchers become a very viable option, as we are on the fringe of the top-10 and most of these catchers only fill one category well. There are also more than 100 ranking spots that separate the beginning of the tier to the end of it, as we are looking at the 9th to 16th ranked catchers. Sufficing to say, if you are looking at the 16th-ranked catcher (Welington Castillo), you are either in a two-catcher league or are looking at rostering a backup catcher all season.

The young catchers in this tier (Danny Jansen, Francisco Mejia, Jorge Alfaro, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa) may be the most attractive options at this point of the draft. Jansen and Mejia are two of the hottest prospects at catcher, each ranking among the top 100 prospects in baseball and each given the opportunity to start in 2019 for their respective clubs.

A top-five prospect in the Blue Jays system, Jansen had a .247/.347/.432 slash line in 95 plate appearances with the Jays in 2018. This came after he had a .323/.400/.484 slash in the minors in 2017 and .275/.390/.473 slash line in the minors in 2018, showing that he has an advanced hitting and plate discipline tool. Russell Martin is still north of the border, but, with the Blue Jays trying to work in their young talent, look for Jansen to be the primary catcher.

Mejia broke onto the scene in 2016 while in A-ball with the Indians, posting a 50-game hit streak. He finished that season with a .342/.382/.514 slash line and followed up with a .297/.346/.490 slash line in 2017 while in Double-A. The Indians then traded him to the Padres, where he is likely to share time at catcher with Austin Hedges and could find work in the corner outfield and infield spots as well.

Alfaro's 2017 season (11 extra-base hits in 114 plate appearances) shows his upside, but his .262/.324/.407 slash line in 2018 was a bit disappointing. Still, he will be the primary catcher for the Phillies, hit 15 home runs in three separate minor league seasons, and even stole 18 bases in 21 attempts while in A-ball in 2013. While Kiner-Falefa might not help in specific categories like the other catchers in this tier, his versatility is an asset for fantasy owners. He has eligibility at 2B/3B as well as catcher and his .261 batting average and .325 OBP are each passable. Also, considering that he is a middle infielder, he should also be the only catcher that will approach double-digit stolen bases (seven in 12 attempts last season), adding a different element as a bench piece in deeper leagues.

Mike Zunino will have a change of scenery in Tampa to boost his career and, while he may have an average in the low-to-mid .200s, could hit 30 home runs with the Rays.

 

Rankings Analysis - Later Tiers

Tier Four

In a lot of ways, the fourth tier of catchers may be more attractive than the third one. This mainly comes from the fact that none of these catchers are likely to be starters for your fantasy team, but can help as streamers on the waiver wire. While we are not suggesting that you pick players in the fourth tier before those in the third, there may be more value picking up a player like Francisco Cervelli to fill a gap while your catcher is out of the lineup than rostering Jorge Alfaro all season.

Talking about Cervelli, the 32-year-old Pirate catcher is coming off of his best season in 2018. His .259 batting average was nowhere near his top average (.295 in 2015), but his .378 OBP and .431 slugging percentages were the best of his career, yielding an .809 OPS in 404 plate appearances. Cervelli topped 10 home runs for the first time in his career last season (12) and his 57 RBI were also the best tally of his career. His power dropped off in the second half of 2018 (20 extra-base hits in the first half and 10 in the second half), but his batting average did go from .243 in the first half to .280 in the second.

Austin Barnes brings extra eligibility, a nice thing this deep in the draft. Barnes, who has 2B eligibility, is coming off of a poor 2018 season but is currently the starting catcher for the Dodgers. While he had a .205/.329./.290 slash line in 2018, Barnes did have a .289/.408/.486 slash line in 2017 and has a career .794 OPS against left-handed pitchers.

Tier Five

Once you get to this point of the draft, you are likely looking at much lesser players, some that may not even start consistently for their given teams. There are some interesting names that you will find at this point of the catcher's rankings, but they are more so streamers than those that can consistently have a spot on fantasy rosters. In fact, there are two catchers from the same team in this tier (Tyler Flowers and Brian McCann), showing why the Braves may be willing to move considerable assets to acquire J.T. Realmuto.

The most attractive players in this tier may be Tom Murphy and John Hicks, both of which could be serviceable power additions while your starting catcher is out of the lineup. Both are not projected to be the starters for their respective teams (the Rockies and Tigers), but Murphy had 17 home runs in the minors last season and will look to make it back to the majors to take the job from Chris Iannetta. There is a reason that Murphy is this low in the rankings, though, as he only has a .219/.271/.439 slash line in 210 plate appearances over the last four seasons. As for Hicks, his greatest value is that he has C/1B eligibility and has a .416 slugging percentage over the last two seasons (502 plate appearances). Pickings are slim as we get this deep in the rankings, but Hicks and Murphy may be your best bets.

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