Catcher is always a difficult position in fantasy baseball, and with news that Gary Sanchez will miss about a month due to injury, even those who picked up an early-round option are finding it difficult to start a quality backstop in their leagues.
Give us a shallow league (available in over 50 percent of leagues) and deep league/two-catcher league (available in over 75 percent of leagues) option you're looking to add if you need to replace Sanchez or another injured or ineffective catcher.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: The two catchers to get are John Hicks (available in more than 70 percent of ESPN leagues) and Tom Murphy (available in more than 95 percent). In Hicks' case, he provides a volume advantage that few other catcher-eligibles can -- Evan Gattis being one of the few others -- in that Hicks should serve as the Detroit Tigers' regular first baseman with Miguel Cabrera lost for the season. Since the beginning of last season, Hicks is a .275/.325/.437 hitter, slash rates matched or exceeded (all three, that is) by only Buster Posey, J.T. Realmuto and Kurt Suzuki among players with at least 250 plate appearances during that time span.
Murphy, meanwhile, is a bat-first prospect who calls Coors Field home, which should really be all the explanation any fantasy manager needs. It's his recent uptick in playing time that has caught my eye. He has started nine of the team's past 14 games, signaling that he's now the Colorado Rockies' starter and probably will remain it as long as he hits.
AJ Mass: Suzuki (46.5 percent rostered) has slashed .366/.438/.537 in June and the primary reason for the lack of fantasy respect for the 34-year-old backstop is the timeshare he's in with Tyler Flowers. Atlanta's catching duties were supposed to be mostly Flowers, but he got hurt two swings into the season and it's been a near 50-50 split since his late-April return. Among catchers with at least 100 at-bats, Suzuki is tied for sixth in the league in slugging for the season, while striking out at only a 10.4 percent rate, his best since 2014. Regardless of the format, I'd be completely satisfied with this level of production at this position.
If you're looking for a reach at the position in a deep league, I suggest taking a chance with Kevin Plawecki of the Mets. While he's pretty much on the short end of a 4-3 timeshare with Devin Mesoraco behind the plate, his bat has been impressive enough of late that manager Mickey Callaway was willing to start him at first base on Monday. Since June 3, Plawecki is batting .267 with a healthy .838 OPS. For the season, his hard-hit rate is a solid 43.6 percent, and I can only envision more playing time going forward as his bat continues to stay hot.
Kyle Soppe: For me, the answer in shallower leagues is quality of at-bats over quantity. Suzuki is available in more than half of leagues and I just don't get it. Yes, I understand that he has yet to record 70 at-bats in any single month this season, but the man is hitting .285 and batting fifth in a promising offense that is only going to get better. With a career contact rate north of 87 percent and drastic improvements in the quality-of-contact department in consecutive seasons, Suzuki is the type of option I'd be looking at in a "don't hurt me" sort of way ... and listen, that's essentially the state of the catcher position below the top tier.
In deeper leagues, I want a specialist. Well-rounded talent is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to find on the wire, so why not embrace what a player does well? James McCann is the poster boy for this mindset, as you can plug him in when a southpaw is on the mound and sit him otherwise in a daily transaction league. If your league is weekly, I'd play him any time that the Tigers are slated to face multiple lefties and consider leaving the catcher spot open otherwise. He holds a .235 ISO with the platoon advantage this season, an extension of the .260 he posted in 2017. The plate skills and contact numbers are very impressive in this split, giving him the ability to be a positive player if used correctly.