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Jon Anderson's Early Catcher Tiers & Rankings for 2023 Fantasy Baseball

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We have officially flipped the calendar to 2023. The holidays are over, and your fantasy football league has probably crowned its champion. That means it's time to get into some fantasy baseball! We've been writing fantasy baseball all fall and winter long here at RotoBaller, and we've already started our rankings series.

Over this offseason, I personally developed a new projection system that I released to subscribers of my personal Substack page recently. In addition to that, from October through December, I went team by team reviewing every single one and all of the fantasy-relevant players on them. All of that work has given me a good base for making my positional rankings, so we're going to start a post series on that today.

Let's start at the bottom with the catcher position. Here are my current catcher rankings and tiers. Of course, these are subject to change through January and February as news comes out and more research is done. Let's hop to it!

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Tier 1 - A Lonely J.T.

Player Team Rank Tier PA R HR RBI SB AVG
J.T. Realmuto PHI 1 1 540 70 19 81 20 .272

He will be 32 for the 2023 season, and most catchers do not age very gracefully. However, we have seen nothing from J.T. to discourage us from taking him with a pretty premium pick in drafts. Last year, he went for a .274/.340/.476 slash line while hitting 22 homers and stealing 21 bases. The projections have him pretty much doing that again, which makes him a really valuable guy to have at a position where you're typically not getting a ton of production.

The risk is that we see some of that age set in. This guy has been an ironman thus far, but you subject yourself to a lot of injury risk playing that many games behind the plate - so eventually things are going to fall apart a bit for the Phillies' backstop. Chances are that doesn't happen in 2023 though, so Realmuto is the clear top option this season.


Tier 2 - Still Studly

Player Team Rank Tier PA R HR RBI SB AVG
Will Smith LAD 2 2 541 74 24 78 2 .259
Daulton Varsho TOR 3 2 548 68 23 67 15 .230
Willson Contreras STL 4 2 575 79 24 68 7 .240
Adley Rutschman BAL 5 2 565 74 16 63 4 .260

You could make the case for some or all of these guys being in the top tier, but to me, they are all a step behind Realmuto.

Will Smith continues to be a really strong hitter in a great lineup, but his one steal last year leaves him short in that category, and he's been a guy the Dodgers have been cautious with in the past in terms of PAs. Those are pretty weak criticisms of the guy though, he's a great catcher option.

Varsho certainly played his way into the top tiers of the catcher position last year, having a near 20-20 season for the Diamondbacks. The batting average is bad, and he will probably sit a bunch against lefties - but he's a true 20-20 with 70 RBI threat in the Blue Jays lineup.

Then we have Contreras, who gets a big lineup upgrade moving to St. Louis. He has long been a productive Major League hitter, and he's not as old as you might think - just 30-years-old currently. The Cardinals lineup should give him tons of RBI opportunities, and he still showed great power last year, hitting 24 homers in just 487 PA.

The last guy here is Rutschman, who I have downgraded a bit just because we haven't seen a ton of him in the Majors. He certainly didn't give us many reasons for doubt in his rookie campaign, slashing a strong .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers and four steals in his 470 PA. He's a mature hitter already (18.3% K%, 13.8% BB%), so it seems pretty unlikely that he's not a well above-average hitter again in 2023 - but you always have to be a little bit more hesitant with unproven guys like Adley.


Tier 3 - Some Fair Criticisms

Player Team Rank Tier PA R HR RBI SB AVG
Salvador Perez KC 6 3 608 73 35 76 1 .261
Alejandro Kirk TOR 7 3 551 69 16 80 0 .282
Sean Murphy ATL 8 3 69 19 19 77 1 .242
MJ Melendez KC 9 3 599 82 20 57 4 .236
William Contreras MIL 10 3 486 60 25 70 1 .250

This is probably where the debate begins. Some rankers will certainly have Perez much higher than me, and the projection here should actually put him as the #2 catcher. I just have my doubts about the age and the Royals' lineup prospects. He gets almost all of his fantasy value with the long ball, so any reduction in swing speed driven by age could really hurt him playing in a bad ballpark for homers. That's all a little bit too harsh, probably, but whatever - I'm sticking with Perez down here at #6.

I'm also a bit low on Kirk, just because he seems more like a 10-homer guy than a 20-homer guy to me. His barrel rate has always been low and he just doesn't swing the bat very hard. Mix that in with the presence of Danny Jansen and I think we have some legitimate concerns about his production and even the playing time projection.

