Happy New Year, Razzball, hope all is well in your world, whether you’re just starting to tune in to offseason happenings, or have been drafting up a storm since the beginning of October (raises hand). Here in the deep end of the pool, we’ll try to warm up one position at a time, with some quick thoughts about specific players and how the drafts I’ve already participated in have shaped my thoughts about some of their values, as well as the position overall. It won’t be deep-league specific, but we’ll try to include at least a little focus on end-of-draft type guys. I’ve already participated in more drafts than I care to admit at the moment, and while player values are constantly changing, the overall positional landscape won’t. Even if you don’t believe in positional scarcity – and I don’t for the most part – I think it’s important to know what your options are at each position throughout different stages of a draft (or auction) before you start, regardless of the size or format of your league.

We’ll start with the catching position, where your league size and shape (as well as the flow of a draft or auction) may do the most to alter (or help form) a plan of attack mid-draft. The catcher landscape is obviously vastly different in a 10-team mixed league as compared to a 12-team NL or AL only league, so best to be prepared accordingly. As you’ve already seen in Grey’s catcher rankings, a shallow mixed league with one catcher spot provides at least ten solid options, and I’d be one hundred percent on board with just waiting to see who falls to me in that format. But bumping things up to a medium/medium-deep format, say a 15-team, 2 catcher league, alters things rather dramatically — and of course, when you get to 2-catcher AL or NL-only, things really change. So far in 2023, I’ve been a little all over the place in terms of my catcher strategy. I’ve got an NL-only league where I splurged and rostered J.T. Realmuto and Sean Murphy, and I’ve got a mixed league where I took catchers with my last two picks of the draft and ended up with Jose Trevino and Eric Haase. And in one (mixed) league, I split the difference and drafted William Contreras and Danny Jansen. So obviously I don’t have a set-in-stone catcher plan regardless of league type, but I am glad that I spent some time looking over the position early so that I could go with the flow of each draft. So let’s carry on and take a quick, breezy early look at some catchers outside the top 10, and where they are currently fitting into the ADP landscape.

(By the way, I’m using current overall NFBC ADP, hence my annual disclaimer/reminder: ADP should be a useful tool, not a shaky crutch that you’ll regret leaning on. I like to look at earliest and latest drafted as well, and remember that the numbers can look like kind of a math trick — especially as you get late into drafts/players that are only taken in a mid-range or small percentage of drafts. For instance, a couple guys I mention at the end of this post, Jorge Alfaro and Connor Wong, have ADPs of 653 and 700, but have been drafted as high as #317 and #345.)

Looking just outside the top ten we find Tyler Stephenson, who is actually Grey’s #10, but the 11th catcher by NFBC ADP (with an overall ADP #132). He’s just behind Sean Murphy (ADP #128) to complete what I’d consider an ADP tier before we drop down to Cal Raleigh, who’s kind of in a mini half-tier by himself at #154. I like Stephenson a lot this year and, while it’s hard to feel comfortable in deeper leagues relying on a catcher who is coming off a major injury, I think it’s worth the risk here. There’s some definite upside, especially in terms of a rare plus batting average at the position. I’m also more than fine with drafting Murphy here, but I may end up fading Raleigh in 2023. Those 2022 power numbers are super tempting at catcher, but I feel his price is still a bit high since I’m wary of a drop-off, and even more worried that he’ll be a major batting average drain.

When we look at catchers #13-21 (starting with Keibert Ruiz at overall ADP #184, followed by Danny Jansen, Travis d’Arnaud, Jonah Heim, Logan O’Hoppe, Christian Vazquez, Yasmani Grandal, Gabriel Moreno, and Eric Haase at ADP #285), we see just how real a positional drop-off can be, and just how much league format can affect one’s plan for a balanced roster. O’Hoppe (overall ADP #247) could be very interesting if he gets regular playing time for the Angels, which I think is a distinct possibility, but for my money, he’s more of a 15-team mixed league guy to take a flier on, not someone I’d be comfortable counting on in a very deep league without a suitable replacement to turn to. At the moment I’m probably more inclined to draft Moreno at his current price (#258, though likely rising since he was traded) and hope that he can establish himself relatively quickly in Arizona, both in terms of real-life and fantasy value. I’d probably take d’Arnaud, Heim, or Vazquez if they fell to me and hope for the best, but the guy I’m the most interested in in this tier is Jansen. I can already tell I’m higher on him than most of the ‘pert world, Grey included, but it’s not like there’s a lot to lose given the other options. I’m not expecting an MVP season or anything, just feel like he may get more ABs than most are projecting him for and wind up as as a solid pick within this tier. As I mentioned, I’ve already drafted Haase once… I wasn’t excited about it, but if he does what he did last year I think he’s a decent pick at this point. And if he drops off significantly, he should be relatively easy to replace in a 15-team league.

