2021 Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Top 30 Catchersby Alex Kielar March 5, 2021 0 comments
To begin the trip around the diamond with our rankings for the 2021 Fantasy Baseball Season, we start with the catchers. As is frequently the case, the catching position isn’t exactly overflowing with fantasy talent. There are a few guys who have been consistently at the top, but overall it is the weakest position fantasy-wise. This year there are some familiar faces as well as a few guys who have made their way up the chart and look to have a breakout season. Let’s get it started.
For the purposes of this article, and the other fantasy baseball rankings we will have for you over the next couple of weeks, we are basing them on standard 5×5 roto scoring. They are also based on redraft leagues. When a player gets a boost or drops in the rankings due to format or scoring, it will be noted with their outlook.
The predictions will be a slash line of BA/RBI/HR/R/SB.
(1) J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
Not surprisingly, Realmuto is yet again the king of the catchers. He consistently keeps getting better as his ceiling continues to be raised. He hasn’t shown any sign of regression, even though his expected batting average dropped off a bit to .248 in 2020. It’s hard to judge anyone off a shortened season and Realmuto had three straight seasons of an expected batting average of .278 prior. Another testament to his consistency was that his hard-hit percentage eclipsed 40% for the third straight season. In fact, it was his career-high at 42.7%. His average exit velocity also broke 90% for the second straight year. J.T. will look to prove his worth after he received a five-year, $115.5 million contract this offseason, returning to the Phillies.
Prediction: .255/84/27/91/7 | ADP: 38.83
(2) Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
Outside of Realmuto, the Cubs’ catcher is probably the safest catcher for fantasy this year. Contreras offers a solid floor with plenty of upside for more. At the least, he will give you about 15 homers and 120 runs created. Last season, he had a career-high hard-hit percentage of 47.8% and a career-high walk rate of 8.9%. He also had his second straight season with over a 10 percent barrel rate at 10.4%. Contreras enters his age-28 season and is in his prime. He may or may not be a Cub for the entire season, but he could put up big numbers.
Prediction: .262/61/22/55/3 | ADP: 118.67
(3) Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
Salvy bounced back from missing all of the 2019 season in a huge way last season, slashing .333/.353/.633 with 11 home runs, 32 RBI, and 22 runs scored in 156 plate appearances. These numbers earned Perez Comeback Player of the Year honors for the American League. While his walk rate has been just plain awful – career-low 1.9 percent in 2020 – his solid numbers have been earned. His .325 xBA and.624 xSLG in 2020 were in the top two percent of the league and his .387 xWOBA was in the top four percent. Perez had a hard hit percentage of at least 47% for the second straight season with 47.5 percent in 2018 and 47 percent in 2020. He also saw an uptick in barrels with a career-high 13.7% barrel percentage. His .940 OPS was tops among qualifying catchers last season. Look for the Royals’ catcher to have another solid year as he turns 31 in May.
Prediction: .273/74/23/61/1 | ADP: 77.91
(4) Will Smith
This Will Smith is not from West Philadelphia, born and raised, but he did have an outstanding 2020 season for the Dodgers. He walked at a 14.6% clip, struck out just 16.1% of the time, and had an xwOBA that was in the top five percent of the league (.386). His expected slugging of .538 was also in the top 10 percent of the league as he built off the power potential he showed in his rookie year of 2019. Over 54 games, Smith bashed 15 long balls, 42 RBI, and 30 runs scored in 170 at-bats in 2019. In just 37 games in 2020, he mashed eight taters and had a .980 OPS.
Prediction: .267/83/25/91/3 | ADP: 92.00
(5) Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox
Grandal’s power potential is what makes him more attractive than some other guy’s on this list, and he is in a very solid White Sox lineup. He is never going to hit for average, but he has been in the top ten percent of the league in walk percentage in five of his six big league seasons. His walk rate last season was his second-highest of his career at 15.5%. A potential red flag is that he had a career-high 29.9% strikeout rate in 2020 to go along with .230 BA. From 2016-19 he had at least 22 homers in each season and walloped eight last season. Combining the power with a consistent OBP that is north of .340 means good things for a fantasy catcher. If he can get the strikeouts down, Grandal will be even more valuable.
