The catching position has been frustrating over the last four seasons. Only five times over this span has a catcher had over 500 at-bats (J.T. Realmuto – 2, Yasmani Grandal, Yadier Molina, and Salvador Perez).
In 2017, six catchers had 20 home runs or more, with Gary Sanchez leading the way (.278 with 79 runs, 33 home runs, and 90 RBI over 471 at-bats).
Five catchers had 20 or more home runs in 2018. Salvador Perez had the most power (27 home runs and 80 RBI), while J.T. Realmuto posted the best catching season (.277 with 74 runs, 21 home runs, and 74 RBI over 477 at-bats).
In 2019, eight different catchers hit over 20 home runs. Gary Sanchez only had 396 at-bats, but he finished with a league-high 34 home runs and 77 RBI. For the second straight season, J.T. Realmuto had the most value (.275 with 92 runs, 25 home runs, 83 RBI, and nine steals over 513 at-bats).
With only 60 games played last year, four catchers had success in home runs and RBI (Salvador Perez – 11/32, J.T Realmuto – 11/32, Gary Sanchez – 10/24, and Travis d'Arnaud – 9/34). Will Smith (.289 with 23 runs, eight home runs, and 25 RBI) also played well despite only have 114 at-bats.
Catchers Nos. 1 to 12
Based on my 2021 projections, the average of the top 12 catchers would hit .263 with 62 runs, 20 home runs, 70 RBI, and four stolen bases over 456 at-bats. Here's a look at the best catching options based on ADP:
Note: I used the ADPs from March 8th to March 15th in the high-stakes market. All leagues are non-trading. I wasn't able to pull the correct data to show the direction of each player in drafts.
J.T. Realmuto remains the stud at the catcher position, but his ADP continues to slide due to his broken right-thumb in mid-February. He shouldn't miss too many games in the regular season with six weeks to heal. Once Realmuto sees game action in spring training, his draft value will start to rise.
Timing Will Smith in drafts is going to be difficult in two-catcher leagues. His bat offers a high fly-ball swing while showing growth in his approach in 2020. His only missing link is a full-time catching job with the Dodgers. A fantasy owner can expect plenty of home runs with an improving opportunity once his bat heats up.
Both Salvador Perez and Willson Contreras are trusted assets at the catcher position in the fantasy market with multiple seasons of success. If given a choice, I would target Contreras due to his higher ADP (124).
Yasmani Grandal has been battling a right knee issue, which may lead to limited time behind the plate early in the season. The White Sox may use him as their DH out of the gate until he regains full strength. In mid-March, Grandal saw action at DH, which should be taken as a positive sign.
I'm extremely excited by Daulton Varsho's start in spring training (4-for-31 with one home run and RBI). He has one walk with eight strikeouts. My joy is selfish as I don't want him to draw any fantasy in March. Varsho offers an exciting combination of power and speed while expecting to see time on the outfield in 2021. If/when he finds his top gear, the Diamondbacks will be forced to play him every day while moving him into a favorable part of the batting order. Despite being projected for two-thirds of Arizona's playing time, Varsho should be a winning investment at catcher when adding in his ADP (180).
Sean Murphy has upside while owning the injury news tag due to his recovery from a collapsed lung. The A's expect him to be back in action behind the plate over the last 10 days in March, which is a good sign. I would be concerned with a setback if Murphy took a hard collision.
I downgraded Austin Nola about 10 games after a broken middle finger on his left hand in March.
James McCann will have the best opportunity of his career in at-bats after signing with the Mets. His power is developing, but McCann will battle strikeouts, inviting some batting average risk.
Catchers Nos. 13 to 24
The second position will have varying opinions in 2021. I won't pay a premium for Yadier Molina, but he fits at the right draft price. I know what to expect from him.
Omar Narvaez makes sense late for someone cheating the C2 position. He hits a ton of ground balls, but Narvaez will drive some balls out of the park when on the right plane with his swing.
Tom Murphy battled a hip issue in mid-March, but the injury looks minor. His power upside projects well if he can stay on the field for the whole year.
The Blue Jays need to find a way to get Alejandro Kirk in the starting lineup. His approach is exceptional, with plenty of power for his expected draft value (ADP – 348). Kirk made the jump from Single-A to the majors in 2020. It's all about opportunity while having the bat to push for time at DH. Kirk fits in the buy-and-hold category. His defense may hold him back this year.
For someone looking to cheat the catching pool, Francisco Mejia remains a player with possible breakthrough upside. He should split time with Mike Zunino plus see at-bats at DH at times against left-handed pitching. Mejia falls into the post-hype category while being free on draft day.
Chance Sisco comes into this season as the second catcher for the Orioles. No one fights for him in any format, but there are signs of pushing for a starting job. Sisco would only be a player to watch in 12-team leagues.