Fantasy Baseball

2020 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview: Catch you later


What do you do after an exciting Super Bowl? Start to get ready for your Fantasy baseball drafts by reading the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview: Catch you later, of course!

After an extensive Fantasy football coverage, the Fantasy Six Pack team are here to help you win your Fantasy Baseball championships.

In our first position preview, I examine the most dissected position to draft, the catcher position.  I provide draft advice, players to target, which rookies to consider, and who to avoid at catcher.

Our Fantasy baseball site coverage will include an update on all of the baseball transactions in the Fantasy Baseball Transaction Tracker. Our Draft Rankings, so Fantasy owners can see where players rank and decided who to start/sit. Additionally, we have the Fantasy Six Pack Hour, where the guys talk about the hot baseball topics.

Don’t be like Kyle Shanahan and choke away your chance for a championship, start your Fantasy baseball prep with the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview: Catch you later.

2020 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview

Free five-minute mock drafts against industry experts and custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

When should I take the plunge at the catcher position in my draft?

The most obvious takeaway from the catcher position is that you should wait and wait and then wait some more on the catcher position. Don’t be the first to select a catcher unless you are in an auction and want another owner to outbid you for a top catcher.

Who are these top catchers? Good question, since no catcher hit above .300 last season. Eight catchers hit at least 20 homers last season. Although no catcher had 15+ homers and hit .280 or better, no catchers finished inside the top 100 and will not accomplish that feat again this season.

In single catcher leagues, there is no reason to grab a catcher early. There are tons of fascinating options available late to choose from. In two-catcher formats, the possibilities are more limited. Fantasy owners will still be able to select sleepers and even deeper sleepers to fill the catcher spot while accumulating studs across your other positions. Catchers are like kickers in Fantasy Football. Necessary lineup requirements but don’t feel obligated to panic and reach for a position whose scarcity begs for Fantasy owners to wait. Allow yourself to grab starters in all of your hitting positions and at least two-three starting pitchers before even considering the catcher option.

Which catchers should I target late in drafts?

Winning Fantasy managers typically hit big on a sleeper or two in their drafts. Last season, if you were smart enough to select Mitch Garver or Christian Vazquez at the catcher position deep in your selections, you realize the type of Fantasy impact it provides.

Here are three sleeper catchers that Fantasy managers should keep highlighted or in their queue during their drafts or auctions:

Tom Murphy, Seattle Mariners

Tom Murphy is a former trendy catching prospect with the Colorado Rockies, where he was never given a full opportunity to succeed in Colorado. In 2019, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners before Spring Training and formed a lefty-righty platoon with Omar Narvaez.

Murphy made his Fantasy impact last season by hitting .273 with 18 home runs in just 76 games. Narvaez was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason, leaving the starting job to Murphy. With the increased playing time that Murphy should be getting this season, his power upside should place him in every Fantasy manager’s radar.

His 31.0 percent strikeout rate last season may scare off some Fantasy owners. However, that was his lowest strikeout ratio since his rookie season, and he accomplished those numbers in a season where he had the most at-bats. Look for Murphy to hit. 250 with 20-25 homers this season. I would take that from my catcher at that draft price.

Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres

Amid speculation that the San Diego Padres are looking to deal Austin Hedges, Francisco Mejia will become the primary catcher in the Padres’ future. Hedges owns a lowly .201/.257/.360 career slash line and hit a measly .176/.252/.311 over 102 games last season. Hedges is arguably the best defensive catcher in the league, and his defensive metrics can no longer outweigh the black hole that he provides in the daily Padres lineup.

Mejia is not in the same atmosphere as Hedges as a defender, but he possesses a more potent bat that the Padres were pushing to get into their lineups daily. Overall, Mejia hit .265/.316/.438 with eight homers and 22 RBI in 79 games last season. The former Indians farmhand came along in the second half, hitting .305/.355/.511, with six of his eight homers over 46 games.

The switch-hitting Mejia is a work in progress behind the plate but has tremendous upside offensively. The Padres giving Mejia more plate appearances should produce more positive results, which all Fantasy owners should capitalize on in their 2020 Fantasy drafts.

Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves

Travis d’Arnaud is coming off of a decent season where he hit 16 home runs, which tied a career-best and hit for a .251 average, having played games for the Mets, Dodgers, and Rays. With the majority of those games being with the Rays. With Brian McCann retiring, the Atlanta Braves were looking for a primary catcher with Tyler Flowers remaining a reliable No.2 option. Flowers has split catching duties pretty much evenly in his four seasons with the Braves. However, the plan is for him to yield more time to the younger d’Arnaud in 2020.

d’Arnaud was one of the top catching prospects earlier this decade. However, injuries have hampered his career. Last season, the former first-round pick stayed healthy for the Rays and slashed .263/.323/.459 with 67 RBI in 92 games.

Travis d’Arnaud is a power hitter that produces a solid average and will look to resurrect his career with the Braves. A stat line consisting of an average of .250 with 20+ homers is a reasonable expectation for the 2020 season.

Which rookie catchers will make a fantasy impact in the 2020 season?

