Draft Prep: The 2018 Catcher Draft Guide

Dave Cherman's detailed draft guide for Catchers in 2018

This guide will present each catcher, their 2017 stats, and where you should be looking to draft them in 2018. All ADPs are according to NFBC (followed by Pitcher List mock draft selection spot) and round assignments are based on a 10-team league structure. If you’re in a 12 teamer, it may be necessary to get a little more aggressive with the later guys.  The players are ranked in order of ADP, not order of when to draft them.

The goal of this article is to imbue each of you with my mantra- “do not pay for catching”. I believe it as much as I believe in not paying for saves. In my eyes, there’s one elite catcher worth paying up for and that’s Gary Sanchez. Many of the catchers after him, I’ll be advising you draft well below ADP. But Dave, I won’t be able to get him there! That’s the point. They’re not worth taking where they’re currently going. Don’t believe me? Let’s play a guessing game, shall we?

Player A hit .255/.360/.506 in 88 healthy games with a clear path to more games in 2018.

Player B hit .268/.297/.495 in 129 games, but missed about 3 weeks due to health.

Player C hit .276/.356/.499 in 117 games, but missed about a month due to health.

In a vacuum who would you take? What if I told you Players B and C were being drafted in the first 10 rounds and Players A is going undrafted? A is Robinson Chirinos, B is Salvador Perez, C is Willson Contreras. DON’T. PAY. FOR. CATCHING.

Gary Sanchez (New York Yankees– 122 G .278/.345/.531 33 HR 90 RBI 79 R. ADP 20.7 (#20 PitcherList Mock Draft)- Late 2nd/ early 3rd

Even the Sanchino himself shouldn’t be drafted in the first round. In picks 11-15 of the second round, I think there is just too much talent available to get a guy like Sanchez. It’s important to remember that catchers don’t play every day. Most position players will likely give you at least 10 more games than the best of catchers. For that reason, I’m very hesitant to grab a catcher this early. He got taken at #20 in our mock draft, which is even too rich for my blood. I’m looking for him in the early third primarily, but if you’re afraid he may not last that long, you can draft him at the end of the second.

Willson Contreras (Chicago Cubs–  117 G .276/.356/.499 21 HR 74 RBI 50 R. ADP 53.7 (#56 PL)- 7th/8th round

The drop-off is very real, as the #2 C is going in the 6th round by ADP. Others guys around him are Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Byron Buxton, Starling Marte, Chris Archer, and Carlos Martinez. I like Willson Contreras, I really do. His second-half improvement (.305/.407/.586 with 10 HR in 38 G) in 2017 is real, according to xStats, and not many catchers have the ability to put up a .500 SLG%, but I can’t buy that ADP considering the relative value of the guys around him. There’s just too much value lower in the draft at the catcher position. You’ll start to see a trend with a lot of these guys and where I suggest taking them. Many of the top guys are overvalued at their ADP.

Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants– 140 G .320/.400/.462 12 HR 67 RBI 62 R. ADP 59.8 (#60 PL)- 8th round

Overall, he’s the best catcher in the game and his hits for the highest average of any catcher, but the pop that was in his bat just isn’t quite there anymore. I’m not sure what happened in the second half of 2017, but it’s not good. He had an xAVG below .270 and an xSLG below .390 in every month after June- not good for a career .308/.376/.474 hitter. The traditional stats say he was still good, but I’m a bit concerned. The bulk of his success came against lefties, and even that is declining year over year. The lineup did get better this year, which will help, but I’m not convinced it’s enough to value him at this ADP. I won’t get him where I’m looking for him, and I’m ok with that.

Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals– 129 G .268/.297/.495 27 HR 80 RBI 57 R. ADP 99.1 (#105 PL)- 13th round

If you play OBP, Perez going to be a significant liability all season and I would avoid him entirely for this reason. I’m very worried about any hitter who has been in the league this long and walks less than 5% of the time- which Perez has done in each of his major league seasons. While xStats suggests his power surge last season was real, they also don’t think it’s going to last, largely because his VH% (Value Hit%- advanced statistic to measure well hit balls from xStats.org. See Mark Weston’s explanation for more information) was roughly the same as prior seasons and he actually took a step back in EV. He sustained the same FB% jump from 2016 but had a HR/FB rate that was significantly above his career rate. Based on the statcast data, it’s hard to expect him to repeat that. Furthermore, he’s currently projected to hit cleanup between Alex Gordon and Jorge Soler. Yikes. I do think the Royals will resign at least one of Hosmer or Moustakas but that’s a bad lineup. If you play AVG instead of OBP, move Salvy up a couple rounds. Much of my criticism is based on OBP. I recognize Kyle Bishop’s argument that playing time is important, but you can get playing time later on in the draft or mix and match with streamers throughout the year.

