The 2020 season, whenever it does start, is going to look vastly different than anything we’ve seen before. Will teams be forced to play multiple double headers per week, in order to maximize the games played? Will there be off days? Will rosters be pushed to 30? Maybe even a few more? Whatever we get will have an impact on our decisions.
One of the positions that already gets frequent rest is catcher, though whatever season we get could take that to an even greater degree. With that in mind, which backup catchers could be impacted most? Let’s take a look at the NL Central:
Victor Caratini – Chicago Cubs
Caratini is an intriguing name because he isn’t limited to playing behind the plate. While the bulk of his time came catching in 2019, he also saw time at 1B (23 appearances), 3B (2 appearances) and OF (2 appearances). That ability, as well as added time catching, suddenly makes him an intriguing proposition for those in two-catcher formats.
Last season he hit .266 with 11 HR and 34 RBI over 279 PA, though you can argue that a groundball-centric profile (49.5%) could limit his power. Still, the approach was solid (9.7% SwStr%, 27.9% O-Swing%) and he uses the entire field (28.2% Oppo%), making his .305 BABIP and in turn his average believable.
He may not be an elite slugger, but some power (7-10 HR) and a strong approach will make him an intriguing option.
Tyler Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds
Stephenson was already on radars, considering the previous struggles of Tucker Barnhart. Now the truncated MLB season and the likelihood that there’s no minor league season make him that much more intriguing. Suddenly it doesn’t seem to be a question of whether or not Stephenson opens in the Majors, instead the it’s if he’ll be the starter on Opening Day.
Here’s our write-up from Rotoprofessor’s 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide:
Already on the 40-man roster, would it be surprising to see Stephenson earn an opportunity over both Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali? Playing at Double-A he hit .285 with 6 HR and 44 RBI over 363 PA, showing a patient approach (16.5% strikeout rate, 10.2% walk rate) while consistently making contact (8.2% SwStr%), something he carried into the Arizona Fall League (7 K vs. 5 BB over 49 AB, leading to a .347 AVG). With 19 doubles and 1 triple there’s a little bit more power in his bat (he added 7 doubles in the AFL). Likely ticketed for Triple-A to open the tear, he could assume a prominent role by mid-year.
Manny Pina – Milwaukee Brewers
Unless Mario Feliciano makes the leap from Double-A to become the understudy to Omar Narvaez, there really isn’t much to see here. Pina is a career .257 hitter with 27 HR over 973 PA, seeing time in the Majors dating back to 2011. In other words, even in a compressed season it’s hard to envision an impact.
Luke Maile – Pittsburgh Pirates
You could argue that there could be more intrigue with the non-roster invites (John Ryan Murphy and Andrew Susac), but they were NRI for a reason. Even the starter, Jacob Stallings, doesn’t offer much intrigue. If you are searching for a flier this isn’t the spot to approach.
Matt Wieters – St. Louis Cardinals
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Yadier Molina is set to turn 38-years old in July and already needed frequent days of rest. If they are cramming even more games in, Wieters could become an almost 50/50 proposition.
While he’s never quite lived up to expectations, Wieters has hit 19 HR over 454 PA over the past two seasons. He hasn’t hit over .250 in a season since 2015 and it’s obvious that last year’s 22.0% HR/FB is unrealistic, but there’s power in his bat and he brings a solid approach (9.8% SwStr%, 29.7% O-Swing% in ’19). Would it be shocking if he put together a year hitting .260 with 10-12 HR over half a season? At a position full of questions, that holds value and is worth stashing in two-catcher formats.
Ranking the viable options in the NL Central:
- Tyler Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds
- Victor Caratini – Chicago Cubs
- Matt Wieters – St. Louis Cardinals
Source – Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: