Coming off our last installment of Top Starting Pitcher Keepers, this one is a little bit of a let down. Catchers – you can’t live with them, and in fantasy baseball, we can’t live without them.
This is a position that is not deep and not that talented after the top tier of backstops. You may get a catcher who has power but kills your average and on-base percentage. Or you may get a catcher who hits well and gets on base, but has no power at all.
There are very few perfect catchers in baseball, and the few that are close are going to be tough to get or trade for due to the scarcity of those players. But you almost feel compelled to try to go after them or hang onto them a year or two too long because for every Adley Rutschmans, there are two Martin Maldonados who just kill your team.
I came up with forty catchers to rank, but that is mostly to help fantasy owners who play in 20-team (or more) leagues or the leagues that require two catchers. If you are in a 12- to 16-team league, the Tier 4 and perhaps Tier 3 players will likely mean nothing to you.
Anyway, let’s get to the 2024 Top Keepers – Catchers.
*Age as of April 1, 2024
The Past and the Future
Yan Gomes will be 36 heading into next season, but he still earns a place on this list because he somehow drove in 63 runs for the Cubs and had a slash line of .267/.408/.723 in 116 games. Here is a fact that is somewhat telling of how bad catchers are – his .267 average is the highest of anyone in this tier and ranked 12th out of the 57 catchers I looked at.
Will Gomes produce those numbers again next season? Well, if you are at the point where you are considering keeping Gomes, then might as take the gamble and say yes to that question.
Miguel Amaya is more than a decade younger than Gomes and could/should/will/might be the No. 1 catcher for the Cubs next year. But that is a big if considering his .214/.329/.359 slash line. But with Gomes obviously on the downside of his career, Amaya may be worth a look in really deep leagues.
He’s no Buster…
The Giants will likely forever be looking for the next Buster Posey, which really isn’t fair to current and future Giants catchers. But perhaps Patrick Bailey can do enough to be a facsimile of Posey. In 326 at-bats he slashed .233/.285/.359 with seven homers and 48 RBI. But be weary of this stat – he struck out 100 times for a 28.3 strikeout rate.
The Youth Tier
If you are going to keep catchers on your roster, you might as well go with youth and possible upside. Of the 10 players in this tier, eight of them are 28 or younger. The lone holdout representing the over-30 crowd is Seattle catcher Tom Murphy. Murphy appeared in only 41 games but was productive when healthy, slashing .290/.335/.538 with eight home runs. He’s not going to unseat Cal Raleigh as the starting catcher, but as a handcuff to Raleigh he is a solid keeper
Joey Bart has not been close to filling the shoes of Posey in San Francisco. But I’m not going to ready to give up on him yet. I can’t give you a solid explanation other than that is what my gut is telling me.
I’m also still a believer in Alejandro Kirk, despite the fact that he killed me all year after trading for him in two leagues last offseason. His stats dropped off across the board this season, but he will only be 25 next season. Is Kirk the catcher we saw in 2022 or the one we saw this season? My gut is telling me he is closer to the 2022 version, but I’m not 100 percent sure of that and thus why he falls into this tier.
Nice Power, But That Average!
If Shea Langeliers and Jake Rogers hit for average, they would be great catchers to keep. Unfortunately, one hit .205 with 143 strikeouts in 490 plate appearances and the other hit .221 with 118 strikeouts in 365 plate appearances.
Langeliers is the one who hit .205 to go along with a .268 OBP. But sometimes you have to give something up in order to get something, right? In this case, Langeliers gives you power as he hit 22 dingers in 448 at-bats and slugged .413. Rogers nearly duplicated what Langeliers did as he hit .221 with a .286 OBP, but he hit 21 homers and slugged .444.
If you don’t care about a catcher’s slash line, then these two catchers are for you.
The Beginning of the End?
J.T. Realmuto had another solid season for the Phillies. The power is still there (20 homers) and the speed is still there (16 steals). But his .252 batting average and .310 OBP were the worst of his career while his .762 OPS and 106 OPS+ were the lowest since his rookie season. Perhaps this season was just a down season in those areas, but perhaps it is a sign of a slow decline.
Without knowing the future, I’m not going to have him plummet in the rankings, but I can’t put him in the Top 10 coming off the season he had.