Prediction: .234/81/24/75/3 | ADP: 125.24
(6) Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves
Since being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in June 2019, d’Arnaud is slashing .289/.349/.493 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI in 136 games. His 94 RBI over that stretch is 14 more than Realmuto and being in the middle of the Braves’ lineup gives him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. d’Arnaud hit the ball extremely hard last season with a massive 57.8% hard-hit rate and he had an xwOBA of .370.
Prediction: .266/65/17/54/1 | ADP: 127.57
(7) Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
El Kraken struggled mightily in 2020, enough to get him benched in favor of Kyle Higashioka in the postseason. His power potential is really all he has right now, but he can easily hit 30+ bombs in a season and lead all catchers. Sanchez has hit just .200 with a .296 OBP since the beginning of 2018 but does have 62 homers in that span. While he had a sub-.200 batting average last season, he still hit the ball hard as he posted a 50% hard-hit rate and barreled up at 17.4 percent clip. Sanchez may have been facing a bit of bad luck as his BABIP was a mere .159. He is ready to bounce back in a big way, and if you can get him in a later round he could be a steal.
Prediction: .221/61/32/63/0 | ADP: 155.15
(8) Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox
The Boston catcher is one of the more reliable catchers as it comes to balance. He not only has 20-homer potential, but he also provides a solid batting average and stolen bases. Vazquez hit .283 last season while also smashing seven homers after coming off a 23 home run season in 2019. Entering his age-31 season, there isn’t much evidence of a decline as the late bloomer had his second straight season hitting the ball at a 40% hard-hit rate and had a career-high 8.5% walk rate.
Prediction: .276/64/21/55/5 | ADP: 144.43
(9) Austin Nola, San Diego Padres
Nola was a trade deadline acquisition by the Padres last season to help bolster the lineup. After being acquired, he was quietly playing through a foot fracture he suffered after fouling a ball off his foot. After bolstering a .903 OPS with the Seattle Mariners, he only had a mere .705 OPS with the Padres, which the fractured foot could explain. Nola was a late-bloomer but the 31-year old will look to build off his impressive career 119 wRC+ across 451 plate appearances. His Statcast profile is very promising in suggesting sustained success. He saw an uptick in exit velocity, expected batting average, xwOBA, and walk rate from 2019 to last season, while also decreasing his strikeout rate.
Prediction: .267/74/11/63/1 | ADP: 159.41
(10) Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks
This might be a bit of a hot take having Varsho this high up on this list, given that he struggled in his only major league action last season in 37 games. Not to mention the presence of Carson Kelly. But Varsho started to trend upwards towards the end of the season, hitting all three of his home runs and having a .822 OPS from September 4 on. Also during that timeframe, he dropped his strikeout rate to 24% (from 27%) and had a 12.2% walk rate. All this while hitting the ball hard with a 38.2% hard-hit rate. The Wisconsin native is also outfield eligible, so when he’s not splitting time at catcher with Kelly, he could see time in the outfield. Varsho also has stolen base upside with three stolen bases last year on his 60-grade speed, which is crazy for a catcher.
Prediction: .240/51/9/61/12 | ADP: 183.70
(11) James McCann, New York Mets
The Mets signed McCann to a four-year, $40 million contract this offseason to give them a huge upgrade at the position. After splitting time with Grandal on the South Side of Chicago last season, the 30-year old will now be the everyday catcher for the Mets. With his workload heavily increasing, his counting stats will likely see a decrease. But being in a solid Mets lineup, he will still see plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers. McCann saw his OPS jump to .896 from .789 in 2019 and he had a career-high walk rate at 7.2%. His xwOBA (.329) and hard-hit rate (47.8%) were also career-highs.