Moving on down closer to the bottom of the catcher barrel, catchers #22-31 take us from ADP #310 overall to #495: Bo Naylor, Joey Bart, Christian Bethancourt, Nick Fortes, Gary Sanchez, Elias Diaz, Jose Trevino, Carson Kelly, Austin Nola, Endy Rodriguez. Yes, it got ugly in a hurry, my friends. Naylor is intriguing, certainly, but it’s hard not to be worried about him being completely overmatched early at the big league level if he gets playing time, so I haven’t pulled the trigger. I also haven’t drafted Endy Rodriguez, but suspect I’ll end up with him on at least one deep re-draft roster in case he gets promoted in May or June or July and hits. (I was thinking this morning about how many medium-depth teams I’ve had the last few years where I was competing for a money spot late in the season and ended up leaving an injured or demoted catcher in my active lineup because I was worried about an active catcher hurting me more in average than he could help me in counting stats… so why not go for the lottery ticket at some point rather than have to worry about how many points Gary Sanchez has cost me in batting average by mid-September). I don’t hate Fortes as an end-of-draft guy who hopefully won’t hurt you too much, and I  have a share each of Bethancourt and Trevino. Like Haase, I think they are both likely to get worse rather than maintain or get better this year, but if they do manage to do what they did last year, great at this point, and if not they are droppable. (Note: Neither Shea Langeliers (#465) and Francisco Alvarez (#469) have catcher eligibility on NFBC, so they may get drafted higher elsewhere… I might grab either very late in the right format, but for the moment am too concerned with Langeliers playing but playing badly, and Alvarez not playing at all. Or playing later in the season and playing badly.)

The rest of these names have an ADP outside the top 500 overall… not much to see here outside of possible escape hatches in deep leagues. Yan Gomes (#526) probably won’t destroy you, and maybe Omar Narvaez (#553, probably rising slightly now that he has a gig in New York) will find a touch of the magic from 2019, when he was actually pretty darn good. Feel free to take a spin with Mike Zunino in Cleveland at #560 if a desperate plea for a little ultra cheap power is your thing (and speaking of that, who knows, maybe Tom Murphy all the way down at #727 will be healthy this year and hit a few homers). I put Francisco Mejia (#566) on one of my rosters hoping for a few bargain basement counting stats, and have rostered Korey Lee (#741) in a draft and hold just in case he makes it to Houston and contributes in 2023. And we’ll close with the three-headed monster in Boston… I can see drafting Reese McGuire (#602) in 2-catcher AL-only, and perhaps even Connor Wong (#700) or minor league deal-recipient Jorge Alfaro (#653) will end up making a non-negative impact in leagues that deep.

So, there’s definitely something for everyone at the position, but unfortunately, most of the somethings aren’t that great, so one final reminder to be aware of the landscape and how it affects the way you may want to construct your roster in your individual league. Hope everyone’s year is off to a great start; if you’ve gotten this far – first, thank you for reading, and second, would love to hear from you in the comments about the state of the catcher position in fantasy baseball, or whatever else is on your mind!

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Powdered Toast Man
Powdered Toast Man
15 days ago

Great to have you back Lara!
In my AL only keeper I am torn between keeping either Verdugo, Kwan or Kirk. It’s an OPS league and it is OF specific, so if Kwan qualifies at LF and RF it helps. I’m already keeping Wander, Julio, Luis Robert and Devers- DHing one the CFs.
McLanahan is my only SP I’m keeping though I have some decent AL #2s.

Advice….

Powdered Toast Man
Powdered Toast Man
Reply to  Laura Holt
14 days ago

Thanks Lara!

snapper
snapper
15 days ago

I just finished Gray’s article on second baseman. Now I read this article on catchers, and I’m realizing that these two positions are really holes. I think I’m going to go with Jansen and keep an eye on Gary Sanchez’s spring.

Great article. Looking forward to a great season.

packers2018
packers2018
15 days ago

Good read Laura, I like your opening paragraph. Few tips in there.

Like you, I have drafted a few teams already, mostly best ball so I don’t have to manage them but it gives me a chance to learn the player pool so I don’t panic during my bigger money leagues which I draft in late March. I like those over mock drafts because with a small entry fee ($20) drafters don’t quit after the first few rounds.

The only top ranked catcher I’ve drafted is Varsho (C/OF), usually in round 5. The thing to remember is it’s not really that great of a pick unless you draft another catcher who will outperform Varsho for a week then Varsho would have to outperform one of your outfielders for both catchers scoring points to count. After looking back at the draft board I realized drafting a catcher early hurt me someplace else which has been stated several times on Razzball.

After a couple drafts I’ve decided not to go catcher early even in best ball and just ride the Ruiz, Jansen, Heim, Raleigh train. Figure you should draft 2 catchers at least in that format.

Jolt In Flow
Jolt In Flow
16 days ago

Laura, you put together some great articles. Thanks for the write-up.

Question; if you had the ability to draft ANY two catchers in an AL-only league, which 2 would you consider optimal?

Hoping Grey has you on a podcast this year. Those might be my favourite. Good listening between you two.

Jolt

bobbyt0805
bobbyt0805
16 days ago

welcome back. missed you.

Richard
Richard
16 days ago

Great to see your article. We single leaguers, SLE’s (pronounced sleaze), really appreciate and rely your insight. Looking forward to the season