Written By: Michael Richards
Follow Him on Twitter: @MPRichards1981
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The catcher position has developed a bit of a reputation amongst a lot of fantasy managers as a wasteland. On several occasions over the past few years, I’ve talked with people who adamantly want to remove the position from our game altogether. It can be a major headache for season-long managers trying to keep a good catcher in their lineup. Even if you have a top 10 player at the position, they often miss a hefty chunk of games, essentially for load management. It’s rare to have a catcher who plays six or seven days a week and is also productive enough at the plate to matter in fantasy leagues. Most managers who don’t land one of the top few catchers end up streaming the position or riding the hot bat.
On a positive note, there appears to be an influx of players capable of playing catcher, but also have an offensive skill set that could translate to another position. Anytime you have a catcher that is a good enough hitter to profile at another position, that’s the type of player I would recommend targeting at the position. The list I’ve put together is fantasy-based and when in doubt, I gave the edge to a player who has the better hit tool and offensive upside. I tried to keep the list to players that have a realistic chance of playing the position 10 or more games per year. The most notable player I chose to keep off is the Athletics slugger Tyler Soderstrom. If he ends up proving me wrong and having catcher eligibility, I would slot him in somewhere in the 7-10 range for catchers and 16-20 overall.
Second base has a more optimistic tone, but the pessimist might say it’s where players that are too short and don’t have a strong enough arm for shortstop end up, and there is some truth to that. While the depth at the position is currently a little underwhelming at the Minor League level, there is no doubt dynasty managers need someone at the Major League level that is capable of hitting. There’s also a chance that other players currently projected to play a different position end up at second base long-term, so you want to get your hands on a good one.
As has been the case throughout the history of fantasy baseball, the cream of the crop at second base contributes in four or five categories, so as dynasty managers we need to identify those players first and go from there. Since a lot of these players are undersized, it can be difficult to project them to have massive power, so I tend to look more closely at the hit tool, their ability to steal bases, and their plate discipline. In this day in age, most starting second baseman are going to hit 15-20 homers, but the very best compliment that with a .360 OBP, 100 runs, 15-20 steals, and 80 RBI.
Some of my loyal readers may recognize that I already discussed Jeter Downs and Luis Garcia in a previous article and had them ranked #8 and #18 respectively at shortstop. I’ve tried to make a concerted effort to not repeat players, but with Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts, two of the best shortstops in baseball in their prime and firmly entrenched, it’s time to recognize them at their appropriate position. Don’t worry, I’ll have two new intriguing shortstops to replace them when I update my rankings this offseason!
**These Rankings are focused for Dynasty Leagues only. And specifically leagues that focus on OBP over AVG as a statistic.**
Top 10 Catcher Prospects
1. Adley Rutschman, Orioles | Age : 22 | Level : AA
Height : 6’2” | Weight : 215 | Bats : S | Throws : R
The first-overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Oregon State University, some scouts consider Rutschman to be the best catching prospect since Buster Posey. Typically, catchers are downgraded in fantasy for several reasons, but everything about the switch-hitter suggests he is an exception to the rule. While he doesn’t bring much speed to the table, Rutschman profiles as a four-category producer at the weakest position in fantasy. He has an advanced understanding of the strike zone, evidenced by his absurd 37:73 K:BB his last season in college. He has a beautiful swing from both sides of the plate and projects to have power to all fields. In his pro debut across three levels, Rutschman slashed .254/.351/.423 with a 27:20 K:BB in 37 games. Since the Orioles aren’t in contention, expect him to make his debut in 2021. Expectations long-term are that Rutschman settles in as one of the top 3 catchers for the next decade, making him a rare catching prospect worth investing in.
2. Daulton Varsho, Diamondbacks | Age : 24 | Level : MLB
Height : 5’10” | Weight : 205 | Bats : L | Throws : R
The son of a former big leaguer, Varsho was selected 68th overall in the 2017 draft out of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The lefty hit well throughout his collegiate campaign but likely fell in the draft due to concerns about his competition and how it would translate to the professional ranks. What makes Varsho most intriguing is the potential for five-category production, as he has hit 30 home runs with 40 steals in the last two seasons combined. The talented lefty combines a plus hit tool with 55-grade speed, which he uses effectively on the base paths. He uses the whole field while hitting and has excellent bat-to-ball skills which lead to low strikeout totals. One of the most unique catching prospects in recent memory, Varsho is not expected to play catcher full-time but should play enough to remain eligible there for dynasty purposes. A catcher with multi-position eligibility, in the lineup most nights, with a plus hit tool, and speed is a combination rarely seen at the position.
