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Catchers to Target and Avoid at ADP - Fantasy Baseball Draft Analysis

William Contreras - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

What's going on RotoBaller Family! For those that don't know me, my name is Eric Cross. In the past, you might have read my work at FantraxHQ, FantasyPros, or FTN Fantasy. I'll now be providing fantasy baseball content for RotoBaller, and couldn't be more excited to join the great RotoBaller team that is certainly on the rise.

It's a glorious time of year when the 2023 fantasy baseball draft season is among us and all of our teams begin to take shape. The key to any successful fantasy season begins with astute preparation and a solid draft. Can you still win or finish high even after a poor draft? Sure. But why not do yourself a favor and begin the season on a high note with a strong roster?

In the coming weeks, I'm going to be going position by position, discussing players to target or avoid at their current ADPs, beginning with five catchers to target or avoid here today.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Catchers Draft Overview

The catcher position is quickly becoming more exciting with each passing season, and the 2023 season will be no different as several more young catchers are set to grace us with their presence.

With catchers, part of valuing them comes down to how many you start in your league. In two-catcher formats, catchers will obviously get pushed up draft boards as no one wants to be stuck with a pair of lackluster catchers on their team.

But in one-catcher formats, people often tend to wait on backstops until the last few rounds. This is where some ADP values and fantasy baseball draft sleepers can come into play.

 

Catchers to Target at ADP

Willson Contreras, St. Louis Cardinals

For the last several years now, Willson Contreras has quietly gone about his business as one of the more undervalued players in baseball. In each of the last six seasons, Contreras has finished as a top 125 player overall, per the RazzBall Player Rater. The only other catcher you can say that about is J.T. Realmuto, and you can also include Salvador Perez as well as the only time he didn't was in 2019 when he missed the entire season due to injury.

On the surface, Contreras had a slightly down year in 2022 as he only hit .243. However, that AVG came with a .349 OBP, .466 SLG, .223 ISO, and plenty of metrics that have me encouraged for the 2023 season. The 2022 season marked the fourth-straight season that Contreras had both a hard-hit rate above 40% and a barrel rate above 10%.

Beyond that, Contreras posted career-best marks in strikeout rate (21.1%) and  Zone Contact Rate (78.9%) while also having the best contact and whiff rates he's had since 2018. And as a little cherry on top, Contreras has added nine steals over the last two seasons as well.

Contreras also will now be in the middle of a very good St. Louis lineup that ranked fifth in runs scored, ninth in home runs, and inside the top 10 of all three triple-slash line metrics. For comparison, the Cubs ranked 22nd, 17th, 19th, 17th, and 19th in those metrics, respectively.

If you're not someone that likes to take catchers early in general, you're probably not going to have any shares of Contreras or Salvador Perez in general. But if you do want to grab a top catcher within the first 100 picks or so, especially in two-catcher NFBC formats, I'd rather go after Contreras 30-35 picks after Perez.

William Contreras, Milwaukee Brewers

From one Contreras brother to the other. How many "W. Contreras" catchers does one division need? It's like a modern-day Molina situation over there in the National League Central. But thankfully, Contreras being in the NL Central on Milwaukee is a wonderful thing for his fantasy value.

In his 376 plate appearances with Atlanta last season, Contreras slashed an impressive .278/.354/.506 with 20 home runs, 45 RBI, and 51 runs scored. Out of the 37 catchers to exceed 250 plate appearances in 2022, Contreras ranked second in AVG, third in OBP, first in SLG, second in ISO, first in wOBA, and first in wRC+.

What really carries Contreras is his power, which shows up in spades with his quality of contact metrics. Contreras recorded a 13.4% barrel rate and 46.6% hard-hit rate, and it's quite impressive that he was able to crank 20 home runs and post that barrel rate given his lofty 53.4% groundball rate.

Given his power and expanded role in Milwaukee, 30 home runs certainly aren't out of the question for Contreras. However, given his 27.7% strikeout rate, 34.3% whiff rate, and 74.2% zone contact rate, I'm expecting the AVG to fall a bit from his .278 mark. Not too far though, probably in the .255-.260 range.

If Contreras is able to do what I believe he can, there's a decent chance that he vaults his older brother and flirts with the top tier at this position. If I'm going to take a catcher within the top 150 picks, my top target is the younger Contreras brother who is currently sitting around a 130 ADP.

