Total points is a blast to play and it might be the wave of the future, but most full season fantasy players still play in standard five by five and six by six head to head leagues. Almost everyone is familiar with the five basic categories. The sixth category depends on the league. Some leagues use on base percentage while others use walks. They all wind up in the same place, so we will use walks for our purpose.
Rankings in the five and six category universe will be based on their composite rankings in all of the categories. However, like with the total points articles, we will show what each player has done in each of the last five seasons. Often, those individual seasons mean more than the average because of outliers, injuries, or other considerations.
Austin Barnes—Los Angeles Dodgers
5 Category: 12
6 Category: 13
If we read the tea leaves we will see that Barnes will likely be the Dodgers starting catcher next season. That’s partially because of his strong defense, but Yasmani Grandal had stronger defensive numbers. External statistics are not as advanced as internal ones. Organizations know things we don’t know. It’s highly possible the Dodgers know something we don’t. Either way, they like the cut of his gib.
Tucker Barnhart—Cincinnati Reds
5 Category: 22
6 Category: 21
The Reds gave Barnhart an extension before the end of the season. This gives you a clue as to what direction they plan to go in. Pitchers pitch better with him behind the dish than they did with Devin Mesoraco. Catcher defense is becoming more and more advanced in terms of how it gets graded out. As we learn more, more weight gets assigned to it. That’s all well and good for real baseball, but in fantasy baseball you have to look at the cold hard numbers.
Welington Castillo—Free Agent
5 Category: 11
6 Category: 10
Player options are dicey business. Castillo decided to opt out between the first article and this one, so he is officially a free agent. Sure, he hit 20 home runs and every offensive number might point to this being the best time to cash in, but teams aren’t necessarily looking for offensive catchers these days. Where he lands will determine whether he is a fantasy regular. He might be limited by his defense.
Jason Castro—Minnesota Twins
5 Category: 18
6 Category: 14
Castro is about as good an example of the new generation of catchers as we can find. He frames pitches well and pitchers love to work with him. He is solid defensively otherwise, but not spectacular. He hits for some power, but the majority of the value is wrapped up in that defense. He plays almost every day, so he gives you some of the counting numbers. In six category formats he is almost good enough to start.
Francisco Cervelli—Pittsburgh Pirates
5 Category: 19
6 Category: 15
The keys to real baseball and fantasy baseball are not all that unalike. How do we interpret down seasons in real time? Is it the beginning of a trend or a simple blip on the map. Naturally, we have some clues. Playing in only 81 games probably doesn’t help the counting numbers and a .311 BABIP when he carried a .335 career mark could also be a clue. Still, those are high BABIP scores, so maybe he is coming back to earth after a few seasons of over-performing.
Robinson Chirinos—Texas Rangers
5 Category: 27
6 Category: 26
Baseball is my favorite sport because even in horrible seasons there is always a silver lining. The Rangers had a forgettable 2017 season, but they saw some young players develop and Chirinos was one of them. Of course, calling him young might be charitable, but they did find a regular catcher for 2018 when they probably thought they would have to scramble for one at this time last year. The 2017 numbers are hopefully more indicative of where he could end up than the composite numbers.
Willson Contreras—Chicago Cubs
5 Category: 7
6 Category: 5
Obviously, Contreras is one of the prime examples of looking at individual seasons rather than the composite. 2017 is a considerably better model of what we can expect him to be in the future. The average might be a bit high, but he should continue to produce similar run producing numbers given that he missed some time on the disabled list. Plus, the Cubs should be a high scoring team for the foreseeable future and that has a way of increasing individual run production.
Travis d’Arnaud—New York Mets
5 Category: 29
6 Category: 29
The rankings here don’t accurately reflect where he is probably at. The 2013 injury shortened season is bringing the rest of the numbers down. Otherwise, he has been a .250/11/36/38/0/24 catcher in the other four seasons. Then, he was even better than that last season. Still, he has never been healthy enough to be a fantasy regular.
Tyler Flowers—Atlanta Braves
5 Category: 28
6 Category: 26
Current president of SABR Vince Gennaro wrote Diamond Dollars. The book has become a landmark book on the economics of the sport. One of the concepts championed in the book was the notion of a platoon advantage. The idea was that two flawed players could be successfully combined to produce the same as one great one. Flowers and Kurt Suzuki combined for five bWAR last season. That would have cost the Braves nearly 15 million per season conservatively if it had come in the form of one player. Two players producing the same costs a fraction of that. Look for more teams to do this in the future. It will hurt full season fantasy owners, but it’s great for daily players.
Evan Gattis—Houston Astros
5 Category: 10
6 Category: 12
It’s one thing when the Braves run a successful platoon, but it’s another when the World Champions do it. Professional sports are a copycat endeavor, so it will be interesting to see how many teams try to duplicate a successful platoon behind the dish. While the raw numbers don’t say it, both Brian McCann and Gattis were better on a per game basis last season than the year before when both played every day for their respective teams.