Fantasy Baseball: Highlighting top 10 catcher prospects for 2017

In an era of haves at traditionally weak positions like shortstop and second base, catcher, as surely as ever, has not.

And that's not changing anytime soon.

It already got an infusion of talent in the form of Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras this year. Both are looking like top-five options now, which perhaps says more about the state of catcher than those players themselves.

The position does feature a couple of prospects in a similar spot next year: on the verge of breaking through, but with scouting reports that leave much to the imagination. It also offers a couple of more projectable types further down the ladder.

So no, the arrival of Sanchez and Contreras, for as good as they ended up being, hasn't depleted the minors of all Fantasy hopefuls at catcher. But it's not the first place you should look if retooling your farm system in a long-term keeper league.

Note: This list is intended for a variety of Fantasy formats and thus weighs short-term role against long-term value. Not all of these players will contribute in 2017 -- most, in fact, will not -- but among prospects, they're the names to know.

1. Francisco Mejia , 21, Cleveland Indians

Where played in 2016: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .342 BA (407 AB), 11 HR, .896 OPS, 28 BB, 63 K

The Jonathan Lucroy deal that never was really put Mejia on the map as a prospect, cemented by his 50-game hitting streak (you read that right) between two levels of Class A this year. Clearly, he knows what he's doing with the bat, and since he also has an arm capable of shutting down the running game, his future as an everyday catcher is all but assured.

2. Zack Collins , 22, Chicago White Sox

Where played in 2016: Rookie, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .244 BA (131 AB), 6 HR, .831 OPS, 33 BB, 46 K

The 10th overall pick in the draft just this year, Collins is nonetheless on the fast track as a 22-year-old with ample collegiate experience (out of the vaunted Miami program, no less). He struck out a little too much in his professional debut, but he's a middle-of-the-order hitter just working to fine-tune his defensive game.

3. Chance Sisco , 22, Baltimore Orioles

Where played in 2016: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .317 BA (426 AB), 6 HR, .833 OPS, 61 BB, 88 K

As a hitter, Sisco profiles more like Mejia than Collins, content to spray line drives all over the field during a minor-league career that has yielded a .323 batting average over four seasons, though he has flashed power in big moments, such as the Futures Game this year. With Matt Wieters testing free agency, Sisco may just be biding his time at Triple-A to start the year.

4. Tom Murphy , 25, Colorado Rockies

Where played in 2016: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .327 BA (303 AB), 19 HR, 1.008 OPS, 16 BB, 78 K
Major-league stats: .273 BA (44 AB), 5 HR, 1.006 OPS, 4 BB, 19 K

If anything, Murphy is too willing to sell out for power, and it put him in a big hole at Triple-A Albuquerque to start the year, further delaying his arrival. But he responded with a.442 batting average, 12 home runs and 1.316 OPS in his final 41 games, earning him a late-season promotion and giving him the inside track on a starting job in the most hitter-friendly environment.

5. Jorge Alfaro , 23, Philadelphia Phillies

Where played in 2016: Double-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .285 BA (404 AB), 15 HR, .783 OPS, 22 BB, 105 K
Major-league stats: .125 BA (16 AB), 0 HR, .301 OPS, 1 BB, 8 K

Lauded as a prospect since his teenage years in the Rangers organization, Alfaro still has as many questions to answer about his offense as his defense, lacking refinement in both at what's becoming a fairly advanced age. Still, particularly with fellow prospect Andrew Knapp taking a step back in 2016, he's undoubtedly the Phillies' catcher of the future and may well knock off Cameron Rupp at some point this season.

6. Jacob Nottingham , 21, Milwaukee Brewers

Where played in 2016: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .234 BA, (415 AB), 11 HR, .641 OPS, 29 BB, 138 K

Nottingham gets a pass for his poor 2016, partly because he was so good in 2015, hitting .316 with an .877 OPS, but mostly because there are only five standout prospects at the position. That he floundered immediately after leaving the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League is concerning, especially since he's not going to reach the majors on account of his defense, but some evaluators remain optimistic.

7. Max Pentecost , 24, Toronto Blue Jays

Where played in 2016: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .302 BA (288 AB), 10 HR, .847 OPS, 24 BB, 68 K

Pentecost's bat should get him to the majors with relative ease, but the question is whether he'll arrive as a catcher. The Blue Jays took it easy with him after his three shoulder surgeries in 2015, playing him mostly at DH, but at 24, he's running out of time to make up for lost time, needing to make rapid progress at a position that's normally a slow bake.

8. Carson Kelly , 22, St. Louis Cardinals

Where played in 2016: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .289 BA (329 AB), 6 HR, .738 OPS, 25 BB, 63 K
Major-league stats: .154 BA (13 AB), 0 HR, .445 OPS, 0 BB, 2 K

Four years after transitioning from third base, Kelly is now regarded as a future No. 1 catcher and the heir apparent to Yadier Molina in St. Louis. And he'll at least be useful in Fantasy in that role, but his limited offensive potential makes him not such a priority in long-term keeper leagues.

9. Garrett Stubbs, 23, Houston Astros

Where played in 2016: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .304 BA (326 AB), 10 HR, 15 SB, .860 OPS, 43 BB, 48 K

I'll admit to playing favorites with this one, but seeing as Stubbs already earned high marks for his defense, his offensive breakthrough in 2016, in which he showed legitimate power while maintaining a disciplined approach, could catapult him in an organization without a long-term answer at catcher. And it wasn't all the California League. He hit .325 with a .918 OPS in 31 games at Double-A.

10. Austin Barnes , 27, Los Angeles Dodgers

Where played in 2016: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .295 BA (336 AB), 6 HR, 18 SB, .824 OPS, 43 BB, 53 K
Major-league stats: .156 BA (32 AB), 0 HR, .458 OPS, 5 BB, 9 K

Yeah, the age is disconcerting, but as a well-rounded offensive player with no real blips on his minor-league track record, Barnes deserves to be starting somewhere in the majors. As long as he and Yasmani Grandal are both with the Dodgers, though, he'll have to steal at-bats at second and third base to factor in Fantasy, assuming he's on the major-league roster at all.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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