3. Joey Bart, Giants | Age : 23 | Level : MLB
Height : 6’2” | Weight : 240 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Drafted 2nd overall by the Giants in the 2019 draft out of Georgia Tech, the big catcher looks the part of a Major League catcher. Bart is considered to have plus raw power which some scouts give a 60-grade, an average hit tool, and strikes out at a high clip. Between stops in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League, Bart was able to slash .314/.411/.581 with a 12.1% BB% and 21.8% K%, solidifying himself among the top catching prospects. He is considered a plus defensively, which translates for fantasy purposes because it ensures he gets enough AB’s to matter in mixed leagues each year. Considered the Giants catcher for the foreseeable future, the righty is currently receiving invaluable experience at the highest level. Bart is a quality dynasty option who has a chance to regularly be drafted among the top 5-10 players at the position long-term, but his average hit-tool will likely prevent him from being the best.
4. Francisco Alvarez, Mets | Age : 18 | Level : A
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 220 | Bats : R | Throws : R
The talented teenager was given a $2.7 million signing bonus out of Venezuela as part of the 2018 J2 international class. The Mets were betting on his raw plus-power combined with his emerging hit tool, and thus far it has paid off. After dominating seven games in Golf Coast League, Alvarez was promoted to the Appalachian League where he was six months younger than the next youngest player. The talented backstop managed to stand out with a solid 11.3 BB% and 21.9 K% while using the whole field. He shows a strong ability to hit the ball in the air which will help him tap into his power at each level. Most catching prospects his age are several years away from sniffing the Major Leagues but Alvarez appears to be special. We’re talking about a 60-grade hitter (at least) with plus power and good on-base skills. If he continues on his current path, he has an excellent chance of becoming the top catching prospect in baseball this time next year.
5. Austin Wells, Yankees | Age : 21 | Level : 2020 Draftee
Height : 6’2” | Weight : 220 | Bats : L | Throws : R
Selected with the 28th pick in 2020 by the Yankees, Wells has a sweet left-handed swing that should carry him to the top level. Last summer he hit .308/.389/.526 with seven home runs in 42 games in the wooden bat Cape Cod League. While he is expected to have some swing and miss to his game, he counters that by having plus plate discipline which will help him become an asset in OBP leagues. Because of his shaky defense behind the plate, many believe he profiles better in left-field or at first base, though the Yankees will give him an opportunity to stick behind the plate. Described as a more athletic Kyle Schwarber, there is certainly a skillset present for fantasy value, particularly if he can maintain catcher eligibility. Overall, Wells is an advanced college bat who shows patience and power and plays his home games in a good park. If his defense behind the plate is competent enough to get through 10 games a season, he has the offensive upside to become one of the best catchers in fantasy.
6. Luis Campusano, Padres | Age : 21 | Level : MLB
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 230 | Bats : R | Throws : R
The Padres selected Campusano with the 39th overall pick in the 2017 draft as a prep with a strong arm and power upside, taking him away from his commitment to play in college for South Carolina. After a couple of years developing in the rich San Diego system, Campusano had a breakout at High-A last season, showing a strong ability to take walks (10.7 BB%) as well as an even stronger ability to make contact (11.7 K%). He posted an impressive .325/.396/.509 line while posting a 52:57 BB:K. The intriguing catcher possesses the potential for a plus hit tool, although it should at least settle in as above-average. He should develop average power and is considered a strong defensive player who profiles as a quality starter long-term. Considering that it usually takes catchers longer to develop, the fact Campusano made his Major League debut as a 21-year old is evidence he is advanced beyond his years. He makes for a quality dynasty option at the position and even has a little upside that some others don’t offer.
7. Dillon Dingler, Tigers | Age : 22 | Level : AAA
Height : 6’3” | Weight : 210 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Selected by the Tigers with the 38th pick in the 2020 draft, Dingler is loaded with tools for a college catching prospect. As a freshman at Ohio State, he played centerfield, showing enough athleticism to hold his own. Dingler improved each season in college, breaking out in his shortened junior season, hitting .340/.404/.760 with five home runs and a 12.1 percent strikeout rate in 58 plate appearances. The righty possesses plus power, an advanced approach at the plate, and a double-plus throwing arm. He showed a strong ability to make contact, as well as the patience needed to draw walks. If Dingler can handle the defensive aspect of the catching position, he possesses an intriguing skill set for fantasy purposes. Should that assignment become an issue, Dingler’s bat and athleticism would profile in the outfield. Dynasty managers looking to speculate on a unique skill-set at an offensively starved position should consider the recent draftee.
