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Top 10 Catchers - Dynasty Prospects Rankings

Catchers perform a mostly thankless job as one of the hardest-working players on the baseball diamond day in and day out. The catcher is also one of the least sought-after players in a fantasy baseball draft although there have been catchers who, in their prime, were worthy of a significant investment such as Mike Piazza, Joe Mauer, or Buster Posey.

Finding a good catcher at the MLB level is not easy. If we look at 2019, only 11 backstops had a 100 wRC+ or better of the 21 catchers with 350 at-bats or more. Even fewer catchers seem to maintain strong performances year-over-year. Just ask the 2020 owners of Mitch Garver, Omar Narvaez, or Carson Kelly.

Today, we begin our position by position rankings of the best fantasy baseball prospects and, you guessed it, we’re starting with the catchers. The catching depth in the minor leagues is actually pretty solid right now with some intriguing offensive studs on the way and a handful of other players that could end up being fantasy relevant if their developments stay on course.

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Tier 1

1. Adley Rutschman, Orioles (TOP 250 Rank: 12)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average, Power
Roadblock: Chance Sisco (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2022

Need to Know: Rutschman leads the pack among coveted dynasty catchers but there is some risk here given that the first overall pick of the 2019 draft has yet to play an official pro game. Retired catcher Matt Wieters, who entered pro ball with similar hype back in 2007, went on to have a good career but never reached the levels expected of him because, well, catching at the big league level is hard.

Still, the scouting reports on Rutschman are glowing and he’ll be a player to watch this spring although he’s not among the club’s spring training invitees (but will be at the alternate spring site).  The young catcher reportedly has outstanding makeup, which should help him persevere through the challenges ahead. He has upside for 20+ home runs and a .300 average. That would put him in Buster Posey's territory.

2. Francisco Alvarez, Mets (TOP 250 Rank: 15)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average, Power
Roadblock: James McCann (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2023

Need to Know: James McCann was a very nice addition for the 2021 Mets but he’ll turn 31 partway through the coming season so he’s hardly the “catch of the future.” That distinction falls to Alvarez, who is on a collision course with the majors around 2023/2024 when McCann's contract will be running out. The highly-regarded prospect hasn’t played above rookie ball but he posted a 129 wRC+ as a 17-year-old catcher. Considering he had to learn a bunch of new pitchers, work on his defense, and also adjust to a new culture, that was fantastic.  Along with a natural feel for hitting, Alvarez has a patient approach, and produces a lot of hard contact.

3. Daulton Varsho, Diamondbacks (TOP 250 Rank: 38)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average, Speed, Power
Roadblock: None (Threat Level: NA)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Things didn’t go as well as hoped during his MLB debut in 2020 but Varsho still has a ton of potential. There just aren’t any other players that project to qualify at catcher and have the ability to hit for a strong average and possess the skills to be a 20-20 player. Best of all, Varsho likely won’t wear out his knees squatting behind the plate every day — he’s more likely to patrol center field for the Diamondbacks in 2021 and beyond while seeing time as the team’s second or third catcher.

4. Joey Bart, Giants (TOP 250 Rank: 42)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power
Roadblock: Buster Posey (Threat Level: MEDIUM)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Bart’s 2020 major league debut showed that the promising young catcher has still has some work to do on the hitting side of his game. He produced a strong hard-hit ball rate of 48% but also a 37% strikeout rate and ugly 0.07 BB/K rate. Bart’s higher batting averages in the minors have always been driven by strong BABIPs which aren’t likely to continue at the MLB level. Still, the power is enticing and there is some upside on his batting average if he can learn to calm down at the plate a bit and improve his approach.

5. Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays (TOP 250 Rank: 60)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average, Power, OBP
Roadblock: Danny Jansen (Threat Level: MEDIUM)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Kirk has a little more risk than the catchers ahead of him but he has a chance to be one of the best hitting backstops in all of baseball in short order. The 22-year-old prospect was a little-known international free agent signee out of Mexico in 2017 and hadn’t played above A-ball before making his MLB debut in 2020. He also reached the majors with a 5-foot-8, 265-pound frame. But the good news is that Kirk arrived in camp this spring looking noticeably slimmer.

