2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview: Catch You Later

by Dennis Sosic
2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview

Welcome Fantasy friends and foes to the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview.

Now we know who is playing in the Super Bowl, we can set our sights on preparing for your Fantasy Baseball drafts. Check out our Fantasy Baseball content, where we got you covered with draft prep, dynasty baseball, and prospect rankings.

I have the privilege of throwing the first pitch of our fantasy position previews by taking on the catcher position.

As has been the case since I started playing fantasy baseball, there are only a tiny handful of catchers that provides confidence. If you play in two-catcher leagues, there is a shallow pool of players, which leads fantasy managers to dive into different strategies. This may include grabbing two stud catchers or pivoting to the other end of the spectrum and punting the position.

The catcher position specifically in two-catcher formats forces you to have a definitive draft strategy, which may include simply streaming the position. The path will determine your roster construction.

Find which players to target and who to avoid in the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview.

2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview

Looking for a Fantasy advantage? Get the ultimate in-season edge with customized Fantasy Baseball advice for your team using My Playbook from FantasyPros.

What will Salvador Perez do for an encore after his remarkable 2021 season?

You can't have a 2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview without Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who won many fantasy leagues with his remarkable 2021 season. He hit .273/.316/.544 with 88 runs scored and led in two of the Triple Crown categories with 48 homers and 121 RBI. His impressive season on a losing Royals team resulted in Perez finishing seventh for the American League MVP.

In their upcoming drafts, fantasy managers will be tempted to dive in early for Perez. Currently, Perez has an overall ADP of 34, and it's challenging to condone that draft capital.

His previous career-high in home runs was 27 and his 2021 season screams a career season. Fantasy managers should never pay for a career season. If you were lucky enough to have Perez last season, feel grateful that the fantasy gods were smiling upon you and your roster.

Perez was able to play for an entire season in 2021, the first time in his career. The increased playing time allowed the Royals catcher to produce stats continually. However, how confident can fantasy managers be that Perez or any player for that matter will stay healthy.

Utilizing steep draft capital expecting a similar elite production is the first step in losing your league during your fantasy drafts.

Which catcher could take over as the No.1 overall catcher?

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J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies

If it weren't for the incredible season from Salvador Perez, we would have been crowning Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto as the best fantasy catcher again. He is annually the best fantasy catcher for his stalwart offensive numbers every season,

Realmuto finished in the top five among NL catchers in hits (125), extra-base hits (46), RBIs (73), OPS (.782), and batting average (.263). Ironically, some of the offensive production is the lowest number in years. His .263 average was the lowest since 2015, and OPS was the lowest since 2016.

Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball and will likely return to the top of the fantasy catcher rankings.

Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers

Will Smith had displayed elite-level talent when he was climbing the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system. Smith helped the team win the 2020 World Series, and last season, he played his first entire season at the MLB level.

Smith established himself as one of the best catchers last season, hitting .258/.365/.495 with 25 homers, 76 RBI, 130 OPS+, and 130 wRC+. He was one of only three catchers with 500 or more plate appearances. Among catchers, Smith finished second in home runs, WAR (4.6), runs scored (71), and RBI (76).

If Smith can continue to elevate his offensive production to another level, the former first-round pick will climb to the top spot in the fantasy catcher rankings.

Who are the late-round steals that fantasy managers should queue up?

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Elias Diaz, Colorado Rockies

Elias Diaz slashed .246/.310/.464 with 18 dingers in 106 games last season. The Colorado Rockies showed faith in Diaz by signing a three-year extension this offseason.

While his overall numbers won't jump out at fantasy managers, he produced impressive numbers in the second half last season. Diaz hit .274/.330/.536, a .866 OPS, and 11 homers with 26 RBI in 55 games.

Fantasy managers should be encouraged with the improvement in the second half. Additionally, Diaz provides promise as a second catcher in two-catcher formats.

Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers

After a brutal 2020 season when he hit just .176 with two homers and 10 RBI, he had a resurgent season in 2021. Narvaez slashed .266/.342/.402 with 11 homers, 49 RBI, and a 99 OPS+.

Narvaez finished with the third-best batting average on the Brewers roster last season. He also made significant strides defensively, which should allow Narvaez to stay in the daily lineup regardless if he slumps as he suffered at the end of last season.

Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays

Fantasy managers already know what they are going to get with Mike Zunino. Power. Last season, he posted a career-high in home runs (33), slugging percentage (.559), and OPS (.860).

Zunino finished with a .216/.301/.559 slash line in 109 games and produced a record-low 62 RBI.

He was one of the biggest fantasy surprises last season. Of course, Zunino will kill your batting average, but the advantage he provides in the home run category is delicious.

Players on the Rise

Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays

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The Toronto Blue Jays possess an excess of catchers as we head into the 2022 season. Once a top prospect, Danny Jansen has shown glimpses but has not lived up to expectations. He is often an injured and a marginal fantasy option. His defense and the way he handles the Blue Jays' pitching staff is why he continues to receive multiple chances to prove himself.

Jansen also shares catching duties with a compelling fantasy option in Alejandro Kirk. The 22-year-old backstop produces at the plate with tremendous plate discipline with almost as many walks (19) as strikeouts (22) last season. Unfortunately, he also dealt with injury issues and is a defensive liability. Nevertheless, he slashed .242/.328/.436 with eight home runs and 24 RBI last season.

The Blue Jays also have 21-year-old catching prospect Gabriel Moreno, who is the team's No. 1 ranked prospect and could see significant league action at the Rogers Centre in 2022, according to MLB.com.

Kirk has been the subject of trade talks with teams looking for a bat-first catcher. His time in Toronto might be numbered, but a move might elevate his fantasy value with a potential full-time gig in his future at a different address. He is a player on the rise and a catcher to grab late in your drafts if you don't spend the draft capital on one of the premier catchers.

Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds

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One of my favorite sleepers picks in my 2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview, Cincinnati Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson is set to take over the team's catching duties in 2022. The trade of Tucker Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers opens the door for the former first-round pick to become the Reds' everyday catcher.

Stephenson hit .286/.366/.431 in 350 AB with ten home runs, 45 RBI, and 1.9 WAR last season. With an above-average 18.7 strikeout rate and 10.2 walk rate to go with a.333 BABIP, the 25-year-old backstop has an opportunity to break out in his third season in the big leagues.

Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Fantasy managers have heard about Daulton Varsho as he prepared to make his MLB debut in 2020. A catcher with speed is a fantasy manager's dream, and then you add pop in his bat; where do I sign up?

After being everyone's sleeper pick in 2020 and struggling mightily, fantasy managers started to question if Varsho would ever deliver on the potential he exhibited throughout his minor-league career.

Varsho struggled to start last season with inconsistent at-bats and not producing at the plate. He was sent down to Triple-A Reno, where he destroyed pitching and returned to the Diamondbacks  MLB roster. His bat got hot with the temperature, and in July and August, he smacked nine of his 11 dingers and worked his way into the daily lineup.

Varsho filled in for catcher when starter Carson Kelly went down with a fractured right wrist. Overall, he played 37 games at catcher while logging 36 games in the outfield.

In 2022, Varsho will man one of the outfield positions while spelling Kelly behind the plate. The catcher eligibility combined with his ability to swipe double-digit bases with double-digit power makes Varsho a top-five candidate at the shallow catcher position.

Players on the Horizon

Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants

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Joey Bart has long been considered the Catcher of the Future for the San Francisco Giants. However, with future Hall-of-Famer Buster Posey announcing his retirement, Bart will have to prove why he was one of the top catching prospects in baseball for years.

Bart had a golden opportunity in the 2020 campaign due to Posey opting out due to COVID. But unfortunately, Bart struggled with a .233/.288/.320 batting line and striking out at a 36.9% rate.

He rebounded last season in Triple-A, producing an impressive .294/.358/.472 slash line while hitting ten homers and 15 doubles. However, Bart still had issues with high strikeout numbers with 82 strikeouts.

Bart needs to work on his pitch recognition and improve his batting eye to make a difference in the Giants lineup. However, he does possess impressive power when he does make contact and will need to continue to improve to succeed at the MLB level.

He is still only 25 years old and will have another opportunity to take over the catcher duties in San Francisco. Monitor Bart and the catcher situation in San Francisco.

Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles 

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Adley Rutschman, the first overall pick in 2019's MLB Draft, has it all. The switch hitter is a generational talent who is a middle-of-the-lineup game-changer with contact and power.

Rutschman was promoted to AAA Norfolk in August, and in 43 games, he proved that he is ready to be in the opening day lineup in Baltimore this season. He slashed .312/.405/.490 with 16 XBH (five homers) with a 142 wRC+ and struck out just 16.6% while walking 14.6% of the time.

Adley Rutschman is the top overall prospect in baseball. I cant wait to see him hit in the big leagues this season. With no catchers on the Orioles roster that is worth mentioning, Rutschman has a direct path to an immediate opportunity. As a result, he is one of my early main targets in my keeper and dynasty leagues.

Players to Avoid

Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

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Gary Sanchez has been one of the most debated players among fantasy baseball managers. The former top prospect has hit a .284 batting average combined in his first two seasons, including hitting 126 OPS+ with 33 home runs in his first entire season in 2017.

However, since that 2017 breakout season, Sanchez has compiled a .201/.299/.444 slash with a 28.1% strikeout rate. Sanchez still provides power, hitting 85 home runs over the past four seasons. In 2021, he tied for fourth among MLB catchers with 23 homers.

His power is imposing, but the rest of his game leaves you wanting more. The positive fantasy contributions stop there, and he doesn't provide the positional and strength advantage that his power numbers would suggest

Sanchez will destroy you with his low batting average with two of the last four seasons hitting below the Mendoza line! Additionally, his high strikeout rates combined with his lack of durability, as evidenced by playing fewer than 120 games in three out of his four full seasons, question why you took a chance on him again.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention his shaky defensive skills, which led me to another strike against Sanchez. He shares time with Kyle Higashioka, a better defender who possesses pop in his bat. Every season there is talk of the Yankees moving away from Sanchez, but he is challenging to deal with but easy to avoid in your fantasy drafts.

Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox

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Christian Vazquez struggled last season, hitting only .258/.308/.352 with six homers and 23 doubles. In addition, he posted a disappointing .659 OPS and 75 OPS+, and even his defense struggled, allowing a league-leading ten passed balls.

Vazquez is entering the final year of his contract and age-31 season. Catchers typically don't tend to age well, and he is sharing the backstop duties with Kevin Plawecki, who slashed .287/.349/.389 in 64 games last season.

Vazquez, the longest-tenured member on the Red Sox roster, does not possess much upside and found it necessary to play in winter ball to improve his skills as the Red Sox have a pair of fine young prospects looking to play games at Fenway Park.

Connor Wong made a strong showing in his debut last season, hitting .308/.357/.538 in limited action. Ronaldo Hernandez is being groomed as the potential replacement for Vazquez and finished with a .284/.326/.501 slash line at Double-A last season.

Somehow Vazquez led the team in steals with eight last season, but don't let that stat fool you. Fantasy managers should look for upside in every position. It's even more paramount at the catcher position. Vazquez is average at best and is on the downside of his career.

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