Logan O'Hoppe, Los Angeles Angels

Okay, fine! I'll talk about a catcher whose last name isn't Contreras. Valuing Logan O'Hoppe and determining if you want to target him in drafts comes down to your general strategy with catchers and if you play in one or two-catcher formats. But regardless, I'm expecting O'Hoppe to hop into fantasy managers' hearts in every format this season.

Over the last two seasons, 2022 especially, O'Hoppe has blossomed into one of the best catching prospects in baseball. O'Hoppe spent the entire season in Double-A between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Angels organizations, and even received a cup of coffee down the stretch for the Halos, skipping the Triple-A level entirely.

In his 447 plate appearances before being called to the Major Leagues, O'Hoppe slashed a robust .283/.416/.544 with 26 home runs. He was one of only 13 prospects to hit above .280 with more than 25 home runs last season, and one of only four catchers to do it.

The blend of contact, power, approach, and opportunity makes O'Hoppe a highly intriguing backstop target around pick 250 or so. Not only did he post a .544 SLG and .261 ISO last season, but he also walked nearly as much as he struck out, finishing with a 15.7% walk rate and 16.6% strikeout rate.

With him projected to be the starting catcher for the Angels this season, I'm all over this ADP in two-catcher formats, or if I want to wait on this position in single-catcher formats.

 

Catchers to Avoid at ADP

Francisco Alvarez, New York Mets

In general, I'm fairly high on Francisco Alvarez. Without question, Alvarez is one of the top catching prospects in baseball -- and is the top catching prospect for most rankers, regardless of whether the rankings are real-life or fantasy focused.

In 495 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Alvarez cranked 22 doubles and 27 home runs with a .260/.374/.511 slash line and 14.1% walk rate. This past summer, I was able to see him live several times and it wasn't hard to see that he has a bright future as a Major League catcher. Although, he was overly aggressive at times and I wonder if Major League pitchers exploit that.

But the real question is, when do we see Alvarez this season?

A quick gaze at the New York Mets' active roster will show Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido already in place, the former of which New York signed back in December. After receiving a cup of coffee in Queens late in the season, the expectation was that Alvarez would take over behind the plate in 2023 with Nido backing him up. Not so fast. The Mets signing Narváez, to me, signals that they're not fully ready to hand over the keys to Alvarez.

Usually, I'm a proponent of teams calling up their top prospects when they're ready, but I completely understand this move. The Mets want Alvarez behind the plate for them for a long time, and they really don't have any pressing need to rush him given the loaded roster they have. Giving Alvarez some additional reps in Triple-A to work on his defensive skills does make some sense, even if we don't approve of it here in the fantasy world.

There's no doubt that we see Alvarez at some point this summer, but he's a hard one to target outside of two-catcher formats.

Travis d'Arnaud, Atlanta Braves

When Travis d'Arnaud has been on the field, he's been a fairly productive catcher. Over the last three seasons, d'Arnaud has slashed a respectable .266/.324/.462 with 47 doubles and 34 home runs in 839 plate appearances. However, it's the whole staying on the field part that he's had a slight problem with. d'Arnaud has only exceeded 400 plate appearances twice in his career with a career-high mark of 426. Granted, those 426 came last season, but this has been a longstanding issue for d'Arnaud.

On top of that, the Braves acquired Sean Murphy from Oakland this past season -- he will see the lion's share of starts behind the plate, as he's better offensively and much better defensively than d'Arnaud is. In 2022, Murphy played in 146 games for Oakland, with 116 of those coming from behind the plate and the other 30 at DH. You have to imagine that he receives at least that many starts at catcher again this season with some DH mixed in as well.

For the sake of this article, let's say Murphy's usage is exactly the same. That leaves a maximum of 46 games for d'Arnaud at catcher and 132 at DH. But Atlanta also has Marcell Ozuna on the roster who will presumably spend a ton of time at DH to keep his bat in the lineup.

Without injuries, it's hard to envision d'Arnaud even sniffing 400 plate appearances in 2023, even if he does stay healthy for the whole season -- which again, has been a problem in itself. I'll be looking elsewhere in my drafts.



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