2021 Dynasty Baseball Rankings

THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2021 TOP 40 DYNASTY LEAGUE CATCHERS, #1-20

WELCOME BACK!!! Despite a scorching hot stove (I can’t believe the player you’re thinking of did or did not sign with the team you thought they would!), these long winter months can be some of the darkest of the year (figuratively and literally). But fear not, restless readers. The Dynasty Guru is here to the rescue.

While you were quarantining and enjoying virtual holidays, our brave group of writers has been ranking, debating, re-ranking, re-debating, and re-re-ranking over 600 players for dynasty leagues. The fruits of our efforts will be filling January and February with the deepest, most thoroughly and painstakingly selected dynasty baseball rankings on the internet. We have top-40s, top-50s, top-125s, top-200s, and of course top-500s.

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Without further ado, it’s time to begin our 2021 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 bunch of young studs emerging along with some stable vets, catcher is actually interesting!

1. JT Realmuto, Free Agent, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 1)

Over the past three seasons, Realmuto has the most fWAR and trails only Yasmani Grandal in wRC+ by 3 points. Put simply, Realmuto has been an offensive force at the catching position and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. On top of his offensive performance, Realmuto has tallied 24 steals over the last three seasons, adding an extra punch at a position where steals are non-existent. At the time of this comment, Realmuto is still a free agent but no matter where he lands, he’s our consensus #1 for the third season in a row. (Keaton O. DeRocher) 

2. Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 6)

Smith built on his impressive 2019 debut with an even more impressive 2020 season, walking (14.6%) almost as much as he struck out (16.1%). Smith posted an impressive slash of .289/.401/.579 and 8 homers across 37 games in 2020, giving a hint to offensive potential over a full season in a stacked Dodgers lineup. Going into his first full regular season in 2021, Smith is poised to push Realmuto for the top spot in these rankings next season. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

3. Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 4)

It’s pretty rare to find a 60-hit, 60-power player at the catching position but that’s what you have here in Rutschman. In a small sample size in 2019 he plowed through A-ball and walked almost as much as he struck out, displaying his mastery of strike zone. A polished college bat and fielder, he shouldn’t be in the minors for long, and with the Orioles going nowhere they shouldn’t be shy about giving their franchise backstop major league at-bats. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

4. Wilson Contreras, Chicago Cubs, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 3)

Contreras has been very consistent since making his major league debut. A predictable source of power and decent enough average to produce in regular 5×5 and OBP leagues, Contreras has accumulated a wRC+ of 116 across all his seasons in the majors. Although a small sample, Contreras posted career highs across all the quality of contact measures–barrel rate, launch angle, exit velocity and hard-hit rate–showing he is still improving his skills at the age of 28. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

5. Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 5)

Grandal continues to be underrated at the catcher position in dynasty leagues: despite his age and the young talent on the way, Grandal has been right on Realmuto’s heals in just about everything over the past three seasons. He’s finished second to Realmuto in fWAR each of the last three seasons and continues to mash the ball at an above-average rate with an exit velo of 90+ and an elite launch angle in the mid-teens. Also posting walk rates in the mid-teens, Grandal is an OBP monster and well-deserving of a top 5 rank. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

6. Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 8)

Bart has put it together at every level, so although he struggled in his brief time in the majors in 2020, you shouldn’t worry. He skipped Triple-A, which is most likely where he will start 2021, and it showed big time. Bart struck out more than he had at any level and wasn’t able to draw many walks, despite demonstrating an affinity for doing so in the minors. He’ll hit for power and he’ll hit for average, but you just might need to wait a bit longer for it. 2020 was a bummer but the upside is still sky on this franchise backstop. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

7. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 2)

Three outcome hitters are never very exciting, however, a catcher having the ability to launch 30-35+ homers is rather attractive, and that’s all you’re getting from Sanchez (his ability to take walks would get a bit of a bump in OBP leagues). A .250 average would make Sanchez just an absolute delight but that’s not what you should be expecting here. There’s also a solid chance his defense isn’t good enough and he moves to DH full time, which is significantly less exciting. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

8. Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 13)

