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Top 10 Catcher Prospects - 2019 Redraft Rankings


Catching as a position has gotten the brunt of fantasy angst over the past few seasons, with wRC+ rates well below league average. And yet, this is precisely the reason that owners should be looking to add the young talent that will be taking these spots in the Majors sooner rather than later. Owning talent at the spot will save owners from being forced to reach in drafts for catchers, or, on the other hand, stop them from having to scan the waiver wire to get anything out of the position.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to catching prospects in the fantasy world. The first is to ignore, or at least target other spots first. The main piece here is that catching prospects take a while to get to the Show, are more likely to move off the spot if they have a bat, and even with a bat, might not show the glove to stay in a starting role. The second option is to push these to the top of lists and own risky prospects with upside for the long haul. This writer tends to opt for the latter, with the observation that there are no “safe” prospects, meaning that value should be the primary target.

Owners can make their own decisions, but the Rotoballer team will offer the best chance to know who is out there before other owners can snipe them. This article identifies the top ten prospects ready to make an impact in 2019 at the position, and with a bit of research in league rules, there is someone on this list to fit every team’s need.

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Top Catcher Prospects for 2019

This list below is geared towards 2019 redraft leagues, and looks at the top MLB prospects and rookies who have the best chance to rise to the major leagues at some point in 2019 and provide fantasy baseball value this season.

To be clear, this is not our list of the top overall prospects in baseball. You can find those longer-term rankings in our dynasty prospects rankings and articles section, which take a look at the top prospects at each position regardless of their age or expected ETA in the majors.

 

1. Andrew Knizner (C, STL)

ETA: Mid-season 2019

It seems like this writer is the highest on Knizner at Rotoballer, and perhaps, at other fantasy sites as well. There is so much to love about the hit tool, and with the improving defense, little to no risk that he moves out from behind the plate. That alone makes him a plus when looking at the other offensive options on the list. Knizner has the highest floor on the list, but might not have much upside with what seems to be a solid, but not elite hit tool.

And yet, he has never hit below .300 in the minors, with a sub-14% K rate as well. The power is the other question, but when it seems that most prospects add a few homers when they get the call, the bat looks to have 12-plus in there over a full season. This sounds a lot like Jansen’s projections, and issues (see write-up below), but just looking to the hit tool, take Knizner’s all day. St. Louis is a solid landing spot for a catcher, as he has time to adjust behind a team legend for at least two seasons. If fantasy owners limit their expectations at first, Knizner will be the safe catching option in a few seasons. Despite all that, Knizner will end the year as the top fantasy catcher debuting this year, even with bigger names behind him on the list.

 

2. Francisco Mejia (C, SD)

ETA: Already Debuted

As mentioned in our rising catching piece, Mejia has seen his stock drop more than others on this list. Part of this is due to others passing him as opposed to a decline in the skills. Still rated by most as one of the top offensive catching prospects, Mejia's defense is the red flag. This keeps him from the top of the list even if the batting tool meets the projected grades. In a small sample size of only 32 games in the majors, with both the Padres and Indians, Mejia managed only a .168 batting average and struck out 26% of the time.

Even with better batting lines in the minors, he does not walk, with a career-high 8.5% walk rate at A-Ball. This is one of those times when the 60-grade hit tool does not seem to correlate with his approach at the plate. The aggressive swing will need to adjust in order to have an extended run at the majors.This will likely come at the expense of the approach that brought him success in the minors. Mejia might prove me wrong, but right now, that is a risk that fantasy owners should be willing to take.

 

3. Keibert Ruiz (C, LAD)

ETA: Late 2019

If this was a dynasty or non-2019 list, Ruiz would be at the top of this list by a country mile due to his age and overall skill profile. At 19, he is still very young for a catching prospect. The fact that he might be wearing Dodger blue sometime in 2019 demonstrates how advanced his advanced skills. With a 60 FV grade on the glove from Fangraphs, the defensive profile is top of the line as well, meaning that when he is ready, Ruiz should be the starting backstop on one of the best teams in the league.

On his own, the production still puts him at the top of the list, with a .268/.368/.401 slash in 101 games at Double-A with 12 homers and 44 runs. Again, the stats are even more impressive considering he is doing this at 19 years of age. There are some concerns about the power projection, but when he cut his K rate in half and doubled the power output, this writer is willing to get on all of that coming around — no reason, at this point, to look anywhere else to top the list. One final note, even though Ruiz is a longshot to make an extended run with the Dodgers this year, if he does get the call, there is no catcher on this list who can match his impact potential.

 

4. Danny Jansen (C, TOR)

ETA: Opening Day

In all fairness, Jansen has been lower on all my lists than most others in the industry. The main reason for this is regarding his ceiling. Jansen is a batting average plus at the catching position, but does not offer all that much in terms of power. While he did hit 12 homers in 88 games last year at Triple-A, this is by far and away the outlier when looking to his offensive production in the minors. If Jansen cannot produce for power in the Majors, then it is hard to see him as a top fantasy asset, even with the starting gig.

And yet, the batting line is close to .300 for his career in the minors, and even the .247 in 33 games with Toronto last year is not bad for a first look. The other reason he is a bit lower here has been the batting profile with an above 50% pull mark over his professional career to date. Still, the batting approach looks like it will play, and he offers good value in OBP leagues with an above-nine-percent walk rate for his career. Jansen is a solid option, but the power is needed to make him an impact fantasy option.

