THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2021 TOP 40 DYNASTY LEAGUE CATCHERS, #21-40
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 21-40 finest catchers in dynasty leagues. Some of these names will bum you out, some will intrigue you, and some are lottery tickets. You’re looking at the bottom 20 of a top-40 catchers list- what did you expect?
21. Tyler Soderstrom, Oakland Athletics (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Soderstrom was ranked by many media outlets as a top-20 draft prospect, so he could be considered a bit of a steal when the A’s got him at 26th overall. He signed for $3.3M, which was $650,000 over slot value for the pick. His lefty swing projects a plus hit tool and above-average to plus power. He has a quiet stance through swing, with above-average bat speed. He makes plenty of hard contact in the cage and in-game.
Tyler might end up moving off catcher, but Jordan Rosenblum mentioned in our catcher rankings debate that this can be a benefit in some cases. It got me thinking that if the bat develops, it plays anywhere on the field, and would probably quicken his arrival in the majors by a year or maybe two. In fact, third base is not a deep position either, and would likely mean an extra 150-200 plate appearances a year over a catcher. This is to say: there are several ways Soderstrom can be successful and has a bright future. (Ken Balderston)
22. Austin Wells, New York Yankees (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
The Yankees love to add guys who can hit, and that’s what they got in Austin Wells. He has an above-average hit tool with above-average to plus raw power. At the University of Arizona, he put up ISO rates over .200 both seasons and walked more than he struck out both years as well. As a left-handed hitter, he seems tailor-made for Yankee stadium.
Austin doesn’t have great tools or feel to stay at catcher, but that’s where he was drafted. While he struggles behind the plate, he doesn’t project to be a good 1B or the OF either. End of the day we are impressed with the bat and the hitting should force the Yankees to put him in the lineup despite any defensive shortcomings. There is hope he can maintain catcher eligibility at least short term. After all, this is a team that has allowed Gary Sanchez to catch going on 5 years. (Ken Balderston)
23. Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 17)
Alfaro didn’t have a great season in 2020, but he did have more productive seasons the previous two years, in a much larger sample. While he only managed to hit .226 last year with 3 home runs and 16 RBI, between ’18 and ‘19 he averaged 388 AB, 14 HR, 47 RBI, and a .262 BA. Strikeouts are a bit of a problem, but that can be the cost of hitting the ball hard (career EV>90mph) and until last year put up serviceable batting averages despite the contact issues.
Barring a trade or free-agent signing, there is no real threat to Alfaro’s playing time. Health permitting, he should be back behind the plate for the fish this season, targeting 400+ plate appearances. Despite being in his prime, some will worry his 2020 is a sign of things to come, but there is a much larger sample suggesting Alfaro is a solid fantasy contributor at catcher. (Ken Balderston)
24. Keibert Ruiz, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 19)
It feels like Ruiz has been a catching prospect forever, but he’s still just 22 years old. He never did develop much power, even doubles power is below average, but it’s not part of his game. Throughout the minors, Ruiz has shown year over year ability to hit for a high average and keep his strikeouts down (76 in 1,439 career minor league at-bats). The bat to ball skill is very good and he should be ready for a role in the majors shortly.
Ruiz is currently blocked by emerging star Will Smith, but at 22 we can still have patience. We’d never wish an injury on anyone, but they do happen, and so do trades, and worst-case there are usually 40 or so starts for a backup catcher too. No matter how Ruiz finds his way to the field, this season or next, he should help your team batting average and can contribute counting stats in a very good Dodgers lineup. (Ken Balderston)
25. James McCann, New York Mets (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)
After signing a four-year forty-million-dollar contract, the Mets have found their catcher, even if it comes across as a less flashy move than some Mets fans hoped for. McCann seems a bit underrated after back-to-back impressive seasons, both offensively and defensively. He hit .273 with 18 home runs in 2019 earning his first all-star selection. Then in a shortened 2020, he hit .289 with 7 home runs and an impressive .536 SLG%.
Defensively, Baseball-Reference grades McCann was a 1.3 dWAR player in ’19, and .4 dWAR in only 31 games last year (+1.5 dWAR pace). This, along with the sizable contract, should ensure McCann’s most plate appearances for the Mets. If his average up around .275-.280 again, he could produce an above-average number of runs and RBI as well.
