I don’t want to do this. Catcher is already super thin, and Nick Pollack wants me to try and find some deep league options for you so… FINE. Never forget how much I love you guys. I’ll be using NFBC ADP from March 1st onward.
Jason Castro, LAA (ADP 318)
From my Top 30 Catchers article: “I wanted to be so much higher on Castro. His numbers wow me a bit: a 17.2% barrel rate, .521 xSLG, and .364 xwOBA. He’s also out from under Mitch Garver’s shadow and should be the starter over Max Stassi. The big knock against him is his .125/.222/.125 slash line with a 42.2% K rate against lefties: Minnesota only gave him 45 PAs against them last year and I’m not convinced he’ll do a lot better in that department with the Angels.”
Alex Avila, MIN (ADP 715)
Avila is stuck behind Mitch Garver in Minnesota, but there’s a path to upside for him nonetheless. If you’re overly concerned about Garver, Jason Castro got 275 PAs as Garver’s backup last year, so there’s hope, although that came with a Garver injury. With the shortened season, it’s harder to bet on significant playing time for backups, but you’re getting a guy with a career 13.3% barrel rate and an 18.8% rate in 2019. He won’t give you much in the way of batting average or playing time, but when he plays, he has as good a shot as any deep catcher to provide power. He’s also an excellent OBP asset with his career 17.2% walk rate. Consider him a streaming option/DFS play for now.
James McCann, CWS (ADP 406)
From my Top 30 Catchers article: “McCann is maddening because his 2019 batted ball skills were stellar, 9.2% barrel rate and a .445 xSLG, but he’s blocked by Yasmani Grandal, who is worlds better defensively. I don’t know where McCann finds playing time in 2020, but if he finds it, you want to own him. I’d draft him top 12 if he had an everyday gig, which would come with an injury to any of Jose Abreu, Edwin Encarnacion, or Yasmani Grandal.”
Mike Zunino, TBR (ADP 572)
Anyone who has been reading my column for the last few years knows I don’t like Mike Zunino. Five of the last six seasons, he’s posted a batting average of .207 or lower, but at least in most years, he’s provided power. But in 2019, he didn’t. However, his barrel rate was still above average at 11.3%. He’s still fighting for playing time overall but if you’re in a super deep league, he’s a great dart throw in case the power returns to support his strong barrel rates.
Andrew Knizner, STL (ADP 748)
This is purely speculative because Yadier Molina isn’t going anywhere. But we are talking about a guy with a 50-grade hit tool and 50-grade power who hit 14 HRs over 338 PAs between AAA and the bigs last year. If Yadi gets hurt, Knizner could have value, especially in 2C leagues. Matt Wieters is expected to open the year (when it opens) as Yadi’s backup, but I don’t think the Cardinals see him as a starter in the event of a Molina injury, which has occurred three times in the last two seasons.
Daulton Varsho, ARI (ADP 707)
This is another super deep speculative pick. Varsho has the potential to put up a .270 AVG with 15 HRs and 15 SBs (over a full slate). The problem? Varsho has not played above AA but there are two ways he can see success: First, if Carson Kelly goes down, Varsho should receive a shot over John Hicks depending on when in the season the injury occurs. Second, Varsho could get promoted to play mostly OF, but he’d still be catcher eligible. Again, entirely speculative.
Willians Astudillo, MIN (ADP 551)
Astudillo is essentially the same player he was entering last year; a hamstring and an oblique strain from last year don’t really change that. He’s still the guy who can hit close to .300 with solid counting stats when he plays. The only real difference is the emergence of Mitch Garver, but he can still find playing time around the diamond, particularly if an injury occurs. His ADP has fallen to the 28th round in 20-teamers and 34th round in 16-teamers. There’s the possibility of value here in what is arguably baseball’s best lineup.
Joey Bart, SF (ADP 676)
One last speculative guy. Bart has only 87 PAs above A+, but if something happens to Buster Posey, we could see the Giants aggressively promote Joey Bart. Nobody else in the SF system should block Bart long-term, and I really don’t think he’ll get playing time this year particularly because catchers are usually brought along slowly, but it’s possible. If he gets called up, he has the potential for a fairly high average and mid-teens power, as ZiPS projects him for 14 HRs were he to get 346 PAs in the bigs right now.
Photos by Cody Glenn, Nick Wosika & Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)