My favorite price-considered catcher options right now are the next two guys there, Sean Murphy and MJ Melendez. Murphy is just a great hitter that will probably hit sixth for the Braves, an elite spot to be in. Escaping Oakland should be astounding for his fantasy production, and I think he's much too cheap in these early drafts.

As for Melendez, I just love a catcher with some speed that doesn't play a ton behind the plate. Melendez plays some outfield and first base, giving him wide paths to a big PA count. He hit just .217 last year, which is a downer, but the solid 24.5% K% and foot speed make me think he can really improve on that a lot. Sign me up.

At the end of this tier is William Contreras, who was very impressive last year and now moves into the starting role with the Brewers. My problem is the ground-ball rate (53%). He was really fortunate to hit the 20 homers he did last year, having one of the best HR/FB in the league last year. It's a great ballpark for him, and he hits the ball very hard, but I think the 25-homer projection is too high, and you're not going to get steals. He's a fine pick, but I think the price will end up too high for him.


Tier 4

Player Team Rank Tier PA R HR RBI SB AVG
Travis d'Arnaud ATL 11 4 399 45 14 44 0 .236
Tyler Stephenson CIN 12 4 507 55 14 63 1 .282
Danny Jansen TOR 13 4 479 61 24 59 1 .238

I really want to get a catcher from one of those first three tiers, because here we see a real fall-off. Stephenson is the guy here with the most secure playing time, but he doesn't have a ton of power or speed, and the Reds' offense could be a disaster next season. d'Arnaud and Jansen are both skilled hitters, but they're the second-best catcher on their team. If they don't get significant PA counts at DH, they could be almost irrelevant for fantasy just because of the playing time.


Tier 5 - Upside

Player Team Rank Tier PA R HR RBI SB AVG
Keibert Ruiz WSH 14 5 472 43 8 50 5 .263
Cal Raleigh SEA 15 5 524 61 27 71 3 .219
Yasmani Grandal CWS 16 5 350 42 12 42 1 .232

And now we're past the really good hitters. These guys all have serious red flags for fantasy purposes (Ruiz doesn't have much pop, and Raleigh and Grandal have terrifying batting average prospects), so you're playing with fire if you're relying on a catcher at this point.

That said, I'm more or less okay with Ruiz if it comes to that. He'll be in the lineup and have some RBI opportunities hitting fifth or sixth for the Nationals, and he should give us a decent batting average with his contact ability. I also don't see why Grandal won't have a significant bounce-back from the disaster that was 2022, so he'll be really cheap for a guy with power. Raleigh's power is for real, but the strikeouts might get to a point where he hurts you more in batting average than he helps in homers.


Tier 6 - Some Redeeming Quality

Player Team Rank Tier PA R HR RBI SB AVG
Joey Bart SF 17 6 365 37 10 33 2 .207
Christian Vazquez MIN 18 6 385 42 7 39 4 .268
Austin Nola SD 19 6 298 32 3 32 1 .262
Jonah Heim TEX 20 6 402 39 11 44 3 .212

With Bart, you have a young-ish hitter (26) with good bat speed. He could definitely take a step forward and hit 20+ homers, but it's a long shot given how awful he has been with the strikeout. Vazquez, Nola, and Heim are all extremely low-upside options, but they can at least do something well (Vazquez and Nola hit for a good batting average, and Heim has some pop and speed).

I'm okay with one of these guys as a second catcher in a huge league, but if you're starting one of these as your primary catcher, you're probably in trouble.


Tier 7 - The Rest

Player Team Rank Tier PA R HR RBI SB AVG
Mike Zunino CLE 21 7 332 43 20 40 0 .206
Elias Diaz COL 22 7 338 39 10 37 0 .234
Jose Trevino NYY 23 7 312 35 7 31 3 .241
Carson Kelly ARI 24 7 327 34 8 34 2 .235
Gary Sanchez MIN 25 7 321 36 14 35 1 .212
Eric Haase DET 26 7 321 32 13 31 1 .223

Empty power here with Zunino, Kelly, Sanchez, and Haase - and some batting average possibilities with Diaz and Trevino. None of these guys have solidified playing time, and all are quite likely to just put up disastrous stat lines when all things are said and done.

That's the catcher position, keep an eye out for more rankings and tiers pieces this month!

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