8. Ryan Jeffers, Twins | Age : 23 | Level : MLB
Height : 6’4” | Weight : 235 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Added to the Twins organization with the 59th pick in the 2018 draft out of UNC-Wilmington. Jeffers is considered to have plus power and patience, as his offense was never a question for scouts. The righty has improved as a defensive player enough that concerns he would need to shift over to first base have been alleviated. Last season, his numbers were deflated because of the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, but he was still 20% better than the average player in the league. Upon being promoted to Double-A the slugger’s numbers improved dramatically as he slashed .287/.374/.483 in 99 PA. Despite having really good power, Jeffers typically uses an all-fields-approach, which combined with the patient approach helps him project as a useful player in OBP leagues. He has impressed in his first opportunity in the Major Leagues and draws comparisons to current Twins catcher Mitch Garver. Dynasty owners could do worse than the bat-first prospect who’s already in the Major Leagues.
9. Diego Cartaya, Dodgers | Age : 18 | Level : A
Height : 6’2” | Weight : 200 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Signed a contract with the Dodgers in July of 2018 that included a $2.5 million signing bonus, Cartaya was considered a consensus top-three prospect from his international class. In his debut season in the AZL, he showed a strong ability to lift the ball in the air and posted a .180 ISO, which is promising for his age. Cartaya has a chance to develop a plus hit tool because of his pitch recognition and contact skills. The backstop also has excellent plate discipline. He projects to be a plus defensive catcher with a plus arm, so the development of his bat will be the determining factor whether he is deemed ready for a promotion. While he doesn’t offer any speed and isn’t projected to develop plus power, all the other ingredients are present for Cartaya to become an excellent four-category catcher in his prime. Dynasty managers who have the patience to wait on a teenage catching prospect should strongly consider Cartaya as a cheap fallback option if you can’t land Francisco Alvarez.
10. Ivan Herrera, Cardinals | Age : 20 | Level : AAA
Height : 6’0” | Weight : 180 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Originally signed as an international free agent in 2016. Herrera has made a steady climb through the lower levels of the Cardinals farm system while impressing at each stop. Last season, he put in a strong showing at Low-A Peoria and High-A Palm Beach, hitting a combined .284/.374/.405. His 12.0 BB% and 19.2 K% playing as a 19-year old in Low-A show a strong understanding of the strike zone and excellent patience. As the youngest catcher to receive an invite to the Arizona Fall League, he impressed with a .821 OPS across 10 contests. Herrera is one of the better catching prospects in the lower levels of the minors and the Cardinals reportedly see him as the heir apparent to Yadier Molina. Dynasty managers should keep a close eye on him as he is showing a lot of strong attributes that could lead to him becoming a helpful starter in fantasy leagues down the line, as opposed to the typical big-power, high-strikeout, low-OBP player we commonly see at the position.
Top 10 Second Base Prospects
1. Nick Gonzales, Pirates | Age : 21 | Level : 2020 Draftee
Height : 5’10” | Weight : 190 | Bats : R | Throws : R
The seventh pick in the 2020 draft, Gonzales is an offensive-minded middle infield prospect that put up absurd numbers in the high altitude at New Mexico State. He then showed he wasn’t just benefitting from aluminum bats and lower-level competition when he stood out in the wooden bat Cape Cod League. The compact prospect hit .351/.451/.630 with seven home runs and 22:20 K:BB rate, on his way to being named league MVP. The hit-tool stands out as potentially plus, his power is underrated and he currently has above-average speed. The totality of the package is a second baseman with a skill-set that could place him among the top five at the position during his prime. It’s been suggested that his upside is similar to players like Keston Hiura and Gleyber Torres, so this is certainly an elite prospect worth targeting for anyone looking to fill a coveted middle infield spot long-term. Since he has been mostly off the radar this season, there may be an opportunity to land him at a relative discount.
