There are two obvious truths about catchers in fantasy:
- Catcher is easily the weakest position in fantasy
- You can absolutely win your league with any catcher, or without drafting or playing one at all.
With that established, the rules for actually drafting a catcher are simple. You want either power, playing time, or both. You also definitely do not want a catcher who will bring down your overall production, so no taking Russell Martin‘s 10 jacks and dealing with his horrible overall line. Finally, you really can win without a catcher, so do not reach to get one.
This is not an article telling you that players like J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal are not assets to your team. They are. The problem is what you’re giving up when you draft them. Every time you draft a catcher early in a draft, you are missing out on a star at a more important position. If a Realmuto or Grandal falls to you past where you have them ranked, you should absolutely snatch them up.
That’s 173 words to tell you this. However, someone in every draft will reach on a catcher so the best ones won’t fall, but that doesn’t matter at all, so don’t panic and wait for one of these.
- Omar Narvaez
I have Omar Narvaez ranked dead in the middle of my catcher rankings. He should be higher. However, overall rankings are more about specific production and projections than general ability or fit.
Among catchers with at least 150 at-bats in 2018, Narvaez ranked 8th in fWAR and 5th in wRC+. He was good. He has now moved to the Mariners, which is a clear plus for his playing time and job status, but probably a minus for his power. He only hit 9 home runs in 2018, and moving from a relative bandbox in Chicago to the more spacious Safeco Field won’t do him any favors there.
That said, he’s not yet a big name like Realmuto or Buster Posey. There’s no production versus potential debate like Gary Sanchez or Wilson Contreras. And there’s no dream with Narvaez. He’s simply a relatively polished, productive bat in line for major playing time in a re-imagined Seattle lineup, and I’m targeting him in every league I can. No reach required.
- Danny Jansen
If you can’t get Omar Narvaez, or if you want to wait until the very last round or even waivers to add your catcher, I think Danny Jansen is your guy. Russell Martin was awful in 2018, with a 91 wRC+, a .194 batting average, and an fWAR close to replacement level.
Martin’s also not getting any younger as he’ll open 2019 at 36 years old. Danny Jansen is a well-regarded prospect who actually outpointed Martin in fWAR 0.7 to 0.6 in only 95 at-bats last year. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but his 115 wRC+ at the major league level is actually a step back from his 145 mark at triple-A, so while he may not reach that level of production he is a fair bet to produce if he gets playing time.
Given Martin’s age and most-recent season, it’s not unreasonable to think he can take the job and run with it if he hits. He’s worth a flier with your last roster spot.
Avoid doesn’t mean AVOID – it’s more of a yield sign. Almost anyone can have value if they are drafted in the right place. Here, avoid just means these names are likely to cost you more than they are worth to draft or acquire, or are decent bets for regression. For catcher, I think there are 3: Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, and Salvador Perez.
There’s no real need to drag this out. All 3 of them have had great careers, all 3 have name value, and all 3 aren’t worth what it will take to draft them.
Yadier Molina, like Martin, is aging, and any year could be the year his production takes a dive. He could absolutely keep producing, but catchers in their mid-30’s do not have a strong track record. Similarly, Buster Posey still registers as Buster Posey, a rare MVP from the catcher position, but his power has been in decline for years culminating with a mere 6 home runs in 2018.
Finally, Salvador Perez is the safest bet of the lot, which means others will know that too. Perez also has a lot of miles on him from years of heavy workloads during the Royals’ recent playoff runs, and a total inability to walk which leads him to be a major drain in OBP leagues. He’s also coming off a hand injury, and power numbers for players coming back from hand or wrist injuries are a gamble at best. As with Molina and Posey, I think you’re better off looking elsewhere considering the potential cost.