You remember how catcher stacked up for Fantasy baseball at this time a year ago, right? There were Gary Sanchez and J.T. Realmuto at the top and then maybe five others you could reasonably trust for worthwhile production — one being Buster Posey, who was coming off hip surgery.
So it's within that context that I say what I'm about to say about the state of the catcher position in 2020: It's not so bad, really.
It is, of course, still the weakest position in Fantasy given its natural disadvantages. A catcher's job, after all, is to impede the path of a hundred screaming projectiles in about a three-hour span — all from a squatting position. Injuries are common, and those who manage to stay healthy still require regular rest. Fittingly, you'll almost never see a catcher occupying a utility spot in a Fantasy league. Even the best ones barely measure up to an average hitter at a not-so-brutal position.
With that in mind, the approach you take to the position varies depending whether your league requires the use of one or two. Most likely, it's only one, but traditional Rotisserie leagues require two. If you do find yourself in such league ... honestly, it shouldn't matter much. Everyone is in the same boat, having to sift through a catalog of uninspiring bats for that second spot, and the price you'd have to pay to secure a real advantage there probably isn't worth it.
The need for two catchers does create a sort of faux urgency, though, that may force you to reach a little sooner if you want someone genuinely high-end. We talked about the best strategies for the position on the Catcher Preview 2.0 episode of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, which you can listen to below. You can also subscribe to the podcast and catch the latest episodes on our YouTube page to keep up to date on everything you need to know to win in 2020:
Let's say your game is to go big at catcher. You'd do it by targeting one of these studs:
I have a slight preference for Realmuto over Sanchez. He offers more diverse production and has a playing time advantage, but i recognize Sanchez's overall ceiling is probably higher.
Of course, the highest point-per-game average at the position last year belonged to Mitch Garver, and it wasn't particularly close. The Twins seemed reluctant to turn over full-time duty to him, though he wasn't in a strict platoon with the left-handed-hitting Jason Castro. How much he'll regress with increased exposure to righties, against whom he hit 45 points lower (but still with good power) remains to be seen, but I'm finding he's my most-drafted catcher just because the price is right. About Round 10 or 11, when all the high-end starting pitchers are gone and the remaining third base and outfield options look virtually indistinguishable, he seems like the best hope for securing an advantage somewhere in my lineup.
But if you miss out, there are some reasonable fallback choices:
While they're all fine starting options (assuming Salvador Perez rebounds as expected from Tommy John surgery), the upside for this group obviously doesn't compare. The one exception might be Will Smith, who came on strong with nine homers in 19 games after taking over as the Dodgers' starter last July but also revealed his floor with a .183 (15 for 82) batting average over his final 26 games. Between the high strikeout rate and how hard he sells out for power, putting more than half his batted balls in the air, a low batting average is to be expected. Not like the Dodgers are lacking in catcher alternatives if he fizzles either (see Keibert Ruiz).
Notice we're only up to 11 serviceable catcher options, which puts us one shy of having enough to go around in a standard 12-team league, but any of these next four has just as much upside as the previous group, if not the studs. And chances are you'll be able to swap one out for another if your first choice goes awry:
Again, any Fantasy player who's satisfied with his catcher option probably isn't going to pick up another because it's not like he'd start him anywhere but catcher. So if you want to be the last person to take a catcher in your league — assuming it's a 12-team, one-catcher format — and then just play it by ear the first month, you'll probably still be in good shape. The breakout potential for this quartet is fairly high.
Francisco Mejia isn't far removed from being the top catcher prospect in baseball, and his bat is his carrying tool. He started to claim a bigger share of the workload from defensive standout Austin Hedges before straining his oblique last August.
Playing time wouldn't seem to be an issue for Sean Murphy, who earned high defensive marks and saw a power breakthrough in the minors the past two years after already showing the ability to make regular contact. Tom Murphy was a longtime masher in the Rockies minor-league system who should play about 60 percent of the time with Omar Narvaez now in Milwaukee. He mostly just crushed lefties last year, batting .211 with a .653 OPS against righties, but the power ranks up there with anyone else at the position.
For all the consternation surrounding the catcher position, then, it seems like a fairly difficult one to mess up, at least in a standard lineup league. The fact is that Fantasy players don't need much from the position, and there are enough able bats to meet that need.
It's worth noting, given how in demand they are in 2020, that stolen bases are nowhere to be found here. J.T. Realmuto is probably the best source of them, but when the upside is barely cracking double digits, there's a narrow margin between that and uselessness.