The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Catchers, #1-20
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Without further ado, it’s time to begin our 2018 consensus rankings by looking at the league’s top-20 finest catchers in dynasty leagues. No matter what you call him, from El Gary to The Kraken, Gary Sanchez has proven himself a force to be reckoned with: good enough to finally unseat Buster Posey and claim the first spot on our list.
1) Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 2)
Sanchez has done nothing but mash since he got to the majors. Among catchers with at least 700 PA in the last two seasons, the difference between 1st place Sanchez (142 wRC+) and 2nd place Wilson Contreras (123 wRC+) is the same as between 2nd place Contreras and 8th place Yadier Molina (104 wRC+). Over the past two seasons, he also ranks first among catchers in homers (53) while playing fewer games than anyone else in the top 20. At 25 he has yet to play a full season at the Major League level and reach his full potential. Put together his production and his age and you get our #1 ranked dynasty catcher for 2018. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Sanchez Haiku:
If what you seek is
power from a Catcher, then
it’s Sanchez, SANCHEZ!
2) Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 5)
The 25-year-old backstop for the Cubs may not be good at sliding into DMs, but he is good at baseball. Over 711 ABs Contreras has mashed to the tune of a .278 avg and 33 homers, and one of those dingers was his first-ever swing in the majors! From 2016 to 2017 he increased his walk rate and decreased his strikeout rate while playing 41 more games. He recently declared that he was going to be the best catcher in the game, and coming into 2018 he’s not that far from it. Finding a catcher who bats for average and power is rare and that combination is what lands Contreras #2 on our list. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Contreras Haiku:
He says he can be
the best catcher in the league;
who will prove him wrong?
3) Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 1)
Buster Posey has been a mainstay on this list for years and despite his slight drop to #3, he’s not going anywhere. An AVG and OBP monster, Posey slashed .320/.400/.462 last year in his age-30 season. His power slowly dwindled down from 22 homers in 2014 to 12 last season, but he continues to produce despite the power outage by pairing 150+ hits with a double-digit walk rate. Expect more .300/.400/450 seasons with double-digit homers from Posey going forward, and don’t be shy to scoop him up around the 4th/5th round in first-year leagues. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Posey Haiku:
He is what he is:
that’s a very good catcher.
Mr. Count On Me
4) JT Realmuto, Miami Marlins, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 7)
There are two players on this list capable of double-digit steals from behind the plate, and Realmuto is one of them. In his three full Major League seasons he’s maintained a 74% success rate while swiping between 8 and 12 bags. Speed is always at a premium, and being able to pair a steal every now and then with a .280/.320/.428 career slash line is very appealing. Realmuto has also increased his walk rate each of the last three seasons. Entering his age-27 season with the Marlins, Realmuto is an attractive option behind the plate, despite losing some of the protection around him this off-season. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Realmuto Haiku:
Mr. Steal Yo Bag,
Mr. Hit Yo Ball. That’s just
5) Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 20)
At #5 on the list, we hit our first prospect in Mejia. Mejia used one of the most polished hit tools in the game to turn in a 50 game hit streak in 2016 (4th longest in the minors, and the longest in 62 years). He followed that up by slashing .297/.346/.490 in 2017 at AA Akron. He jumped straight from AA to the bigs last year, but it’s a safe bet that he will open the year getting his first taste of AAA ball. Mejia will no doubt hit his way back to Cleveland in short order. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Mejia Haiku:
All he does is hit
hit hit hit hit hit hit hit
hit no matter what!
6) Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 8)
Perez set a career mark in homers with 27 and RBI with 80 last year at age 27. In fact, in each of the last three seasons, Perez has increased his home run total. While his walk rate sits at a minuscule 3% he balances that out with having only struck out more than 100 times once. His value has plateaued and he’s a safe bet for a .260 average and 25 homers. While he may not be an overly exciting option, in today’s catching landscape he’s a reliable one. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Perez haiku:
He’s not that sexy,
but he can get the job done.
He’s just a catcher.
7) Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners, (Age: 26, Previous Rank 19)
Zunino does 2 things well: hit homers and strike out. 2017 was a career year for Zunino, posting a personal best .251/.331/.509 slash line, including career highs in homers (25) and strikeouts (160). The 26-year-old has been a bit of a headache, bouncing back a forth between posting quality numbers in the minors and struggling at the major league level. The young-ish backstop may have shown his potential as a .250 hitter capable of 30 dingers a year last season and while that’s not a spectacular state line, it’s a quality one from a catcher. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Zunino Haiku:
(credit to Paramore – Decode)
How did we get here?
I used to know you so well.
How did we get here?
8) Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Age:28, Previous Rank: 37)
We have reached the second catcher capable of putting up double digit steals. Barnes has done nothing but get on base at every level, posting a slash line of .299/.388/.439 in six minor league seasons. He kept those numbers rolling at the major league level in 2017 with a .289/.408/.486 slash line. Of all catchers who played at least 15 games, Barnes posted the top wRC+ (142) and was second in BB/K ratio to Buster Posey across 218 PAs. Barnes is coming into what should be his first full year in the Majors for his age-28 season and has the potential to jump up this list next year if he is able to wrangle some at-bats away from Yasmani Grandal. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Barnes Haiku:
If he gets to play,
he will prove he can hit the
broadside of a Barnes.
9) Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 10)
Ramos broke out in 2016 on the back of a successful eye surgery and hit a career-best 22 homers with a .307/.354/.496 slash line. He then followed up his breakout campaign with an injury-riddled 64-game 2017 (his fewest in the past six seasons). Ramos is coming into his age 30 season and unlikely to replicate his 2016 power numbers. However, he should be able to post something in between the past two seasons- around .270 with 15 homers. That type of production from a catcher is enough to place him at the back end of our top 10. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Ramos Haiku:
If you look up ‘bland’
in the dictionary, there
is where you’ll find him
10) Welington Castillo, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 14)
Castillo is the #10 catcher on our list for 2018. That’s about it. That’s all I have for Castillo. We’re getting to the point in this list where we know what we’re getting from these guys. Castillo has consistently put up a walk rate between 6% and 7% and a strikeout rate between 24% and 26% year over year. He’s not an exciting AVG guy, with a career mark of .259, but that plays at the catcher position and his power output range seem safe at 15. Throw all of those numbers into a crockpot and you have yourself a fine Meh stew of a catcher. (Keaton O. Derocher)
A Castillo Haiku:
Meh meh meh meh meh
meh meh meh meh meh meh meh
meh meh meh meh meh
11) Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 6)
Fun fact: Grandal has initials that sound like you’re asking your buddy to explain himself. The Cuban switch-hitter is one of the best power bats for the position, tying Sal Perez for 2nd among backstops with 49 HR between the 2016-17 seasons. He also hit a passable .247 last year, so why has Grandal dropped five spots from last year’s rankings? Grandal had a forgettable 2nd half, swatting a measly .217 while ceding PAs to Austin Barnes. He also chased more pitches outside the zone, swinging at balls 35% more often. That led to Grandal’s highest strikeout rate of his career while dropping his normally elite walk rate (14.2% pre-2017) to a near-league-average 8.3%. The potential lack of playing time is a concern, but the power isn’t going away. If you believe his talent will find at-bats via trade or by re-establishing the starting job ahead of Barnes, he could become a decent buy-low candidate, especially in OBP leagues. (Tom Werner)
12) Evan Gattis, Houston Astros (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 9)
After breaking 30-HR in 2016, Gattis and his powder-keg bat plummeted to a career-low 12 bombs last season. Lack of playing time was the issue, as Houston’s loaded roster left him struggling to find at-bats. Carlos Beltran’s retirement opens up a lot more DH starts for Gattis, making a return to 20+ home runs a strong possibility. El Oso Blanco has posted steady batting average lines since his rookie year in 2013 (ranging from .243-.263) and ISOs greater than .190 each season. He improved his contact rate to a career-best 79% and cut his strikeouts down to 15.4%, so he’s becoming a less BA-risky slugger. Though his subpar defense may ease him into a DH-only role down the road, Gattis should eke out enough catching starts to maintain C-eligibility for a couple more seasons. (Tom Werner)
13) Jonathan Lucroy, Free Agent (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 3)
A succulent roast beef sandwich (sorry vegans) layered between aired-out stale buns. That’s Lucroy’s recent stretch at the plate wrapped up in a food analogy. Check out his past three seasons:
- 2015 – .264/7/43 with 1 SB and .313 wOBA
- 2016 – .292/24/81 with 5 SB and .362 wOBA
- 2017 – .265/6/40 with 1 SB and .311 wOBA
Yuck, yum, yuck. 2016 saw Lucroy top all catchers on ESPN’s player rater which, coupled with his strong run from 2012-14, made 2015 seem like the anomaly. Now Lucroy’s looking more like burnt toast, as his huge rise in groundballs (53.5%) and nose-diving hard contact (22.3%) make you wonder where the power’s coming from. Not even playing in Colorado could save his season. Lucroy still makes elite contact, leading the majors at 90.4% (min 400 PA), so he’s a decent batting average play. Just don’t expect a revival wherever he gets signed. (Tom Werner)
14) Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 16)
