Here are five catchers to consider late in your drafts.
Willians Astudillo, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 239.5)
Astudillo took the baseball world by storm after making his major league debut at the end of June. His short and stocky frame, elite contact rates, and sprints to home will always have a special place in our hearts, but he could also prove to be quite valuable in fantasy as well. Over his professional career, he has never had a strikeout rate above 5.0%, which is nearly unheard of in today’s game. Although his strikeout rate will likely be higher than the 3.1% he posted in 2018, with an aggressive approach at the plate and a 91.7% contact rate, he should keep his strikeout rate in single digits. He has average raw power, which should lead to a hard contact rate somewhere around 30.0%. With a high amount of batted ball events and a healthy fly ball rate, however, Astudillo has the potential to hit 25+ home runs at the Major League level. For example, last season according to Statcast Astudillo had a hard contact rate of 29.7%. This hard contact rate was 16.5% lower than Mike Trout’s hard contact rate. With Astudillo’s high amount of batted ball events, however, he would have finished with more hard-hit balls than Trout over equal sample size. It is absurd to think that this 5’9” stocky catcher would have had more hard hit than the best player in baseball had if they had the same amount of plate appearances.
Now, although I absolutely love the value Astudillo could bring to fantasy baseball, he may not even crack the Major League roster to start the season. With the Twins already having two MLB ready catchers on the roster, Astudillo could draw the short end of the stick and be sent back down to Triple-A for further work. Whether or not he makes the major league roster out of Spring Training, he could be a valuable stash option as he has the potential of putting up a .300 batting average with a complimentary 20 home runs. If he could just find a way to even get 350 plate appearances in the Majors, Astudillo could become a Top 12 fantasy catcher in 2019.
Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres (ADP: 241.0)
Mejia has been seen as the top catching prospect in baseball, which is mainly due to his offensive potential. He has plus raw power and has shown the ability to drive the ball consistently. This gives him the potential to become a Top 3 catcher in fantasy as soon as 2019. With excellent bat skills, however, there are still some major concerns surrounding his game. With an extremely high chase rate of 53.5%, Mejia will likely make more soft contact than expected. He may also be in a part-time platoon with Austin Hedges to start the season, so the at-bats may be at a minimum. If he can reach 400 plate appearances this upcoming season, then he should easily be worth his current 241.0 ADP in NFBC drafts.
Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays (ADP: 250.5)
Jansen is known as a disciplined contact hitter who has one of the highest floors among players at his position. With an 84.4% contact rate and 27.0% chase rate, Jansen has the potential to boast a 0.75 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Jansen will need this low strikeout rate, however, due to a very fly ball heavy approach that will likely lead to a BABIP below league average. Luckily his high line drive rates should help offset some of those fly balls, but not entirely. He doesn’t boast much raw power, but with a fair amount of batted ball events, a high fly ball rate, and a pull percentage above 50.0%, he should still be able to hit 20+ home runs at the Major League level. I have him ranked as the 8th best catcher for fantasy this season, and he could be higher on that list if he can make more consistent hard contact.
Elias Diaz, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 346.1)
I have Diaz ranked as the 11th catcher off the board, and I think his overall production could put him inside the top five fantasy catchers by the end of the season. He has an aggressive approach at the plate with the ability to make consistent contact, which should help lead to a strikeout rate around 16.5%. Unlike many other players that share his swing rate, Diaz is quite disciplined at the plate as well. With a 29.5% chase rate over his career, he was a tad above average at laying off pitches outside the zone. These abilities to make consistent contact and lay off pitches outside the zone should lead to a healthy batting average. Although he has never even had a 15-homer season as a professional, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach 20+ home runs in 2019. With his high amount of batted ball events, a 40.5% hard contact rate, and an increased fly ball rate, Diaz looks like he could be on the verge of a breakout season. I am aware that he will be in a platoon with Francisco Cervelli to start the season, but that doesn’t worry me too much. Diaz proved last season that he is the better catcher, and with Cervelli’s age and injury concerns Diaz should get the strong side of the platoon.
Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves (ADP: 404.3)
Flowers has quietly been one of the best offensive catchers in the game. He struggled after coming back from injury last season, but in 2016 and 2017 he had a wRC+ of 110 and 118. His offensive production comes from his ability to make consistent hard contact, which was evident by his 44.3% hard contact rate he had over at BaseballSavant. With a healthy amount of fly balls and the ability the consistently drive the ball, he has the potential to hit 30+ home runs and post a healthy BABIP around .330. My one concern with Flowers is that his contact advances he made in 2017 dropped back down to below league average in 2018. If he can just sustain the 25.7% strikeout rate he had last season, however, then he is still capable of becoming a .260 hitter who can put up 25+ home runs. Flowers won’t be ranked inside my Top 12 catchers but is a viable option in any 15-team or two-catcher leagues.
That’s it for sleepers—be sure to check back in tomorrow for staff targets and avoids as we wrap up Catcher Week!