Drafting a catcher for your Fantasy team is a conundrum this season. The catcher position is very shallow. You either draft a top guy early or wait until the end for your starting catcher. There are a few names worth drafting in the early rounds. If you’re going to reach early, reach for the very best at the position.
However, that may not be the best option for your overall success. Catchers just don’t provide much value to rosters, so they’re often the most overlooked position in Fantasy Baseball. There are no worthless positions on your roster, so you need to take that “C” position into account on draft day just like any other position on your roster.
If you focus on drafting a catcher that can win your head-to-head matchups or keep you competitive throughout the season in rotisserie formats, you’re putting your Fantasy team in the best position to win.
So what should Fantasy owners do about the catcher position? What is the best strategy? Who should you target and when should you select these players? Find out the answers to these questions and more analysis in my 2018 Fantasy Catcher Preview and Rankings.
2018 Fantasy Catcher Preview and Rankings
Who are the Catchers that Fantasy owners should be targeting in the late rounds?
James McMann, CHW (Position Rank: 28, Overall ADP: 304)
James McMann will move into a bigger role this season with the Tigers. He heads into Spring Training as the unquestioned starter behind the plate. In 2017, he set career highs with a .733 OPS, 13 home runs, 39 runs scored and 49 RBI with a 1.4 WAR according to Baseball Reference, while batting .253 (89-for-352). For his career, he is a .247 hitter with a .681 OPS.
He had a horrible start to the 2017 season, when he posted a slash line of just .201/.282/.416 over the first half of the season, causing veteran Alex Avila to collect much of the playing time at catcher. McCann turned his season around when Avila was traded to the Cubs, posting a .321/.381/.455 slash line.
Heading into the 2018 season, I expect McCann’s numbers to take a big boost, due to the fact he will play just about every day and hit towards the middle of a lineup while surrounded by good hitters. This should set him up for a lot of RBI opportunities. He also should be a .270-ish hitter and hit 20-plus homers for the Detroit Tigers this season. He will be a late-round steal for Fantasy owners.
Austin Hedges, SD (Position Rank: 21, Overall ADP: 293)
In 2017, Austin Hedges hit .214/.262/.398 in 120 games. His 18 long balls placed him in a tie for the fourth spot among National League catchers. Unfortunately, he also produced a 71 wRC+ with a 29.3% strikeout rate.
Already one of the best defenders at his position in the game, he’s maturing as a hitter as well. He is still lagging behind the dingers is the batting average that he exhibited in the minors. He has hit very well throughout his minor league career. If he can increase the batting average fittingly, all of the other hitting categories will follow.
Austin Hedges is the type of catcher that you target as a specific category contributor late in your draft if you punted the position. Even marginal improvement in his overall offensive production will be what Hedges and Fantasy owners will hope for.
Robinson Chirinos, TEX (Position Rank: 17, Overall ADP: 285)
As mostly a backup over the past four seasons, Robinson Chirinos has averaged 275 at-bats and 12 homers. In 2018, with Jonathan Lucroy out of the picture, Chirinos gets a full-time job that leads to additional at-bats and pushes for 20-plus home runs.
Chirinos has always hit for solid power and he finally put that on display last season finishing with 17 homers in just 263 at-bats. His slugging percentage was 25th best among 174 American League players with at least 200 plate appearances. It ranked third among AL catchers. Furthermore, he owned an 11% walk rate in 309 plate appearances and produced an increase of 88 points in OBP to .399 in the second half of last season.
If he stays healthy, he has a great shot to be a valuable starting Fantasy catcher at a throwaway draft-day price.
Are there are any catching prospects worth drafting in the late rounds?
Fantasy owners love to boast that they were the first in their league to find the next rookie stud. Let’s take a look at three catching prospects that can be studs for the 2018 season:
Francisco Mejia, CLE
Francisco Mejia is one of the best hitting catcher prospects since Joe Mauer. The switch-hitter is a career .293 hitter in the minors. He is blocked on the depth chart by Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes. Neither will blow you away with their ability at the plate. Mejia was rated as baseball’s top catching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. There is immediate Top-10 Fantasy potential for Mejia. It shouldn’t be long before he is the everyday catcher for the Indians.
