Ah, catchers. What to do with them, and when to do it? I’ve gone into my drafts this year without a set plan at catcher and as a result, have ended up all over the place. I think most would agree that the position isn’t as barren as it once was and that there are more decent-to-solid catchers available than there used to be… but then does this mean that it’s less sensible than ever to get a top catcher? Or that it’s even more important to have a good one since with more production coming from that spot you’ll be giving your competition too much of a leg up if you basically punt the position?

Grey has already ranked all of the catchers for you, and while there is no catcher I’m willing to reach for when it comes to mid-level guys, I have several that I like quite well. Two of my favorite targets are Grey’s #9 and #10, Jonah Heim, and Willson Contreras. The next tier has some potential solid choices as well depending on what you’re looking for and when: Bo Naylor, Sean Murphy, Luis Campusano, Gabriel Moreno, and Mitch Garver to name a handful that I’d be happy to draft in the right league at the right time. I think it’s not only important to know which catchers you like and how you’d group them all in terms of tiers, but beyond that, think just as much about how you’d value them in terms of every other hitter at every other position (and the pitchers too, for that matter). I mean, don’t let that little blank spot next to the C on your roster panic you into passing on a solid starter!

It’s always important to draft based on league size and format, roster requirements, and vagaries of an individual draft or auction, but I feel this is never more true than when it comes to your catcher(s). I have guys I like (or like better than their alternatives at any rate) from the top, middle, and bargain basement tiers. I have one 15-team (2-catcher) mixed draft and hold team where I went big (Grey, if you are reading this please close your eyes and skip to the next paragraph) and drafted Adley Rutschman, followed a bit later by Yainer Diaz. In the same format in another league, I waited until the last moment and have Tom Murphy and Connor Wong in my active lineup. It was all about value to my particular team in the moment, and both how I valued the catchers that were available throughout my drafts in relation to the other players available, and my roster needs.

As I mentioned last week, so far I’ve drafted mostly draft and hold teams, with no FAAB or free agent pick ups, where I’m also competing with hundreds of teams in an overall tournament in addition to my own league. I didn’t really think I’d end up with Adley on a team, but if I did, I knew it’d probably be in this format. Before I started drafting this year, I looked at teams at the top of last year’s overall standings, and many if not most had taken a catcher early. Somewhat obviously, the top teams had good players throughout their rosters; to rise to the top of the standings you need a better-than-average catcher to go along with better-than-average infielders and outfielders. Without free agents, I think I personally am likely to succeed in taking a top catcher and looking for a handful of outfielders and infielders later who end up seriously outperforming their draft spots than the other way around. Yes, catchers will come crawling out of the woodwork occasionally to make a solid fantasy impact, but there’s nothing I can do about those that appear in June or July if my roster has been frozen since January or February.

In a more standard league with a waiver wire, I’m less inclined to draft a top catcher, but once again it’s about adapting to the league. I have a couple such leagues I’ve been playing in for years and am quite familiar with my competition, and yet I still don’t feel super comfortable with flying by the seat of my catching pants in-season. This is largely because I know several of these owners are weirdly catcher-focused, and probably likely to beat me to my late-round catching targets during a draft, as well beating me to the waiver wire in-season. In these leagues, I think I’m better at identifying closers-in-waiting, as an example, than I am at finding catching diamonds in the rough… so I’m more inclined to spend a little more on what I think will be a solid catcher and figuring out closer later rather than the reverse. You can’t always know what your opposition’s tendencies are, but you can work to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses as an owner, in addition to knowing the ins and outs of your league rules and format.

Anyhow, there is a big, big blob of catchers in the middle tiers, all of whom could hit anywhere between .220 and .265, with somewhere between 7 and 22 homers. I didn’t always do a great job picking out of the blob last year (looking directly at Alejandro Kirk right now), but am hoping things improve this year. Since I draft many teams, one way I hope to improve my catching results in 2024 is simply by amortizing my risk. I’m not going to hoard shares of one or two guys I hope will outperform their draft position, like I, unfortunately, did with Kirk in 2023. And the great thing is that there are a surprising number of players who I don’t hate in the middle of the blob. Heim may end up being just meh, but I do think he’s a guy who stands a decent chance of finding a new level, and it’s difficult not to get excited about him continuing to hit in such a solid lineup. I like Keibert Ruiz, in addition to Campusano and Moreno, to have a halfway decent chance of actually helping me in average this year, which could be reason alone to add them to the right rosters. I’m cautiously optimistic that both Logan O’Hoppe and Bo Naylor kick it up a notch this year – again, enough that I’ll roster them at the right time, but at not going to reach for either. I’m intrigued by Naylor’s (relative) speed, which is the same reason I’ve already drafted Connor Wong late. If either of them can steal 7 or 8 (10 if we squint really really hard?) bases this year, that piques my interest, particularly in certain deeper leagues. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up rostering Sean Murphy in an OBP league this season.

And there are so many dart throws even later. Sure, most of those darts will fly right by the board and land somewhere inconvenient, but they’re so cheap that you may as well take a few shots. I read one Fangraphs article explaining why Patrick Bailey is going to start hitting this year, which was enough to add him to my bench in one league — granted, I’m not exactly sold and that’ll likely be my only share, but just in case. (Speaking of the Giants, I mentioned I already drafted Tom Murphy; that is a case where less might be more. If I can get a handful of homers from him in limited playing time, great, and he may even hit for a decent average… and if he doesn’t, it won’t hurt too much without the AB volume of an everyday catcher). I was actually sad to get sniped on Yan Gomes in one draft because I think he could provide the kind of medium floor in a deep league that is actually a boon to receive from your second catcher. And among Ryan Jeffers, Jake Rogers, and Shea Langeliers, at least one of them’s bound to hit a bunch of homers without absolutely obliterating your average or OBP, right? Just know which roster you can afford which risks on, and hopefully, we’ll all come through the once-dark catching tunnel to find a ray or two of light this season.

Good luck with your drafts, feel free to drop a comment or question, and as always thanks for reading!