Well, above average for a catcher, but still helpful to fantasy owners. (Ken Balderston)
26. Ryan Jeffers, Minnesota Twins (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 40)
Jeffers had a quiet, but successful run through the minors, combining for a triple-slash of .296/.383/.453 in 167 games. Regular Twins starter Mitch Garver got hurt towards the end of August and opened the door for a Jeffers debut. In 55 at-bats, Ryan hit .273/.355/.436, not far off his career minor league stats. He was able to hit the ball hard, averaging 41.7 hard hit and 91.6 exit velocity, and even hit three home runs and an OPS+ of 118.
The Twins are in the enviable situation of having potentially two starting-caliber players at the thinnest position in the sport. You can read the argument for Mitch Garver in Tuesdays’ 11-20 rankings, but Ryan Jeffers started two playoff games and is clearly pushing the envelope. The Twins might see this as a ‘Tastes Great! – ‘Less Filling!’ situation, and platoon them both until one shows he’s distinctly the better option. (Ken Balderston)
27. Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 15)
Danny Jansen was one of the first ‘BabyJays’ to come onto the scene late in 2018, and put up a somewhat respectable stat line. In the two seasons since then, he’s had 531 plate appearances and a terrible triple slash of .201/.288/.360. His expected stats are better (.246 xBA in 2019, .244 in ’20) but not great, and while he increased his walk rate to 14.3% last year, his average exit velocity fell to 85.1.
Jansen was able to put up good offensive stats in the minors, and his defense should give him another shot at playing time to start 2021. Yet it’s almost impossible to ignore Alejandro Kirk who’s breathing down Jansen’s back for playing time and is a darling of projection systems like Steamer. With the Jays looking to take another step forward this year, Jansen will have to show he can hold his own with the bat, in order to keep his glove on the field and his name in your fantasy lineup. (Ken Balderston)
28. Francisco Mejia, Tampa Bay Rays (Age 25, Previous Rank: 12)
Mejia was ranked by the Dynasty Guru crew [the GuCrew-Ed.] as a Padre, but the recent trade to the Rays might not change his fantasy value as much as one would assume. While true he’s probably the best offensive option behind the plate in Tampa, they also recently re-signed Mike Zunino. The Rays historically have leaned in favor of a glove-first catcher, and Zunino is a tier or even two ahead of Mejia defensively. So now Mejia is in a similar situation as in San Diego, buried on the depth chart at catcher, and a bat that doesn’t profile well in the outfield.
The good news for fantasy owners is the Rays are also creative at getting players at-bats, and putting them in situations to succeed. Mejia had been taking reps in the outfield, he could maintain his catcher eligibility as a backup behind the plate, and provide extra plate appearances from left field. While not ideal in weekly leagues, at least he should get some looks in the big leagues this season, and help your team with a positive batting average and some occasional power. (Ken Balderston)
29. Ivan Herrera, St. Louis Cardinals (Age 20, Previous Rank: 35)
It looks like Herrera is the next of Yadier Molina’s successors. There have been a few, but Herrera seems like he is next in line for real. He carries almost the same build (5’11”, 220 lbs) as Yadi, and he’s projected to hit for a plus average like Yadi too. The power seems to be a tad behind, but so was Yadi basically until his late 20’s. Herrera does have the frame, strength, and swing path to at least hint we’ll see average power at some point down the line. Also, Shelly Vergoustraete mentioned here, Herrera had been clocked with a 109 MPH max exit velocity as a teenager.
It’s not fair to actually compare Herrera to a likely Hall of Famer in Molina. But from a hitting standpoint, there are some similarities and can help fantasy players envision his impact. Behind the plate, there’s no comparison to the incumbent, but fantasy owners are mostly concerned with the bat and playing time. With no minor league season in 2020, it’s difficult to project any player’s arrival time. Herrera saw High-A in 2019, so it’s possible we see him towards the end of next season, but 2022 is probably more realistic. (Ken Balderston)
30. Diego Cartaya, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age 19, Previous Rank: 33)
In July of 2018, the Dodgers inked Cartaya to a $2.5 million dollar contract, a lucrative amount of money for a player who was seventeen years old at the time. Fast forward to 2020, and at 6‘2” and 200 lbs, Cartaya is a physically mature teenager with a power bat. He’s quite athletic for a catcher and should stick behind the plate despite a below-average arm. The hit tool is considered behind the power, and likely projects to be average at best. Cartaya didn’t have strikeout or walk issues in his first taste of pro ball, albeit rookie ball in 2019, so it will be nice to (hopefully) see him at an advanced level this summer.
