Fantasy Baseball 2021 Catcher Shuffle Up: Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the cheat code

·4 min read

Catcher is a pain in the neck, as usual. But at least we have a few options we can feel good about.

Here’s the usual preamble, which will be a review to many of you:

Shuffle Up season is here. How would we rank and sort players if a fantasy league were assembling from scratch right this second? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Included on this list is everyone roster-worthy who qualifies as catcher in the Yahoo game.

I will not debate ranks on injured players. Of course, baseball is most fun when the best players are healthy and doing their thing; I root for everybody. But these weekly staples are not meant to be injury arguments.

If you have different ranks and thoughts, that’s great! That’s why we have a game, and that’s the soul of what fantasy baseball is.

The numbers are more gut-feel than scientific, and there’s no formula here. You’re getting my instinct take on the market at this point in time. Players at the same number are considered even.

I may tweak this list within the opening 24 hours of publishing. I welcome your feedback on Twitter: @scott_pianowski.

To the ranks.

The Big Tickets

$19 JT Realmuto

$18 Carson Kelly

$17 Isiah Kiner-Falefa

$17 Salvador Perez

$15 Buster Posey

$15 Willson Contreras

Kiner-Falefa is one of our favorite things in fantasy baseball, a catcher-eligible player who isn’t burdened with the business of catching. It allows him to play a lot more often — he’s the runaway leader in at-bats on this list, with working-class hero Perez in second. Falefa doesn’t have great slugging numbers but he’ll still hit a few homers and run proactively. His outstanding infield defense also protects his spot in the lineup . . . Kelly looks like a bonafide star, with more walks than strikeouts and a bunch of statcast data that’s pinned to the right (the good side). Kelly almost never chases a bad pitch and is a consistent barrel machine. Arizona’s offense has been better than expected, too, fourth overall in runs.

The year off appears to have done a world of good for Posey, body and mind. I toyed with ranking him a little higher, but he’s an obvious hold in all formats regardless. All of his hard-hit metrics are good, and although .385 averages never last, he’s earned a .321 average to this point. And most importantly, the power has come back, too.

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - APRIL 13: Isiah Kiner-Falefa #9 of the Texas Rangers fields a ball during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on April 13, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Isiah Kiner-Falefa plays shortstop for Texas, but fantasy managers love utilizing him at the thin catcher position. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Secondary Options

$12 Yadier Molina

$12 Christian Vazquez

$11 Yasmani Grandal

$8 Will Smith

$7 Mike Zunino

$7 Sean Murphy

$7 Gary Sanchez

$6 Mitch Garver

Zunino has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, but he also has the best barrel rate among the catchers. When he makes contact, get ready in the bleachers . . . Molina is mostly guile over skills at this point, but he’s always been one of the smartest players in the game. And the Cardinals still give him favorable real estate in the lineup, which buoys the run production . . . Murphy’s chase rate has spiked, which is what happens when someone is pressing. Until we have a more developed picture, his career slash (.218/.340/.444) is probably the place to bet; a take-and-rake guy with pop, but there will be batting average valleys . . . The Dodgers said they didn’t want to run Smith into the ground, and so far they’ve been true to their word.

Worth a Conversation

$5 James McCann

$5 Austin Nola

$4 Dom Nunez

$4 Willians Astudillo

$4 Yan Gomes

$3 Tucker Barnhart

$3 Kyle Higashioka

$3 Jacob Stallings

$3 Pedro Severino

$2 Stephen Vogt

$2 Victor Caratini

$2 Tyler Stephenson

$2 William Contreras

$1 Jason Castro

$1 Jose Trevino

$1 Tom Murphy

Nola hadn’t hit a lick since the Padres traded for him last year, but I’m going to give him a few weeks off the latest injury before I give up . . . Sanchez is a power bat in the Bronx but his defense is a problem. Higashioka has the defense to play more, it’s just a matter of how much he’ll hit . . . Nunez has to be considered in two-catcher formats for the geography. Gravity always wins. Colorado’s weather has been unfavorable thus far, as it often is for the spring. There will be glorious payback later . . . Barnhart has a strikeout problem and he's been crazy-lucky with his batted balls. Statcast says his true average should be .212. Fun run, but it's not real. 

Provisional Injury Ranks — Not For Debate

$6 Wilson Ramos

$4 Omar Narvaez

$4 Jorge Alfaro

$3 Alejandro Kirk

$2 Roberto Perez

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