Prediction: .243/51/16/53/2 | ADP: 169.57
(12) Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics
The 26-year old catcher is currently ramping up his activity in camp as he gets back from a chest injury. Murphy is expected to be ready for Opening Day after he became the A’s primary catcher in 2020. He has a solid power upside as he has 11 homers in 63 career major league games. Seven of those homers came in 43 games last season, which also included a .233/.364/.457 slash line and a tremendous 17.1% walk rate. Murphy also had an outstanding 49.4% hard-hit rate and a 92.2 average exit velocity.
Prediction: .244/48/14/53/1 | ADP: 171.15
(13) Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
The presence of Varsho will cause some problems for Kelly’s upside this season. He also struggles against right-handers which could lead to more of a platoon role. Of the two Diamondback catchers, Varsho is definitely the one you should go with if any. Kelly has power upside and some average upside based on past performance, but I just don’t see him getting the at-bats.
Prediction: .235/49/13/41/0 | ADP: 253.63
(14) Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays
While the Blue Jays already have two solid defensive catchers in Reese McGuire and Danny Jansen, Kirk has the best bat of the three. Toronto could easily slide the Mexican-born catcher to DH if they feel like they need to get his bat in the lineup. But Kirk could also end up with the majority of catching duties if he hits and hits early. He has a career .315 average and .918 OPS in the minors, while over his short nine-game stint in the majors last year, he had a .983 OPS. The floor of Kirk is already pretty high if he gets the at-bats. I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t unless he struggles. He gives you a solid back-end option and could pay off extremely well.
Prediction: .276/41/8/39/1 | ADP: 341.89
(15) Ryan Jeffers, Minnesota Twins
Mitch Garver had a very forgettable 2020 season after his breakout 2019 season. Albeit in a small sample size, Jeffers had an outstanding debut season. The 23-year old had a 41.7% hard-hit rate and 8.1% walk rate over 62 plate appearances in 26 games. Not only that, but Jeffers is a strong defensive catcher and should see the majority of playing time over Garver.
Prediction: .269/36/11/34/0 | ADP: 457.22
(16) Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
Prediction: .223/47/9/43/0 | ADP: 193.93
(17) Buster Posey, San Franciso Giants
Prediction: .266/49/6/45/2 | ADP: 235.30
(18) Tom Murphy, Seattle Mariners
Prediction: .225/43/16/32/1 | ADP: 373.57
(19) Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins
Prediction: .257/45/7/33/3 | ADP: 236.04
(20) Wilson Ramos, Detroit Tigers
Prediction: .267/44/8/31/0 | ADP: 267.50
(21) Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers
Prediction: .255/38/9/36/0 | ADP: 367.57
(22) Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Prediction: .253/49/11/45/2 | ADP: 256.57
(23) Yan Gomes, Washington Nationals
Prediction: .249/47/14/39/1 | ADP: 322.50
(24) Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays
Prediction: .225/59/11/48/1 | ADP: 316.57
(25) Pedro Severino, Baltimore Orioles
Prediction: .243/41/9/33/1 | ADP: 346.72
(26) Francisco Mejia, Tampa Bay Rays
Prediction: .258/34/5/23/1 | ADP: 578.37
(27) Joey Bart, San Franciso Giants
Prediction: .246/26/5/16/0 | ADP: 621.04
(28) Elias Diaz, Colorado Rockies
Prediction: .265/33/9/31/1 | ADP: 452.04
(29) Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds
Prediction: .243/34/8/38/0 | ADP: 578.98
(30) Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles
Prediction: .235/39/6/34/1 | ADP: 597.78
When taking a catcher in fantasy, most of the time you should take one of the top 10, or at the least top 15, guys. Usually, I don’t go for the splash that is Realmuto and wait until a much later round. The catcher in baseball fantasy is much like the tight end in NFL fantasy, where you “punt” it if you don’t take the top 1-3 guys. This year you could look to grab someone like Sanchez with his power potential or Varsho with his breakout potential and stolen base upside.
Check out the episode of Too Much Pod Tar where Johnnie Black, Joey Ricotta, and I gave our top ten fantasy catchers: