January 13, 2016
Get to Know
The list of attractive catcher prospects for dynasty leaguers right now is much like this introduction; short, unsatisfying, and unlikely to improve in the near term. That’s what happens when guys like Kyle Schwarber, Blake Swihart, and Kevin Plawecki all graduate from the minors’ shallowest position.
The good news? There are at least some interesting names for those of you operating in three-year windows, and that’s really what dynasty leagues are all about. That, and forcing yourself to write about Max Stassi in January. Enjoy.
Names for 2016
Gary Sanchez, NYY
Sanchez has essentially been Schrodinger’s prospect over the past few seasons, failing to impress in High-A or Double-A for a few years before finally taking a bit of a step forward both with the bat and defensively in 2015. He produced a .295/.349/.500 line in 146 PA at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, finally made his MLB debut and impressed greatly in AFL action, and wouldn’t you know it, the Yankees made his path to playing time easier by shipping J.R. Murphy to Minnesota. Sanchez is the posterboy for prospect fatigue among dynasty leaguers but he’s still just 23 and is now a Brian McCann booboo away from seeing regular playing time. His upside as a catcher who can hit 20 bombs with a decent average is very much intact, and he now looks like he’ll at least stay behind the plate through his mid-20s. If you’ve stuck with him, your patience will be rewarded relatively soon.
Tom Murphy, COL
Murphy has power, plays in Colorado, is ready now, and only has Nick Hundley ahead of him. Honestly, we could stop this comment now and you should be interested, but let’s dig a little deeper. After batting just 109 times in 2014 before hitting the shelf with a shoulder injury, Murphy rebounded nicely in 2015, smashing 23 homers between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors. He’s neither a great defender nor a great hitter, but Murphy should remain behind the plate enough to retain eligibility, and he only has to hit enough to let his power play for our purposes. We’ve got a pretty classic case of a better fantasy than MLB prospect here, but that’s fine; remember, this type of setup once made Wilin Rosario a sought-after fantasy commodity.
Andrew Knapp, PHI
If you’ve ever thought “gee, I wish I could take Tom Murphy out of Coors and push his ETA back by a season,” you’ll love Andrew Knapp.
Austin Barnes, LAD
Barnes is a truly one-of-a-kind prospect. The 26-year-old hit .315/.389/.479 across 335 PA in Triple-A last season to follow up a very strong 2014 season, eventually reaching the majors late in the year. Over the past two seasons, he’s appeared behind the plate, at second and third base, and while the odds of him logging enough time in the infield at the MLB level to be fantasy-eligible there are pretty slim, his versatility is icing on the cake for a player whose bat and status as a backstop already make him interesting. Barnes is more of a second-division starter or good bench asset than a quality regular, and he’s certainly not a good bet to see much time in 2016, but don’t forget him if playing time opens up.
Max Stassi, HOU
Stassi hasn’t been good in a while but he hit 13 homers in Triple-A last year and could see playing time next year now that Hank Conger is gone and yes this is a massive reach but catcher prospects are awful. Awful.
Names for 2017 and Beyond
Jacob Nottingham, OAK
One of the more intriguing pop-up prospects of 2015, Nottingham emerged from relative obscurity to hit .316/.372/.502 in Low- and High-A, heading to Oakland as part of the Scott Kazmir trade mid-season. In our 2016 writeup of the A’s Top 10 list, Christopher Crawford described Nottingham’s bat as good enough to “work at any position.” That’s great, except for the second half of his sentence; “which is good, because there’s a pretty good chance his future isn’t behind the plate.” Still, the A’s should give Nottingham every shot to stick in the squat, and he’s an easy top-100 dynasty prospect at this point. The Cal League likely aided his stats to a certain extent last year, but the power is still very real.
