The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Catchers, Nos. 21-50
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
As we continue our look at those who have chosen to don the tools of ignorance, we resume our list with a prospect who moved to a new organization since the last edition of these rankings:
21) Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 16)
The 2015 season was one to forget for Alfaro, who lost a year of development and some of his prospect shine due to an ankle injury. After coming over from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal, his strikeout rate concerns played up over 49 games at the Double-A level. Alfaro remains an enticing mix of defense and power but will have to beat out Cameron Rupp and the aging Carlos Ruiz to get the job in 2016.
22) Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Following the exodus of Russell Martin, the Pirates made the shrewd move to acquire another former Yankee, the boring–yet capable–Cervelli. He rewarded their decision with his best ever season; posting a stellar OBP of .370 and a 119 wRC+, the latter was actually better than Martin’s mark of 114 wRC+ for Toronto in 2015. Don’t expect big power but he is a sure bet to produce runs and a solid batting average. Cervelli’s value rises in OBP leagues, as his .370 mark over the last two seasons ranks second behind Buster Posey.
23) Nick Hundley, Colorado Rockies (Age: 32, Previous Rank: NR)
Before succumbing to a neck injury late in the season, Hundley was enjoying his most productive professional season in his age-31 campaign. Perhaps helped by a BABIP of .356, Hundley was batting .301 with 10 home runs before the injury. The power has always been there with a career ISO of .151 and that skill should only continue to play up in Coors Field. The good defense should ensure him the starting job until degradation of ability or health pave the way for Tom Murphy.
24) Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 29)
Despite having a poor first full-season in the majors in 2015, Plawecki finds himself climbing up our ranks for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, his 23.3 percent strikeout rate from 2015 is around ten percent higher than his career marks in the minor leagues, making his .219 batting average from last year seem more an aberration than the normal. The other factor is that Travis d’Arnaud continues to be plagued by injuries having never played more than 108 games. There is potential here for a high average, high OBP regular.
25) Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Perhaps the biggest surprise at the position this past year was the sudden rise of Contreras, who thrust himself into consideration as the future starting catcher on the North Side. Making the jump from High-A to Double-A last season, Contreras was able to increase his walk rate and decrease his strikeout rate in hitting for a very impressive .333/.413/.478 line over 126 games. With the possibility of Schwarber moving off of the position and Montero only signed through 2017, it could be that Contreras represents the long-term solution for the Cubs. Contreras’ .370 BABIP from last year was over 70 points higher than it had been in recent history, so expecting an average similar to the .333 mark he posted in 2015 may not be prudent.
26) Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Murphy started 2015 in Double-A, and due to some monster power numbers and injuries to the Rockies catching corps, ended the season in the big leagues. Across the two highest levels of the minors and the majors, Murphy was able to clock 23 home runs and has routinely posted ISO’s upwards of .200 over his career in the minors. The strikeout rate continues to be a problem but as long it can stay at 30 percent or below, his power should be very valuable at the position–especially calling Coors Field home.
27) Jacob Nottingham, Oakland Athletics (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Continuing our trend of catchers who were unranked a season ago, the regally named Nottingham turned heads with a 17 home run explosion over three lower levels of the minors in 2015. Nottingham joined the A’s as the main piece in the Scott Kazmir trade and the right-handed catcher has solid contact skills and power that seems to still be developing. Nottingham will likely see extended Double-A time in 2016 with an eye on reaching the majors in 2017.
28) James McCann, Detroit Tigers (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
Calling McCann “Vanilla” would be an insult to what I think is one of the more solid flavors in all of the ice cream kingdom. Aside from having the inside track at the starting catching job in Detroit, McCann remains about as boring as it gets with little to no upside. There is very little power here and he doesn’t walk. The value is that he simply plays, and if Jarrod Saltalamacchia eats into his playing time in 2016, McCann will likely be relegated to AL-only and deeper leagues that start two catchers.
29) Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 36)
With all the pedigree that comes with a high draft choice, Sisco has done a solid job of living up to his billing thus far. Sisco’s carrying tool is of the borderline-elite hit variety, which seems to be gaining some power as he grows into his frame. The defense is also improving, ensuring that when Wieters leaves Baltimore, he should have an opportunity to grab the starting job over the next few seasons. He could rocket up this list if he has a solid year with both the bat and the glove at Double-A in 2016.
30) John Ryan Murphy, Minnesota Twins (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Recently traded from the Yankees to the Twins for Aaron Hicks, Murphy will be given the job as the everyday catcher for an up-and-coming Minnesota club. While he doesn’t possess a ton of power, Murphy’s skill as a receiver and ability to hit for average should help him keep the starting job over Kurt Suzuki, whose last year in Minnesota will likely be 2016.
31) Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 17)
With the acquisition of GM Jerry Dipoto’s personal catcher (Chris Iannetta) and his subsequent trade for Steve Clevenger, Zunino finds himself without a spot on the Seattle roster headed into 2016. Drafted in 2012 with the third overall pick, Zunino was rocketed through the Mariner system, but the ability to hit for average that he showed in the low minors has all but evaporated. The power is still there, but Zunino will have to figure out a way to hit above the Mendoza line if he expects to regain his job, and will likely start the year in the minors in an effort to retool his swing. There are few better stashes at the catching position in deeper leagues than this post-hype sleeper.
32) Andrew Susac, San Francisco Giants (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 30)
The skilled Susac will remain nothing more than an injury stash for the number one ranked catcher on this list, presumably as long as the Giants continue to keep the perennial All-Star behind the plate. Should an opportunity for a starting job present itself (likely via a trade out of San Francisco), Susac would make for a reliable catcher with 20 home run potential. Susac is coming off a September wrist surgery, but should be healthy heading into 2016.
33) Caleb Joseph, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Due to the health of Matt Wieters over the past two seasons, Joseph has appeared in 182 regular season games, giving us a sizable sample size of the type of production he is capable of. Joseph has shown a below average ability to get on base but has displayed above average power. He should continue to operate as a backup but could be a reliable play with some upside for many years, and could work his way into a starting role when Wieters departs.
34) Jason Castro, Houston Astros (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 19)
The left-handed bat of Castro remains one of the weaker lineup options on a pretty impressive Astros club that surprised a lot of people by making a post-season run in 2015. Since his impressive BABIP-fueled 2013 season that saw him hit for a .276 average with 18 home runs, he has become a below average fantasy option at the position and he could end up in a timeshare with Max Stassi if he can’t inch his production closer to his 2013 campaign.
35) Dioner Navarro, Chicago White Sox (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 23)
It’s unclear at this point how the at-bats will shake out in Chicago with fellow catcher Alex Avila in the mix, but being the better bat could give Navarro the advantage. If he can earn the everyday job, Navarro could post similar numbers to his work with the Blue Jays in 2014, and moving to another quality hitting environment in US Cellular could make him a stealth deeper league target once again.
36) Josh Phegley, Oakland Athletics (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
The former 39th overall pick in the 2009 draft has shown flashes of interesting offensive upside in the minors, clubbing 23 home runs in 107 Triple-A (International League) contests in 2014, while hitting for a .274 average. Phegley hasn’t yet translated the quality average to the majors (.227 in 494 plate appearances across three seasons), but if he is given a full-season’s worth of at-bats, he could provide value in deeper mixed and AL-only leagues.
37) Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (Age: 32, Previous Rank: NR)
Chirinos was never considered more than a placeholder for top prospect Jorge Alfaro, but he should now be in line for regular playing time with Texas’ trade of Alfaro to the Phillies. Chirinos’ glove will keep him in the lineup, but the career .232 hitter will likely be a drag on batting average. A walk rate of just over ten percent in 2015 means that he isn’t as much of a disaster in OBP leagues, and last year’s ten home runs in 78 games gives fantasy owners some hope for a bit of power. Chirinos will enter his age-32 season in 2016, making it hard to envision any kind of breakout year.
38) Cameron Rupp, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Rupp will likely take the torch from Chirinos as the new placeholder for Jorge Alfaro and enter the 2016 season in a timeshare with Carlos Ruiz. With nine home runs in 299 plate appearances in 2015, Rupp could provide power, but likely won’t provide much else.
39) Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
As the eleventh overall pick in the 2015 draft, Stephenson was the first catcher off the board. He was taken so highly partly for his power potential, but mainly for his ability to unleash wicked bat flips. Stephenson’s calling card will always be his raw power, and while questions surround his hit tool, his strong arm improves his chances to stick behind the plate. As with any recently drafted high school catcher, the burn will be a slow one with Stephenson, but his power potential makes him an intriguing dynasty asset.
40) Max Pentecost, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 34)
Although he was selected with the eleventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, multiple shoulder surgeries have limited Pentecost to 109 professional plate appearances, all of which came in short-season ball shortly after being drafted. Pentecost’s speed potential from behind the plate is intriguing, but he badly needs to make up for his lost developmental time and will have to show that his shoulder is healthy enough to stay behind the plate.
41) Carlos Perez, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
Perez isn’t anything special with the bat, but he provides the ability to not be a black hole in the average department (.280 career minor league hitter), and if he can pass offensive stalwart Geovany Soto on the depth chart, he should be in line for regular at-bats in 2016. However, the upside is pretty much nonexistent, as the 25-year old owns 22 lifetime home runs in over 2,300 career minor league plate appearances.
42) Curt Casali, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Curt Casali was on pace for 42 home runs last year. Now that you’re excited, I should probably break the news that he only played 38 games last season. Still, Casali managed to hit ten home runs in 113 at bats, and could provide some production in the power department if he can pass the .178-hitting Rene Rivera on the depth chart. A lack of power in the minors should dampen expectations, but the second-year catcher could provide value in deeper leagues next season.
43) Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 37)
The current catching poster boy for being more valuable in real life than fantasy, Hedges has made Baseball Prospectus’ top-100 prospect list every year since 2012, and peaked as a top-25 prospect. Hedges is ranked lower than the likes of Curt Casali and Josh Phegley on our list for a reason and Petco Park does his below average offensive profile no favors. Hedges will find his way into the lineup thanks to his elite defense, but the lifetime .256 hitter in the minors will likely struggle to hit his weight in the majors and won’t provide any semblance of power to boot.
44) Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 42)
There’s certainly no shame in being the second-best Francisco in the Indians organization and Mejia has as much upside as any catching prospect in baseball. However, the .670 OPS posted in his first taste of full-season minor league action also presents a wide range of outcomes. Mejia enters his age-20 season in 2016 with the tools to end up with an above average bat and plus power — along with very good defense — but will have show improvement with the bat in High-A ball to move up the list next winter.
45) Dom Nunez, Colorado Rockies (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Unlike Mejia, who is on this list for tools and not performance, Nunez is here because of performance. Nunez flew relatively under the fantasy radar heading into the 2015 season, where he hit for a .282 average with 13 home runs and seven stolen bases (in 104 games) while posting the highest wRC+ of any catcher in the South Atlantic League (Low-A) as a 20-year old. The prospect of one day calling Coors Field home is enticing for any hitter, but the Rockies will likely bring Nunez (a former high school middle infielder) along slowly.
46) Andrew Knapp, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Knapp is an interesting prospect, as he hit for a .360/.419/.631 line with 11 home runs in just 55 games at Double-A in 2015 (after two home runs in 63 Florida State League games to start the year), as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Knapp posted a weird .235/.375/.294 line in the Arizona Fall League and should reach the big leagues once Carlos Ruiz exits the picture, but may slide into a backup role once Jorge Alfaro is ready.
47) Luis Torrens, New York Yankees (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 50)
After hitting .270 as an 18-year old in the New-York Penn League (a league largely comprised of college graduates) in 2014, Torrens showed flashes of offensive potential but was forever away from the big leagues — and then missed the entire 2015 season with a torn labrum. Torrens (still) needs a boatload of developmental time and his bat is unlikely to play anywhere but behind the plate.
48) Chase Vallot, Kansas City Royals (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Vallot’s 2015 season put on display both his upside and his risk, as the former 40th overall pick in the 2014 draft hit a solid 13 home runs in 80 games, but also with a disappointing .213 batting average. Vallot has shown the ability to take a walk (.331 OBP), but his strikeout rate will need to be drastically lowered (31.5 percent in 2015) for him to become a legitimate prospect.
49) Justin O’Conner, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 49)
O’Conner’s profile is similar to Austin Hedges in that he offers elite defense, but a lack of an impact bat. O’Conner followed up a big 2014 (.278 average with 12 home runs in 101 games across two minor league levels) with a disappointing 2015, flashing some power (nine home runs in 107 games), but seeing his average fall to .231 with just 13 walks all season. O’Conner’s ticket to the majors will be his defense, but unlike Hedges, he could reach low double-digit home run totals.
50) Chris Betts, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Betts fell to the 52nd pick in the most recent amateur draft despite being a projected first round pick, falling to the Rays because he needed Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted. Betts will likely miss most of the 2016 season due to the surgery, but is an interesting bat-first prospect to track once he returns to the field.
Commentary by Jake Devereaux and Ben Diamond