Creative Solutions to the Catching Wasteland

Scott Cunningham – GETTY IMAGES / Jason Getz – USA TODAY Sports

I grew tired of the relentless catcher musical chairs act year to year, so I dug deep into creative fantasy baseball options to overcome it.

90+% of your league won’t be able to roster Gary Sanchez, so here’s a few ways to game the system… potentially.

If you only came for my basic rankings, here you are:

How many catchers qualified for the batting title in 2017?

If you guessed anything higher than 5, then you’re out.
If you guessed 5, you’re also wrong.

There’s a dwindling number of catchers who see enough Plate Appearances (PAs) to qualify for the batting title. The answer is 4. Let me repeat this, FOUR Catchers received the minimum of 502 PA (or 3.1 per game) in order to qualify for the batting title. There are 30 Teams, most teams carry minimum of 2 catchers (for this example let’s stick with 60 total catchers), meaning 93% of Major League catchers missed reaching 502 PA.

Qualified Catchers in 2017 (via Fangraphs)

Some were close, as the next 4 were within 30 PA, but the remainder of the Top 20 in PA fall in the 370-499 range. This means after these Top 8 are off the board you’re looking at guys who are considered the #1 on their team, the full time catcher, but you’re out into the weeds.

Near Qualified Catchers in 2017 (via Fangraphs)


So, let’s take a deeper look, into interesting catchers who are workhorses & poised for bigger years in 2018.

Individual Catchers I *LIKE*

Yadier Molina: The steady rock, a pillar of consistency, yet an aging veteran. Somehow this wily vet stole 9 bases in 2017 (most since 2012). He’s the roadblock preventing prodigy Carson Kelly from seizing the everyday job in the Majors.

Wellington Castillo: Had a career year in 2017, in only 96 Gs & 365 PAs, having split time in Baltimore. Three trends to monitor with “Beefmode:” 1) can he replicate his .336 BABIP in a weaker lineup? 2) Will his presence have a negative impact on the young White Sox pitching staff? 3) Will the Baltimore staff see a marked improvement? (Ex. see 2016 vs 2017 Dbacks)

Wilson Ramos: Two years ago we found out that Ramos HAD NOT been seeing the ball clearly at all when he had LASIK surgery to repair his eyesight. Now a year removed from a torn ACL, Ramos is back & healthy. In only 64 Gs last year he put up 11 HR, 35 RBI, .260 AVG, & a .290 OBP. Tampa Bay is a depleted lineup injected with new faces, but I’m seeing a rise across the board & an intriguing name to watch for late in drafts (ADP 270 on Fantrax).

Tyler Flowers: Will get the majority of ABs from the C spot in 2018, but will split time with Kurt Suzuki. Flowers came into his own in 2017, hitting for high .281 AVG & .378 OBP & clubbing 12 HR. Could & should produce at a similar rate this year.

Jonathan Lucroy: 2017 was weird for Lucroy, as he developed a bad habit of hitting the ball into the ground at twice the rate (GO/FO 2016: 0.90 then 2017: 1.72) yet still did well in the AVG/OBP department. A change of venue to Oakland from Texas & Colorado, although spacious, should see a correction in this trend. Oakland hitters are Launch Angle successes, meaning a bounce back could have him back in the Top 5-6 Catchers by the end of 2018. Worth the risk pick late (ADP 245 & climbing)

Austin Hedges: The power is there for this young backstop, only 25 years old, hit 18 HR in 2017. He did this in spite of his putrid .214 AVG. His BABIP was more in line with the hitter I see him as at .260. His home ballpark in San Diego will always put a cap on his power production, but that revamped lineup will have him seeing better pitches. Add in the fact he reworked swing this winter to be more consistent & I’m seeing a guy I want to stash as a last round pick or $1 guy.

Manny Pina: a .279/.327/.424 slashline over 107 G proved to be the more productive C in MIL last year. Vogt is starting the season hurt on the DL already (shoulder strain) meaning meaningful ABs are headed Pina’s way in 2018 & a breakout could be in his future.

Blake Swihart: The soon to be 26 year old switch-hitting former top prospect is roadblocked with both Sandy Leon & Christian Vasquez splitting catching duties for the big club. Swihart has been lighting it up this spring, showing a matured approach at the plate & versatility on defense.  He is out of options and appears the Red Sox have chosen him as a bench bat/utility fielder with experience & work put in at C/1B/3B/LF. His almost Marwin Gonzalez like utility is sure to be of benefit. Soon enough he’ll be knocking, nay he’ll be pounding, on the door in 2018 for an everyday role. Of their 3 catching options, he’s the biggest offensive threat.

These three are the young bucks, the highly touted prospect types: Francisco Mejia, Chance Cisco, & Tom Murphy. At best in 2018 they all split time, but at worst they will spend the year on the bench or in AAA.