2. Jeter Downs, Red Sox | Age : 22 | Level : AAA
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 180 | Bats : R | Throws : R
Selected with the 32nd pick by the Reds in 2017, Downs has been the key prospect returned in two blockbuster deals thus far. Most recently dealt from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts trade, he is expected to be a key piece for Boston going forward. After an initial adjustment period, Downs hit .313/.398/.594 with 24 home runs, 19 steals, 11.9 BB%, and 18.1 K% over his final 101 games, while ending the season in Double-A. He projects to have an above-average hit tool, potential plus-power, and while he is not a huge speed threat, he steals bases at a 75% success rate, which should help him chip in there. With Xander Bogaerts signed long-term to play shortstop, it is expected Downs will break into the Major Leagues as a second baseman and become a top 10 player at the position in his prime. Downs is an excellent dynasty target, and like Gonzales, could be more available in trades this offseason than he should be.
3. Vidal Brujan, Rays | Age : 22 | Level : AAA
Height : 5’10” | Weight : 150 | Bats : S | Throws : R
Originally signed as part of the 2014 J2 class, Brujan is a gifted stolen base artist waiting in the wings in the loaded Tampa Bay system. Although his power is virtually non-existent, what makes him more than just a fringe speed option is his plate discipline. The combination of a high OBP with elite steals is a rare and desirable fantasy commodity. A 70-grade runner who has stolen over 50 bases each of the last two seasons (74.3% success rate), he should become a serious threat in the stolen base category. His defensive versatility, which allows him to play second, short, or centerfield will only enhance his value to the team and dynasty managers alike. With the quality depth in the Rays system, Brujan isn’t expected to be rushed and will likely debut in early 2021. When the dust settles, Brujan has all the intangibles to become the everyday leadoff hitter in a potent lineup, who could challenge for multiple stolen base titles over the next decade making him a desirable dynasty target.
4. Aaron Bracho, Indians | Age : 19 | Level : A
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 175 | Bats : S | Throws : R
Signed during the international period in 2017 for $1.5 million as a shortstop prospect, though it was identified early that a position switch would be needed. After missing all of 2018 with an arm injury the switch-hitter showed his upside last season. Posting an elite 16.8 BB% and 15.3 K% the teenager has the potential for a plus hit tool, elite patience, and plus power. While he isn’t expected to contribute in stolen bases, he is a premium four-category contributor if he reaches his upside. His defense will always be a work in progress but he is expected to be competent enough to make getting his bat in the lineup a priority. While it still may take a couple of years before he makes his debut, Bracho is one productive season in the upper minors away from being a highly-regarded consensus top prospect. Dynasty managers would be advised to get the intriguing infielder on their roster as soon as possible, as the price should only continue to rise. A bat-first middle infield prospect with plus power, a plus hit tool and an advanced approach at such a young age is a recipe for success.
5. Xavier Edwards, Rays | Age : 21 | Level : A+
Height : 5’10” | Weight : 155 | Bats : S | Throws : R
Selected with the 38th pick in the 2018 draft by the Padres, the speedster was the fastest runner in his class upon being drafted. After making a splash in the lower level of the Minor Leagues, Edwards was traded in December of 2019, alongside Hunter Renfroe, to the Rays for Tommy Pham. Praised for his 70-grade speed, which he uses effectively on the bases, Edwards is 56-for-68 on SB attempts in his career. The switch-hitter makes good contact from both sides of the plate, posting a solid 54:44 BB:K in 561 PA across two levels. His upside is compared to a prime Dee Gordon, with more plate discipline, which makes him an extremely desirable speed option. He is never expected to develop power, so his ability to get on base will ultimately determine whether he’s a potent leadoff hitter or elite speed off the bench. We shouldn’t expect him to be a franchise player in dynasty leagues because he is only projected to help in three categories (OBP, R, SB). That said, his skillset perfectly complements the traditional slugger, making him an excellent target for anyone lacking speed in roto leagues.
6. Michael Busch, Dodgers | Age : 22 | Level : AA
Height : 6’0” | Weight : 210 | Bats : L | Throws : R
Selected with the 31st pick in 2019 out of the University of North Carolina, Busch was a very productive college hitter, although his numbers dropped slightly during his shortened junior season, potentially causing him to slip in the draft. Considered a plus defender at first base, he was announced as a second baseman and will be allowed to prove he can handle it effectively. Considering the Dodgers have been able to turn Max Muncy into a competent middle infielder, he’s in the right organization to try it. The lefty uses a patient approach at the plate with a good understanding of the strike zone. Scouts believe he can become a plus hitter with at least above-average power. Due to a hairline fracture in his right hand, Busch was only able to play 17 games after being drafted, but his 9:17 K:BB rate in 58 PA shows he’s an advanced college bat, with the upside to flourish in OBP leagues while being groomed in one of the best organizations.