The defense was Murphy’s calling card throughout the minors, but in the last couple of seasons he has developed into a very attractive offensive option for the A’s. With an impressive ability to get on base in a power-heavy lineup, his counting stats should be among the best at the position, and his average certainly won’t hurt you. A .250/.350/.500 slash should be very attainable with 20 homers, which is a solid contribution at this position. (Keaton O.DeRocher)

9. Sal Perez, Kansas City Royals, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 10)

I was 100% wrong about Sal Perez last year, and because of that I now owe fellow TDG writer Paul Monte a hat. I’ve learned my lesson and now a year farther removed from his knee injury Perez should once again be one of the better offensive options at the position. His batting average probably won’t be over .300 again but the power didn’t miss a beat in 2020, and shouldn’t in 2021 either. Olds have value in dynasty and you could certainly do worse than Perez at this position; you should feel confident in your investment here. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

10. Dalton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 11)

When you have a guy who has the ability for 20 homers and 20 steals you get pretty excited about them; when they also have catcher eligibility, you’re over the moon about them. Whether or not Varsho continues to have catcher eligibility going forward is still to be seen but he has it now and should for the short term at least. Paired with the ability to hit for average and draw walks, whatever your format is Varsho is a wonderful addition to your roster. Varsho was another guy that was rushed to the majors with very little high minors at-bats but don’t be scared off by his 2020. (Keaton O. DeRocher)

11. Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays, (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 30)

Kirk is causing quite a stir here at the TDG headquarters. Is he a top-15 dynasty catcher? Top-10? The number one catcher overall!? I guess it depends on who you ask. He certainly has a solid handle on the strike zone and by most accounts possesses an above-average hit tool, as exemplified by his excellent walk and strikeout rates while zooming through the minor leagues. STEAMER is particularly high on Kirk for 2021, projecting a league-leading 119 wRC+ for catchers and even a few stolen bases! And while I think the four steals may be a bit bullish, I think it’s safe to say Kirk will be one of the hottest catchers on the dynasty market this offseason due to his intriguing bat-first profile. (Taylor Case)

12. Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 18)

Christian Vazquez was tough to rank this year. I love some of his real-life play, but his Statcast numbers are not so hot. Either way, let’s start out with the good stuff. He’s shown he can stay relatively healthy over the last two seasons, playing in over 75% of possible games since 2019. This is key, as regular at-bats are hard to find at this position, and regular at-bats in an above-average offense are even more rare. He’s also excellent behind the dish itself. All said and done, he’s in a great position to produce for fantasy purposes as the #1 backstop in Boston moving forward. The downside? Well, he’s just not hitting the ball very hard, and we’ve seen a slow uptick in his strikeout rate over the last few years. However, if he can continue hitting dingers and throw in a few steals along the way, I imagine most dynasty managers won’t complain. (Taylor Case)

13. Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 21)

If you need a guy with some red on his Baseball Savant page, Travis d’Arnaud is for you. Entrenched in the middle of a potent Atlanta lineup with a .321/.386/.533 slash and 9 homers in 2020, there is plenty to like about his bat. I guess we may need to take these stats with a grain of salt, but personally, I’m ready and willing to back any player who was able to succeed amongst the uncertainty of this bizarre year. There is definitely some risk investing in a 31-year-old catcher in the last year of his contract, but d’Arnaud is primed for another big year and could easily be a top-10 fantasy catcher in 2021. (Taylor Case)

14. Francisco Alvarez, New York Mets, (Age: 19, Previous Rank: 24)

Alvarez has all the tools to be a fantasy-friendly, major-league bat, grading out in the 55-60 range in both hit and power (depending on where you look). And while he’s still a couple years away from his cup of coffee, the Mets are decidedly lacking at catcher, assuming no long-term option is signed by Mr. Cohen and Co. this offseason. Regardless, it’s easy to drool over Alvarez’s numbers from 2019, when he posted a .312 average and .916 OPS to go with 7 homeruns in 42 games. Is there too much hype over a small set of games in Rookie ball? Maybe. But his upside should be enough to keep you interested, especially if you’re eying the future in your dynasty league. (Taylor Case)

15. Luis Campusano, San Diego Padres, (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 20)

Geez, Luis. What a trip it’s been for San Diego catchers over the last few years, without even considering the off-field issues that Campusano has dealt with the last few months. This young backstop certainly has a high ceiling, even if his defense has not yet caught up to his bat [“and is at this point smoke and mirrors” SEE WHAT I DID THERE? – Ed.]. Sitting at a muscular 5’-11”, 232 lbs. with a knack for barreling the ball, he has a chance for catcher stardom if he can find regular at-bats, maintain his high walk-rate, and keep that low strikeout rate alive. I’d guess the only reason he’s not ranked even higher in our consensus rankings is the next player on this list. (Taylor Case)

16. Austin Nola, San Diego Padres, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 56)

Austin Nola really brought his big boy bat last season. Over 48 games with Seattle and San Diego, he slashed a very respectable .273/.353/.472 with 7 dingers and a 126 wRC+. Plus, he’s in the 90th percentile as far as framing goes according to Baseball Savant. That’s good stuff for a guy who just picked up catching in triple-A ball. Add that all up and include the fact that he’s not a free agent until 2025, and the Padres really hit the jackpot with their midseason trade. For what it’s worth, I’m four spots higher on Nola than the consensus, and think he has top-10 upside in 2021 over a full season. (Taylor Case)

17. Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 14)

No way around it, Carson Kelly did not have a good year. Not only did his expected stats take a dramatic hit across the board, but he also walked at a significantly lower pace than his career average. Was his routine thrown off by 2020? Well, that’s probably a given. Can he turn it around? Sure he can. And on a positive note, his strikeout rate was only slightly above his MLB average, so it wasn’t all bad. If he can keep the strikeouts hovering just above 20% and work on squaring the ball up again over the winter, I think he could push for 15 homers and maybe, just maybe, not crush you in batting average. Note that if Daulton Varsho continues to play in the outfield, Kelly’s hold on the position should remain steady, so that’s worth monitoring heading into 2021. (Taylor Case)

18. Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 23)

Now here’s a catcher I’m super excited about. Tyler Stephenson has the large frame (6’-4”, 225 lbs.), bat-to-ball skills, strong arm, and loud contact capabilities I like to see in, well, just about every prospect. Especially one destined for Great American Ball Park. The fact that Tucker Barnhart may have a hold on backstop duties for the next season (and a half?) spoils the fun a little bit, but hey, they called him up briefly in 2020 – who’s to say they won’t rush Stephenson back to the majors if the Barnhart/Kyle Farmer experiment falters in 2021? Even if they don’t, it’s worth exploring a way to get him on your dynasty team this offseason if you can afford to wait a year for fantasy production. He profiles as an above-average hitter with a high walk rate and decent strikeout rates, and I’m also encouraged by the decrease in swinging-strike rate we’ve seen from him over the past few years. He won’t steal many bases, but you don’t have to squint too hard to see some .260 average, 20 homer seasons with decent counting stats once he hits his stride. (Taylor Case)

19. Sam Huff, Texas Rangers, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 38)

I’m definitely lower than the consensus on Huff, but I certainly see the dynasty appeal. He employs an all-or-nothing approach at the plate that can typically lead to monster dingers but also damning strikeout rates, and for me, I worry that ultimately caps his upside. That being said, Huff certainly has proved me wrong in combating the downside of striking out. He posted an above-average wRC+ at every level across the minors, and into the few games he played for the Rangers last year as well. However, his 2020 production was boosted by an astronomical .471 BABIP, so temper expectations accordingly for 2021. (Taylor Case)

20. Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 7)

It was a disastrous year at the plate for the Twins catcher. While he was still able to hit the ball hard, the root of the problem was with his actual contact percentage, which plummeted to 64%. That translated to a measly slash line of .167/.247/.264 to close out the year. If he can increase his contact (both overall and in the strike zone), we may see better fantasy days ahead, but part of me worries that 2019 was an outlier season and should not be expected again. (Taylor Case)

 

The Author

Keaton O. DeRocher

Keaton O. DeRocher

Keaton O. DeRocher is a Data and Tech Consultant in Chicago, Senior Baseball Writer for The Dynasty Guru and writer for Over The Monster. A voice on Dynasty's Child podcast and on the Over The Monster podcast network. Lover of bat flips, brunch, and Bombay Sapphire. His High School batting average was .179 and he lead the team in strikeouts. Follow him on Twitter @TheSpokenKeats

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