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Dokken’s Dudes & Don’ts: Catcher Bargains and Busts

It’s that time again! Nathan Dokken breaks out his annual Dudes and Don’ts. This episode looks at the top catcher bargains and busts for 2020 fantasy baseball.

Welcome one and all to the third year of Dokken’s Dudes & Don’ts! I’m still working with Guy Fieri to get the rights on calling this “Triple-D”, but so far that man and his Donkey Sauce-filled loafers won’t budge on the nickname from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Flavortown can suck it. I think we all know which Triple-D is more important these days.

Joking aside, this is my favorite series to write up every year. Within this series, you will find my biggest bargains and busts at each position. As I do every year in my first entry, I’ll lay out the thought process on my picks. The Dudes are essentially sleepers, insofar as any player can be considered a sleeper in the information age. They will have middle-to-late round Fantrax ADP, giving you ample profit potential. The Don’ts are going to be players who are drafted rather highly. Those are players whom I don’t expect to live up to their ADP, sticking you with a value loss. Finally, I always throw in a Deep League Dude. I prefer to play in 15-team leagues, myself. The Deep League Dudes will be players who are generally dirt cheap even in deeper mixed leagues but could turn a massive profit if everything breaks right.

I’ll even include my own personal projection for each player, just to fully encapsulate what I expect from him. Simple enough, right? Let’s roll!

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Dokken’s Dudes & Don’ts: Catcher Bargains & Busts

It’s sort of a buzzkill in a way to begin this series with the catcher position every year. It has become exceedingly difficult to mine a Deep League Dude, in particular, simply because almost every team employs a two- or three-way platoon at the position. Even though the position as a whole is pretty gross relative to the rest of the hitters, it’s not like I don’t have dudes I like or dislike based on their ADP. Let’s start with some positivity and dig into my Dude.

The Dude: Carson Kelly

I have no idea how Carson Kelly is available as the 17th catcher off the boards on Fantrax with an ADP of 298. He popped 18 home runs over 365 PA’s in 2019, his first full MLB season. While he hit just .245 on a .271 BABIP, he walked at a terrific 13.2% clip, giving him a bump in OBP leagues. His 14.3-degree launch angle and 89 MPH average exit velocity led to an 8.9% barrel rate. At just 25 years old with his first full season under his belt, it’s reasonable to expect that he could continue to improve at the dish.

There is upside, in my opinion, on his batting average as well. His 2019 XBA was .247, right in line with his .245 mark. However, not only did he strike out just 21.6% of the time, but he also had a 79% contact rate as well as an 8.6% swinging-strike rate. That’s a lot of balls in play, so considering how hard he can hit the ball, he could push his BABIP closer to .290 in spite of all the fly balls he hits.

With the additions of Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun, the Diamondbacks lineup should be even stronger than it was a year ago. Kelly with certainly hit towards the bottom of the lineup, like most catchers, but could very well improve on his 93 R+RBI total from 2019. He could also increase his games played, further helping the cause. In single-catcher leagues, the fact that you can wait until damn near pick 300 and grab Kelly as your starting catcher is borderline criminal. For comparison, Kelly is going at pick 201 in NFBC leagues as the 11th catcher. Even there I like his value. In two-catcher leagues, you can get a massive edge at the position if Kelly is your second catcher.

As an aside, I also like Stephen Vogt, Kelly’s platoon mate for 2020. He was nearly my Deep League Dude. The Diamondbacks have a couple of catcher bargains behind the plate for 2020.

Projection: 425 PA, 50 R, 23 HR, 60 RBI, .260 AVG


The Don’t: Christian Vazquez

Recency bias is a real thing. Look no further for evidence than Christian Vazquez flying off draft boards as the ninth catcher with an ADP of 210. Tell me, which of these numbers stands out to you?

2014: 1

2016: 1

2017: 5

2018: 3

2019: 23

That would be the home run total for Christian Vazquez along with every corresponding year of his career. Granted, 2019 was by far a career-high in games played for Vazquez, at 138 (521 PA). While I wouldn’t expect a full repeat of that playing time, he should be well insulated for 125 games or so. Career backup catcher Kevin Plawecki is going to, well, continue to be a backup, this time in Boston behind Vazquez. He isn’t a huge threat to steal playing time.

There was no massive shift in approach or batted ball profile for Christian Vazquez in 2019. The real outlier is the 16% HR/FB rate which was nearly double his previous career-high of 6.8%. His .254 XBA was also well below his actual .276 average, much closer to his career .256 mark. While the playing time insulation is nice, and he chips in a few steals, there is just so much downside here that it is hard to invest at ADP 210. I’d rather have a litany of catchers going right behind him, such as Omar Narvaez, Jorge Alfaro, and Sean Murphy (who I LOVE for 2020, but Kelly is cheaper and is, therefore, a better Dude candidate).

Projection: 465 PA, 45 R, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 4 SB, .255 AVG


The Deep League Dude: Austin Romine

Again, allow me to reiterate that mining a deep league catcher is just not very exciting. It’s like going to a vegan friend’s barbeque. It’s your friend, so good times will be had, and he grills those vegetables like nobody’s business. You’re a meat man, though, and in your eyes, there is just no replacing some brisket that has been smoked for 12 hours. The catcher position is the tofu of baseball.

I mentioned liking Stephen Vogt and his C34/ADP484 price tag earlier. Just edging out Vogt due to playing time upside is Austin Romine, your new starting catcher for the Detriot Tigers. He has spent the entirety of his career as a backup catcher for the Yankees but is now set up to be on the strong side of a catching platoon with Grayson Greiner on a rebuilding team. Romine had a huge (albeit BABIP-inflated) second half of 2019, batting .325 with 6 HR over 129 PA. The batting average won’t stick, but his hard contact rate hit 39%, the highest of his career.

Austin Romine Hard Hit

He also increased his pull rate by nearly 14% over the second half. That all bodes well for his power production. Combined with the increased playing time, he could hit 12-15 home runs. That sounds like a terrible “upside” projection, but we are talking about deep league second catchers here. These dandelions don’t bloom like a rose. Hopefully, you’re only drafting down here in an AL-Only league or a 50-round draft and hold. Whatever the case, Romine provides some semblance of upside with his C35/ADP486 price tag.

Projection: 325 PA, 35 R, 14 HR, 45 RBI, .260 AVG

Who are your catcher bargains and busts for 2020? Let us know in the comments below. Your leaguemates will never find out.

2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings

  • AL-Only Rankings: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP |
  • NL-Only Rankings: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP |
  • Mixed League Rankings: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP |
  • Mike Kurland’s Ranks, Tiers, and profiles: | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP |

For all the rankings, strategy, and analysis you could ever want, check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!

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