J.T. Realmuto (Miami Marlins– 141 G, .278/.332/.451 17 HR 65 RBI 68 R. ADP 104 (#129 PL)- 13th round

What you get in Realmuto is someone who will put up a very similar triple slash to Perez, but with a better OBP and a slightly lower SLG%. Just like Perez, xStats doesn’t buy the power surge (45 point jump from 2015-17) because his VH% has actually gone down in that time. Overall, he’s reduced his OUTs (Weakly Hit Balls + Strikeouts – Well Hit Balls – Walks – Hit By Pitch. The stat effectively sums up all the hitter’s weak at-bats) showing that there has been an overall improvement in his plate discipline. I do like Realmuto, but not in the 11th round. The lineup around him has completely evaporated, which will lead to less RBI and runs scored. If you can snag him 2 rounds lower than ADP, about where he fell in the PL draft, that’s as early as I want to jump on the Realmuto train. Other players going around his NFBC ADP are Miguel Sano, Lorenzo Cain, Javier Baez, Rafael Devers, Luis Castillo, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jose Berrios. If you pass on Luis Castillo for J.T. Realmuto, I don’t think you deserve to win your league. Happy, Nick? But in all seriousness, I just don’t have faith in Realmuto to put up the counting stats in that lineup.

Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals– 136 G .273/.312/.439 18 HR 82 RBI 60 R. ADP 149.1 (#221 PL)- 17th round

After Realmuto, catchers can go virtually anytime, as evidenced by the PL draft results. So, this is the point where its ok to get a little more aggressive if you really want a particular player. Carson Kelly, the Cardinals’ top catching prospect, got the call in late 2016 after a strong showing in AAA, but it was just a cup of coffee. With another strong showing in AAA, he could earn the permanent call-up in order to learn from Molina and eventually take over from the vet. In the meantime, this is still Molina’s job. Yadi had the worst BB% of his major league career in 2017, which led to one of his worst OBPs, but the numbers don’t seem supported by any plate discipline statistics. I expect his OBP to jump back into the 330s. At age 35 or so, we expect hitters to start declining, but Molina actually had his highest VH% since 2015 last year, so I’m not ready to say this is the year the decline will begin. I’m ok taking him around his ADP but not too much higher- there are too many quality backstops still to come so I’m likely to wait. Other players around this ADP I’d rather take are Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Jon Gray, Chase Anderson, Justin Smoak, Greg Bird, and Adam Eaton.

Evan Gattis (Houston Astros– 84 G .263/.311/.457 12 HR 55 RBI 41 R ADP 157.9 (#188 PL)- 15th round

Gattis is going in the 16th round on average due to, what I can only assume, are questions about his playing time. He played only 84 games in 2017 despite missing over a month between a concussion and a shoulder injury but played 153 and 128 games in in ’15 and ’16 and I see no reason he can’t play 128 games again, as he’s currently slotted in as the everyday DH for the Astros. He’ll get the occasional start behind the dish, but having Max Stassi will mean that Gattis can DH more, which means he’ll stay in the lineup and hopefully stay healthier. But what about the numbers? Some may be worried by Gattis’ relative step back in SLG%, but xStats suggests it should’ve been much closer to .500. His OBP is not sexy at all, but if he can find the plate discipline he showed in 2016 again, he could be a major asset a few rounds after some of your league mates overpaid for their catchers.

