Fantasy Baseball: 4 Late-Round Catchers to Target in Drafts
Here's all you need to know about the catcher position for fantasy baseball purposes in 2017.
Yes, J.T. Realmuto, he of the 11 home runs, 60 runs and 48 RBI's, is your fifth-best fantasy catcher for this season. Sure, he gives you some batting average (.303), some on-base percentage (.343) and a few unexpected steals (12), which is rare at that position. But what exactly does this say about that spot on the field?
It says you need to punt that position in fantasy drafts.
Hey, if Buster Posey or Gary Sanchez fall to you at a spot that screams value, then by all means, draft away. But rather than spend a 12th-round pick on a player like Realmuto (which is where he would go in a standard 12-team draft at 150th overall), here are four very late-round players that could provide some real upside.
Cameron Rupp, Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies were a bit surprised by the power production Cameron Rupp provided last year, hitting 16 dingers while knocking in 54 in 419 plate appearances. His on-base percentage (.303) is never going to be good and he also won't have a high batting average (.252 last season), but it was also the first time Rupp had been a regular catcher.
Perhaps some of those numbers will improve in his second full year as the Phils' starter. Rupp knows he'll have to produce, too, as one of the team's top prospects, catcher Jorge Alfaro, is breathing down his neck.
Rupp's average draft position (ADP) is 304th overall and he's the 20th catcher taken off the board. Our projections see him slugging 13 homers with 49 RBI's and 36 runs scored to go along with a .240 batting average and an OPS of .704 in 380 plate appearances. That would yield him an nF score of -0.39.
Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres
I wrote about the youthful San Diego Padres in December and, gazing around the roster, you see nothing but young players with interesting upside all over the field. One of those players is catcher Austin Hedges, who surprisingly started mashing last year in Triple-A. He hit .326/.353/.597 with 21 homers in 334 plate appearances, but did so with a 3.9% walk rate, which is far too low.
His 2016 minor league wRC+ of 146 was eye-popping and earned the now 24-year-old a call-up very late in the season. He didn't do a lot with his 26 plate appearances in San Diego, but he should get regular playing time in 2017. And if his Triple-A numbers are to be trusted, he could be a surprising power source for those who want to snag a late-round backstop with youth and power potential.
Hedges is currently being drafted 328th overall and is the 26th catcher being selected, according to FantasyPros ADP. numberFire's projections see Hedges hitting .225 with a .641 OPS, 12 homers, 40 RBI's and 30 runs scored in 361 plate appearances, producing an nF score of -1.84.
Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays
Honestly, Wilson Ramos was lucky to get the two-year deal he got from the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. In the midst of a career year with the Washington Nationals in 2016, Ramos tore his right ACL late in the season, which is the second time he's suffered a significant knee injury as a major leaguer. That was a devastating blow to free agency hopes.
Our own Thomas Henderson wrote about Ramos' value last week, and noted he may not be ready to play until late April or May. But given last season's production, you might consider waiting on him to come back. He hit .307/.354/.496 with 22 homers, 80 RBI's and 58 runs scored in 523 plate appearances.
Fantasy owners appear to be scared off by his injuries, too. Ramos' ADP is currently sitting at 255th overall, meaning he's the 23rd catcher being selected. That's much lower than he would normally be getting drafted if he was healthy and ready for Opening Day.
Our projections have him only getting 282 plate appearances this year, yielding a .263 batting average with a .722 OPS, 8 bombs, 41 RBI's, 31 runs scored, and an nF score of -0.88. If he plays more, though, he could produce some great value.
Travis d'Arnaud, New York Mets
People have been waiting for Travis d'Arnaud to break out for a while now, but injuries have largely prevented him doing that. He's only played 100 games in a season once, when he played 108 games and put up a wRC+ of 102 in 2014. He only played 67 games in 2015, but hit .268/.340/.485 with 12 homers and a wRC+ of 130, which showed his true talent level.
The 28-year-old took a step back struggled through a rough performance last year, though. After hurting his rotator cuff and spending eight weeks on the disabled list, he eventually lost his starting job to Rene Rivera. And when he did play, his exit velocity was down and his numbers suffered, leading to a slash line of .247/.307/.323 in a mere 75 games.
But the talent is there, and if he can stay healthy, could be a late-round guy to take a chance on. His current ADP has him being selected 295th overall, the 24th catcher off the board. We project he'll amass 379 plate appearances and hit .246 with a .705 OPS, 11 dingers, 36 RBI's, 36 runs scored, and an nF score of -1.12.
None of these guys are sure things. Then again, many of the sure things aren't that impressive. If you're willing to wait, you might stumble into some good fortune with one of these four players at the end of your fantasy drafts.