The Dodgers don’t have an immediate place for Cartaya to play, though that’s almost a passing thought as Cartaya is still two or three years away. Don’t let that cloud his ability with the bat, Cartaya has very high upside, and should be rostered in leagues holding 200 prospects or more. (Ken Balderston)
31. Cal Raleigh, Seattle Mariners (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
The switch-hitting Raleigh has a power profile that led to his selection with the 90th pick out of Florida State in 2018. He showed off that power in 2019, hitting a combined 29 home runs (22 at High-A and 7 at Double-A). His K-rate jumped from below 20% in his first two levels up to 29.6% in 159 PAs at Double-A. With a 40-grade hit tool, he likely would have needed some more seasoning at that level as a result, but found himself at the alternate site in 2020 playing every day. A quality receiver and framer with an accurate throwing arm, the 6’3”, 215 lb Raleigh is an expected major league regular long-term. He could make an appearance in ’21, but sits behind Tom Murphy and Luis Torrens on the depth chart at the moment and would likely open at Triple-A. (Bob Osgood)
32. Bo Naylor, Cleveland Indians (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 36)
The 21-year-old Naylor has been challenged from a young age, even making it to High-A as a 19-year-old in 2019 and holding his own with a .243 BA, 11 HR, 65 RBI, and 60 runs in 107 games. This challenge continued in the summer of ’20, getting an invite to the alternate site and made a good impression there. His plate approach, hard contact, raw power, athleticism behind the plate, and even speed (12 SBs in 140 career MiLB games) have led to 50+ grades across the board, and point to a lower risk major leaguer long-term as a dynasty league catching target. Naylor will most likely enter 2021 at Double-A. (Bob Osgood)
33. Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 9)
What in the world happened here? Coming off a career year at age-27 where he hit .278 with 22 home runs, Narvaez was sent from the White Sox to Milwaukee to become their everyday backstop. In 40 games, Narvaez totaled two home runs, ten RBI, and eight runs, while striking out 31% of the time when his previous high was 20.2%. Most alarmingly, after a couple of seasons above 85, Narvaez’s exit velocity plummeted to 81.6 MPH. Add in a .176 BA and a 59 wRC+ and it’s hard not to overreact to a short season here. His O-swing% increased from 28.9% to 35.7% while O-contact dropped from 72.9% to 61.2%, which will need to be reeled in or he’ll be out of the league soon. Sunk cost or not, the Brewers believed enough in Narvaez to tender him to a $2.5 million deal to return as the starter for 2021. (Bob Osgood)
34. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 22)
Joey Bart is the catcher of the future in San Francisco, making it easy for Posey to become an afterthought. Add in the 2020 season opt-out and Posey drops to 34th in our rankings. However, at 34 years old Buster isn’t exactly in Yadi territory just yet and fresh legs may not be the worst thing for a catcher with that many miles. The .302 career hitter batted just .257 in 2019, but the staff likes to work with him, and he played 114 games, marking the 8th straight season of 105 or more games played since the gruesome leg injury in 2011. Gabe Kapler has already stated that Posey will get the majority of the starts upon his return in 2021, making his floor relatively safe with some counting stats to go with a historically solid batting average. Long gone are the C #1 days, but if you punt on catcher Posey should do little harm. (Bob Osgood)
35. Wilson Ramos, Free Agent (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 16)
The 33-year-old Ramos is a free agent at the time of this writing after two reliable seasons with the Mets, in which Ramos appeared in 84% of the team’s games. In the two seasons combined, Ramos still showed plenty of pop, sporting a .276/.339/.410 slash line with 19 HR and 88 RBI over 186 games, with an 89.8 exit velocity. Only six catchers had more RBI in that span. After a sky-high 62.4% GB-rate in 2019, Ramos dropped that to 52.7% in 2020 and conversely increased his launch angle from -0.1 to 6.5 degrees. The .274 career hitter dropped down to .239 in the short year, in an attempt to sell out for power. Depending on which lineup Ramos lands in, there should be some value left in deeper or two-catcher leagues. (Bob Osgood)
36. Yadier Molina, Free Agent (Age: 38, Previous Rank: 25)
