Catcher is always a frustrating position to fill in fantasy, and definitely one that I struggle with each year. While I always enter a draft vehemently promising myself that I will not spend a high pick on a catcher, inevitably the allure of having that extra masher in the lineup tests my resolve.
There are many reasons why depending on a catcher is tough, starting with the incredible real-life demands of the position. The strain of catching affects offensive output for catchers in general, and the pounding these players take throughout the year limits their appearances as well (only seven catchers had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title in 2018).
When considering a catcher, I typically have three types of players that I target for my teams depending on the strategy I have adopted that season:
1. Catchers who are above average in one offensive category (Typically power or speed. Think Evan Gattis in years past or someone like Jason Kendall back in the day)
2. Catchers with a good hitting approach (Higher walk rates, limited strikeout issues)
3. Catchers who have high potential, but haven’t broken out yet
With the first type of player, I sacrifice other categories to have a catcher who, at the end of the day, will at least help me with one important category. The second type tends to have lower risk than the others (at least in theory) as their hitting approaches limit their potential for a complete face plant. Lastly, if I am not investing in a catcher (which is usual) it just makes more sense to go for someone who, while more of a risk, also has the potential to eclipse the price you paid for him.
As you decide where you stand regarding fantasy and the position of catcher, read on for analysis of backstops who saw their stock rise (or fall) this past season.
As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions. We’ll be working our way around the diamond so you can submit your player requests in advance.
Cervelli surprised in 2018, rewarding his owners with above average production in the best offensive performance of his career. He was able to play in 104 games (his highest total since 2015) and held up well during the campaign given the demands of the position and his age (32). Overall he slashed .257/.378/.431 with 12 home runs, posting the sixth best RBI total for catchers in 2018 with 57. His typically strong batting approach continued this season, seeing him walk at a solid rate (12.6% BB%) while limiting strikeouts (20.8% K%).
Those 12 home runs represented a large jump for him (his previous career high was 7) and he supported that jump in production due to increases in both his FB% (+14.6%) and quality of contact (+1.1% Hard%; +1.3 MPH Average Exit Velocity). Adding this tool to his repertoire heavily boosted his value, allowing him to outperform several other stars at the position coming into 2018:
Barnhart is one of several younger backstops who flashed solid fantasy potential this season. While his overall numbers in 2018 may not stand out as much as other options (.248/.328/.372 with 10 HR and 46 RBI), he provided solid value for owners and improved in several ways for the Reds this season, particularly with his batted ball profile.
Barnhart has never had trouble hitting line drives, posting an above average LD% for the third straight season (24.4% in 2018). He managed to cut his ground balls (-1.1% in 2018; -2.6% over past 2 seasons) and really jumped in several power related categories, seeing increases in his FB%, Pull% and quality of contact (+2.9% FB%, +4% Pull%, +5.2% Hard%). These changes, coupled with a lack of health issues (138 games played in 2018) allowed him to be a consistent option for owners who wanted to plug someone in and let it ride for the season.
Perez was once again a top option at catcher, especially for those owners wanting some pop from their catcher. His 27 home runs paced the position, with 14 of them coming during a strong second half effort (.253/.294/.498) by the big Royals catcher. Perez also led all catchers in RBI (80) and continued his pattern of playing most games for his team, (129 games played in 2018).
His walk rate continued to barely exist (3.1% in 2018), and while his K% stayed fairly consistent, he did see a 1.6% spike in his SwStr%. Despite those slight issues, Perez absolutely smote baseballs this season, seeing large increases in both his Hard% (+7.8%) and Average Exit Velocity (+2.7 MPH).
Statcast pegged his numbers a bit higher than his actual slash line (.235/.274/.439) based on quality of contact (.263XBA/.304WOBA/.482XSLG) and in general, Perez basically duplicated his strong offensive work from 2017.
Alfaro had a solid 2018 campaign, swatting 10 home runs with a .262/.324/.407 line in a season where he split time with Wilson Ramos as the season went on. He ended the year on a tear, slashing .367/.472/.567 in his final 11 games, and in general took a few positive steps forward in his development offensively.
His batted ball profile improved compared to his 29 game stint with the Phillies last season, gaining 7% on his LD% (23.2% in 2018) and cutting his ground balls by 4.9% as well. Quality of contact was another area of improvement for Alfaro, with his Hard% (+13.4%) seeing the biggest jump. While all of that is great to see, one element of Alfaro’s 2018 game did not improve: His plate discipline.
In 108 games this season, Alfaro whiffed in 36.6% of his plate appearances. He also posted an unsightly 23.8% SwStr%, the worst rate in MLB this season (Mike Zunino was second for catchers with a 17.5% rate). His BB% did jump slightly (+2.2% in 2018), but even with that increase, he does not walk enough to matter (4.8%). While Alfaro did make some strides in 2018, his complete inability to lay off pitches and limit strikeouts canceled that out.