A lot has changed in Fantasy baseball since were first started preparing for the 2020 season, but one thing hasn't changed at all: Catcher is still the weakest position. In case you forgot, Christian Vazquez finished as the No. 3 catcher in points leagues in 2019, and was No. 4 in Roto. That would have been "good" for just 20th at second base in points and 13th in Roto, and second base is clearly the second-weakest position.
In one-catcher leagues, that isn't as much of an issue because I can go at least eight or nine deep in the rankings of Scott White and Frank Stampfl before I start to get skeptical, and I can go close to 15 deep before running out of catchers I could at least consider starting. In a lot of ways, drafting in a one-catcher league is like drafting a tight end in Fantasy football you can either go for one of the studs at the position — a list that includes J.T. Realmuto, Gary Sanchez, Willson Contreras and Yasmani Grandal, as well as Mitch Garver depending on how much in that you believe in his breakout — or wait until the last few rounds, grab a Sean Murphy or Danny Jansen type and cycle through free agents if they don't work.
Leagues where two catchers start, however, are a completely different animal. The position might look deeper than normal, but half or more of your 12-team league is going to be stuck starting someone who doesn't belong on a Fantasy roster at any other position. That's just the nature of the position.
The good news is, there might only be three catchers who go inside the top 100 in most drafts, so you'll never have to pay much no matter which approach you take.
PHI Philadelphia • #10 • Age: 29
Realmuto didn't quite live up to expectations in his first season outside of Miami, but an .892 OPS in the second half gives hope he might have more in store in Year 2 in Philly.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #24 • Age: 27
That's two years in a row Sanchez disappointed his drafters, although this time it was just because of injuries, not performance. If Sanchez can stay healthy, he has the potential to be a rare catcher who ranks among the league leaders in home runs.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #24 • Age: 31
Grandal is one of the most durable players at the position, having playing 293 games over the past two seasons, and he's also one of the few 30-homer threats. The batting average will never help, but Grandal does pretty much everything else well, and he might be uniquely positioned to play nearly everyday.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #40 • Age: 28
Contreras bounced back in a big way, hitting a career high in homers despite missing 54 games. A career-best hard-hit rate backs up the breakout.
MIN Minnesota • #8 • Age: 29
Was Garver's breakout for real? On a per-game basis, he was the most productive catcher in baseball, hitting his 31 homers in just 93 games. Most of his batted-ball indicators back up the power — Garver was in the 85th percentile in average exit velocity and 97th percentile in hard-hit rate — but the sample size is small, making him a volatile asset for 2020, but one with considerable upside.
KC Kansas City • #13 • Age: 30
Once one of the most reliable options at the position, Perez had Tommy John surgery last March and missed the entire 2019 season. Can you still rely on Perez for close to pace for 30 homers and to be among the leaders in games played at the position? One good sign: The Royals are talking about using him at first base to keep him fresh early on, and the delayed start to the season should only help him hit the ground running.
Speaking of small sample sizes, Smith was a star in his 54 games last season, too. And he has the minor-league track record to back it up, with 40 homers in 161 career games between Double-A and Triple-A. The peripherals don't back Smith's 2019 up as much as they do for Garver, but the pre-2019 track record is even better.
Ramos still hit the ball with plenty of authority in 2019, but his ground-ball rate spiked to 62.4%, sapping him of much of his power. That was well out of line with career norms, so a return to pre-2019 levels isn't out of the question — especially since he's talked about working to elevate the ball more in 2020.
ARI Arizona • #18 • Age: 25
There was definitely some prospect fatigue around Kelly in recent years, but he took advantage of his first opportunity to play almost every day. Kelly struggled in April and September, but ran a .274/.387/.572 line from May through August, a sign of the upside.
Narvaez wasn't limited much by his home park in 2019, but he could get a nice boost from Miller Park, one of the better parks for left-handed power in the majors.
BOS Boston • #7 • Age: 29
It's hard to overstate just how much of an outlier Vazquez's 2019 power production was. From 2014-2018, his .089 ISO was the 15th-lowest among 332 players with at least 999 plate appearances. Vazquez's profile doesn't support big power production, but there are reasons to think he can at least be more than a zero moving forward.
OAK Oakland • #12 • Age: 25
If Murphy can stay healthy, he has the potential to be a difference maker at catcher for Fantasy. He has solid power and contact skills, and the Athletics showed their faith in him by throwing him into the lineup during a playoff race down the stretch, where he acquitted himself very well.
Don't forget about ...
MIA Miami • #38 • Age: 27
There can be value in betting on players with elite tools figuring out the actual baseball stuff out. Alfaro is pretty close to the ideal athlete for catcher — he ranks right near the top of the position in pop time, throwing velocity, sprint speed, and exit velocity. Unfortunately, his approach is a bit of a mess, as he swings at everything and hits the ball on the ground far too often. If he figures out how to maximize his tools, he could turn into a difference maker. Think about what happened to Javier Baez a few years back.
SD San Diego • #27 • Age: 24
Another recent top prospect who hasn't figured it out yet, Mejia doesn't have Alfaro's flashey tools, but projects as a good combo of power and contact if he hits.
SF San Francisco • #28 • Age: 33
I love buying established stars when their price craters, and that's where Posey is. I don't expect the power to come back at this stage in his career, but the hope is he's healthy after a few years wrecked by hip issues and can at least provide a useful batting average.
Catcher Sleeper, Breakout, & Bust
TOR Toronto • #9 • Age: 25
Jansen's overall line for 2019 looks awful, but a lot of that was due to a deep slump to open the season. He didn't hit a homer until the Blue Jays 32nd game of the season, sporting a .160/.245/.202 line as of May 16. However, he homered on May 17 and 19, and would hit 11 more in his next 74 games, a 28-homer pace for a full season. Jansen still hit just .225 during that span, however a .233 BABIP helps explain why that might have been some bad luck. If he can avoid both the slumps and bad luck that plagued him as a rookie, Jansen has top-five catcher potential.
There's no one agreed upon definition of "sleeper," but Winson Ramos certainly falls under that category for me. He ranks as the No. 8 catcher off the board, which is reasonable enough, except that comes with a 14th-round pick on average. Ramos was a disappointment in 2019, but his season wasn't really that much different than his 2018, except his slugging percentage dropped by 70 points. He hit the ball hard, ranking above average in exit velocity and hard-hit rate, but had the lowest average launch angle in baseball. He's talked about wanting to elevate the ball more in 2020, and if he accomplishes that goal while hanging on to his contact skills, he's showed he can be one of the best hitting catchers in baseball.
Narvaez was a popular sleeper last season, and he mostly lived up to expectations — though like seemingly everyone on the Mariners in 2019, much of his production came in the early part of the season before petering out. Narvaez gets the most out of his somewhat limited skill set by making consistent contact and pulling the ball in the air, and playing in Miller Park should help him maximize his power. Narvaez is no Yasmani Grandal, but he has a chance to do a pretty decent impersonation at a fraction of the cost.
It's tough to come up with a bust call for catcher, given how late they tend to go, but one I have yet to draft in 2020 is Will Smith. I like the skill set, though he profiles as a no-average, all-power hitter, and even at catcher, that skill set just doesn't make you stand out these days. If he hits at a 25-homer pace, he'll be a must-start catcher, but the underlying batted ball metrics from his rookie season don't quite back up what he did, with a .225 expected batting average and .452 expected slugging percentage. If you want to reach for a 2019 small-sample superstar, reach for Mitch Garver instead.
Catcher Top Prospects
Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, short-season Class A, low Class A
Minor-league stats: .254 (130 AB), 4 HR, 8 2B, .774 OPS, 20 BB, 27 K
"With no holes in his game offensively or defensively, he's considered as can't-miss as catcher prospects get and a face-of-the-franchise type for a rebuilding club."
Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .278 (313 AB), 16 HR, .824 OPS, 21 BB, 71 K
The heir apparent for a broken-down Buster Posey would be poised to take over next year if he himself could stay healthy."
3. Sean Murphy, Athletics
Age (on opening day): 25
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .293 (150 AB), 11 HR, 8 2B, .964 OPS, 22 BB, 36 K
Major-league stats: .245 (53 AB), 4 HR, 5 2B, .899 OPS, 6 BB, 16 K
"The Athletics rode Josh Phegley as far as he could carry him, but once it became clear Murphy was past the torn meniscus that wrecked much of his 2019, they were happy to turn over catching duties to him during the heat of a playoff race."
4. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers
Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .261 (314 AB), 6 HR, .679 OPS, 30 BB, 22 K
"Ruiz's receiving ability keeps him high in the real-world ranks, and it's true his contact rate is superhuman and a breath of fresh air in today's environment."
Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .301 (396 AB), 18 HR, 21 SB, .899 OPS, 42 BB, 63 K
"Varsho continues to bolster his prospect bona fides with every step up the ladder and straight-up demolished Double-A over the final two months, batting .352 with nine homers, 11 steals and a 1.056 OPS."
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.