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Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Catchers (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Catchers (2024)

Fantasy baseball managers don’t have catcher strategies; they have catcher stances. They have a preferred way to address the position, and they take the same approach year after year. Changes to your stance on catchers are rare and momentous — like a job change or a hairstyle change.

People fall into one of four categories with their catcher stances:

Hoarders — This species can only be found in two-catcher leagues. Some people enjoy having a lot of something that other people are unable to acquire. High-quality catchers are scarce, and some people get obsessive about trying to acquire more than their fair share of s scarce resource.

Big spenders — Not quite as obsessive as the hoarders, the big spenders nevertheless want to get their hands on a top catcher and will overpay to make it happen.

Value shoppers — These level-headed folks don’t want to overpay for a top catcher, but nor do they want to settle for a bottom-of-the-barrel backstop. The value shoppers tackle the position in a budget-conscious way.

Thrifters — Some fantasy managers habitually punt the position, drafting their catchers in the late rounds or spending only a buck or two on catchers in auction leagues.

I’m a value shopper at the position, bordering on being a thrifter. There was a time when I was willing to make bigger investments in catchers, but I was rarely satisfied with the return on investment when I did.

My angle at catcher is a “do no harm” approach. First and foremost, I want to roster catchers who won’t poison my team’s batting average. If I can get some power from my catchers, great. But mostly, I’m looking to inexpensively acquire catchers who aren’t going to bat .207.

I understand the appeal of drafting J.T. Realmuto or Adley Rutschman. They give you a big leg up at the position, offering production that other catchers simply can’t match.

The thing is, Realmuto and Rutschman will be drafted ahead of hitters projected to produce far better numbers. There are at least 20 outfielders who’ll produce better raw offensive stats than Realmuto or Rutschman.

Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo‘s projected 2024 numbers are pretty similar to Rutschman’s, but Rutschman will typically come off the board in the fourth round, according to FantasyPros ADP data, while Nimmo is going in the 13th round. If Rutschman and Nimmo were to produce the exact same numbers, Rutschman would be the more valuable player because that sort of production at catcher is much scarcer than it is in the outfield. But there’s an opportunity cost to conquering positional scarcity by drafting a top catcher. At the point in drafts where Rutschman comes off the board, you could get a dual power/speed guy like Randy Arozarena, a potential ace like George Kirby, or a top closer like Devin Williams.

Getting a top catcher usually means overspending, and overspending is not a habit of successful fantasy baseball managers.

It’s good to acknowledge the realities of the catcher position. There are reasons why high-quality production at catcher is scarce:

  • Catchers tend to play fewer games because of the physical demands of the position.
  • Catchers tend to be slow afoot and not prolific base stealers.
  • Catchers’ hitting skills might suffer because of the time they’re required to put in working with pitchers.
  • Catchers tend to have low batting averages.

On the bright side, it seems as if the catcher position is getting a little deeper thanks to an influx of young talent at the position. It would be a stretch to say we’re entering a golden era of the catcher position, but things look a little better than usual for the value shoppers.

Let’s dive into our catcher tiers. In addition to the rankings and tiers themselves, I’ll offer a few words about some of the players from each tier.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings, Tiers & Strategy: Catchers

(Please note that these rankings are limited to players who appeared in at least 20 games at catcher or played more games there than at any other position.)

Tier 1

J.T. Realmuto (PHI)
Adley Rutschman (BAL)

Adley Rutschman is ahead of J.T. Realmuto in both ADP and the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings. I still prefer Realmuto, even though he’s entering his age-33 season and getting closer to the age cliff. The difference is that Realmuto makes a valuable contribution in the SB category, while Rutschman won’t give you a significant number of stolen bases. Realmuto batted .252 last season, 21 points below his career average, so expect a rebound.

By no means is the Realmuto preference meant as a slight to Rutschman, a cornerstone of the Orioles’ revival. The underlying power metrics suggest that Rutschman might have a 25 HR ceiling, but it wouldn’t be shocking if the young star gave his investors a .300 batting average. Rutschman took 92 walks last season and had 101 strikeouts. Such exceptional command of the strike zone portends a high batting average, and a .300 batting average at a position chock full of .230 hitters would be tremendously valuable.

Tier 2

William Contreras (MIL)
Will Smith (LAD)
Salvador Perez (KC)
Yainer Diaz (HOU)

William Contreras looks like a star in the making after batting .289 for the Brewers last season with 17 HRs and 78 RBI. Contreras batted .314 after the All-Star break and Statcast says his average exit velocity is 81st percentile. There’s a lot to like here, although Contreras won’t be cheap after his 2023 breakout.

Will Smith has provided his stakeholders with at least 19 home runs and 76 RBI in each of the last three seasons. He scored a career-high 80 runs last season. Smith has a career batting average of .261 and has never batted lower than .253 in his MLB career. One drawback: The Dodgers are cautious with his playing time. Smith has never played more than 137 games or had more than 508 at-bats in a single season.

We know that Salvador Perez can mash. His 48 HR, 121 RBI season in 2021 was an outlier, but Big Sal has hit 23 home runs in each of the last two years, with 76 RBI in 2022 and 80 RBI in 2023. The concern here is age. Perez turns 34 in May. We’ve already seen some slippage in his batting average. He has a .267 career average, but he’s batted .254 and .255 the last two seasons. Don’t overpay.

A young hitting savant, 25-year-old Yainer Diaz posted a .282 batting average and smacked 20 home runs in 355 at-bats. Diaz isn’t a very selective hitter (74 strikeouts, 11 walks last year), but an 81st percentile barrel rate and 69th percentile average exit velocity show how dangerous he is with the bat. Diaz will be nestled into a loaded Astros lineup, so the run and RBI totals could be spicy.

Tier 3

Gabriel Moreno (ARI)
Sean Murphy (ATL)
Willson Contreras (STL)

Gabriel Moreno drew a lot of attention during the 2023 playoffs with four home runs and 12 RBI for the Diamondbacks over 17 postseason games. Moreno had a 55% groundball rate during the regular season, so it’s probably not realistic to expect more than 12-15 home runs from him in 2024. But Moreno batted .304 over the second half of the season and will be entering his age-24 season.

Willson Contreras has delivered at least 20 home runs in three straight seasons, and his .264 batting average last season was his highest since 2019. But Contreras was benched early last season for poor defense, and the Cardinals might be less inclined than other franchises to overlook defensive sloppiness after being spoiled by Yadier Molina for so many years.

Tier 4

Cal Raleigh (SEA)
Mitch Garver (SEA)
Bo Naylor (CLE)
Francisco Alvarez (NYM)

Cal Raleigh and Francisco Alvarez offer power at a price. Raleigh has belted 57 home runs over the last two years, but his career-high .232 batting average last season dragged his career average up to .217. Alvarez has fantasy managers salivating after smacking 25 home runs in 382 at-bats as a 21-year-old. But Alvarez batted .209 and struck out 110 times. Chase the HRs at the risk of severely damaging your team BA.

Mitch Garver is slated to be the Mariners’ primary DH and bat in the middle of their lineup. He’s 33 and injury-prone, but Garver will rake when he’s healthy.

Cleveland’s Bo Naylor could come on fast. He belted 11 home runs in just 198 at-bats, and while his batting average for the season was just .232, Naylor batted .327 in September with a .487 OBP. He’s also one of the few catchers who offers double-digit stolen base potential. Naylor is entering his age-24 season.

Tier 5

Logan O’Hoppe (LAA)
Jonah Heim (TEX)
Alejandro Kirk (TOR)
Keibert Ruiz (WAS)
Shea Langeliers (OAK)
Tyler Stephenson (CIN)

Logan O’Hoppe flashed impressive power in his rookie season, hitting 15 home runs in 271 at-bats. He also batted a respectable .255, although his .220 batting average and .275 OBP against right-handers are worrisome.

Jonah Heim led all catchers with 95 RBI last season. He also turned in a respectable .258 batting average, but Heim’s career batting average going into 2023 was just .214, so expect some regression in that category.

It’s too early to give up on Cincinnati’s Tyler Stephenson, who entered 2023 with a career batting average of .296 in 533 at-bats but only hit .242 last year. There are concussion concerns with Stephenson, and the power hasn’t materialized yet for this 6-4, 225-pound backstop. But he won’t kill you on batting average, and Stephenson might not have tapped his full potential yet.

Tier 6

Ryan Jeffers (MIN)
Danny Jansen (TOR)
Travis d’Arnaud (ATL)
Elias Diaz (COL)
Luis Campusano (SD)
Yan Gomes (CHC)
Jake Rogers (DET)

Ryan Jeffers hit 14 home runs for the Twins last season in 286 at-bats. He also batted .276 and had an OBP of .369. The batting average is destined to come down, but if Jeffers can provide power without being a BA liability, he could be a bargain at a bargain-basement price.

Injuries have thwarted Danny Jansen in recent seasons, and he carries a .224 career batting average into his age-29 season. But the power is legit. Over the last three years, Jansen has bopped 43 home runs in 667 at-bats.

Luis Campusano could provide power with a decent batting average, but he has only 266 MLB plate appearances under his belt, so growing pains are inevitable.

Tier 7

Gary Sanchez (FA)
Christian Vazquez (MIN)
James McCann (BAL)
Yasmani Grandal (FA)
Christian Bethancourt (MIA)
Carson Kelly (DET)r

You know the story with Gary Sanchez: He’ll bring you prodigious power but an unsightly batting average. Sanchez was a free agent as of this writing.

Christian Vazquez had been a good do-no-home catcher for most of his career, but he batted .223 last year and will turn 34 in August. Vazquez clubbed 23 home runs back in 2019 but hasn’t provided double-digit HRs in any of his other eight MLB seasons.

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