Last year, my brother from another mother, Michael C. Halpern, predicted a new wave of offensive catchers. Players like Gary Sanchez, Tom Murphy, and Willson Contreras were here to lead the first wave in a new generation. Fast forward one year later, and Gary Sanchez and Contreras are in fact leading a new generation of good hitting catchers, while the other guy has been erased from my memory. Or at least I thought, I’m shocked I can even recall Tom Murphy’s name. But that’s neither here nor there. We have some exciting catchers to cover. That’s right, I used the words exciting and catchers in the same sentence! This sounds like Razzball sacrilege! But it’s true, because, for the first time since the Clinton administration, there’s as many as 10 crouching tigers I would own in dynasty. Here’s to this wave of talented backstops being better than the previous. And may that apply in the most double entendre of ways possible to all aspects of your life, loyal reader. I appreciate you for committing this time to something as trivial as catching prospects. Pray hands… So the least I can do is wish you good luck in your love life. Today’s post concludes my positional top 10s, we’ve already dug through Pitchers, outfielders, shortstops, third baseman, second baseman, and first baseman. Onto catchers!
The undisputed top catching prospect in the game, Mejia is a potential elite fantasy asset. The switch hitting contact machine, has continued to hit for power as he’s progressed through the minors. It’s not huge raw power, but he’s a good enough hitter to make opposing pitchers pay for hanging a breaking ball, or leaving a fastball over the plate. He’s the rare catching prospect that offers high floor and ceiling, which is why there’s few players I like more. Made his MLB debut this year, but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t start the season in AAA.
A switch hitting contact machine with developing power and plate approach beyond his years. Sound familiar? No, it’s not me catching a temporary stutter, Keibert isn’t all that different from Francisco Mejia a couple of seasons ago. The Dodgers are the type of organization to take it slow, so Ruiz is still a good three years from any regular playing time. But if his recent track record and production is any indicator, then we could be looking at a peak of a .300 average and mid teen to low 20s homer totals.
Collins is easy to break down, power, on base, strikeouts. He’s the penultimate three outcome hitter, walking at an elite rate, but struggling to hit above .240. There’s 25-30 homer seasons in his bat, and he should get a huge boost in leagues that use OBP in place of average. Collins has done well to hone his catching skills and looks likely to stick behind the plate for now.
4. Andy Yerzy, C Diamondbacks | Level: RK | 2017 Stats: .298/.365/.524 13 HR, 45 RBI, 0 SB
The 2016 second round pick broke out in a big way in 2017 mashing in advanced rookie ball. He eased questions about his propensity to swing and miss coming out of the Canadian prep ranks, by flashing a great deal more discipline, striking out 18.1% of the time. Instead of sapping power from Yerzy’s bat, the change in approach actually boosted his game power, as he slugged .524 while walking 9.6% of the time. With OPS upside like that, there’s a good chance Yerzy sneaks into my Top 100.
Following three and a half uninspiring seasons in the minors, Jansen noticed something off with his eye sight. When he was diagnosed with astigmatism late last season, he started wearing glasses in games, and immediately noticed a huge difference in how he saw the ball. The results followed in 2017, as he climbed three levels of the minors, and finds himself on the cusp of a big league debut. Jansen isn’t a stud in anyone one particular area, but he’s a good all around hitter with contact, plate approach, and above average power. Could be a .280/14/65 player within the next few seasons, with some room for a little more at peak.
Reborn in the Braves organization as a power hitting catcher. Jackson found his old swagger that pushed him to the top of the 2014 draft class. He set career highs in slugging, homers, and just about every other statistical category, and managed to look solid if unspectacular in a second half callup to AA. Jackson brings elite power to the table and little else. He’s never going to be a high average play, and he struggles against righthanders. So there’s obvious red flags here. Still, the 30+ homer ceiling is enough to outweigh the power hitting platoon vs lefties floor.
7. Daulton Varsho, C Diamondbacks | Level: A | 2017 Stats: .311/.368/.534 7 HR, 39 RBI, 7 SB
The son of former Phillies outfielder Gary Varsho, the 2nd round supplemental pick is named after his father’s former teammate Darren Daulton. Sort of poetic justice I guess, or some other film starring Tupac. As a player he brings 20 homer power, contact, on base ability, and great base-running for a catcher. He has a shot to stick in a multitude of defensive roles if catching doesn’t pan out, and the bat should play everywhere. Varsho could easily move up to the top 5 on this list by mid-season next year.
A bat first catcher with some questions about his ability to stick behind the plate, Austin put up one of the stronger statistical seasons in the minors from a catcher. He’s pull happy, and might see his batting average take a hit as he deals with the shift in the majors. He does however hit the ball in the air a fair amount, his batted ball profile features a nice mix of line drives and fly balls. Overall he looks like he has a chance to make it as a bat first catcher, if not he has the power to carve out a role at first.
The 2016 third round pick came over to the Tigers in the waiver trade that sent Justin Verlander to the the Astros. Rogers brings a mix of power, on base ability, and the type of glove that will guarantee a long term future behind the plate. There’s some swing and miss, and he may never be a superstar, but has shot to be a fantasy viable catcher.
10. Brett Cumberland, C Braves | Level: A+ | 2017 Stats: .266/.409/.445 11 HR, 69 RBI, 1 SB
A creepy porn stache, and elite on base ability, might be two of Cumberland’s strongest attributes, but they’re certainly not the only ones. A switch hitter with an extreme flyball profile, and a knack for hitting with RISP, make Cumberland a some what under discussed catching prospect. Part of it is, he gets lost in a deep system, the other is, well, he’s a catching prospect. Still a few years away and it looks like he has some work to do to stick behind the plate.
The Next Two
11. William Contreras, C Braves | Level: RK | 2017 Stats: .290/.379/.432 4 HR, 25 RBI, 1 SB
The younger brother of the Cubs Willson Contreras, William brings to the table many of the same skills. Athleticism, bat speed, and an advanced approach for a 19 year old, make Contreras a possible mover over the next year. His walk rate of 12.1% wasn’t far off from his K rate of 15.2%, and 21.9% LD rate shows a penchant for making hard contact.
Really came on post all star break, carrying a .306 average and .500 slugging in the second half. Perhaps this is the beginning of an offensive breakout for Stephenson, a highly touted former 1st round pick out of the Georgia prep ranks. Has above average raw power he’s still learning to tap into, but his plate approach took a major step forward in 2017. Unless his power manifests itself over the next two to three years, I see Stephenson as a just solid everyday major league catcher.
Low minors bat with plus contact, plate approach, and developing power. Hit .340 in the Dominican Summer League last year, and that same elite bat to ball skill translated in his stateside debut. Long ways away, but a bat to dream on.
Big raw power, tape measure shots, walks, and lots of swing and miss is the way of the Vallot. Long one of my colleague Halp’s favorites, Vallot is guaranteed to be in his top 10 at the position. In a lot of ways he’s still a sleeper as many are scared off by that awful batting average. More than likely is moved off of the position, so he needs to really mash.
When you number scout Fangraphs minor league stats, Caratini stands out. Over the last few seasons there have been few statistically stronger in the minors. But look a little deeper and you see lots of groundball contact, and BABIP luck. That said Caratini, has showed some ability to hit, but he’s more Francisco Cervelli than Buster Posey. Though I might be underselling the switch hitters ability, as his past two seasons have been impressive offensively.
Got his call to the bigs this year, but I’m just not excited in the least. Very little power, not a ton of batting average, no speed, and questions about his defense. Sisco is a big name, but one I’d shy away from.