The Dynasty Guru’s 2021 Top 40 Dynasty League Catchers: Catchers to Avoid
This is a companion piece to our annual Top 40 Dynasty League Catchers series, which you can find here and here. The opinions below are my own and do not reflect the TDG consensus. Each of these players has plenty of fans among my colleagues.
Joey Bart; TDG 2021 Consensus Dynasty Catcher Ranking: 6th
There are indications the Giants have soured on Bart as their catcher of the future. He was the last first-round pick of the previous regime, before Farhan Zaidi took over, and they have since selected another catcher in the first round in Patrick Bailey at pick #13. They have also made it clear that Posey is the starter in 2021, with Bart as the #2 catcher. In any case, dynasty leaguers ought to hope he gets more seasoning in the minor leagues. He certainly did not look ready in his 2020 cup of coffee, posting a 3% BB and 37% K in 111 PA, and his minor league statistics were never quite strong enough to justify his bullish fantasy prospect ranks—consistently with considerable power, but too many strikeouts and too few walks. On the bright side, his defense looks promising so he should stick at catcher, with a 70 FV from FanGraphs, and strong all-around catcher defensive metrics in his brief MLB sample. This is important as he may not have a strong enough bat to last at 1B. In sum, he looks like a solid future dynasty option behind the plate, but you can likely get equivalent production taking someone 5 to 10 spots beneath him on our list.
J.T. Realmuto; TDG 2021 Consensus Dynasty Catcher Ranking: 1st
J.T. Realmuto has consistently ranked as the top catcher for a while now and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to produce at a high level. His consistency has led to the catcher position often breaking down into two tiers: Realmuto and everybody else. For instance, his “#2EarlyMocks” ADP is 48th; the next best catcher is 111th (the story is similar for dynasty). Realmuto’s performance doesn’t justify considering him on his own island, however. His xwOBA has hovered around .350 for years—putting a cap on his upside—while his pwOBA (a predictive version of xwOBA, based on predictive values for each batted ball given its launch angle and exit velocity) was underwhelming in 2020 at .310. His BB% minus K% has continued to worsen, as his K% reached a career-high 25% in 2020. He appears to be a bit past his peak. On a per PA basis, Steamer groups his offensive ability (wRC+) together with many other catchers (he is projected for a 105 wRC+, approximately tied for 3rd with eight other guys). To end on a positive note, his playing time is much more assured than any other catcher and you probably won’t be too disappointed making him the first catcher off the board. You’re better off saving your top 100 pick for a different position, however, and choosing another catcher for your dynasty squad who will offer similar production–and often substantially more upside–outside the top 100.
Austin Nola, TDG 2021 Consensus Dynasty Catcher Ranking: 16th
Let’s start with the positives: despite playing catcher only inconsistently throughout his minor and major league professional career, he’s excellent behind the plate, ranking as the 13th best framer in 2020, with superb minor league defensive metrics. This should keep his bat in the lineup. Further, Nola has been a solidly above-average MLB hitter across his first 451 MLB PA, with an xwOBA (.319) approaching league average. Why then, would a projection system purporting to account for important past information, in this case Steamer, project him as a below-average hitter, with only a 93 wRC+?
While I can’t say for sure why Steamer projects a particular thing, I can say that Steamer has good reason to be skeptical, as 451 PA is still a small sample relative to ~ 3,000 MILB PA…and Nola’s track record in that 3,000 PA is not something to get excited about, particularly before his late-career Triple-A breakout in 2019. Throughout his MiLB career, he has averaged a meager 4-ish homers per 600 PA, with typically solid but unspectacular BB% and K%. A bet on Nola is a bet that the 2019-2020 power surge is real, but his pre-2019 track record asks for ample caution, lest you pay for the 16th best catcher and instead up with a higher-contact, lower-power variety Austin Hedges.