2024 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview

by Mike Schneider
Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview

Welcome to the 2024 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview. I'll be diving into the position giving my strategy, players I like, don't like and much more. Be sure to check out the rest of the position previews here at Fantasy Six Pack too.

2024 Fantasy Baseball Previews

I have always considered drafting catchers in fantasy baseball similar to drafting tight ends in fantasy football. There are typically a couple of standouts that go early and can provide excellent production at a position that typically is not a high priority.

Most players will wait until the middle rounds and draft a tight end that they hope with catch 50 passes for 600 years and five touchdowns or a catcher that hits .250 with 15 homers.

2024 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Preview

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Is Your League a One or Two-Catcher League?

When deciding on a strategy for catchers in a fantasy draft,  it is important to consider if the league is a one or two-catcher league.

For a one-catcher league, the difference between the top-ranked catcher, Adley Rutschman, and the 12th to 15th catches (Bo Naylor, Logan O'Hoppe, Jonah Heim, and Keibert Ruiz) is not that great.  If you draft a catcher who gets hurt or is not productive in a one-catcher league, there should be some decent options on the waiver wire. In a one-catcher league, choosing to wait until later in the draft makes a lot of sense.

In a two-catcher league, there is a much greater danger of having a non-productive spot in your lineup. The waiver wire in a two-catcher league is going to be more limited. In a two-catcher league, catchers are going to go much earlier than in a one-catcher league and they have to be much more of a priority.

Can a DH Impact Catchers for Three Teams?

There are three teams whose at-bats from catcher-eligible players could be impacted by the Dodgers signing Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani had been the Angels full-time designated hitter for years.  As of now, the Angels do not have a full-time DH.  If Logan O'Hoppe is productive there is an opportunity for him to get time at DH. The streamer projection for O'Hoppe is for 400 plate appearances. I think he has the potential to get a lot more 400 plate appearances if he stays healthy and hits.

Alternatively, with the DH spot locked up with the Dodgers, unless Ohtani misses time, Will Smith is unlikely to get much time at DH. In the two years since the National League adopted the DH, Smith has started 38 games at DH.   In the last three years, Smith has started 111, 106, and 106 games at catcher. With the Dodgers expected to cruise to a divisional title, how many plate appearances will Smith get assuming both he and Ohtani stay healthy? The steamer projection of 524 plate appearances seems reasonable.

The Blue Jays were rumored to have almost signed Ohtani. The Jays just signed  Justin Turner. It is unclear how much Turner will play in the field.   There is playing time available at third base or Turner could DH. This will have an impact on playing time for the Jay two catchers. , Both Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk have a chance to get regular playing time at catcher and DH. The steamer projection is for 433 plate appearances for Jansen and 375 plate appearances for Kirk.  Those plate appearance totals could be low for both if Turner plays a lot of third base. If Turner is the full-time DH, both Jansen and Kirk are unlikely to get their projected plate appearances.

Why is Catcher Eligibility So Important?

Productive catchers are scarce and a player eligible at catcher has significantly more value than a player with the same stats who is not catcher-eligible, especially in a two-catcher league.

For a few years with Arizona, Daulton Varsho played enough behind the plate to be catcher-eligible. In 2022 Varsho hit 27 homers and stole 16 bases with a .235 batting average. After being traded to the Blue Jays last off-season, Varsho had an ADP of around 40 for 2023.

Varsho was exclusively an outfielder with the Jays so he no longer is catch eligible.  In 2023 Varsho's numbers dipped to a .220 batting average, 20 homers, and 16 stolen bases.  Varsho's ADP for 2024 is over 200. In a 15-team league he was going in the top four rounds in 2023 and now is going around the 14th round.

Mitch Garver is an offensive first catcher who has had a tough time staying on the field. However, since 2019 Garver has hit 75 homers with a .251 batting average in 1,239 plate appearances which is about two full seasons worth.

Garver played 28 games at catcher so he is catcher-eligible for 2024.  Garver signed with the Mariners as a free agent.  The Mariners have Cal Raleigh as their primary catcher. It is unclear if Garver will be the Mariners backup catcher.  However, Garver should get regular playing time at DH which could help him stay healthy and focus on his hitting.

There is a possibility that Garver will lose catcher eligibility for 2025.  However, for 2024 Garver has a good chance to hit 30 homers and provide terrific value at catcher.

The Pirates called up two promising catching prospects in 2023 neither of whom was productive in the majors. Endy Rodríguez was called up on July 17th and was the Pirates' primary catcher in the second half of the season. The first overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft, Henry Davis was called up on June 19th but only played in the outfield.

Endy Rodríguez hurt his elbow in winter ball and will miss the entire 2024 season. The Pirates have said that Henry Davis will enter spring training as a catcher. On the current roster, without Rodríguez the Pirates do not appear to have anyone else that is a candidate to get regular playing time at catcher.

Unless the Pirates acquire another catcher, it seems likely Davis will get catcher eligibility early in the year. The question is whether he will hit.  Davis crushed in the minors with a 170 wRC+ in 41 games at AA and a 186 wRC+ in 14 games at AAA.  However, he had just a .213/.302/.351 line with a 27.6% strikeout rate in 62 major league games. Now he will be focusing a lot of time on playing catcher and managing the pitching staff.

What Is Tampa Bay Doing at Catcher?

Several potential DHs are still free agents that could impact playing time for catchers particularly as mentioned above for Toronto.  However, there are very few catchers who are still free agents that could be potential regulars. Gary Sánchez, Curt Casali, Manny Piña, Mike Zunino, and Yasmani Grandal are all likely backups at best at this point in their career.

The Rays are expected to be playoff contenders and their catching depth chart presently consists of René Pinto, Alex Jackson, and Rob Brantly.

Pnto is a 27-year-old with 183 major league plate appearances.  He started 31 games in the second half of 2023 for the Rays and hit six homers.

Alex Jackson was the sixth overall pick way back in 2014.  In 185 major league plate appearances, mostly in 2021, he had a .141 average with a 48.1% strikeout rate. The 28-year-old Jackson did have an encouraging season in AAA in 2023 with a .903 OPS and 16 homers in 59 games.

Brantly is a 34-year-old journeyman who has 100 major league plate appearances in the majors since 2013.

The point here is that it appears that René Pinto is going to have a significant role with the Rays.  As a second catcher in a deep two-catcher league, he will have some value if just hits double-figure homers and does not provide much else.  Even without the Rays moving to acquire a catcher, Pinto's ADP is still just 458 in January.

My Results

My favorite format is two catchers, 15 teams with a 50-round draft and hold.  There are no in-season pickups.  The team you draft is your team for the whole year. If you have a hole in your lineup there is not much that can be done.

I have done four drafts and holds this year.  In the first three drafts I was missing out on my catcher targets early. Here is a breakdown of my catchers.

First - Mitch Garver (15.13), Danny Jansen (20.3), Christian Bethancourt (35.13), Christian Vazquez (36.3)

Second - Elias Diaz (17.13), Travis d'Arnaud (25.13), Christian Bethancourt (31.13), Jeferson Quero (50.3)

Third - Logan O'Hoppe (12.9), Rene Pinto (26.9), Matt Thaiss (40.9), Kyle Teel (48.9), Alex Jackson (50.9)

Fourth - Gabriel Moreno (11.13), Mitch Garver (13.13), Rene Pinto (27.13), Kyle Teel (47.13)

When should you Draft a Catcher?

In a two-catcher, 15-team draft, five catchers typically go in the first seven rounds.  Then 11 catchers could go beginning around the ninth round.  The difference between this tier of catchers mostly comes down to personal preference.

Here are the pros and cons of each of these 11 catchers.

Cal Raleigh134.53Seattle57 homers the last two years.Batting average risk with high a high strikeout rate.
Salvador Pérez135.09Kansas CityA consistent workhorse.33 years with a ton of tread on the tires.
Sean Murphy142.96AtlantaSteady player on a great teamTravis d'Arnaud is a strong backup who is going at least a couple times a week.
Willson Contreras145.3St LouisExtremely consistent offensive player.Defense and handling the pitching staff became an issue in St Louis.
Francisco Álvarez146.89NYMA 22 year old with elite elite offensive potential.Wore down in the 2nd half in his first full MLB season.
Gabriel Moreno148.79ArizonaYoung player with upside who established himself in the second half of 2023.Counting stats in 2023 were average.
Bo Naylor162.55ClevelandOutstanding at the end of 2023.Improvement is built into the price.
Logan O'Hoppe163.14LAALimited to 51 games in 2023 due to injury he had 14 homers.Limited track record.
Jonah Heim164.54Texas95 RBIs in just 131 games led catchers in 2023. Has a 62 wRC+in the last two months of 2023.
Keibert Ruiz169.29WashingtonHit .300 with a 11.7 strikeout rate in the second half of 2023.Poor lineup impacts counting stats
Mitch Garver194,83SeattleGreat power.Difficulty staying healthy.

Catchers on the Rise

Gabriel Moreno (Arizona), Francisco Álvarez, (New York Mets), and Logan O'Hoppe (Los Angeles Angels) are talented young catchers expected to take a leap forward in 2024. Moreno was very good at the end of the year and in the playoffs. Álvarez, who just turned 22, will be looking to be the player he was during the first half of 2023 for the entire year.  O'Hoppe missed a good chunk of 2023 due to an injury but was impressive when healthy.

As discussed earlier, Mitch Garver (Seattle) will be mostly a DH with catcher eligibility which could allow him to stay healthy and primarily focus on hitting.

Catchers on the Decline

J.T. Realmuto,(Philadelphia) Elías Díaz (Colorado), and Salvador Pérez (Kansas City) are all 33 years old and have caught a lot of great in their careers. Pérez and Realmuto have had great careers but showed signs of decline in 2023. Díaz was much better in the first half of 2023 than in the second half.

William Contreras,(Milwaukee) has an ADP in the top 80.  At that price, I do not think he has much upside.  There are players at other positions in that range who I think are much better values.

Catchers on the Horizon

Last year was a big year for rookie catchers with Yainer Diaz, Francisco Álvarez, Bo Naylor, Logan O'Hoppe, Patrick Bailey, Blake Sabol, Freddy Fermin, and Endy Rodríguez all getting significant playing time.

It is unlikely that there will be nearly as big an impact in 2024 for rookie catchers.

Austin Wells will still be a rookie in 2024. He has strong offensive skills but questionable defense.  The Yankees still have Jose  Trevino on their roster.  It will be interesting to see how much the Yankees trust Wells' defense.

Jeferson Quero and  Kyle Teel are a couple of talented catching prospects who are more likely to have an impact in 2025.  I have selected Teel several times very late in Draft Champions.  It will take a trade or an injury to William Contreras for playing time to open for Quero.  If the Red Sox feels that Teel is ready defensively and he continues to hit like he did last year both in college and as a pro, he could take over as the Red Sox's primary catcher in the second half of 2024.

Catcher Rankings

Below are my top thirty catcher rankings.  I included Henry Davis since I expect him to get catcher eligibility early in the season.

You can see how these compare to our Staff Consensus Rankings.

1Adley Rutchman50.07Baltimore
2JT Realmuto71.76Philadelphia
3Will Smith82.01LAD
4William Contreras79.71Milwaukee
5Gabriel Moreno148.79Arizona
6Logan O'Hoppe163.14LAA
7Mitch Garver194,83Seattle
8Yainer Diaz108.87Houston
9Sean Murphy142.96Atlanta
10Willson Contreras145.3St Louis
11Francisco Álvarez146.89NYM
12Salvador Pérez135.09Kansas City
13Jonah Heim164.54Texas
14Cal Raleigh134.53Seattle
15Keibert Ruiz169.29Washington
16Bo Naylor162.55Cleveland
17Tyler Stephenson223.67Cincinnati
18Danny Jansen260.39Toronto
19Luis Campusano195.71San Diego
20Elias Diaz243.75Colorado
21Henry Davis376.5Pittsburgh
22Travis d"Araud422.42Atlanta
23Alejandro Kirk261.94Toronto
24Shea Langeliers250.53Oakland
25Austin Wells329.06NYY
26Ryan Jeffers252.2Minnesota
27Rene Pinto480.01Tampa Bay
28Patrick Bailey398.87San Francisco
29Connor Wong356.71Boston
30Jake Rogers344.12Detroit

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