TDG 2021 Risers and Fallers: Catchers
There a few new pieces we are introducing for 2021 to accompany our rankings in order to give you more insight and info on the players we ranked. Every Monday to accompany our first rankings list we will be highlighting some players we see as risers and fallers at the position. First up is catchers; let’s dive in.
Riser: Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM (Age: 19, Rank: 14)
2020 would have been the season that put Alvarez on your map if he wasn’t already, but, you know… (*sweeps hand broadly at the world*). So now we get to see him fly up the rankings here in 2021! Alvarez has 55 grades across the board as a 19-year-old and that’s impressive on its own. Then you watch him hit and see, straight 60s and 65s are well within reach. At 5’11” 220 lbs, Alvarez’s power comes easily and he spreads the ball all over the field; pulling the ball and spraying it the other way for what is currently extra-base hits galore, and will soon be homers galore. It’s not just power though; Alvarez dominated rookie ball and demonstrated his abilities to hit for average and, impressively, for drawing walks. His defense needs work as you would expect from a 19-year-old, but it’s not far off being able to keep him at the position and should be average to above-average once he makes his mark in the majors. All the tools are there for Alvarez to be a staple at the top of our ranks and the glimpse we got in 2019 is enough to tantalize and tease that a full season breakout is upon us. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
Faller: Omar Narvaez, C, MIL (Age: 28, Rank: 31)
I was a massive Narvaez cheerleader going into 2020, and I am bummed to say that this one I missed massively. Omar Narvaez had made a living out of producing with a below-average quality of contact and it caught up to him in 2020. The notion of putting the ball in the air and good things happening, elevate to celebrate if you will, doesn’t work if you can’t hit the ball hard. Narvaez posted a career-high launch angle of 18.7 degrees, which would be elite if he hit the ball hard. Narvaez’ exit velocity has typically been below average, however; in 2020 it took a massive step back, sitting at 81 MPH. That velocity combined with his massive launch angle leads to a dumpster fire of fly ball outs. Narvaez also really struggled with strikeouts, posting a career-worst 31% strikeout rate (12% worse than his 2019 mark). It’s a tall task to recover his exit velocity and strikeout issues, and one that I’m not expecting. His offensive issues coupled with his major defensive deficiencies probably points more towards a platoon role in his future, rather than an everyday catcher. There are just too many red flags. (Keaton O. DeRocher)
Riser: Alejandro Kirk, C, TOR (Age: 22, Rank: 11)
The fantasy baseball world is about to go Lady Gaga over Alejandro Kirk. Danny Jansen’s window is closing in Toronto and a little big man that’s shaped like a tank is about to supplant him behind the dish and in our hearts. Captain Kirk, standing 5’8″ and weighing in at a svelte 220-265 pounds (depending on where you look, and the day of the week), can flat out smash the ball. He is one of those prospects that hit his way into relevance, despite having a body that no evaluator can get behind. Kirk’s bat and body remind me of Pablo Sandoval when he came up. The Captain has an incredible knack for the barrel, hits the ball to all fields, and makes plenty of hard contact. In his tiny MLB cup of coffee at the end of 2020, Kirk came over from the alternate site and hit .375/.400/.583 with an average exit velocity of 95 mph. He has hit at every level, and even if that includes a jump from A+ ball to the big leagues, the early returns are incredible and Kirk didn’t seem to have any issues handling MLB pitching last season. If the Blue Jays let him run wild in 2021, and all signs point to that happening, he could easily become the next “it” catcher and vault ahead of aging veterans such as Willson Contreras, Yasmani Grandal, and Salvador Perez. If the 22-year-old comes out and hits his steamer projections of .289/.355/.476, the helium for him heading in 2022 could get out of control.
(Kyle S. Brown)
Faller: Gary Sanchez, C, NYY (Age: 28, Rank: 7)
Gary Sanchez apologists will point to his Statcast page as evidence for the belief that he can return to some semblance of the player that came up and hit 20 home runs in his first 55 games. I prefer to highlight the last three seasons where his highest batting average was .232 and his strikeout rate has increased each year. There is no question that he scorches the ball when he connects, but there is a question as to whether or not he can connect enough to be worth running out there everyday. The fact that the Yankees left him on the bench for the majority of the playoffs should be a huge red flag to any Sanchez owner that his time as a top fantasy producer is rapidly coming to an end. He is making less and less contact, can’t run, and can’t play competent defense. Sanchez isn’t going to fade away in 2021, he is going to fall off a cliff. With an xBA of .193 in 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit under .200 for the third time in four years this season and be nearly undraftable in 12-team mixed leagues heading in 2022.
(Kyle S. Brown)