The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Catchers, #1-20
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Without further ado, it’s time to begin our 2019 consensus rankings by looking at the league’s top-20 finest catchers in dynasty leagues. A few names reign supreme in the wasteland of fantasy catcher, but between a new Catcher King being crowned, the erstwhile King being deposed to 10th and the Prince Who Was Promised failing to maintain his top spot, catcher is actually interesting!
1. JT Realmuto, Miami Marlins, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 4)
Like a fine wine, Realmuto keeps getting better with age. Realmuto put up career highs in several categories last year: Homers (21), Runs (74), RBI (74), BB% (7.2%) and an ISO of over .200. Realmuto also lead all catchers in wRC+ with 126. Surprisingly, the steals took a step back (only swiping three in five attempts). I expect the speed to come back and Realmuto to be pushing double digits thefts again. Even without it, his performance over the last few years and consistent improvements are enough to land at our top ranked catcher for 2019. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Realmuto Haiku:
To be better than
The best, you must be better
Than the rest; he is
2. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 1)
Injuries hampered Sanchez in 2018, only allowing him to play in 89 games, but his befuddling stat line across those 89 games is what dropped him to number two for us. Sanchez posted a batting average of .186 (“helped” by a presumably unsustainable .197 BABIP), over 100 points lower than his career average entering the season. There are signs that point to much better 2019 campaign though: Sanchez put up well above-average numbers in barrel rate (12.3%), exit velocity (90.2 MPH), launch angle (14.3º) and hard hit rate (41.1%). All of this suggests that Sanchez truly had terrible luck swinging the bat. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Sanchez Haiku:
Hits the ball harder
Hits the ball much farther than
Pretty much everyone
3. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 3)
Across Contreras’ stat line, he was actually very consistent compared to the previous two seasons, aside from the glaring differences in his homers (10) and batting average (.249). Digging a little deeper, the culprit seems to be his hard-hit rate. Dropping 7% from the previous season (from 35% to 28%), the softer hit balls lead to fewer homers and more outs. Further, Contreras increased his launch angle from 5% to 6%. This is very fixable and it’s reasonable to expect Contreras to be back to hitting 20+ homers with a .270+ average in 2019. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Contreras Haiku:
Hit the ball hard and
Good things happen. Contreras
Could be reminded
4. Sal Perez, Kansas City Royals, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 6)
Perez might be the most consistent catcher on this list, having put up top numbers at the position over the last seven-to-eight years and there’s no reason to suspect it will not continue. In fact, Perez put up a career-best hard-hit rate (a full 10% more than his career average) coming into the season. Helped by his increased exit velocity (91 MPH) and barrel rate (11%), Perez was able to match his 2017 homer output while his batting average dropped to .235. That dip in average was helped by a dip in BABIP, so it’s realistic to expect that to self-correct. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Perez Haiku:
Perez keeps churning
Churning, churning and burning
5. Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 5)
The top catching prospect on our list for the second straight year, Mejia again put up impressive numbers in the minors, hitting just shy of .300 and matching his minors-best 14 homers for the second straight year. After being dealt to San Diego from a crowded Cleveland catching situation, Mejia should be given some run to show what he can do at the major league level. Still possessing one of the best hit tools in the minors, one way or another Mejia’s bat should force San Diego’s hand. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Mejia Haiku:
Let the damn kid play
He has been ready for a while
Let the damn kid play
6. Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays, (Age: 23 Previous Rank: 29)
The second of three prospects in the top 10, Jansen’s stock has been on a rise over the past two seasons while putting some impressive hitting on display across three levels of the minors. Having a cup of coffee in the majors in 2018, Jansen gave us a glimpse of what’s to come. Over 31 games Jansen tallied three homers, a .195 ISO, and showed impressive discipline at the plate with a 10% walk rate. Albeit in a small sample size, his Statcast numbers were very impressive (barrel rate of 9.6%, an exit velocity of 85.1 MPH and an eye-popping launch angle of 21.1º). He looks pretty good! (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Jansen Haiku:
Jansen hits the ball
Jansen hits the ball so far
Jansen hits the ball
7. Yasmani Grandal, FA, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 11)
In what was probably our biggest miss as a whole last season, Grandal was ranked outside the top 10 and behind his teammate Austin Barnes. I admit, I was one of those who was very, very wrong. 2017 was a step back in production, but maintaining his grasp on the starting role in 2018 allowed him to have himself a very nice bounce back (24 homers, an ISO of .225, and increasing his walk rate while decreasing his strikeout rate). Now entering his age-30 season as a free agent, wherever Grandal lands, it should be more of the same. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Grandal Haiku:
OK I get it,
I was so very very
Very very Wrong
8. Wilson Ramos, New York Mets, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 9)
In 2018, Ramos posted his third consecutive season with an ISO over .180. When he has been on the field Ramos has been one of the most consistent catchers in the game. However, it’s the “staying on the field” part that seems to be the issue. Injuries have always followed Ramos, and the past two seasons were no different. Ramos started the season on a tear, enough to be named an All-Star for the American League, but due to injuries he was unable to play in the game and missed about two months in the second half. Seems reasonable to expect some missed time with Ramos but your fantasy team could certainly do worse than The Buffalo. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Ramos Haiku:
Buffalos are strong,
And so is Ramos, when not hurt.
9. Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
The heir-apparent in San Francisco, Bart carries a tremendous bat at the plate paired with solid defense behind it. In his pro debut across 51 games, Bart launched 13 homers, 40 RBI, and slashed .294/.364/.588, even adding two steals in three attempts. Bart’s plate discipline wasn’t all that bad either, posting a walk rate of 5% and a strikeout rate of 20%. As he progresses through the minors though, those rates are worth keeping an eye on. Sweet Baby Bart is as sexy as it gets at the catcher position, and the No. 2 overall pick should be a quick riser to the big leagues. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Bart Haiku:
The new golden boy
The new prince that was promised
Now his watch begins
10. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants, (Age: 32 Previous Rank: 3)
All good things must come to an end; Father Time is undefeated. He’s past the 30 year-old expiration date in fantasy, [insert other cliche about olds here]. 2018 was a step back for Posey and after much speculation, it seems now there is the legitimate concern of how much time Posey actually has left at catcher. Posey failed to reach double digit homers for the first time since 2012 and posted his career worst batting average (.284) in his major league career. Several of his usually reliable stats took steps back and coming off an injury, coupled with his age, we may be looking at the last of Buster Posey the catcher. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
A Posey Haiku:
Once the pinnacle,
His light is fading, and now,
His watch is ending
11. Keibert Ruiz, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 28)
The 20-year-old struggled from time to time in Double-A, but managed to finish the year with a decent overall offensive campaign. Key to remember when analyzing Ruiz is his youth. Ruiz was 4.8 years younger than the rest of his peers last year, and that makes his performance all the more impressive. Concerning for this analyst, though, is a drop in ISO to .130, despite smashing 12 dingers in the Texas League.
Power isn’t Ruizes game anyway, the catching prospect is very much all about his approach. He swings often, but makes an incredible amount of contact, thereby keeping his strikeout rate extremely low. He also walks enough to let you know he can still take a pitch. Ruiz will certainly help you in ratios, and will likely provide mid-teens homers for a long time. The other Dodgers’ catching prospect, Will Smith, has the opportunity to seize playing time away in 2018, but Ruiz is still a tremendously valuable asset who should produce in the majors in short order. (Patrick Magnus)
12. Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 14)
Known for his ability to absolutely murder baseballs, but an all-or-nothing approach without proper plate discipline (a dreadful 36.6% strikeout rate). He hits the ball out at +3 MPH above league average, but his launch angle of a 8.2 confirms indicates that 47.8% groundball rate isn’t a fluke. We want those balls in the air and over defenders!
The good news is that Alfaro has youth on his side, as he’s only 25 years-old. Catchers take a long time to develop, and there’s still time for a post-hype breakout of Alfaro. The barren wasteland that is catcher makes the power hitting backstop’s potential worthy of a top 20 ranking. There might be safer catchers on this list, but almost none of them have the power upside of Alfaro. (Patrick Magnus)
13. Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 7)
I just finished telling you there isn’t a catcher with quite the power upside as Alfaro; if anyone’s got a chance it’s Zunino. He did double Alfaro’s power output last year (20 in 2018) after all, and he’s only two years older! But he failed to provide value anywhere else, posting a putrid average of .201 and an on-base percentage below .300. Beyond the power, Zunino was no bueno.
We can’t bank on anything other than power from the newly-minted Rays catcher. There’s a small chance that he’s able to duplicate his 2017 campaign and produce an OBP near .330 [believe in that Extra 2%-Ed.]. That would certainly give this ranking some validity. However, as has been mentioned before, catcher is a very bad, no good position. Thus the power alone ensures a ranking within the top 20. Just beware of those ratios. (Patrick Magnus)
14. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 15)
If I said “36-year-old dynasty catcher,” you’d think bad, retired, or dead. If you’d traded Molina when he was 30, my guess is you’ve likely regretted it, as his production has been very good these last six years, and even managed to regain his power stroke these last two years. The average has trickled down, but .260 is nothing to complain about from catcher (see Zunino).
Yet we can’t rely on Molina for much longer in dynasty. After 2020, Molina will most likely retire and your dynasty team will need to move on from the old man. Still, he should produce strong value in 2019 and 2020 with at-least mid-teens pop and average somewhere between .260-270. Those of you with competing squads shouldn’t blink twice about riding out the final years of Molina. (Patrick Magnus)
15. Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 49)
Ooooh yeah! Be still my beating heart, because we’re talking about Daulton Varsho! He is my BAE. I can’t get enough of the power-speed combo that Varsho offers. Taking a look at his stat line, there’s the captivating 12 homers and 19 steals, but what’s even more impressive is that he did this in a season where he suffered injury (a hamate injury in June, vanquishing his power for the remainder of the season).
Now might be an excellent time to buy low on the young catcher. The injury clearly zapped his power as he only hit three dingers upon his return, and while the numbers are still impressive they aren’t what they could have been in a healthy season. It’s encouraging that Varsho is back and played in the Arizona Fall League, as he won’t have missed large amounts of time that may screw with his development. However, it would have been nice to have a little more reassurance (like even one homer in the AFL!) that the hamate injury has subsided. (Patrick Magnus)
16. Andrew Knizner, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 43)
Who’s going to take the mantle from Molina in St. Louis? Carson Kelly didn’t exactly make the case for being next in line (and then was traded), but there’s another strong offensive catching prospect in St. Louis. Knizner’s bat has carried him quickly through the minors. Catcher is still a relatively new position for the 23-year-old, as he moved there his sophomore year of college. Yet the Cardinals have continued to show confidence in the young receiver behind the plate.
If you haven’t seen this dude’s swing, stop and have a gander. It’s a beautiful thing, and his batted ball stats back that up. Knizner’s line-drive rate has hovered near 20% for his entire minor league career, and he’s failed to hit below .270 as well. He hasn’t hit for more than 8 home runs (only 7 last year), but his swing suggests pull power. I’d be surprised if he didn’t at least double that at peak production in the majors. A solid offense-first catching prospect who’s close to the majors? Yep, sign me up. (Patrick Magnus)
17. Willians Astudillo, Minnesota Twins, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
Did someone say fun? Because that’s exactly what this bowling ball of a human brings to the table. Astudillo has taken the baseball community by storm. The round man doesn’t exactly “fit” the profile of an “athlete.” Maybe in the sense that Big Sexy Bartolo Colon is one. However, Astudillo possesses phonomenial contact skills which make him more than just fun. In his 97 plate appearances in 2018, Astudillo struck out only three times.
That’s been the trend for Astudillo throughout the minors as well. The big fella just doesn’t strike out. Since 2015 he hasn’t posted a strikeout rate above 4.6%, but he’s also failed to post a walk rate over 3.3%. The dude is just straight up weird, but a weird that is fun! There’s potential here for a strong average, 8-12 homers, and a whole lot of flubbery fun. (Patrick Magnus)
18. Ronaldo Hernandez, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Hernandez continued his impressive ascent through the minors last year by bashing 21 homers. First thing I notice in his swing is his ability to use quick wrists when handling pitches on the inner part of the plate. It’s a spectacular tool to own at such a young age, and it helps explain why he’s pulled the ball near 50% in the first four years. Those hands and that swing make a lot of contact as well, striking out below 16% in each of his minor league seasons. Combine that with a decent walk rate and you’ve got a hitter with an advanced approach for his age and level.
The former infielder has raked and ranked highly in each of the leagues to which he’s been assigned. While raking is all we care about for most intents and purposes, there’s the importance of whether Hernandez will stick behind the plate or not. The reports on his defense have been positive, and he’s been scouted as having a plus-plus arm. That’s encouraging for those of us desperately seeking more than a warm body behind the plate. (Patrick Magnus)
19. Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 50)
Cervelli was on his way to a breakout season in 2018 but ended up being hampered by injury. The biggest surprise in 2018 was the amount of power produced by the veteran catcher. In the previous two seasons, Cervelli had managed only six home runs, but he doubled that output in 2018. The biggest change appears to have come from an increase in his launch angle.
Cervelli raised he launch angle by 9.4 degrees, which is a significant amount. He actually more than doubled his average launch angle, and along with that he almost doubled his fly-ball rate. This, in turn, lead to an increase in his ISO, HR, and SLGing, resulting in the second highest offensive WAR amongst catchers with at least 300 PAs in 2018. A safe OBP bet, Cervelli now offers the potential for much more. Remember, though, that he’s 33, and the chance that injuries hamper him in seasons to come is a real concern. (Patrick Magnus)
20. Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
A defense-first catcher who’s quickly approaching the majors, Murphy managed to improve his offensive production last season. He makes a good bit of contact but doesn’t strike the ball with very much authority. In the Texas League, he slashed .288/.358/.498, which on the surface seems promising. However the Texas League (and specifically Midland) are offense-favorable environments. But offense isn’t supposed to be a calling card of the young catcher.
The catching pool is awful- so awful, in fact, that we have a defensive-first catcher among our top 20. That’s due mostly to proximity, and so for those of you in the deepest of leagues go ahead and scoop him up. There’s a chance that Murphy is a .260 hitter in the majors with 5-10 homers. For catcher, you could certainly do worse. Other than that, I don’t have much nice to say about Murphy. (Patrick Magnus)