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Catchers: The elite, the middle and the bargain

Three catcher targets for three fantasy tiers.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Catchers aren’t fun. Most of the time you’re just waiting until the end of your draft to spend a late-round pick or your last auction dollars to pick someone who has a pulse. Other times you decide to spice up your life and splurge. And then there are times where you don’t care either way and just take someone in the middle rounds.

This series is catered to all three of those manager profiles. What follows are three targets depending on how you want to tackle the position and how much you want to spend.

The Elite

Gary Sanchez (NFBC ADP: 20)

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to spend any sort of real money on catchers, skip Buster Posey and Willson Contreras. Forget about J.T. Realmuto and Salvador Perez. Go big or go home. Gary Sanchez is going to cost you a second-round pick but I’ll be damned if he’s not worth it. Feel safe knowing you’re going to get 90/35/100 and a .275/.350/.525 slash line. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to own Marcell Ozuna with catcher eligibility? Here you go. He’s head and shoulders above anyone else in his class and in two-catcher leagues especially he’s extremely valuable. With a revamped lineup and a park that’s 11 percent better than average for right-handed home runs, Sanchez is in for his best season yet.

The Middle

Mike Zunino (NFBC ADP: 166)

MLB: New York Mets at Seattle Mariners Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

OK, so maybe you don’t want to spend the big money on a position where the majority of your league is producing the same counting stats. The 13th round rolls around in your 12-team league and you don’t want to take Jay Bruce or Charlie Morton. Instead you see Mike Zunino hanging out. Then you remember in the second half of last year he had a .943 OPS with 13 home runs and a .281 average to boot. First off, you have a great memory. Second, Zunino represents the rare catcher who can return a profit based on where he’s drafted. Is he as good as his second half suggests? Probably not. I won’t sugarcoat it, there are still some major red flags. He had a 17 SwStr%, 61 Contact% and a 37(!) K%. But he also improved his BB% drastically in the second half, popped up less and maintained a good hard hit rate. If you play in an OPS/SLG league, he becomes a lot more appealing.

The Bargain

Robinson Chirinos (NFBC ADP: 270)

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

My motto: Death, taxes and taking a catcher at the end of a draft. Drafting a catcher late is my preferred strategy, because if my selection doesn’t pan out I’ll just ride the hot hand. Whereas if Gary Sanchez or Salvador Perez bomb for some reason, I wasted a pick and I end up rostering a bad catcher anyways.

Among catchers with 150 plate appearances in the second half, Chirinos ranked fourth in BB% (12.6%), third in OBP (.399) and sixth in WRC+ (133). The catch? His power vanished. He hit just five home runs in the second half compared to 12 in the first. As you might expect, his GB% spiked from 32% to 46% and his fly balls went down 57% to 37%. Here’s the way I see it: Either he maintains this profile that greatly elevates his slash line and we get a much cheaper version of Austin Barnes, or he reverts to his first-half self and we get a low-average, home-run slugging catcher for cheap. At his price you should be fine with either scenario. It’s worth pointing out that he played in only 88 games last year. A year of 110-120 games should produce good counting stats relative to his price.

Poll

Are you more likely to draft a catcher in the...

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  • 11%
    Early rounds
    (20 votes)
  • 22%
    Middle rounds
    (40 votes)
  • 65%
    Late rounds
    (114 votes)
174 votes total Vote Now