The likely future hall-of-famer Molina enters free agency at the age of 38 having caught for 17 seasons in St. Louis to date. With a career BB/K of 6.6%/10.3%, the Alejandro Kirk fanatics have the gold standard of Molina to emulate offensively at the catcher position. Although three straight seasons between a .260 and .270 average won’t blow you away, catchers as a whole hit .229 in the 2020 season. Keeping with the trend of Posey and Ramos above, you could do a lot more than Molina in your two-catcher or very deep one-catcher leagues. He has made contact 81.3% of the time over the past two seasons, as good as any catching regular in the league not named Posey. Molina has incredibly played 110 games or more every season in the majors, save for rookie and pandemic years. Although it’s hard to envision him playing anywhere other than St. Louis, Molina will catch somewhere this year and the games played should provide a floor of 10/50/50. (Bob Osgood)
37. Miguel Amaya, Chicago Cubs (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 34)
Amaya’s track through the minors, and quotes from within the organization, continue to bill him as the catcher of the future in the north side of Chicago. After Amaya’s performance at the Alternate Site in 2020, Cubs director of player development Matt Dorey told The Athletic, “(It was a) huge year for Amaya and we couldn’t be more pleased with where he is at heading into the offseason. “All credit goes to him, he took on every challenge the staff threw at him and was relentless with his daily work on the field, in the weight room and is becoming a leader in the clubhouse with his maturity and professionalism.”
Behind the plate, Amaya has a 60-grade arm who threw out 35% of baserunners at Double-A in 2019. He has been a patient hitter who should have greater value in OBP fantasy leagues, thanks to a 13.2/16.8 BB/K% in ’19, which paired a .235 BA with a .351 OBP. The power is still developing, but reports believe he can improve on his 11-12 HRs in recent seasons. With Willson Contreras entering free agency in 2023, Amaya should make a major league appearance in ’21 and be their starting catcher not long after that. (Bob Osgood)
38. Dillon Dingler, Detroit Tigers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
After spending much of his college years as an outfielder at Ohio State, the Detroit Tigers drafted Dillon Dingler with the 38th pick in 2020 as a catcher. Dingler, the former ‘Boogie Nights’ star, flashed a variety of tools coming out of school: power, plate skills, speed, and a 65-grade arm, per Baseball America, that threw out 50% of runners in college. After only hitting seven home runs in his first two years, Dingler had already popped five home runs (and five more extra-base hits) in just 50 at-bats when the short season came to a close in his 2020 junior year. The bat will need to continue to make improvements but the Tigers hope they’ve found their catcher of the future to lead the Manning, Mize, Skubal trio throughout the 2020s. (Bob Osgood)
39. Gabriel Moreno, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Moreno will enter his 21-year-old season having spent time at alternate site Rochester in 2020, putting forth an impressive offensive performance. Previously, his solid bat control contributed to a low 11.1% K-rate in 2019 at Low-A to go along with a .280 BA, 12 HR, and 52 RBI over 82 games. Moreno has a plus arm and has been noted for his athleticism but will need to continue to improve defensively over the next couple of years to be a factor at the major league level. The 2021 performance of a catcher with even better bat control, TDG Darling Alejandro Kirk, may give more clarity as to who the Blue Jays consider being the backstop of the future in Toronto. (Bob Osgood)
40. Andrew Knizner, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 31)
The exact ranking of Knizner could change significantly in both redraft and dynasty as a result of where Yadier Molina lands in free agency, so 40th feels like a good spot for Knizner. A below-average defensive catcher, specifically with framing and blocking, Knizner’s value is on the offensive side. This, of course, is a positive from a fantasy perspective, but the Cardinals may bring in a catcher with better receiving skills to platoon with Knizner if Molina does not return. His hit and power tools have graded around 50, and an OPS of .820 in Triple-A Memphis with 12 home runs and a .276 BA was encouraging in 2019 but occurred in the hitter-friendly PCL. A dynasty team in need of a proximity catcher may be able to bring Knizner in at a low cost as a stopgap in deep leagues. (Bob Osgood)