Chance Sisco, BAL
Chance Sisco started four times and hit .333 (6-for-18) with two home runs and four RBI last season with the Orioles. The Orioles might open the 2018 season with Caleb Joseph as their primary backstop. That said, Joseph is 31 and owns a career .225 average. Sisco seems to be in line to slot in as a left-handed platoon partner with Joseph, and eventually an everyday role. His future is dependent upon his ability to make the required defensive adjustments because catchers with his batting skillset are rare in present-day MLB.
Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies
Alfaro has a ton of upside and enters Spring Training as the projected starter. He slashed .318/.360/.514 in 114 plate appearances. He also displayed some pop with 11 extra base hits in just 29 games. If Alfaro continues to build upon the small sample size, he will look more like the Phillies backstop of the future. Seeing his production across an entire season could elevate Jorge Alfaro as one of the top catchers in baseball.
What is the strategy in a two-catcher league?
In two-catcher leagues, backstops have plenty of value. Because of the defensive priority associated with the position, it is difficult for deep-league owners to find enough catchers with useful offensive numbers. Waiting until the late rounds to nab a receiver in two-catcher leagues could leave a Fantasy owner with a large hole in their lineup.
The double catcher requirement leads to significant strategic variance. Here are a few strategies to consider:
- Take one high-end option and then a late-round sleeper: This should guarantee roughly above-average production while giving you an easy opportunity to upgrade. IF the sleeper does not produce, your loss is minimal. Think Wilson Contreras and Alex Avila.
- Invest in two early-round catchers: Use early picks/auction dollars to acquire both catchers from the Top 15. The advantage of this strategy is that you gain a distinct edge on this position as the drop off in talent precipitously after this point. The issue arises is that it will likely leave your team with too many holes elsewhere on your roster. Think Buster Posey and Wilson Ramos.
- Draft two mid-tier catchers: While this option is boring, owners will focus on drafting catchers that provide both playing time/regular ABs and performance upside. They won’t kill your team, but then again these catchers will not lead you to a championship. Think Yadier Molina and Brian McCann.
- Punt the position: It is just as important to know your options at the bottom of the rankings just as much as your options at the top. You retain all of your budget/picks for the most productive positions. This strategy lends itself to considering players that can actually help your team in any weak areas on your roster. Think Austin Hedges and Stephen Vogt.
2018 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings
|Rank||Player (Team)||ECR||VS. ECR|
|1||Gary Sanchez, Yankees||1||0|
|2||Buster Posey, Giants||2||0|
|3||Wilson Contreras, Cubs||3||0|
|4||Salvador Perez, Royals||4||0|
|5||J.T. Realmuto, Marlins||5||0|
|6||Evan Gattis , Astros||6||0|
|7||Wilson Ramos, Rays||8||+1|
|8||Welington Castillo, White Sox||10||+2|
|9||Brian McCann, Astros||11||+2|
|10||Mike Zunino, Mariners||10||-1|
|11||Robinson Chirinos, Rangers||15||+4|
|12||James McCann, Tigers||22||+10|
|13||Yadier Molina, Cardinals||7||-6|
|14||Austin Hedges, Padres||16||+3|
|15||Alex Avila, Diamondbacks||19||+4|
|16||Stephen Vogt, Brewers||26||+10|
|17||Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers||13||-4|
|18||Jorge Alfaro, Phillies||24||+6|
|19||Austin Barnes, Dodgers||14||-5|
|20||Russell Martin, Blue Jays||16||-4|
|21||Francisco Mejia, Indians||28||+6|
|22||Tyler Flowers, Braves||23||+1|
|23||Chance Sisco, Orioles||29||+6|
|24||Matt Weiter, Nationals||21||-3|
|25||Jonathan Lucrory, FA||12||-13|
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