The most popular draft strategy involving catchers is to wait on the position and pick out a potential sleeper. One type of sleeper I like to target is a rookie catcher looking to earn a starting job. Here are three rookie catchers that I will be looking to draft late in my drafts, but please don’t tell my league mates:

Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics look to have their catcher of the future and the present in Sean Murphy. He is a dynamic offensive player with an elite defensive background.  Murphy hit .308/.386/.625, with ten home runs and a 1.011 OPS in the hitter-friendly Las Vegas Ballpark at the Triple-A level before suffering a torn meniscus. He returned later in the season and contributed to the A’s playoff chase. In 20 games with the A’s last season, Murphy hit .245/.333/.566 with four home runs and a .899 OPS.

Murphy is a strong offensive catcher who possesses tons of power and is rising quickly. He will be the starting catcher for a playoff team with a bright future. The Fantasy investment is minimal at a catcher position where any offense is at a premium.

Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants

Bart was recognized in last season’s catcher preview as a rookie catcher to keep your Fantasy radar on as you head into your drafts. Bart is the heir apparent for the future Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey. Unfortunately, Bart’s meteoric rise through the Giants minor league system didn’t finish with Bart playing games at Oracle Park last season. He suffered two hand fractures previous season, the first of which kept him out six weeks during the first part of the season. Six months later, a pitch fractured his thumb, which ended his season earlier than expected.

Bart finished the 2019 season in Double-A, where he slashed .316/.368/.544 with four home runs and 11 RBI in 22 games. Bart has significant power and is a plus defender. If Buster Posey continues his downward slide, Bart will have his opportunity to shine. Posey is also slated to play some first base this season. The Giants want to keep Posey healthy after his injury-filled seasons and declining stats in the last few years.

Fantasy owners looking for cheap power at a weak position should take a shot at Bart in the later rounds. Fantasy managers in daily leagues with daily transactions could prosper with Joey Bart on their rosters.

Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles

Rutschman is the top catching prospect for 2020. The top overall pick in the 2019 draft has been touted as the best all-around catching prospect since Joe Mauer was the No.1 pick in 2001.

MLB Pipeline list Rustchman’s hit and power tool (both 60 grade) as the top tools among catching prospects. Here’s what Pipeline had to say about Rutschman,

“Combining Mark Teixeira-esque offensive upside with Gold Glove potential behind the plate makes him the best amateur catching prospect since MLB went to a single Draft in 1987″.

The switch-hitting catcher will be on the fast track to the majors. It’s just a matter of when he joins the Orioles. He is considered a can’t miss prospect with the highest ceiling and highest floor of any catching prospect. Dynasty managers should target Rutschman early. Redraft owners with deep rosters might want to take a shot on the decorated youngster in the likelihood that he makes his MLB debut in 2020.

Players on the Rise

Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

Carson Kelly finally got his chance to play when he was included as part of the package with the trade of Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Cardinals, Kelly was blocked by Yadier Molina, but in Arizona, he produced a promising first full season.

Kelly hit .245 with 18 homers and 47 RBI. He was 12th in WAR among all catchers with more than 100 plate appearances. His 18 homers were tied for ninth, and his .478 slugging percentage was 10th. His increase in power production propels Kelly to a top fantasy option at the catcher position. After not producing a hard contact rate above 30 percent in the minors, Kelly broke out with a 48.7 percent hard contact rate last season.

Fantasy managers might have concerns about Kelly as their catcher in 2020. Kelly struggled in the second half, hitting just .207. However, his second-half plummet was mostly due to hitting a wall in his first full big-league season. Furthermore, Kelly did the majority of his damage against southpaws, hitting .356/.462/.667. On the other hand, he hit .203/.303/.405 against right-handers. Any development in his production against righties, his upside arrow will continue to point upwards into a breakout season.

Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers seem to have an endless supply of young talented players. Last season, we saw the emergence of the 24-year-old Will Smith. Smith joined the Dodgers at the end of May in a corresponding transaction to Austin Barnes landing on the 10-day injured list. Smith went on to hit .318/.392/.818 with eight doubles, 12 homers and 31 RBI over his first 28 games. He became the first Dodgers player in franchise history with ten home runs through 25 career games.

Unfortunately, Smith struggled late in the regular season and the postseason, slashing .175/.284/298 in September and hitting 1-for-13 in the postseason. The scuffling may be attributed to physical fatigue of catching 98 games after catching a combined 105 games in his two previous seasons.

Regardless, Smith proved to be an offensive force, finishing the season with a .253/.337/.571 slash line in only 196 plate appearances with 15 homers and 42 RBI. Smith finished second in wRC+, wOBA, and slugging among catchers.

The Dodgers catcher has power potential and is a strong candidate to have a breakout season. His 23.7-degree launch angle was fourth-best in the league last season and more than double than the ML average of 11.2 degrees. Smith plays in a deep lineup that should provide him with counting stats that every Fantasy manager desires. He will continue his rise in the catcher rankings and someone that will land in the top seven catchers in 2020.

Players on the Decline

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Yes, I realize Buster Posey is a three-time World Series champion, former MVP, four-time Silver Slugger, and six-time All-Star, BUT I hate to say it, but age is catching up to Posey. He will turn 33 years old before Opening Day this season and has not been healthy since 2017.

