Welcome to the Fantasy Roundtable, where the Rotoworld Baseball staff will have a free-flowing discussion about a topic de jour. The back-and-forth between the five of us occurred via email, but we’ve repurposed it in an article for your enjoyment. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, anyway.
Ryan Boyer: Let’s hop into our DeLorean and go five years into the future, shall we?
The year is 2025. What’s your prediction for the top-performing fantasy option at each position? Let’s explore catcher first.
I’m going with a guy who barely has 150 plate appearances in pro ball, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s Draft, Adley Rutschman. Yes, Rutschman still has plenty to prove. However, there’s a reason he’s ranked as the best catching prospect in baseball. The 22-year-old looks like a good bet to hit for both average and power, and he’s also an accomplished defender, enhancing his chances of moving quickly through the Orioles’ system. There’s also the fact that his home park will be Camden Yards, which has helped prop up many a hitter.
What do you guys think?
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Christopher Crawford: Rutschman is the clear top catching prospect in baseball; a switch-hitting backstop who has a chance to hit for average and pop as pointed out by everyone else. He also is a solid defensive catcher, so you don't have to worry about him moving from behind the plate. There are a few other prospects who have a good chance of helping in 2025, however. Joey Bart was the second pick of the 2018 draft, and offers more power than Rutschman and won't crush you in the average category. Daulton Varsho is the rare backstop who can give you stolen bases, and he has a solid approach with developing pop from the left side. Keibert Ruiz, Sam Huff and Luis Campusano are just a select few of the catchers who have a chance to be fantasy relevant in 2025. The catcher position is in as good of shape as it has been in terms of prospect depth as we've seen in a while.
D.J. Short: Rutschman is the best educated guess we have right now. If you look at the top catching options at the moment, many of them will be approaching their mid-30s by 2025. More specifically, J.T. Realmuto will be 34 while Yasmani Grandal will be 36. With the mileage attached to catching regularly, we just can’t expect them to maintain their lofty status in fantasy leagues. One name I’ll throw out there as an alternative is Carson Kelly with the Diamondbacks. He’s not going to be 26 until July and is coming off a year where he slugged 18 homers with an .826 OPS over 365 plate appearances. He made strides with his power and patience while proving to be an excellent framer. Kelly doesn’t have the upside of Rutschman, but I think he’s capable of being a trusted mixed league option five years from now.
Matthew Pouliot: I’m siding with Rutschman as well. Of course, if you had asked me in 2010 who would be fantasy baseball’s top catcher in 2015, I imagine I would have said another unproven Orioles backstop in Matt Wieters.
One player I don’t want to discount here is Gary Sanchez. He’ll be 32 in 2025, and I can envision him being awfully productive as someone who catches twice per week and DHs or plays first base the rest of the time. Alternatively, he might have given up catching entirely by then; he’s most valuable now as a catcher, but I bet his bat would improve without all of the bumps and bruises he sustains behind the plate and he’d prove nearly as valuable at first or as a DH. I have him and Will Smith second and third on my list.
Drew Silva: My vote would be Rutschman, but Will Smith and Sean Murphy also seem like really good long-term bets, and they’ll both be around age 29-30 when the 2025 campaign gets underway.
Smith gave us a taste of his tremendous offensive potential in 2019, delivering a .907 OPS with 15 home runs and 42 RBI over his first 54 major league games for a Dodgers team that has the financial means to keep the lineup well stocked around him for many years to come. Murphy was more of a sleeper in drafts this spring, but he has the goods to be a terrific fantasy option as well if he can stay healthy. A knee injury limited Murphy to 61 games between the minors and majors last year, but he registered a combined .281/.371/.576 batting line with 15 home runs and 39 RBI in those 61 games spread across the rookie-level Arizona League, the Pacific Coast League, and the bigs. I really like the young core in Oakland, and Murphy is a big part of that. Hopefully the cost-conscious A’s will keep the band together.
Boyer: I'm with Matthew on Sanchez, who is the only guy other than Rutschman that I considered for the top spot. He has more upside than anyone else at catcher and that could still conceivably be the case five years from now. However, also like Matthew I have serious doubts about him being a full-time catcher at that point. There's also the durability concern, as Sanchez has played 120 games just once in his career.
I should add that it wouldn't shock me if Willson Contreras is the best fantasy catcher in 2025. He'll turn just 28 in May and posted a career-high .888 OPS in 2019. It's possible that he hasn't hit his offensive peak yet, at least not over a full season, anyway.
Short: I think a year ago we might have been talking about Francisco Mejia and Danny Jansen in this conversation. Is there still reason for hope with them? Mejia at least showed something in the second half last year.
Crawford: It's tough for me to see Jansen reaching those heights, but Mejia is right there for me. He's still tapping into his power, and he's a switch-hitter who can make hard contact to all parts of the field. Let's also not forget that he's still just 24 until October. There's still plenty of reason for optimism there.