 

5. Sean Murphy (C, OAK)

ETA: Mid-season 2019

Appearing near the bottom of the list, Murphy offers the type of catcher that organizations like, but that might not excite fantasy owners. After struggling to a .208 batting average at Double-A in 2017, Murphy repeated the stop last year and improved to a .288/.358/.498 slash with eight homers in 68 games. Set to start the year at Triple-A, it will be intriguing to see what type of offensive profile he can bring to the table. The glove grades out as average at best, with a cannon that rivals many top catchers.

Murphy seems to have the floor as a back-up, and with some offense, could find his way into the Athletics as a solid catcher one. If he can hit for power, he has a fantasy impact, if not then this is a bench option for most teams. The other piece limiting the projections on Murphy to date has been the injuries. He has missed time due to surgery, so while there is less wear and tear on the body, there is also less development time than expected for his age — an exciting prospect, but a lower fantasy ceiling that others ranked above.

 

6. Willians Astudillo (C/UT, MIN)

ETA: Opening Day, or Mid-season 2019

Question marks abound with Astudillo, and his 278 ADP will either be a massive reach or an extreme value in fantasy drafts this year. Not expected to play all that much with the Twins’ current catching options, there is a chance that he makes the team in a utility role, playing everywhere from third to center field. And yet, if he does get a run of games, this is the option on the list with legitimate breakout potential. In his 30-game debut with the Twins last year, Astudillo slashed .355/.371/.516 with three homers, which is aiding the hype this offseason.

The exciting piece of the stat line was the low walk and K rates, with both being under five, and this is consistent with his minor league numbers as well. With a 56.2% swing rate, Astudillo will need to keep the 91.7% contact rate intact to produce what he did last year. Even more, Astudillo made contact on 85.7% of his swings outside the zone, again boosting the elite batting line he produced. A boom or bust prospect, Astudillo could win leagues if he is real, but if not, he might still be worth the draft slot with a comfortable cut if needed.

 

7. Austin Wynns (C, BAL)

Debut: Opening Day

By all accounts, Wynns enters spring training with a legitimate shot to start the year as Baltimore’s primary backstop. A solid, but not spectacular, prospect during his time in the minors, the carrying skill was his batting average. Most seasons he ranged between .250 and .300, meaning that if he can hit a bit, Wynns should offer a productive bat in batting average leagues.

Even more, he appears to have excellent plate skills with consistent double-digit walk rates, and 0.6 BB:K rate on average. Wynns’ best year for power was in 2017 at Double-A when he hit 10 home runs in 104 games. Camden will help with this aspect, meaning that there might be a floor for eight or more bombs if he gets a starting or semi-regular role with the club. Wynns is a great target in two-catcher leagues as a player who will not hurt a team’s overall line and might walk into a productive role based on the park and match-ups.

 

8. Eric Haase (C, CLE)

ETA: July 2019

Before the addition of Kevin Plewecki, Haase looked to be the favorite to secure a reserve role to Roberto Perez in Cleveland to start 2019. Now it seems that he will begin the year at Triple-A Columbus, repeating that stop for the third time. The carrying tool is the raw power, with a 70 grade from Fangraphs, and backed up by 20 homers in 120 games last year in the minors. The 30% K rate and .236 batting average show the other side of the profile as well, but, with a good team context, and some chance for game time, Haase will score runs, even with the plate approach.

Double-digit walk rates and a 34.3% ground ball rate add even more context to the batting profile and supporting the thesis that he can hit for power when he hits. If he can keep the ball off the ground, he offers more power upside than any other option on this list. A target for a bench spot, and when Perez collapses at the plate eventually, be ready to balance the batting line to get full value from the C2 spot.

 

9. Grayson Greiner (C, DET)

ETA: Opening Day

Greiner is slated to start the year behind the dish for Detroit, with only John Hicks to push him for playing time. Greiner did appear in 30 games for the Tigers last year and produced a .219/.328/.281 slash line, chipping in 9 runs and 12 RBI. Before the call, at Triple-A, he looked much better with a .266 batting average and four homers in 46 games.

The Detroit offense will not be a top-15 squad, but with games versus the Royals and White Sox, they might be an average team when all is said and done, giving Greiner some context to support his skills. He did flash some power at Double-A with 14 homers in 98 games, so the small sample from last year might be hiding some of that upside as well. Greiner is in the same camp as Wynns, with a C2 appeal, but also looks to be an excellent late-round dart for a reserve in draft-and-hold formats. Not sexy, but neither is the position as a whole.

 

10. Zack Collins (C, CWS)

ETA: late 2019

Blocked right now with the White Sox, Collins is known as one the better catching prospects in a shallow system and has the glove to play right now. Fifteen homers in 122 games last year at Double-A underscore the potential source of value that he offers, but a 30% K rate diminishes the ability to translate to the Bigs right now. Five steals last year seems like an illusion, with a 20-grade speed, but this does not mean that picking spots is not also a skill that Collins offers with good baseball IQ grades from scouts.

He does walk at a 20% clip, showing some supportive skills at the plate, but at the end of the day, this looks like a solid backup when he gets a real chance with the club. Still, for fantasy purposes, there are worse options, and Collins should at least be a backup when he gets the call. If he can chip in the homers, there is value to be had here.

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