Mike Zunino (Seattle Mariners– 124 G.251/.331/.509 25 HR 64 RBI 52 R. ADP 164.8 (#239 PL)- last round

If you’ve read any of my articles, you know I’m…. not exactly the biggest Mike Zunino fan. His slash line looks really pretty. Too bad xStats says it’s not for real- they say it should’ve been more like .224/.307/.473, and that’s a year after he hit .207/.318/.470. His .355 BABIP? xStats says it should’ve been more like .304. And that makes sense because Zunino is nowhere near fast enough to justify a BABIP over 100 points higher than his average. The walk rate is real, but so is his near 37% strikeout rate. At the end of the day, the guy’s got power. So what do you hate, Dave? Zunino is one of the streakiest players I’ve ever seen. He had 2 months with an xSLG above .550… and 2 months below .400. There’s a reason Kyle Bishop waited until pick #239 to take a compromise of a backstop and his streakiness is that reason. He’s a streamer, the bread and butter for my article. But if you think he’s someone you can rely upon to anchor the catcher position, I’ve got bad news for you. Zunino is painfully overvalued and if someone wants to take him ahead of any of the next five guys on this list, you should step aside and allow them to do so.

Wilson Ramos (Tampa Bay Rays– 64 G .260/2.90/.447 11 HR 35 RBI 19 R. ADP 167.3 (#199 PL)- 17th round

I spent most of the stretch in 2017 defending Ramos to cautious fantasy owners and I’m back to defend him again. He missed the first half of the season and had a lot of rust to shake off before he caught fire for the Rays. In September, he put together a beautiful xStats line of .295/.308/.551 with an xBABIP of .265 so his average could’ve been even higher. I expect a lot of pushback, a) for the small, and carefully chosen sample size and b) the terrible walk rate, which was enough for me to criticize Salvador Perez thoroughly. Well, if you’ll let me, I’ll address that. First, it’s important to remember that he had just 160 PAs prior to September and made a swing adjustment in late August, which is enough for me to write off everything prior to September. On top of that, in 2016 for the Nationals, he hit .307/.354/..496 over 131 games and xStats says his SLG% should’ve been about 30 points higher than that. That’s track record I’m very willing to buy into. Second, the walk rate was rough, I know that. But he walked closer to 7% in his 2016 season (vs 4.5 in 2017) and I’m willing to attribute some of that to nerves and eagerness to get his swing going again after the prolonged, early slump. Look, at this point in the draft, every catcher has their risks and their scratches- that’s why Ramos is going in the 17th round and not the 7th. But given the risks, I’m buying Ramos big time.

Welington Castillo (Chicago White Sox– 96 G .282/.323/.490 20 HR 53 RBI 44 R. ADP 175.6 (#226 PL)- 17th round

Where’s the Beef? On my roster, that’s where. Beef Welington is one of my favorite catchers, and I’m the one who took him at #226 in the PL draft. He lost playing time in 2017 to the most unfortunate of injuries and the defensive superiority of Caleb Joseph. Neither should apply in 2018, with only Omar Narvaez presenting a threat to Beef’s playing time. Zack Collins got a spring training invite, but he’s only played 12 games over high A ball and is nowhere near ready. In 2017, he put up a beautiful xStats triple slash of .279/.322/.529. But how do we know that’s gonna last? He improved his VH%, reduced his OUTs, and ended the year with back to back months with a .550+ xSLG. For him to match the 20 homer output, I believe he’ll have to play more games because I have doubts about his 22% HR/FB ratio, even if he’s reduced his soft hit rate in each of the last 4 seasons. Barring injury, I don’t see how he plays less than 100 games, and I’m expecting 130 (which would be a career high for him). I think he can come close to putting up that xStats triple slash and you can get him, on average, 8 rounds later than someone like Salvy, whose line is notably worse. I want all of it.

Jonathan Lucroy (Free Agent) – 123 G .265/.345/.371 6 HR 40 RBI 45 R. ADP 179.8 (#154 PL)- Undrafted

Lucroy is hard to value when we don’t know where he’s going yet. He put up a gorgeous .367/.485/.532 in 99 PAs at Coors Field- it’s true that Coors Field can revitalize anyone’s career. He hit just .241/.309/.355 elsewhere. Yikes. With the signing of Chris Iannetta, Lucroy isn’t returning to the Rockies so, I’m passing entirely. There’s just too many guys I’d rather take. I’ll certainly be watching the former All-Star, but he won’t make his way onto one of my rosters until he proves himself again.

Austin Barnes (Los Angeles Dodgers– 102 G .289/.408/.486 8 HR 38 RBI 35 R. ADP 187 (UND PL)- 20th round

I had a long conversation with another one of our PL writers (shout out Myles Nelson) over Barnes and I’ve since come around to him. I still don’t love him like Myles does, but I definitely like him a lot more now. Based on defense, Yasmani Grandal should be starting, as he’s the superior defensive catcher. Despite the fact that Austin Barnes was the rock behind the dish during the playoff run (52 PAs in 15 games vs 11 PAs in 4 games), Dave Roberts said Grandal would start the year as the #1 catcher. Roberts dropped one of the most feared words in fantasy baseball- “platoon”. Looks like Barnes is only expected in the lineup against lefties, which will make him an excellent streamer, and a 2 catcher league asset, but not a fixture of your one catcher leagues. One of my favorite things about Barnes is he’s one of two catchers (Realmuto) who could register double-digit steals this year, so that’s a nice boost from an unlikely position. Also this: 16.2, 13.5, 14.9. Those are his walk rates the past 3 years. How many other catchers can you expect to put up a .400 OBP? Maybe Posey? His biggest question mark is playing time- he had middling value with 262 PAs last year- and it doesn’t seem clear that he has a path to significantly more PAs this year.

Brian McCann (Houston Astros– 97 G .241/.323/.436 18 HR 62 RBI 47 R. ADP 216.4 (UND NPL)- 20th round

McCann missed time in 2017 with a concussion and a right knee injury, which pushed Gattis into the field, which the Astros would rather avoid. You can’t bet on injuries to occur year over year with most players though. Max Stassi is not a major threat to playing time, so I still expect to see 125-135 games from McCann. McCann is like cheerios- you wish there was more flavor like the honey nut variety, but he gets the job done and you know year in and year out, he’s gonna be there as a consistent contributor. That said, he put up an xStats triple slash of .255/.336/.442 last year which is sufficient for me in this lineup. He’s currently slated to bat ahead of Springer and Bregman. Isn’t that just a fancy way of saying he’s gonna bat 9th? Shut up! He’s currently going in the 22nd round on average and you can do a lot worse.

Yasmani Grandal (Los Angeles Dodgers– 129 G .247/.308/.459 22 HR 58 RBI 50 R. ADP 226.5 (#224 PL)- Last round

Grandal is one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Defensive stats don’t win me fantasy championships, Dave! I know, but in most situations, they can help us project playing time. It was very unclear for the longest time who would start as the #1 catcher, but Dave Roberts made it clear this week. I wouldn’t be chasing an xStats line of .240/.302/.436 under normal circumstances, but he should get plenty of starts. What he’s got going for him is his defense and 4 consecutive years of 115 games played. Watch the Dodgers catcher battle closely in the Spring because it could change this placement significantly. He’s a FA after this year, so I could see the Nationals trying to pry him away in a desperate attempt to save the position after the disaster season Matt Wieters put together. Don’t expect an all-star offensive campaign, but he’ll hit 20+ homers, just like everyone else in baseball.


If you’re feeling particularly bullish at the catcher position, each of these players offers potential value and path to immediate upside. These players will likely enter my streaming lists as the season goes on. Unless otherwise stated, pick these guys in the last round of the draft.

Jorge Alfaro (Philadelphia Phillies– 29 G .318/.360/.514 5 HR 14 RBI 12 R. ADP 255.9- last round- The centerpiece of the Cole Hamels deal a few years back, Alfaro should start the year as the starter over Cameron Rupp, but that’s not a certainty. He’s out of minor league options so he’ll be on the roster regardless. His line looks pretty good considering an xStats line of .278/.322/.510. That’s awesome for a 24-year-old in his first taste of big league action. Let me be clear, I don’t expect that to continue to that extent. The AVG, OBP, and SLG are each better than anything he put together at any level of the minors. He has to improve upon his disastrous 2.6% walk rate- he hovered around 5-6% in the minors, which I don’t love either, but it’s better… I guess. I want to see him continue to tap into that raw power because he’s got 25 homer upside in a surprisingly good Phillies lineup. If you want to take a flier on someone who could provide big return, Alfaro is your guy. I could see a .275/.340/.440 line which is great value at the end of the draft.

