Early, Mid, and Late Round Values: Catcher
Early, Mid round, and Late round picks, by Position: Catcher
For this upcoming series of articles, I’m going to be covering players that I like based on their values relative to where they’re being drafted. For the ADP being referenced, I am using NFBC data, from March 11th, to alleviate some of the news received after the lockout, like some of the injuries (Tatis, Wheeler, Rendon, Flaherty) or trades that have transpired. I’ll also be splitting this up into two sections, players for points leagues, and players for roto or category leagues. I’ll be taking three of each. One player in the top 100, one player after pick 100, and one player past pick 200. This gives you multiple options, one of which can be a primary target, one to be a mid-range guy who’s a nice fallback, and one who you can take past round 15 as the backups backup plan.
Looking at the landscape of the catcher position it has changed a lot. There are two players who are catcher eligible, yet they won’t primarily be playing there. Daulton Varsho is penciled in as the everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, and Gary Sanchez is set to be the primary DH in Minnesota after the blockbuster deal that sent Josh Donaldson to the Yankees. You’ll be seeing the productive guys getting a chance to play daily now, with the universal DH in place, the best catchers will more than likely settle in as DH on their off days, opposed to sitting every few games. This gives a chance for the catcher position to really take off and finally provide some meaningful production.
For roto the main thing I look for is outliers. Whether that is outlier home run production or steals production. Any advantage you can get at this position, you should be jumping on. Having a catcher who steals any amount of bases is a huge advantage, and having a catcher who hits a lot of home runs while not burying you in average is also a huge advantage. It’s the reason Salvador Perez is going so early in drafts after leading MLB in home runs, with an ADP of 28.8 since March 11.
When I’m looking at points leagues, I’m looking at 2 main stats, OPS and strikeout percentage. For the most part, most points leagues penalize strikeouts by ½ of a point and caught stealing by a whole point. Since most catchers aren’t attempting steals, strikeouts are their only way to accumulate negative points, thus getting players with good plate discipline who don’t strike out, can be a massive boost. These players tend to get overlooked in roto since they won’t contribute in steals, and sometimes home runs, but finding cheap value is easy at this position, especially because most 12 team leagues only require one catcher.
Early Round Roto, JT Realmuto, PHI, ADP - 44.97 C2
As I addressed in the second paragraph of this article, the most productive players at catcher will be using their off days as DH now. In games the Phillies wanted to rest Realmuto by having him not catch, they played him at first base, well another option just opened for them, as he can now just hit and really rest his legs while filling in at DH. The wear and tear of a full season on a catcher’s knees can be brutal, so the incorporation of the universal DH should see Realmuto close in on 150 games played barring injury. Realmuto tends to be an outlier at the position for steals due to his impressive sprint speed of which he’s in the 91st percentile. To be able to project 20 home runs, 150 combined runs and runs batted in, and 10 steals from a catcher with a .260 plus average is a huge advantage. While Realmuto’s peripherals and expected stats aren’t great, he’s shown consistent production for six years, and there is no reason to think that he won’t be able to continue outperforming his peripherals for one more season. Going in the late third, or early fourth round of drafts, I'll be aiming to get Realmuto in any format that rewards steals, while not penalizing for being caught stealing. Here's Realmuto walking it off with an opposite-field home run, on a pitch above the zone, showing how much raw power he has.
Mid Round Roto, Mitch Garver, TEX, ADP - 157.33 C9
Garver is good in both roto and points leagues, but I like him specifically for roto leagues because he does strike out at a pretty high rate (career 26.4%). Now, Garver should be a big boost in the power department, while not burying you in batting average. His main concern is health, and while it is nerve-racking to take a player who’s only cleared 100 games once in three full seasons played, the upside is tantalizing. His career OPS of .835 is good for any position, let alone a catcher. The batted ball profile has always been good for Garver, with a career-high hard-hit rate of 43.6%, a line drive rate of 19.3%, and a fly ball rate of 42.7%. Most projections have Garver playing only 105-120 games, and somewhere between 21-25 home runs, however, if Garver plays 105-120 games, I'd expect 30 home runs, with 160 combined runs and runs batted in. Love the value in the 13th round. Here's Garver blasting a first-inning grand slam last season.
Mid Round Points, Keibert Ruiz, WAS, ADP - 143.10 C8
It feels like Ruiz has been around forever, being stuck behind Will Smith in Los Angeles, he wasn’t going to get much playing time there, well it’s now his time to shine in Washington. After being one of the main pieces shipped over in the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner blockbuster last season, it’s time for Ruiz to show why Washington was in the right to begin their rebuild with him as one of the focal points. While he only has 104 career plate appearances in the majors, he has an impressive minor league track record. He’s always had good plate discipline, while not walking a lot, he also hasn’t struck out a lot either. This is big for points leagues because if he’s not striking out, he’s not losing points. While he’s not a huge power bat, he should end up being a consistent source of point production, one of those steady players who will rack up points, while not hurting you. I like Ruiz a lot, even if his ADP is a little high for my liking. Here he is hitting a home run in September of last year, he hit another one the following day as well.
Late Round Roto, Gary Sanchez, MIN, ADP - 228.52 C14
This is more of a leap of faith pick, while there may be better players available instead of Sanchez, few have more upside than him. As of now, the Twins have said they want Sanchez to be their primary DH while catching on days to relieve Ryan Jeffers. They shipped out Mitch Garver, but this looks like Sanchez’s final chance to get back to the glory days of 2016 and 2017. He was in the 85th percentile in walk rate in 2021, and 86th percentile in barrel rate. While it’s been a rough few years for Sanchez, the raw power potential has me in again at his draft cost. If he’s playing every day like some in the Twins camp say he’s going to and gets to 140 games played, there’s no reason he won’t hit 25-30 home runs, with 150 combined runs and runs batted in. That being said, temper your expectations on his batting average, if he hits .230 consider it a win. Here's an example of his raw power.
Late Round Points, Sean Murphy, OAK, ADP - 243.43 C17
Sean Murphy was getting elevated up draft boards in recent years, and he didn’t really live up to expectations, now you’re getting him at a much more attainable cost. He walks at a solid clip and has pretty decent power for a catcher. With Oakland in a full rebuild at this point, Murphy looks to be the best bat in their lineup. Roster resource has Murphy projected to be the number three hitter in their lineup. While it’s a weak lineup in Oakland, he should be able to provide some decent point production. I like him to return top 10 round value, as he has solid metrics with an above-average hard-hit rate, xwOBA, xSLG, and barrel rate. He’s a solid backup plan for me if everything else goes wrong at the position. Here he is taking Freddy Peralta deep two days ago.