Catcher might be the easiest fantasy baseball position to devise a draft strategy for: Grab someone decent in the middle rounds or just punt the position and grab a sleeper with some power late. Done and done. Rankings, tiers, projections -- who cares? It's catcher. They all do the same thing anyway, right?
Actually...yeah, they kind of do. No catcher really steals bases, and very few hit for high averages. You're basically looking at varying degrees of power and run production. Regular playing time (especially if he can get at-bats at another position, which, again, very few catchers do anymore) is big, as is the ability to get on base, which obviously helps in OBP leagues but also in standard leagues thanks to increased run-scoring opportunities.
Heading into 2020 drafts, there isn't much to argue about with the catcher rankings. You can quibble over whether Will Smith should be higher or which sleeper you like best, but for the most part, this remains an afterthought position. Unless you really believe in valuing "position scarcity", you're probably not going to target a specific catcher in a specific round. You're going to see how the draft unfolds, and if a certain player seems like decent value, you'll grab him. Otherwise, you'll wait a few rounds for a guy who could just as easily put up similar or better numbers.
That last point is why the "position scarcity" argument doesn't necessarily hold water for this position. Sure, there is a pretty clear top-two tiers as we sit here in March, but as we saw last year with Mitch Garver's breakout, Christian Vazquez's surprise campaign, and even Smith's late-season surge, there are always going to be decent catchers emerging. Again, with all providing similar types of production, there's no real need to reach unless you really value those extra few SBs from J.T. Realmuto or the high OBP from Yasmani Grandal.
As always, we remind you that our tiers are separated by the type of production a player offers. That doesn't necessarily mean that a player in "Tier 3A" is better than a player in "Tier 3B"; rather, it means that they excel in different areas. This is important to recognize during your draft, as you might be looking for power over average or vice/versa depending on the type of team you're building.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2020 Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet
Who are the best fantasy baseball catchers?
Eligibility based on Yahoo default settings
If you want to be the first person to draft a catcher, you'll probably have to pull the trigger around the sixth round. That's a little high for most owners, but J.T. Realmuto and Gary Sanchez are at least proven options, with the former providing a solid average and a few steals in addition to good production numbers and the latter having major HR and RBI upside.
We put our Tier-1 catchers into separate sub-tiers because they really do different things. Realmuto is a more balanced, all-around contributor, while Sanchez is much more of a pure power guy. If you drafted some moderate-power speedsters in the first five or six rounds -- or you know you'll be targeting one or two later -- Sanchez might make more sense for your team. If you're just looking to have a good catcher to keep your team balanced because you trust your ability to find values at other positions, then Realmuto is your guy.
J.T. Realmuto, Phillies
Gary Sanchez, Yankees
2020 Fantasy Baseball Tiers: Second-tier catchers
Many owners will try to target a catcher from Tier 2 sometime after Round 10. All should do similar things: Hit around 25-plus HRs, drive in 65-plus RBIs, and post a mediocre-to-decent average. Runs are probably the biggest differentiator, and that's where Yasmani Grandal shines thanks to a ridiculous 17.2-percent BB-rate last year, which helped him post a .380 OBP. Both marks were career highs, so it's likely they will come down this year, but he's still at the top of this tier. In OBP leagues, you can argue that he would be in the tier above.
You can make a case that Mitch Garver (31 HRs in 93 games) and Will Smith (15 HRs in 54 games) have just as much power upside as Sanchez, but since both have only done it once in their careers, we're taking a bit of a cautious approach with them. If you feel you need more power from the catcher spot, it's not crazy to reach a few rounds to grab them, perhaps even taking them ahead of Willson Contreras or Salvador Perez. What makes Perez slightly more interesting is that the Royals are talking about playing him at first base some this year, so he's in good position to lead all catchers in games played, which gives him a legit boost in value, especially in weekly leagues.
Yasmani Grandal, White Sox (also eligible at 1B)
Willson Contreras, Cubs
Salvador Perez, Royals
Mitch Garver, Twins
Will Smith, Dodgers
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Tier-3 catchers
It seems likely at least one catcher from Tier 3 will break out and jump into Tier 2 heading into next season, but it's tough to pin down just who that will be. All have decent power, with Omar Narvaez being the most intriguing after clubbing 22 HRs in Seattle last year and moving to a better hitters park in Milwaukee this year.
We separated Wilson Ramos and Francisco Mejia into a separate sub-tier because they are more likely to hit for decent averages. Ramos has hit over .300 twice and is coming off a year in which he hit .288. Mejia was a career .295 hitter in the minors and hit .305 in the second half last season. The pedigree is there, though there are still some playing time concerns.
Ultimately, these players will go in the late-middle or late rounds of your draft. There's no real reason to reach for any of them. Sean Murphy is an intriguing sleeper after tearing up Triple-A and hitting four HRs in 20 games in the majors last year, but if you wind up with Carson Kelly instead, it's really not that big of a downgrade. Similarly, one of last year's breakouts, Christian Vazquez, shouldn't be considered a "must-have" at any point in the draft, as there are several catchers in the tier below who could easily have their breakouts this year and pass him in the rankings.
Jorge Alfaro, Marlins
Omar Narvaez, Brewers
Christian Vazquez, Red Sox (1B)
Carson Kelly, D-backs
Sean Murphy, A's
Wilson Ramos, Mets
Francisco Mejia, Padres
Fantasy Baseball Breakouts, Bounce-Backs, and Boring Picks: Catchers
If you decide to punt catcher and just grab whoever is left in the late rounds, you'll likely wind up with one of these Tier-4 guys (in single-catcher leagues anyway). They're all pretty similar, sporting mediocre-to-poor averages to go along with decent power. Roberto Perez came out of nowhere to club 24 HRs last year, and Tom Murphy posted 18 HRs in just 76 games, so clearly there is some homer upside here, but for the most part, you're not going to be too excited about any of these players. Danny Jansen, who disappointed as a popular sleeper pick last year, is the lone youngster looking to really "break out."
Buster Posey gets his own sub-tier because at this point, it's unlikely he'll hit more than 10 HRs in a season, but there's still a chance he could post an average north of .280 and have a decent amount of RBIs and runs. However, his four appearances at 1B last year were the second-fewest of his career, so his overall production will be capped by a relative lack of games. Still, if you feel your team is hurting in average and you've waited until one of the last rounds to draft your catcher, you could do worse than Posey.
Roberto Perez, Indians
Tom Murphy, Mariners
Robinson Chirinos, Rangers
Kurt Suzuki, Nationals
Danny Jansen, Blue Jays
Buster Posey, Giants
Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers: Catchers
It's probably unfair to group all of these backstops into Tier 5, but unless you're in a two-catcher league, you probably shouldn't even bother with them. Some could break out and have a solid power season with regular playing time (Tucker Barnhart? Dom Nunez? Chance Sisco?), but for the most part, these are just waiver wire guys you might pick up if they're on hot streaks.
We're not separating these guys into sub-tiers because they're all just last-resort picks, but if you're only looking for power, avoid Yadier Molina and Willians Astudillo. The latter offers some average upside while the former could have one more season in the sun, but they probably won't even hit 15 HRs, which most of the other players in this tier at least have the chance to do.
Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Travis d'Arnaud, Braves (1B)
Martin Maldonado, Astros
Jason Castro, Angels
Pedro Severino, Orioles
Tucker Barnhart, Reds
Yan Gomes, Nationals
Dom Nunez, Rockies
Mike Zunino, Rays
Chance Sisco, Orioles
Willians Astudillo, Twins (1B, 3B)
Tony Wolters, Rockies
Austin Romine, Tigers
Jacob Stallings, Pirates