Unfortunately for Fantasy managers, the current version of .254/320/.368 and just six homers in 443 plate appearances with a 1.8 WAR is not screaming success in your Fantasy leagues.

Posey is not a factor in one-catcher leagues. What can Fantasy owners count on from Posey? He has a combined 12 homers in his last two seasons. In a juiced ball season (allegedly), his single-digit home run output was a killer. Additionally, his rates have taken a nosedive across the board. His isolated slugging was just .098 in 2018 and .111 last season. His strikeout rate rose to 16 percent last season, which was his highest since 2011. His .257 batting average and 85 wRC+ were the worst of his career.

The production or lack thereof leaves Posey off my list as a viable fantasy catcher. Don’t draft the name, select the production.

Players on the Horizon

Sam Huff, Texas Rangers

Baseball fans should recognize the name Sam Huff from his game-tying two-run homer at the MLB Futures Game this past summer in Cleveland.

The blast lifted him to MVP honors who just turned 22 last week. After his massive season in which he homered 28 times, Huff landed on MLB Pipeline’s 2020 Top 10 catching prospects list.

Although Huff has yet to play beyond the Class A level, his ability to hit and hit for power at catcher should raise the awareness of all Fantasy managers. He demolished A pitching with 28 homers, 50 extra-base hits, and a .845 OPS.

Standing at 6’4″ and 230 pounds, Huff received an invitation to Major League Spring Training Camp, while we will probably not see him in a Rangers’ uniform this season, he is someone to keep on your fantasy radar. Huff, the team’s No. 2 prospect, does need to cut down on his strikeouts, racking up 154 in 127 games. However, the power-hitting catcher can force the Rangers to continue to move him up levels based upon his power. However, a position change to first base is not out of the question.

Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks

Daulton Varsho is one of the Diamondbacks’ more intriguing prospects, a left-handed hitting catcher who has posted impressive offensive numbers at every stop in the minors. In Double-A Jackson last season, Varsho hit .301/.378/.520 in 396 at-bats with 18 homers and 21 stolen bases. Varsho led the Southern League in OPS, runs scored, and slugging percentage. He posted a 159 wRC+ and was named the Diamondbacks’ Minor League Player of the Year.

No player in the Diamondbacks system this year has a stronger combination of in-season production, positional value, and prospect standing than the 23-year-old catching prospect. However, the question is, does Varsho move from catcher in the big leagues?

Last season, we saw the emergence of Carson Kelly as an above-average fantasy option at catcher, which may make Varsho destined to find at-bats at a different position. A possible solution involves moving Varsho to the outfield, an area where the team is hurting for depth.

Varsho is expected to get an extended look this Spring to see how he handles playing catcher, the outfield, and hit against major league pitching. He’ll likely start the season playing with AAA Reno, although I expect him to make his debut with the team sometime after the All-Star Break.

The projections for Varsho is he’ll develop into an everyday player somewhere whether it’s a catcher, in the outfield, or a multi-positional everyday player. Varsho will produce gaudy stats at Reno, therefore forcing the Diamondbacks to promote the elite hitting prospect. His rare power/speed combo at catcher is a Fantasy owner’s dream.

Players to Avoid

Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox

One of the best pieces of Fantasy advice that I ever received is something that I now swear by is never to chase a career season by a player.

Christian Vazquez had a career season in 2019 while surpassing all expectations. Vazquez set career-highs in multiple categories at the plate, including hits (133) doubles (26), runs scored (66),  and home runs (23). His home run output was 13 more than he had hit in his entire career. He even exhibited improved patience at the plate as he walked 33 times, which exceeds hit total from the previous two years combined.

As we head into the 2020 season, Vazquez will have an increased role to play for the Red Sox as he becomes more of a day-to-day catcher. The Red Sox traded catcher Sandy Leon to the Cleveland Indians in December. Vazquez and Leon formed a productive platoon for the Red Sox over the past four seasons.

However, with a more significant workload, there will be immense effects on his game. This very well could be a very different season than last year. And the Red Sox could look very different this season. The recent trade rumors of stud outfielder Mookie Betts could leave a gigantic hole at the top of the Red Sox lineup. The everyday lineup will still be loaded, but there is no denying the potential impact of losing Betts.

Vazquez had one of the best seasons by a Red Sox catcher this decade. The Red Sox catcher joined the juiced ball parade and became a participant in a season with the most home runs ever. The perfect storm for the Fantasy success for Vazquez owners. Are you willing to believe that lighting strikes again?

Check out the rest of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball coverage to help win your leagues.

About Dennis Sosic

Dennis Sosic is from Cleveland, Ohio and a HUGE sports fan including NFL (GO BROWNS!) and college football (GO BUCKEYES!) MLB (GO TRIBE), NBA (GO CAVS!) and MMA. He has been called a Sports Geek by friends and foes alike and that fits him perfectly. He has been competing in fantasy sports, mainly fantasy football and baseball for over 20 years. Please do all of us a favor and follow Dennis @ CALL_ME_SOS.

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