  • Mejia they’ve experimented with playing him outside of Catcher (did not fair well), so a timeshare at DH/C is in his future.
  • Cisco may have the best chance of this group, as his only real competition is Caleb Joseph. Solid plate skills should make the transition well, pending adjustments.
  • As for Murphy, Tony Wolters & newly reborn slugger Chris Iannetta stand in his path. Murphy is a guy who needs to play every day, so he’ll start 2018 in AAA. Stash pick for sure as one never knows how Iannetta’s health will hold up.


Now, since that’s out of the way, it’s time for the Grand Finale.

Catching is such an interesting position year in & year out with few pillars of consistency and a whole lot of volatility. Newcomers arrive on the scene then fade away, those once stable pillars eventually crumble and fall, and there’s always some prodigy on the horizon.

How can you break free from drafting a terrible catcher who will play less than 110 games & generally hurt more categories than help? A two-headed approach.

Baseball is a game of organizational copycat, sparking trends of analytical mimicry at its finest. This could be the next one in the works, following on the heels of “bullpenning.”

Atlanta Braves Two Headed Catcher Platoon: Tyler Flowers / Kurt Suzuki 
Combined 79 R, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 0 SB, .282 AVG, .365 OBP

Those numbers put them, if combined, as the #2 catcher in fantasy. There’s even enough statistical evidence to make a case for them to surpass Sanchez, but that’s a debate worthy of another article.

I will state this now to prevent confusion, this only works in a Daily Lock league. If you’re in a weekly locking league, you have my pity & my prayers, as it’s Sanchez or bust. Okay, that’s over-exaggerating things a bit, but past the TOP 8 it’s all about managing risks. I also recommend playing in single Catcher leagues, because why torture yourself with needing to actively roster two risky plays.

Here’s the Catching Ranks (sorted by HRs) for the team handcuffs. Tandems in Yellow are one’s I’ll be keeping an eye on in 2018, as they could provide a similar benefit to having rostered Flowers/Suzuki in 2017.


Other than Flowers/Suzuki, the obvious standout handcuffs are:

  • Yasmani Grandal / Austin Barnes: Combined for 85 R, 30 HR, 96 RBI, 4 SB, .268 AVG, .358 OBP
    Grandal is said to be getting the majority of PAs behind the dish in 2018 as it is his walk year. Whether he lasts the season with the Dodgers or plays his way off the roster via trade/release, he’s the major stumbling block to Austin Barnes getting 400+ PAs and improving on his breakout 2017. Barnes is their future, but with Justin Turner out for a while with the fracture that may allow Barnes additional PAs he wouldn’t have in 2018.
  • Brian McCann / Evan Gattis: Combined for 88 R, 30 HR, 117 RBI, 1 SB .252 AVG, .317 OBP
    I don’t know how Gattis is still eligible at Catcher, but it’s looking like this season or next year will be his last with C eligibility. He’s moving more towards the DH role, but with so many ABs needed to share with the young core, including Derek Fisher, Kyle Tucker, & even J.D. Davis awaiting an opening on the big club he’ll need to be both healthy & productive to see ABs.

Other intriguing tandems:

  • Chris Iannetta / Tony Wolters (or Tom Murphy): Combined for 68 R, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 0 SB, .247 AVG, .348 OBP
    This pairing/trifecta is on my watchlist to monitor but not to pick up yet. Iannetta was a slow starter in AZ & heated up post-All Star Game, seeing a 50 point AVG increase. He did most of his RBI damage at home in the desert, yet power numbers received a bump on the road. Heading “home” to Coors should do him some good. I really want to see what Murphy can do at Coors over a full season, but it’s looking like Wolters will get the nod as the handcuff with Iannetta.
  • Tucker Barnhart / Devin Mesoraco: Combined for 43 R, 13 HR, 58 RBI, 5 SB, .247 AVG, .348 OBP
    The NL Gold Glove winning Barnhart has been a fallback of mine in multiple drafts in 2018 so far, in both AVG & OBP leagues. He’s a competent backup catcher if you draft Yadier Molina & worry about Father Time catching up with him. Mesoraco hasn’t been healthy since his breakout All Star season in 2014. Between dual hip surgery, left shoulder surgery, & a fractured left foot in the last 3 years, it’s been tough to get on the field. A bench role should help him make it through the season.
  • Caleb Joseph / Chance Cisco: Combined for 31 R, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 0SB, .256 AVG, .287 OBP
    As stated above, Cisco is the one to really target here. His plate skills alone are going to translate well, once he adjusts to major league pitching. If used in matchup friendly situations this pairing could provide solid value. Cisco taking over the daily job would make Joseph expendable both to your team & to the Orioles.

Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