7. Nick Madrigal, White Sox | Age : 23 | Level : MLB
Height : 5’8” | Weight : 175 | Bats : R | Throws : R
The White Sox selected Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft because of his advanced hit tool and productive career at Oregon State. Scouts believe that Madrigal’s hit tool is special and he has at least plus speed and good instincts on the bases, so he should be a big contributor in runs and help in stolen bases. His career 3.0 K% is super-elite, but unfortunately, his OBP is largely linked to his batting average. His 13.4 Hard% shows an extreme lack of power, which is backed up by the four homers in 163 games. The starting job is his to lose entering 2021, he plays in a good hitter’s park, shows the ability to contribute in stolen bases, and could score a lot of runs if he ended up hitting near the top of the lineup. While dynasty managers could certainly do worse at the keystone, the name recognition and lack of fantasy upside make Madrigal a player to considering selling this offseason rather than investing.
8. Luis Garcia, Nationals | Age : 20 | Level : MLB
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 170 | Bats : L | Throws : R
Originally signed for $1.3 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, it has been a roller coaster ride for the young Nationals infielder. Upon signing he was praised for his glove and arm, while it was expected his offense would take time to develop. He surprised scouts with his bat in rookie ball and has been given aggressive assignments ever since. He played last season as a 19-year old in Double-A, which is extremely rare. He would have been the youngest player at High-A, so the aggressiveness of the assignment can’t be overstated. While he is never expected to be a great source of walks, Garcia could develop into a multi-position infielder capable of chipping in 20 home runs and 15 steals. His value noticeably increases if you are playing in a batting average league, as he could regularly bat around .300 in his prime. While he may still take a couple of years to fully develop, he is expected to be the starting second baseman Opening Day in 2021.
9. Maikol Escotto, Yankees | Age : 18 | Level : Rookie
Height : 5’11” | Weight : 180 | Bats : R | Throws : R
A relative bargain signed out of the Dominican Republic for $350,000 as part of the 2018 J2 class, Escotto made a big splash in his first professional season in 2019. He posted a strong .315/.429./.552 line with 11 doubles, four triples, eight home runs, and 13 steals in 218 PA. We will have a better idea of his true upside once he starts facing more advanced pitching, but first impressions suggest has an intriguing skillset. The righty combines the potential for a plus hit tool, with emerging power, and plus speed. He also showed the ability to play multiple positions on the infield during his debut, which will help his versatility down the road. Escotto had an average exit velocity of 95 mph, which is noteworthy from a 17-year old. While there are probably safer options, closer to the Major Leagues, Escotto is a lotto ticket in dynasty leagues that could turn into a top prospect. Had he had a typical year of development, it’s likely he would be viewed in a different light right now.
10. Brayan Rocchio, Indians | Age : 19 | Level : Rookie
Height : 5’10” | Weight : 150 | Bats : S | Throws : R
A 2017 international signee by the Indians, Rocchio was given a $150,000 bonus out of Venezuela because of his small stature, so expectations were not very high at the time. However, many evaluators now project him to have a plus hit tool with plus speed, although his 63.2% success rate on steals is a concern. Nicknamed “The Professor” due to his high baseball IQ and advanced skills on both sides of the ball, Rocchio’s best trait is his elite bat-to-ball skills. As the youngest hitter in the New York-Penn League, his 13.6 K% was the fourth-best in the league. He is expected to develop average power as he matures but it won’t be a major asset. The teenager lacks a plus arm but has all the other necessary tools to play shortstop as well. As a second baseman, he would be among the best defensively in the league. Considering his lack of power and physical traits, Rocchio will need to develop a plus hit tool to become an every-day player and improve his steal% to become even more.
Combined C/2B Ranking Breakdown
1. Nick Gonzales, Pirates
2. Jeter Downs, Red Sox
3. Adley Rutschman, Orioles
4. Vidal Brujan, Rays
5. Aaron Bracho, Indians
6. Xavier Edwards, Rays
7. Michael Busch, Dodgers
8. Daulton Varsho, Diamondbacks
9. Joey Bart, Giants
10. Francisco Alvarez, Mets
11. Nick Madrigal, White Sox
12. Luis Garcia, Nationals
13. Austin Wells, Yankees
14. Maikol Escotto, Yankees
15. Luis Campusano, Padres
16. Dillon Dingler, Tigers
17. Ryan Jeffers, Twins
18. Brayan Rocchio, Indians
19. Diego Cartaya, Dodgers
20. Ivan Herrera, Cardinals
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