Chance Sisco, BAL
Much of what we knew about Sisco heading into 2015 remains true today; his hit tool is very strong for a catcher, he has attractive natural power and he’s not a lock to stay behind the plate. Sisco put his offensive prowess on display in High-A last season, hitting .308/.387/.422 before slowing down a bit in Double-A and positioning himself for a potential 2017 ETA. We only need Sisco to catch enough to retain eligibility, and if he can do so he’s a potential top-10 backstop with a similar offensive profile to Blake Swihart. If he has to move to a corner, Sisco will have to let us see that strong (baby, strong strong strong strong strong strong) hit/power combo truly shine through to remain a big fantasy asset, but that’s not out of the question.
Willson Contreras, CHC
Last year Kyle Schwarber was the hot Cubs catcher prospect, and while we’re now very sure that Schwarber can hit, we’re still not entirely sure he’s a catcher. His defensive limitations could open the door for Contreras, who enjoyed a breakout campaign in Double-A in 2015, hitting .333/.413/.478 while earning some rave reviews from scouts. The former infielder only started catching in 2012, but we’ve seen 50-plus grades put on his defense thanks in large part to a strong arm. Contreras has caught fewer than 300 games in his career and has Schwarber, Miguel Montero and David Ross in front of him, so don’t expect an impact anytime soon. Still, there’s a good chance he’s available in your league, and if you keep 150-plus prospects, that’s a mistake.
Jorge Alfaro, PHI
One time I saw Alfaro try to back-pick a runner at first base in a b-side spring training game in March. What does that have to do with his fantasy value? Nothing! It simply illustrates that I still really want Alfaro to succeed, but we have to be honest about #TheLegend’s last few seasons; they haven’t been very good. Yes, Alfaro is just 22 and yes, he has 70-grade raw power and yes, he hit 17 homers in 2014. Unfortunately he’s also yet to prove he can master Double-A, is coming off a severe ankle injury and still faces questions about his ultimate defensive home. The upside here is a catcher who can hit 25 bombs with a bad but tolerable average, but the downside is a first baseman or outfielder who’s unworthy of ownership even in a #TDGX-sized league. He’s a high-risk, medium-reward proposition.
Max Pentecost, TOR
Pentecost has made just 109 plate appearances since being drafted. He should finally be healthy in 2016, and with his pedigree it would be disappointing if anything below High-A pitching gives him too much trouble after he shakes off the rust. Watch and see, but understand that he could be a top-75 prospect at this time next year.
Francisco Mejia, CLE
“Mejia is going to be the next in the Alfaro mold, though he doesn’t have quite the same speed as the Rangers prospect. Still, he’s a potential middle-of-the-order hitter with the chance to hit for above-average power and average while sticking at the position. The downside? He’s yet to play in full-season ball and is likely going to be a high-risk prospect all the way up the chain, as it’s unlikely that all his tools transform into skills at once. Still, he carries himself in the field like Bruno Mars does on the stage: natural; confident; loose. Patience is required for investment, but the ROI could be quite the dynamic player.”
This is all true—even the forced Bruno Mars reference —but after hitting .243/.324/.345 in A-ball it should be clear how far Mejia has to go. He’s still probably a top-100 guy thanks to the paucity of impact minor leaguers, but he’s a pretty risk investment.
Reese McGuire, PIT
As a founding member of the Reese’s Piece fan club it pains me to have to write this, but the dynasty arrow is trending down for McGuire. Always a stronger real-life prospect than dynasty asset thanks to his plus-plus defensive profile, McGuire’s bat has come up relatively empty in each of the past two seasons. Does he still have time as a soon-to-be-21-year-old who’s faced relatively challenging assignments? Of course, but he needs to show some semblance of power, patience or an ability to hit for average to remain relevant for our purposes. He’s probably not a top-150 name right now.
Tyler Stephenson, CIN
Stephenson ranked at no. 32 on Bret Sayre’s list of Top 50 Signees From 2015, the second catcher to appear on the list behind Tampa’s Chris Betts. I give the slight nod to Stephenson, who’s eons away but who was rare offensive upside for a backstop.
We Hardly Knew Ye (Fantasy Value)