50-Round Draft-and-Hold Catcher Rankings – 2023 Fantasy Baseball Season

Catcher is a tale of two types of leagues. If you play in leagues with 2 starting catchers, then you will want to bump up catchers. Especially those who will net you 500+ plate appearances. If you are in 1-catcher leagues, then you can more safely ignore the position. Or at least that is what I hear. It’s been awhile since I have played in those type of leagues.

For this position especially, plate appearances are king. According to Steamer and ATC are only 8 and 9 hitters, respectively, projected to exceed 500 plate appearances:

On both lists (Steamer, ATC):

Salvador Perez (591, 545)
M.J Melendez (585, 551)
Adley Rutschman (582, 551)
Sean Murphy (563, 535)
Daulton Varsho (561, 556)
Will Smith (558, 531)
Willson Contreras (558, 519)
J.T. Realmuto (548, 550)

On one list (Steamer, ATC):
Tyler Stephenson (541, 483)

Going one step further, there are only 16 catchers on each list projected to total 400+ plate appearances. I don’t want to be chasing my C1 at that point (though some seem to have success doing so). And I routinely try to have my top two catchers by the time the last catcher from this group is taken.

Personal Catcher Ranks

Tier 1

I feel good about anyone in this tier, and you could make the case for any of the three being the top catcher. If you don’t believe in position scarcity, skip this tier. If you do, then you can mix and match to taste.

1. Will Smith

Will Smith is the safe and boring guy. I feel quite comfortable he will net me 20-25 home runs and 80-85 RBI with an above average BA. He has the upside for more, but I’m not trying to be greedy here. The downside with Smith is the lack of stolen bases. But you’re not drafting catchers for stolen bases. Unless, of course, you’re taking Jason Kendall (wrong decade) one of the next two guys. In that case: you are drafting backwards which opens the door for taking a 4-category (yes, I do see you Yordan) and then pairing with Varsho or Realmuto.

If you’re the type of person to punt catcher (and outside of draft-and-holds with 2 catcher lineups, you probably are), then ignore this tier. You’re not taking any of these guys.

2. J.T. Realmuto

What I like about Realmuto and Varsho….even if they stop stealing bases, they are arguably still top 6 catchers. I mean, if you take them at current ADP you need them to steal bases to feel justified. But you at least know there is a solid floor. And in the Phillies lineup–even without Harper–I feel comfortable he’ll get his counting stats.

I give Realmuto the nod for the higher, consistent batting average. If you want the extra home runs, then Varsho is your guy.

3. Daulton Varsho

Same as Realmuto. Just flip if you want HR here instead of average. At his age (age 26/27 season), though, you could also take a shot that he breaks out even more than he has. Or if you feel the move to Toronto isn’t baked into projections or your crystal ball enough.

Tier 2

This is still a tier where you are not drafting a catcher unless you feel there is advantage doing so. For my part, I have typically avoided this tier in 15-team / 50-round drafts. I actually like Melendez and Rutschman, and I am probably undervaluing Kirk. Perez is still what he has been. But, I typically find myself with one of the above, or more commonly, avoiding the top two, maybe three, tiers and and nabbing two of the catchers before we reach the danger zone (i.e., who I consider possibly “negative” value).

4. Salvador Perez

Perez is the favorite to lead all catchers in home runs. Flip with Kirk if you prefer the batting average (which I normally do, but Perez’s HRs are sexy and I’ve been drafting him for years when I cave to position scarcity).

5. Alejandro Kirk

Kirk’s AVG provides a solid floor if you want to go this direction. You can chase power late, but most often AVG comes largely absent the other stats.

6. Adley Rutschman

I have Rutschman and Melendez in a mini tier on their own. I feel they are clearly below the top 5, but a step above the next group. But I’d end up with 20 tiers if I broke everyone out, so here they are. And what they are are two young catchers with potential galore. And that presents its own set of risks.

7. M.J. Melendez

Draft Melendez for dual-position eligibility. Ok, no, that’s a bad idea. Melendez is a catcher, the same way Varsho is a catcher. If either ever starts in the OF slot, you have done something wrong. Or there are a lot of medical symbols on your team.

Coin flip with Rutschman.

Tier 3

This tier is solid value, especially if you’re buying into Stephenson and especially Ruiz.

8. Willson Contreras

Contreras gets the nod here over the next couple guys. But I’m most likely not going to have any shares. For his ADP, I think you can get comparable value from the next guys without needing to reach. Except safety….I feel most comfortable that Contreras will get me what I expect/project: .245-.250 with 20ish HR and 135ish R+RBI.

9. Tyler Stephenson

Here we go! Stephenson is Kirk, but not quite as much expectation in each category except stolen bases. Not sure either of these guys get more than one. Even with rule changes.

Coaches say they want Stephenson playing 140-150 games this year. He’s not doing that catching. Instead he’ll be booting Votto from 1B or DH’ing. I’m not going to speculate on whether getting a mental breather from catching will improve the stats. But…I will say that Stephenson is pretty solid bet to get around 15-16 home runs if he plays that many games. And with his career .296 batting average (projections pegging him for .257-.268) and some number of runs and RBIs (man, that Cincinnati lineup leaves a bad taste), you’ve got a more than solid C1 in around the 10th based on the last 23 drafts at NFBC (50-round, draft-and-hold format).