From an offensive standpoint, he has always walked more than he struck out in the minors and has never had a strikeout rate higher than 11.2% He has also had a natural feel for hitting (.315 career minor league average), generates excellent exit velocity (95 mph in MLB) and produces a lot of hard-hit balls (50% rate in MLB).

 

Tier 2

6. Tyler Stephenson, Reds (TOP 250 Rank: 69)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power, OBP
Roadblock: Tucker Barnhart (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Selected 11th overall, Stephenson had faded from memory for a lot of prospect watchers due to his relatively quiet ascent through the lower minors — owing more to “growing up” in the Reds system rather than one of the more high profile systems than anything else. He produced at an above-average offensive clip between 2017-2019 but the lack of shiny batting average, high stolen base numbers, or eye-catching home run totals kept him flying under the radar. He just did a collection of things well.

Then came 2020 when Stephenson appeared to make some adjustments to his swing at the alternate training site and he showed an improved launch angle at the MLB level which helped turn his raw strength into more damaging swings. It took some time but there’s been some huge growth here over the past year or two. If he can maintain the changes, he could be a solid catching option for both the Reds and fantasy managers.

7. Luis Campusano, Padres (TOP 250 Rank: 87)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average, Power
Roadblock: Austin Nola (Threat Level: MEDIUM)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: This might seem like a lower-than-expected landing place for Campusano but it has more to do with my appreciation for those ranked ahead of him rather than anything I have against the Padres’ prospect. I’m also taking a bit of a cautious approach because Campusano didn’t have a chance to prove his breakout 2019 season was for real. His walk rate took a significant jump while his OPS jumped .200 points between 2018 and ’19 while moving to a hitter-friendly league. His park had one of the lowest park factors in the league and his road/home OPS splits were 1.019/.795. He’ll likely be a very good hitter for a catcher but he’s not quite in the first tier just yet.

8. Bo Naylor, Indians (TOP 250 Rank: 120)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power
Roadblock: Roberto Perez (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2022

Need to Know: I’m a fan of Naylor and there is untapped growth here as a cold-weather-developed prospect who didn’t have the benefit of playing baseball all year long. He should hit for a solid average for a catcher with the threat to hit 20 homers as an everyday player. With some added experience, he should also provide solid value in on-base leagues given how well his eye is improving.

9. Diego Cartaya, Dodgers (TOP 250 Rank: 121)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average, Power
Roadblock: Will Smith (Threat Level: HIGH)
ETA: 2023

Need to Know: About two months younger older than Francisco Alvarez, Cartaya is an intriguing, young backstop who could eventually provide value with both a solid batting average and above-average power. And he’s in an excellent player development system. To throw a little cold water on Cartaya's ascent, Will Smith is a pretty good catcher and still just 25 years old so he presents a formidable roadblock -- even if we're looking two to three years down the line.

10. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers (TOP 250 Rank: 127)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average
Roadblock: Will Smith (Threat Level: HIGH)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: I’m down a fair bit on Ruiz and there is possibly some prospect fatigue happening here. I question his drive to get better. He’s a little bit like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as a prospect that had an easy time with baseball as an amateur but then realized natural talent will only get you so far. There’s no doubting the fact Ruiz has natural hitting ability but he needs to refocus and possibly receive a change of scenery.

 

Just Missed

One name to watch: The recent (and surprising) trade from the Rays to the Red Sox organization gives Ronaldo Hernandez a new lease on life and sends him to a club desperately in need of some good, young talent to build around. He has 20-homer pop but his aggressive nature undermines his true impact. He hasn’t officially played above high-A ball although he spent a good portion of the 2020 season on the taxi squad, which would not have benefited his offensive development. Neither Christian Vazquez nor Kevin Plawecki is the long-term answer in Boston, and Connor Wong is the only real catching option in the minors but he’s more of a multi-position player like Austin Nola.



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