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It's fair to say that if you invested anything in the catcher position in 2020, you were disappointed. OK, so top pick J.T. Realmuto did what he was supposed to do. And others like Salvador Perez and Travis d'Arnaud were fantastic, even if the investment in them was relatively small. But by and large, the catchers we expected to be the most bankable were anything but in a pandemic-shortened season.

Which presents a complication when ranking catchers for 2021 — one that exists at every position to varying degrees. How much should two months of stray data change our thinking about a player? The answer is somewhere in between "completely" and "not at all," and my sensibilities put me closer to the latter when there's already a well-established track record. Apologies if you don't like my placement of Gary Sanchez.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa wasn't considered for these rankings. According to CBS eligibility rules, altered for the shortened season, he won't qualify at catcher to begin 2021.

Note that these rankings are intended for 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but I point out distinctions for points leagues where applicable.  

Top 20 catchers for 2021
1
J.T. Realmuto Philadelphia Phillies C
J.T. Realmuto was just about the only high-end catcher to live up to and even exceed expectations, delivering better-than-ever power production while continuing to outpace most other catchers in playing time.
2
Willson Contreras Chicago Cubs C
The extent of Willson Contreras ' disappointment was milder than that of most high-end catchers, and if anything, his batted-ball profile changed for the better. A rebound is likely, especially since he's still in his 20s.
3
Salvador Perez Kansas City Royals C
Salvador Perez has been around long enough that you wouldn't expect him to have any new tricks, so him becoming a well-rounded hitter who contributes in batting average is the sort of upset deserving of skepticism in a shortened season. His line-drive rate was much improved, though, and who else are you going to pick here?
4
Gary Sanchez New York Yankees C
Given how long Gary Sanchez has resided near the top of the catcher rankings, it would be short-sighted to bury him for what amounts to a miserable two months. Apart from the bloated strikeout rate, the batted-ball profile remained intact, so I'd expect better results with a more typical buildup.
5
Travis d'Arnaud Atlanta Braves C
Another 30-something who did something he never did before, Travis d'Arnaud gets more benefit of the doubt than he would if he played a position with promising alternatives. For what it's worth, Statcast's expected stats back up what he did, but they're subject to sample size as well.
6
Yasmani Grandal Chicago White Sox C
I might dismiss Yasmani Grandal 's struggles the same as Willson Contreras' if he wasn't going to be 32 next year and didn't forfeit so much playing time in his first year with the White Sox . He's still elevated some by track record, but the case for decline is stronger with him.
7
Will Smith Los Angeles Dodgers C
Quietly, Will Smith corrected just about all the flaws he showed as a rookie in 2019, cutting his strikeout rate almost in half while developing a batted-ball profile that doesn't sell out so hard for home runs. If only the Dodgers would play him more than four times a week ...
8
Austin Nola San Diego Padres C
A surprising debut in 2019 turned into an even stronger 2020 for Austin Nola , and suddenly, this late bloomer is valued like a first-division regular, giving the Padres an excuse to move on from their homegrown underachievers. Francisco Mejia and Luis Campusano are still lurking, though.
9
James McCann Chicago White Sox C
Does a two-month continuation of James McCann 's All-Star 2019 season give it more legitimacy? You bet it does, and since he's a free agent this offseason, you can trust he'll sign with a team that won't ask him to split at-bats with a Yasmani Grandal type.
10
Christian Vazquez Boston Red Sox C
A quick four homers right out of the gate obscured a mostly unproductive showing for Christian Vazquez , who had much to prove after a surprising power breakthrough last year. His defensive chops will keep him in the lineup, but his xSLG was more like what we saw prior to 2019.
11
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Mitch Garver Minnesota Twins C
Mitch Garver doesn't have near the track record of Gary Sanchez and doesn't get the same benefit of the doubt, but his situation is similar: an out-of-control strikeout rate concealing the fact that his quality of contact was similar to 2019, if not better. Timing issues can be forgiven in a weird season like this one.
12
Sean Murphy Oakland Athletics C
The rookie took a while to get there but in the end showed many of the traits that make him an attractive Fantasy target, reaching base at a high rate with premium exit velocity and a workable launch angle. The expected stats weren't great, according to Statcast, but the foundation is strong.
13
Max Stassi Los Angeles Angels C
With Jason Castro out of the mix, Max Stassi presumably continues as the Angels ' starting catcher next year. The 29-year-old's performance this year, which was backed up by plus plate discipline and high exit velocity, suggests he's the best they've had in a while, but of course, it was in fewer than 100 at-bats.
14
Pedro Severino Baltimore Orioles C
While Pedro Severino 's two months in 2020 felt like two different worlds, the combined result was promising: a continuation of a 2019 breakthrough that was built on a high line-drive rate and solid plate discipline. Prospect Adley Rutschman figures to take over at some point next year, though.
15
Yadier Molina St. Louis Cardinals C
Yadier Molina 's contract is up, and retirement has to be on the table for the 38-year-old. Assuming the heart and soul of the Cardinals is back behind the plate in 2021, though, his contact skills remain intact, and he's still capable of taking on a big workload.
16
Buster Posey San Francisco Giants C
Prospect Joey Bart didn't exactly seize the day with Buster Posey opting out for COVID-19 concerns, so presumably, the former MVP will be back in the driver's seat next year. And he may be the healthiest he's been in years, perhaps recapturing some of his former glory if he can fend off the threats to his playing time.
17
Jorge Alfaro Miami Marlins C
Jorge Alfaro still offers an exciting collection of tools that mostly still manifest as exit velocity and BABIP, and there's been no progress made in the plate discipline and launch angle departments to bring it all together. At this point, it's probably safe to assume he is what he is, which makes him a pretty fringy contributor, especially in points leagues.
18
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Tom Murphy Seattle Mariners C
It turns out a two-month season wasn't enough time for Tom Murphy to make it all the way back from a fractured foot, but now that Austin Nola has moved on, he should still be poised for a big workload in 2021. His all-or-nothing profile will keep Luis Torrens involved, but few catchers can match Murphy's power potential.
19
Sam Huff Texas Rangers C
Speaking of power potential, Sam Huff 's earned a 70 grade from Baseball America after he homered 28 times in the lower minors last year, and he didn't shrink at the plate in his brief debut this year. Contact could be an issue, but the rebuilding Rangers might be ready to turn over the job to him.
20
Daulton Varsho Arizona Diamondbacks CF
Though the transition to the majors wasn't a seamless one, Daulton Varsho was picking up steam as the season ended and has nothing more to prove, really, in the minors. He actually saw more time in the outfield than behind the plate, which likely gives him a leg up in playing time over teammate Carson Kelly.