Robinson Chirinos (Texas Rangers– 88 G .255/.360/.506 17 HR 38 RBI 46 R. ADP 268.5- 18th round

One of my favorite players to write about last year, he got thrust into the fantasy spotlight after Lucroy got traded at the deadline last year and what did he do? He put up an xStats line of .295/.436/.550 over the last two months, which is the peak of his ability. The average has never been above .240 before but his power is real, as he’s now posted back to back seasons with .480+ SLG%. He posted a quietly impressive line through 88 games in 2017 but don’t sleep on him. He has no real threats to playing time, no real lefty/righty weaknesses (.226 BA vs righties, but .340/.474 xOBP and xSLG which makes up for it in my eyes). If he gets 135 starts, I want every bit of it. The real question is: can he do this over a full season? I’m buying just to find out. He’s my favorite deep sleeper.

Travis d’Arnaud (New York Mets– 112 G .244/.293/.443 16 HR 57 RBI 39 R ADP 290.9

This biggest knock against d’Arnaud has always been his health. But at this point, it’s hard to advocate relying on him even when healthy. He’s only posted an AVG over .250 and an OBP above .310 once, and those were in the same season- 2015 when he played just 67 games. If you’re desperate and you’re a big Mets fan, or you only care about possible power, you can chase the upside he posted then

Tyler Flowers (Atlanta Braves– 99 G .281/.378/.445 12 HR 49 RBI 41 R. ADP 302.4

Compare these two lines: .280/.378/.446 vs .281/.378/.445. The left is Flowers’ xStats triple slash and the right is his actual triple slash. Wow. What you see with Flowers is exactly what you get. Kurt Suzuki will continue to get his starts, but pencil Flowers in for 100+ starts and enjoy the ride. He’s arguably the best defensive catcher in today’s game, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a bigger share from Suzuki than year’s past as the Braves begin to bring up more of their high ceiling starters from the farm.

Alex Avila (Arizona Diamondbacks– 112G .264/.387/.447 14 HR 49 RBI 41 R. ADP 415.0

It’s always worth looking into Diamondbacks hitters because the humidor is starting to look a lot like an urban legend at this point. Will they ever get it? Who knows. Til then, this lineup is still potent and Avila should get the vast majority of starts over Jeff Mathis. I’m hesitant to use anything based from statcast because the issues with Comerica Park are well documented, but he still put up a very solid 2017 line, so why can’t he put up something similar in a better hitter’s atmosphere? He’s 31, but he can put up 112 starts again in Arizona and he’ll give you good value with that.

Tom Murphy (Colorado Rockies– 2016: 21 G .273/.347/.647 5 HR 13 RBI 8 R. ADP 447.4

This is a big stretch. I don’t work out so it’s a bigger stretch than any I’ve made recently. Ok, enough with the jokes, Murphy is a post-hype player who could provide sneaky value if Lucroy doesn’t come back. Tony Wolters is the better defensive player, but I just can’t get Murphy’s .327/.361/.647 in 80 AAA games and subsequent 21 MLB games in 2016 out of my head. The dude rakes. He was injured for much of 2017, but don’t forget about him. He’ll turn 27 around opening day and likely has plenty still in the tank. While we’re talking about Rockies catchers, how about the one we can actually rely upon to be in the lineup? Chris Iannetta hit .353/.421/.706 in 19 PAs in Coors Field last year. Maybe he can have a resurgent year like Lucroy almost did.

Dave Cherman

Across the Seams Manager, also a former player and umpire and New York-based lawyer who spends his free time studying advanced statistics and obsessing over fantasy trades. Will debate with you about most anything.

5 responses to “Draft Prep: The 2018 Catcher Draft Guide”

  1. Eric says:

    Here’s a tough one for you. Who would you keep from the following? Cost to keep is in brackets:

    Willson Contreras (18th round pick)
    Aaron Nola (11th round pick)
    Alex Wood (17th round pick)

    At that value, I’m leaning Contreras. But I really believe Nola will have a great year as well.

  2. James says:

    Great article. Wonderful depth. How about a Daily Manager H2H League where the categories are so close that you need a 2nd string catcher to play on Sundays. Who would be your first 2 or 3 choices? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login