2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Five No. 1 contenders for catcher, including Danny Jansen, Carson Kelly
Bargain catchers who could become No. 1 at the position for 2021? Here are five candidates.
Sleepers, breakouts, busts … Fantasy players love these terms, but there's no agreed-upon term for any of them. It's all left up to the writer to determine what they mean. I've given my, , and picks already, and Scott White will be updating his this week, but I wanted to sink my claws into something a bit more concrete this week: Players with the potential to be No. 1 at the position by this time next year.
Obviously, breakouts by the likes of Christian Vazquez, Josh Bell or Ketel Marte last season show that anyone could do it, but what we want to identify are players with skill sets that could lead to that kind of season. These players may not actually finish No. 1, but I want to identify who could make the leap into the elite tier for 2020, and how they might do that.
I'll be covering each position this week, beginning with catchers right here:
NYM N.Y. Mets • #40 • Age: 32
We don't have to go too far back to find Ramos hitting like the No. 1 overall catcher — he did in 2018, when he hit .306/.358/.487 and almost certainly would have been the top option if not for an injury. 2019 was a tough year for Ramos, but he still managed to finish ninth at the position, so you know the floor is pretty high. The question is whether he can fix his swing to generate more balls in the air; he had the lowest average launch angle in baseball in 2019. However, he still sported an above-average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, so the underlying skills are still there. Ramos reworked his swing in the offseason in an effort to hit the ball in the air more, and if that sticks, Ramos' ability to hit the ball hard and make contact should propel him to a big-time bounce back season.
ARI Arizona • #18 • Age: 25
Kelly's long-anticipated breakout season was hampered by two things: A glacially slow start to the season and the Diamondbacks' insistence on using multiple catchers. Alex. Avila had 201 plate appearances, and even the combination of Caleb Joseph and John Ryan Murphy had 110 between them. The Diamondbacks don't figure to carry a third catcher in 2020, and it's fair to wonder if he would have earned a larger share of the playing time in 2020 had he not hit .182/.211/.309 through the teams' first 32 games. From May 4 on, he hit .259/.373/.514, displaying the kind of strong plate discipline that made him such an intriguing prospect. If Kelly can avoid a similarly slow start in 2020, he should garner a lion's share of the playing time, and there's 25-homer potential here with a batting average that won't hurt you.
OAK Oakland • #12 • Age: 25
There's a competition ongoing to be the A's backup catcher, but there's no doubt who the starter will be. Murphy earned that job with his play last season, as he hit .245/.333/.566 in 20 games with the A's after a strong (albeit injury-marred) run in Triple-A. In 114 games between Double-A and Triple-A over the past two seasons, Murphy has hit 19 homers with a .288 average and 17.8% strikeout rate, all numbers that will more than play at catcher. The bat should play, and the glove should keep him in the lineup regularly, so the biggest question is whether Murphy can stay healthy. The bad news is, Murphy has played fewer than 100 games in each season as a professional, so it's hard to expect him to do so for the first time in 2020, especially coming off knee surgery.
SF San Francisco • #28 • Age: 33
It is, admittedly, unlikely that Buster Posey will enjoy a bounce back in his age-32 season, and with top prospect Joey Bart knocking on the door, it's possible the days of Posey being the everyday catcher for the Giants could pretty much be over. However, unlike in 2019, Posey isn't coming off offseason hip surgery to open this year, and Posey has admitted that impacted his ability to prepare as he normally would. Posey is talking about hitting for power again this season, and while that's just talk, those of you in two-catcher leagues can do worse than gambling on a finally healthy Posey (who still makes plenty of contact) getting back to something like 2016-2017 levels. That would put him back in the conversation for the top of the catcher position.
TOR Toronto • #9 • Age: 24
Jansen is a lot like Kelly; he's a touted prospect who struggled in his first prolonged exposure as an everyday option. 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, giving him 13 for the season, all over his final 76 games. He hit just .225 in that time, though a .233 BABIP likely explains most of that disappointing number. He struck out in just 18.4% of his plate appearances in that span, a solid number in this day and age. Jansen's combination of plate discipline and power led to a 15 homers and a .285 average in 109 career games at Triple-A, and they could lead to something similar at the major-league level now that he's found his footing.
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.
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