Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview: Don't waste an early round draft pick — waiting will pay off

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Don't do it, people. 

Do. Not. Do it. 

Someone in your league is going to decide that spending an early draft pick on a catcher gives them an overwhelming edge at a talent-scarce spot. That person is gonna pull the trigger on J.T. Realmuto in the fifth round, then immediately take a victory lap in draft chat. Another manager might just take Gary Sanchez a few picks later. And those two are, without question, terrific players. 

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But here's the thing: Only one catcher over the past decade has actually produced a top-50 overall seasonal finish. Buster Posey last pulled it off in 2015, but no backstop has done it since. If you don't see a serious MVP contender among the catchers, don't draft this spot early.

Realmuto, last year's top fantasy catcher, finished the season at No. 85 overall. He's undeniably great — the consensus top guy at his position, a metronomically consistent hitter. But the difference between his likely production and a league-average fantasy catcher is not worth a fifth- or sixth-round pick. This is almost always the case with this position. Our consensus No. 9 catcher, Christian Vazquez, finished only two home runs and 11 RBI behind Realmuto last season, while batting a point higher (.276 vs. .275). 

Entering 2020, this spot offers plenty of bankable veterans, from Realmuto through Molina, and a collection of 25-and-under talents on the verge of breakouts. Unless you're playing in a format in which you start two catchers (which isn't standard at Yahoo), we advise you to pass on the luxury buys. We shouldn't need to tell you that injury risk is elevated at this position — another reason not to throw significant draft capital at backstops. 

Undervalued: Are we sleeping on Salvador Perez?

Remember Salvador Perez? (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Remember Salvador Perez? (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Perez missed the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery, but he should be fully operational by opening day. He's expected to see time at first base and DH in the season ahead, which gives him a path to greater playing time (and thus to counting stats) than a standard-issue fantasy catcher. Let's recall that Perez launched 27 homers and drove in 80 runs in back-to-back seasons before sitting out last year; he's a clear contender to lead all catchers in HRs and RBI in 2020. He's still only 29 years old, too. 

In early drafts, however, Perez has essentially been a forgotten man. He's buried at his position in terms of ADP (178.5 at Yahoo, 163.8 at NFBC). He offers plenty of profit potential at his late-round cost. Perez loses much of his appeal in OBP leagues (career .297), but he's definitely a name to target in standard-scoring formats. 

Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins: Overvalued or priced right?

It's easy and obvious to point out that Garver could be due for a little regression following a breakout season in which he hit 31 bombs over just 359 plate appearances, slugging .630. But regression is not synonymous with failure. Garver doesn't need to maintain last year's pace in order to deliver value at his current price-tag, which remains well outside the overall top-100. He was a Statcast monster in 2019, ranking among the MLB leaders in barrel percentage and hard-hit rate. Garver was a mauler — he exit-velocity'd the [expletive] outta the ball all season.

[Yahoo Rankings: Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP ]

Garver also displayed terrific command of the strike-zone, reaching base at a .365 clip and producing a walk-rate of 11.4 percent. There's simply a ton to like in his profile. Even if he can't match last season's freakish home run rate, additional at-bats will help his totals. We should expect another 25 or so homers, assuming good health. I'd happily take him near his friendly ADP. 

The Wild Cards: Let's talk about Will Smith, Carson Kelly, and the new guys

Catcher is a position rich with young talent, some of which have already arrived in the bigs. Here are just a few of the kids you need to know ...

  • Will Smith, 24, is yet another 20-plus homer candidate coming off an impressive debut with the Dodgers. He hit 20 bombs last year in a partial season at Triple-A, then another 15 at the big league level. He might be a drain on batting average, but he's a willing walker. 

  • Carson Kelly, 25, arrived in Arizona via the Paul Goldschmidt deal and was immediately useful. He homered 18 times in 365 plate appearances, finally delivering on years of prospect hype.

  • Sean Murphy, 25, slashed .308/.386/625 over 140 PAs at Triple-A last year, then held his own in Oakland. He's a highly regarded defensive backstop, which boosts his playability in real life.

  • Joey Bart, 23, is well known to the dynasty community after raking in the minors over the past two seasons (career .284/.343/.532). He's gonna need the Giants to move Buster Posey to first at some point soon.

  • Adley Rutschman, 22, is probably a year or so away, but he's regarded as one of the game's elite prospects. He was the top overall selection in the 2019 MLB draft following a legendary collegiate run at Oregon State. He's a priority dynasty target, no doubt. 

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