Older But Still Slugging
Mitch Garver has never been able to be a regular in the lineup, but when he plays, he produces. He has a career slash line of .252/.342/.483 and hit 31 homers for the Twins in 2019 in only 311 at-bats. He is coming off a nice 19-homer season for the Rangers with a .500 slugging percentage. Texas has used him as a DH throughout the playoffs, so perhaps he will get a few more opportunities there next season when Jonah Heim is behind the plate.
Meanwhile, it seems Salvador Perez will never stop producing for the Royals. Felix Fermin, who had a nice season for the Royals and is ranked 27th here, will likely take on even more of the catching duties in 2024. But Perez still started 90 games behind the plate and as a bonus can play first base in fantasy leagues. He hit 23 homers and had not hit less than 21 homers in a full season since 2014 (he missed all of 2019 with an elbow injury).
Moreno had a really nice slash line this past season (.284/.339/.408) but needs to develop his power more after hitting only seven this year. Naylor has shown power potential thanks to his .470 slugging percentage and 11 home runs in 67 games, but he hit .237 with a .339 OBP.
Ruiz and Alvarez can easily be Top 10 catchers by the end of next season. Alvarez has crazy power, smashing 25 home runs and driving in 63 runs while slugging .437. But he had a 26% strikeout rate and hit .209 with a .284 OBP. Ruiz had a sneaky good season for the Nationals. The switch-hitter slashed .260/.308/.409 and struck out only 58 times in 562 plate appearances (10.3% strikeout rate). He also hit 18 homers and drove in 67.
In a straight keeper league, I like where I have him ranked right now (as well as Alvarez) but if you’re in a dynasty league and looking three to five years down the line, then these two are under-ranked as they will only get better.
The “Solid” Dudes
Cal Raleigh is not going to help your batting average or OBP, but he sure is going to help your power numbers. He slugged 30 homers for the Mariners to lead all catchers and his 75 RBI ranked sixth while also slugging .456. I would have loved to see what Logan O’Hoppe would have done if he was healthy all season, but I saw enough of him to put at No. 9 in these rankings.
O’Hoppe appeared in only 51 games but he hit 14 home runs and slugged .500, fourth among catchers. He did have a less-than-desirable average of .236 and OBP of .296, but his 162-game average is 40 homers and 90 RBI. He’s not going to play 162 games next year, but he can easily hit 25 homers if not get close to 30 if he stays healthy.
Ryan Jeffers didn’t have an eye-popping number of homers (14), but his slash line was top-10 across the board among catchers – 8th best average (.276), 4th best OBP (.369) and 7th best SLG (.490). His OPS of .858 ranked 3rd as did his OPS+ of 134. Basically, he had a great season.
The “Old” Dudes
Willson Contreras is now over 30 and Sean Murphy and Will Smith are closing in on 30, but all three are still productive at the plate. Contreras hit 20 homers while slashing .264/.358/.467 this past season for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Murphy hit 21 homers and slashed .251/.365/.478 and Smith had 19 homers and a solid .261/.359/.438 slash line.
Their age is the different between where they are ranked and the top four catchers. If you like the known, go with these four players. They aren’t suddenly going to stop producing and thus very good keepers for the next year or two.
The “Young” Dudes
Luis Campusano, Yainer Diaz, William Contreras and Adley Rutschman could have their names thrown into a hat and whatever order they are pulled out would be fine with me if that determined their rankings. But since we like to have a number next to the name of the player, I went with Campusano at No. 4 then Diaz, Contreras and Rutschman.
Campusano appeared in only 49 games for the Padres, but he certainly produced. He slashed .319/.356/.491, ranking 1st, 8th and 6th in those categories among catchers. Then there is Diaz. He was stuck in Rookie Prison by Dusty Baker in Houston as he played in only 104 games and got 377 plate appearances. Diaz hit 23 home runs, had a .282 batting average and slugged .538 – second among catchers. Diaz doesn’t draw walks, but his power is real and he should easily top 30 homers and approach 35 dingers as the everyday catcher next year, especially with Dusty Baker retired.
Contreras the Younger slashed .291/.369/.459 for Milwaukee, making the Brewers look very smart for trading for him. He also added 17 homers and 78 RBI. By a hair I put Rutschman at No. 1.
With the spotlight always on him due to where he was drafted, he helped carry the Orioles this year, playing in 154 games while hitting 20 homers and driving in 80. He also slashed .277/.374/.435.
Come Back Next Week
Thanks for reading this week and come back next week when the 2024 Top Keepers will move to first base.