Now a few weeks into a new year, fantasy baseball enthusiasts are beginning to prepare for – even participate in – various types of drafts. An important part of that preparation process is digging through the farm systems of all 30 MLB organizations to uncover the next crop of potent producers. Below are the top-five catcher prospects that could emerge for fantasy managers in 2023.
(Each player included still holds MLB Rookie eligibility)
Be sure to check out each installment of FantasyPros’ Top 5 Prospects Per Position series:
- Top 5 Prospects Per Position: First Base
- Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Second Base
- Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Shortstop
- Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Third Base
Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Catcher
Even though Moreno exceeded rookie limits with his total time on the Blue Jays’ active roster last year, he is still included here since he has seen just 73 MLB plate appearances to this point. In other words, fantasy managers have not yet had the opportunity to benefit from Moreno’s outstanding bat-to-ball skills for a significant period of time.
In the not so distant past, Moreno was viewed as one of the top overall prospects in the game. The Blue Jays entered the offseason with a logjam at catcher, so they made the decision to deal Moreno to Arizona in exchange for Daulton Varsho. With veteran Carson Kelly now basically being his only competition for playing time, the move to the desert should result in a substantial number of at-bats for Moreno. His athleticism and arm behind the plate will help him too.
Moreno has yet to show off much home-run power, but his hit tool is one of the best among any young player. Over 373 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A the past two years, he has hit .330 with 11 homers and 25 doubles. Those numbers came alongside a promising 16.4-percent strikeout rate. Moreno kept it up in his limited big-league sample, batting .319 with an 11.0-percent K rate. There may soon be no better source for batting average at the position.
Alvarez possesses serious power, and that is what has carried him to the top of the Mets’ prospect list as well as the top spot overall on some MLB-prospect lists. The 21-year-old slugger received a cup of coffee in the majors this past fall, but it’s his numbers across four levels of the minors the last two years that indicate what he may become as soon as this year for the Mets.
In 2021, at age 19, Alvarez played 99 games between Single-A and High-A. Over 400 combined plate appearances between the two stops, he slugged .554 with 24 homers – second most among minor-league teenagers. The native of Venezuela followed that up in 2022 by slugging .511 with 27 deep drives in 495 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A.
The Mets brought in veteran Omar Narvaez via free agency and resigned Tomas Nido this offseason. The duo will most likely be the only catchers on the MLB roster come Opening Day. Still, neither will hold Alvarez back long if he continues to rake as he has. He could still use some additional refining on the defensive side in the minors, but there is the possibility he gets early at-bats as a right-handed DH for the Mets as well.
After emerging with a solid Single-A campaign in 2021, Rodriguez played at three levels of the Pirates’ system last year. The bulk of his time came at High-A Greensboro where he put up a strong .302/.392/.544 slash line with 16 home runs and 23 doubles over 88 games.
Rodriguez actually turned in even better numbers at the Double-A level, hammering his way to a 1.120 OPS with eight homers across 138 plate appearances. That would result in a quick promotion to Triple-A for the 22 year old. Though it was only a six-game sample for Rodriguez in Indianapolis, he went 10-for-22 with four extra-base hits and only three strikeouts. Simply put, the switch-hitter can swing it.
Rodriguez has not only played catcher in his career. He has also been able to show off his athleticism with notable time at first base, second base and left field as well over the past couple of years. That versatility should assist him in getting to the bigs soon and finding additional at-bats. The Pirates brought in Austin Hedges via free agency in December, but he is not the type of player that will block Rodriguez’s eventual callup to the show.
Another prospect that has been traded within the past several months, O’Hoppe was dealt by the Phillies to the Angels in exchange for Brandon Marsh at last year’s trade deadline. The soon-to-be 23 year old played exclusively for the Double-A affiliates of both clubs before making the jump to the show and appearing in five games for the Angels during the final week of the 2022 regular season.
At the Double-A level last year, O’Hoppe really came into his own with a breakout campaign at the plate. The former 23-round draft selection posted an impressive .961 OPS with 26 home runs across 447 plate appearances. In addition, he drew 70 free passes (15.7%) while only striking out 74 times (16.6%).
O’Hoppe seems to have a great shot to open the season as the No. 1 catcher for the Angels with veteran Max Stassi backing him up. O’Hoppe blocks and receives well behind the plate and his arm is expected to play well at the highest level too. As far as fantasy production goes, a decent AVG with 15-20 homers is a reasonable expectation if he lands the gig coming out of spring training.
Like O’Hoppe, Naylor got into a few MLB games at the end of the regular season last year. Also like O’Hoppe, Naylor should be in line to see substantial playing time from the outset of the upcoming regular season.
Offseason free-agent acquisition Mike Zunino is quite likely to begin the campaign with the starting gig behind the plate, but the Guardians will want to see what Naylor can give them following a breakout season in the minors. A former first-round pick from 2018, Naylor played 118 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022, recording a .263/.392/.496 slash line with 21 homers and 20 stolen bases. That OBP should stand out, as it largely came as a result of a lofty 16.1-percent walk rate.
Batting from opposite sides of the plate, Naylor and Zunino could complement each other quite well in 2023. Naylor’s left-handed swing would put him on the strong side of that potential platoon. He will need to make some strides defensively, but his bat and speed should make him a dual-threat fantasy asset at a premium position.
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