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Mid-Round Catchers - Fantasy Baseball Draft Values and Targets

Welcome officially to the 2023 fantasy baseball season! Spring training is in full force, and fantasy managers are gearing up for another exciting season in the MLB. Once you reach the middle rounds of drafts, everyone is looking to draft players that can provide a great return on value. You can start taking calculated risks on emerging prospects, overlooked veterans, players returning from injury, or even players with some playing time concerns out of the gate. The early rounds are critical, and the late rounds are where you can take your chances on dart-throw sleepers, but the middle rounds can make or break your roster.

Today, we're looking at some middle-round catchers for you to consider drafting in your season-long leagues this season. Are their ADPs undervalued? Will they make significant fantasy contributions and become a priority mid-round draft target? Read on to see our take.

Our editors have hand-picked these specific MLB players for your draft prep enjoyment. Usually only available to Premium subscribers, the five outlooks below are meant to give you a taste of the in-depth analysis you receive with our industry-leading 2023 Draft Kit. Be sure to subscribe today to start reading all of our in-depth 2023 player outlooks and many other premium articles and tools including Team Sync, the Live Draft Sync assistant, Custom Rankings Service, and so much more -- available exclusively in our 2023 Draft Kit.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers boast potentially the best offense in baseball entering the 2023 campaign and expect catcher Will Smith to be right in the middle of it. The 2016 first-round pick broke onto the scene with an impressive debut in 2019 at the age of 24 but looks like a potential No. 1 fantasy catcher heading towards his age-28 season. Smith launched 24 home runs and collected 87 RBI last season across 137 games, posting a 127 wRC+ in the process. It was actually a below-average season for a player that owns a career .240 ISO, .857 OPS, .363 wOBA, and 132 wRC+ across 358 big-league games.

Smith projects to hit third in the order in a loaded Dodgers lineup that includes Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, and J.D. Martinez. ATC projects Smith to appear in 128 games, smashing 24 HR, knocking in 79 runs, and posting a .221 ISO, .358 wOBA, and 134 wRC+ in 2023. Smith is our third-ranked catcher and should have his name called around the 52nd pick of your draft. He is undoubtedly in the mix to produce the best counting stats at the catcher position, making his ADP more than reasonable.

-- Brenton Kemp - RotoBaller

 

Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles

Baseball's top catching prospect made his long-awaited debut in 2022 and he did not disappoint. The young backstop slashed .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers in 470 plate appearances. After getting acquainted with big-league pitching, things were even better as Rutschman slashed .275/.399/.462 in the second half. He was not only one of the best-hitting catchers in the league down the stretch; he was one of the best hitters overall. His 18% K% and 82% contact rate are elite marks, and rare to find from such a young player. All of this sets the expectations high for year two. The good news is that all of the underlying metrics look great. He puts a ton of balls in play and keeps the ball off the ground.

The Orioles added James McCann this offseason, which should lighten the load behind the dish for Rutschman and give him more starts as the DH - which is a good thing for his fantasy stock overall. The problem is that there are no discounts on Rutschman this year, as he's a top-five catcher off the board and often goes inside the top 60 picks. That price might be prohibitive with plenty of cheaper options at the position, but Rutschman could be a fantasy baseball game-breaker in 2023 as such a great hitter at a tough position to fill.

-- Jon Anderson - RotoBaller

 

Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

Salvador Perez has been the backbone of the Kansas City Royals for the better part of his 11-year big league career, and that shouldn't change in 2023. Despite plenty of wear and tear on his 6-foot-3, 255-pound frame, Perez continues to display light-tower power entering his age-33 season. Excluding the shortened 2020 campaign, the Venezuela native has swatted a minimum of 23 home runs in each of his last four seasons, with an isolated power of at least .204 in each of those campaigns. He missed time with injury in 2022 but managed 23 HR and 76 RBI alongside a .211 ISO in 114 appearances nonetheless.

The 2015 World Series champion will get spelled by AJ Melendez behind the plate, with some additional designated hitter duties aiding his bid to stay healthy this time around. Perez is RotoBaller's fifth-ranked catcher, as his name called around the 64th pick in NFBC leagues. Despite some younger backstops emerging across the league, Perez can still hang around and reward managers with excessive power as Steamer projects the veteran to club 30 HR this season. He remains one of the most reliable fantasy catchers entering the 2023 campaign.

-- Brenton Kemp - RotoBaller

 

Willson Contreras, St. Louis Cardinals

Speculation was wide-ranging on where Willson Contreras would land this offseason as a free agent, and at the end of the day, the St. Louis Cardinals scooped him up on a five-year, $87.5 million deal. He should fit in well in his new digs on the heels of a career year at the plate in 2022. Contreras hit 22 home runs alongside a .224 ISO, .364 wOBA, and 132 wRC+ last season while ranking in the 90th percentile with a career-best 48.6% hard-hit rate, according to Baseball Savant.

The 30-year-old's counting stats took a hit on a poor Chicago Cubs offense but projects for improvement on a Cardinals offense that tied for fifth in runs scored a season ago. Steamer pegs Contreras for 21 HRs, 75 runs, 66 RBI, and five stolen bases across 124 games played in 2023. Such production makes the former Cub one of the league's safest options at the catcher position, ranking sixth in our positional rankings and 107th overall, numbers right in line with his 96 ADP. Snatching the Venezuela native at or a few spots ahead of his current ADP is the prudent move in solidifying the catching position.

-- Brenton Kemp - RotoBaller

 

Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays

Alejandro Kirk enjoyed a breakout 2022 campaign, slashing .285/.372/.415 with 14 HR in 541 PAs with catcher eligibility. His 11.6 BB% exceeded his 10.7 K%, and both metrics were supported by his 5.8 SwStr% and minuscule 26.3% chase rate. Unfortunately, Kirk's contact quality metrics indicate that he might struggle to deliver a satisfactory encore. His 30.8 FB% makes it difficult to expect the roughly 20 HR most projection systems are calling for, and his 9.4 IFFB% is relatively high for a guy who isn't looking for airborne contact. Kirk's 19.2 LD% is below average as well, and grounders aren't the answer for someone who runs like a catcher. Kirk's xBA was only .278 in 2022, so he might not be a lock for anything higher.

Kirk's contact-oriented profile doesn't fit the cleanup role at all, especially in a lineup with proven boppers like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. Kirk could therefore lose his spot and the counting stats that go with it. Catcher isn't the wasteland in 2023 that it has been historically, and there's little reason to take Kirk at his ADP of 99.55 due to position scarcity alone. There are too many red flags here.

-- Rick Lucks - RotoBaller



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