10. Sean Murphy

The Braves went out and got their guy, by trading a guy who projects to be about the same. I have Murphy and the younger Contreras producing roughly the same. And early drafters feel the same way since they have mostly an identical draft line: min around 107, max around 133, and average spot around 121.

11. William Contreras

See Murphy. Take the guy who comes later. Except you may want to grab the first guy to make sure you get a guy. If you want a guy here. Or just take Stephenson if you really want a catcher in this part of the draft. Just use Murphy/Contreras as the canary in the coal mine for the impending catcher shortage.

12. Keibert Ruiz

What if I told you there is catcher projected to bat fourth and the only competition is someone named Riley Adams. Nothing against Adams, but unlikely he is blocking anyone.

Then I tell you he plays for the Nationals and you lose interest. Yea, I get it…Washington will most likely not be very good this year.

But, still…..here’s a list of things to consider:

  • Batting cleanup
  • Age-24/25 season
  • Excellent contact skills (6.9BB%, 11.5K% in 2022) translates into a comfortable .260 batting average projection
  • 10 HR expectation…ok, this is not so great but he’s got 537 PA behind him. Now is a good time for a young catcher to start making strides on the offensive side of things.
  • ~85 runs and RBIs (thank you Nats)
  • 12th-13th round on average (I picked up in 13th in my latest draft)

Tier 4

Tier 4 and Tier 5 are you last chance to grab catchers before we start getting worrisome.

13. Cal Raleigh

Raleigh is about where I want to cutoff for C1. Ideally, I’m doubling up on catcher in the 10th-14th round to ensure I get two decent catchers before the drop off.

Raleigh gets you power. He also craters your batting average. But we can build around that inevitability if you’re targeting him rather than Ruiz or Stephenson (low power, high BA for catchers) or Murphy/Contreras (who I really do think should be the target if you want some power at this position in the 10th-14th rounds).

14. Danny Jansen

I’m not sure how may plate appearances Jansen will get this year. If you told he me would guaranteed get the same number as Raleigh, then there’s an argument to be made to slot him above the Seattle starting catcher. It’s probably worth taking Raleigh a round earlier, but Jansen is a solid backup plan if you miss out.

15. Shea Langeliers (not eligible in 20-game leagues)

In my most recent league I got caught at the tail end of a catcher run and panic grabbed Langeliers. I feel comfortable that he is a top 15 Roto catcher. But I don’t like the uncertainty about when he’ll gain eligibility. And it puts you in the awkward position of not wanting to invest draft capital for a 3rd catcher but then being stuck with the decision of whether to even start someone if you wait too late (like my case where Omar Narvaez and Kyle Higashioka are my backups).

Tier 5

Point of no return for me.

16. Jonah Heim

Solid enough.

17. Logan O’Hoppe

Loved this pickup for the Angels. And he’s solid enough to roster in our game.

18. Elias Diaz

This ranking is aggressive. And it’s also based on your ability to switch him in/out when not at home. This is not a daily ranking list, but I would move him up if playing that format. With Friday roster changes in Fantrax and NFBC leagues, I think there’s a justification to have him here. If nothing else to keep him at the fore of my mind and others who happen to see this.

Sample size be damned:

Home: 186 PA / 7 HR / 54 R+RBI / .270 AVG (this is Stephenson / Ruiz level stats; HR pace not quite to Murphy/Contreras)
Away:  195 PA / 2 HR / 26 R+RBI / .186 AVG

Currently going around the 23rd round

19. Travis d’Arnaud

Sigh…his per PA stats warrant a higher ranking, but d’Arnaud is not getting enough at bats with Murphy around to justify moving up. Still, he may return a fine ROI at his current ADP with the upside of a lot more should something happen to Murphy.

20. Gabriel Moreno

Toronto finally figured out which catcher to move. And then they got a sometimes catcher in Varsho. It’s great that we will get to see Moreno in more games. And given his recent prospect status, there’s hope that he will start producing more at the plate. But he is also just 22 years old and catchers take longer to develop plate skills. And power has never been part of his game. So, upside is maybe Stephenson/Ruiz. Good return on current ADP. Just don’t overestimate the ceiling here.

21. Christian Vazquez

Last guy that I feel comfortable taking at a C2.

Tier 6

22. Joey Bart
23. Christian Bethancourt
24. Eric Haase
25. Yamani Grandal
26. Luis Campusano
27. Austin Nola
28. Bo Naylor
29. Endy Rodriguez

Tier 7

30. Jose Trevino
31. Gary Sanchez
32. Carson Kelly
33. Mike Zunino
34. Martin Maldonado
35. Reese McGuire
36. Nick Fortes

Tier 8

37. Omar Narvaez
38. Jacob Stallings
39. Francisco Mejia
40. Kyle Higashioka
41. Yan Gomes
42. Jorge Alfaro
43. Victor Caratini
44. Ryan Jeffers
45. Tucker Barnhart
46. Selby Zavala
47. Max Stassi
48. Sam Huff
49. James McCann
50. Austin Hedges




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