The Catcher Renaissance

The Catcher Renaissance

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

For over a year now, I've been referencing the fact that we are entering a catcher renaissance in fantasy, but I haven't written about it specifically. Now, as I work on the final 2022 update to the top 400 prospect rankings, which will be up on the site next week, the wealth of young catching talent is more apparent than ever. 

The catcher position used to be a complete wasteland, with a few high-end, reliable options, and a bunch of Mike Zunino's or Christian Vazquez's, forcing you to choose between power and a bad average or a solid average and underwhelming power. However, in the coming years, I think there will be enough quality offensive catchers that starting a second catcher in the UTIL spot could be a viable move in deeper one-catcher leagues, and perhaps even in some competitive 12- and 15-team two-catcher leagues.

Let's start with the 13 established big-league catchers who I think most would agree are desirable options for 2023. In this table, I'm including the catcher's rank at the position on my last dynasty update from Aug. 11, the order of selection at the position from the first seven-round NFBC draft I participated in on Aug. 18, and earned auction dollars to date.

CatcherDynasty Rank2023 ADP2022 Earned $
Adley Rutschman14$5
Will Smith23$17
Alejandro Kirk37$10
Willson Contreras46$9
William Contreras5Undrafted$7
Daulton Varsho65$20

For over a year now, I've been referencing the fact that we are entering a catcher renaissance in fantasy, but I haven't written about it specifically. Now, as I work on the final 2022 update to the top 400 prospect rankings, which will be up on the site next week, the wealth of young catching talent is more apparent than ever. 

The catcher position used to be a complete wasteland, with a few high-end, reliable options, and a bunch of Mike Zunino's or Christian Vazquez's, forcing you to choose between power and a bad average or a solid average and underwhelming power. However, in the coming years, I think there will be enough quality offensive catchers that starting a second catcher in the UTIL spot could be a viable move in deeper one-catcher leagues, and perhaps even in some competitive 12- and 15-team two-catcher leagues.

Let's start with the 13 established big-league catchers who I think most would agree are desirable options for 2023. In this table, I'm including the catcher's rank at the position on my last dynasty update from Aug. 11, the order of selection at the position from the first seven-round NFBC draft I participated in on Aug. 18, and earned auction dollars to date.

CatcherDynasty Rank2023 ADP2022 Earned $
Adley Rutschman14$5
Will Smith23$17
Alejandro Kirk37$10
Willson Contreras46$9
William Contreras5Undrafted$7
Daulton Varsho65$20
J.T. Realmuto71$23
MJ Melendez88$5
Salvador Perez92$11
Tyler Stephenson149$-3
Sean Murphy15Undrafted$10
Danny Jansen17Undrafted$0
Travis d'ArnaudUnrankedUndrafted$9

We also have Cal Raleigh, Yasmani Grandal, Keibert Ruiz, Jonah Heim and others lingering as fine redraft options in two-catcher leagues. Those guys are more for the drafter who is specifically intent on bargain hunting at the position, which is not my approach in redraft or dynasty.

Now let's get to the very best prospects at the position — all 10 of these prospects are easily in my top 100, which is a crazy thing to say when considering I'd usually rank three or four catchers as top 100 prospects just a few years ago. In this table I am including the order in which these prospects will be ranked on next week's update, along with their team and ETA.

RankCatcherTeamETA
1Bo NaylorCLE2023
2Tyler SoderstromOAK2023
3Endy RodriguezPIT2023
4Diego CartayaLAD2024
5Francisco AlvarezNYM2023
6Harry FordSEA2025
7Logan O'HoppeLAA2022
8Henry DavisPIT2023
9Kevin ParadaNYM2024
10Austin WellsNYY2024

We also have a bunch of other solid prospects at the position, such as Gabriel Moreno, Yainer Diaz, Shea Langeliers, Edgar Quero, Dalton Rushing, Drew Romo, and on and on... 

It's possible Tyler Soderstrom never qualifies at catcher (aside from the possibility he is catcher-eligible on host sites when he debuts), as I think he projects as Oakland's first baseman of the future. While Bo Naylor, Endy Rodriguez, Diego Cartaya, Henry Davis, Kevin Parada and Austin Wells all have a chance to play other positions in addition to catcher, I expect them retain catcher eligibility for at least a couple years after debuting.

So we have 13 desirable big-league options without even including the likes of Raleigh and Grandal. We also have 10 top-100 prospects at the position without including guys like Moreno and Quero. If you are in a 20-team league where everyone starts one catcher, you may have one or two of those 13 big-league options and one or two of those top 10 prospects. Surely you'll look to trade one or two of them if you're in that position, but you won't be alone, as many managers in your league will feel they have a catcher to spare, and the rebuilding teams won't be interested in the big leaguers and likely already have one of the prospects. This is where supply and demand comes into play, and this is why I won't have any of the catching prospects ranked in my top 35, even though they are extremely talented.

For these reasons, I think it's preferable to have two UTIL spots in 20-team one-catcher leagues, and if you play in a 12- or 15-team dynasty league, you should absolutely have two catcher spots.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the catcher renaissance and how it should affect the way I rank catching prospects and how it should affect the redraft values on catchers for 2023.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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