Wild cards: fun to play in UNO, stressful to own in fantasy baseball. Alfaro offers owners arguably the greatest risk/reward option at the position. His first 131 MLB PAs look promising (.293 with 5 HR and 14 RBIs), but arrived with a totally unsustainable .403 BABIP. 2018 becomes a huge swing year for Alfaro, both literally and figuratively. The 24-year-old feels like he’s been on prospect lists for a decade, toting 65-grade raw power but also questions with making contact. Alfaro swings at everything and misses often, striking out 10x more often than he walks. If he qualified, both his swing rate (61.9%) and swinging strike rate (21.5%) would’ve led the majors. But oh, the power. His .196 ISO isn’t fluky and he’s had consistently above average HR/FB% throughout the minors. The wild variance of outcomes, from never hitting enough to matter to being a perennial top-3, 25+ HR catcher, gives owners an opportunity to gamble. (Tom Werner)
15) Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 23)
The ageless Molina turned back the clock to his prime years, swatting .273 with 18 HR and 82 RBI with 9 steals in 2017. He’ll try to keep his renaissance going for three more seasons as Molina plans to retire after 2020. An asset in batting average, Molina literally upped his game in 2017, hitting more fly balls than he has in a decade. More frequent loft helped him hit nearly as many home runs last year (18) as the three previous seasons combined (19). Part of Molina’s secret sauce is his durability, logging the 2nd most PAs among backstops from 2015-17 (behind, who else, Buster Posey). It’s a huge boost to his counting stats, which tend to be hard to find at catcher. However, more rest days typically associated with veteran catchers and the presence of Carson Kelly may eat away at his playing time. Until that happens, enjoy a couple more .280/12-ish seasons during Molina’s twilight years. (Tom Werner)
16) Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 30)
Seen more as an elite defensive prospect, Hedges delivered a bit of pop in his first full season in the majors. The 25-year-old smacked 18 home runs and 55 RBI for San Diego, coming off the heels of a PCL-induced breakout in 2016 (.326/.353/.597 with 21 HR in 82 AAA games). Though the power’s a nice surprise, his bat still has a ways to go against major league pitching (.214 avg in ‘17). His 29.5% strikeout rate is bottom of the barrel and will continue to deflate his batting average. Hedges has youth and defensive chops on his side, but it’ll be a fairly empty 15-20 HR until he improves his contact. (Tom Werner)
17) Brian McCann, Houston Astros (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 11)
It’s always a shame to see streaks end. McCann’s run of 20 HR seasons ended at nine last year, finishing with 18 bombs for Houston. That longevity is helping McCann etch his name into the history books, as he’s currently 11th all-time among catchers for home runs. As his streak would suggest, he’s been an extremely consistent power source for a decade. His fly ball tendencies mute his batting average to around the .240 mark, though owners will take the tradeoff to get more power. McCann played in 97 games, way below his 135-game average with the Yankees in ’14-16. Two DL-stints ate into his playing time, in May (concussion) and August (right knee soreness). That’s a reminder that he’s no spring chicken and, along with HOU’s plethora of DH options, he may continue to see fewer games down the road. (Tom Werner)
18) Chance Sisco, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 25)
Entering the 2017 campaign, Sisco carried a career .323 batting average in the minors and looked certain to help owners in a contact-starved position. Fast forward through a rough 2017 and the hit tool looks less polished than expected. He struggled with strikeouts all season (25.5 K%) en route to hitting .267 with 7 HRs in AAA. He did get a swig of java in Baltimore, hitting .333 and 2 HR in 22 PA, but his strikeouts rose to over 30%. It’s not uncommon for young catchers to struggle in the upper levels, especially when they have a lot of work to do defensively (like Sisco). Problem is, he may have to work through those contact issues at the big league level, as he has a shot at starting the season in Baltimore. If he figures it out (BIG “if”), Sisco has .280/15-type seasons in him, inspiring owners to sing “let me see that bomb ba bomb bomb bomb, by Sisco.” (Tom Werner)
19) Zack Collins, Chicago White Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 21)
Collins brings a classic slugger’s profile to the backstop table. His power and passivity (25 HR over 152 games with an 18.9% BB-rate) give Collins the look of a true middle-of-the-order bat. But swinging big can bring big whiffs as well (27.6% K-rate). His high strikeouts and extreme fly ball swing make him a high power/low AVG catcher in the Zunino mold, evidenced by his career .229/.377/.443 slash rate. Reports are that he’ll likely stick with catcher for now, but he needs to clean up his receiving. The good news for owners is that there’s enough power to contribute to teams if he moves to first. 30 HR potential moves the needle at catcher (i.e. Gary Sanchez) but he can drag down your AVG too. Collins’ value skyrockets in OBP leagues, if that’s your jam. (Tom Werner)
20) Robinson Chirinos, Texas Rangers (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 46)
Chirinos had his best season in 2017, setting career highs in home runs, walk rate, average, and WRC+. After Jonathan Lucroy was traded, Chirinos took the starting job and ran with it in the second half; He did all of his damage in only 80 starts. He’s coming into 2018 with the starting job, an opportunity to break his career high in at-bats, and mash 20+ home runs in the process. (Kyler Jesanis)