2022 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings, Draft Strategy: Salvador Perez Stands Alone Atop Our List
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Salvador Perez
- The MLB season may not be starting on time, but it's still time to prepare for an eventual fantasy baseball season.
- Catcher is a shallow position, but one thing is clear: Royals backstop Salvador Perez is the cream of the crop.
- Below, you'll find our fill tiered list of the top-15 catchers worth rostering in fantasy baseball this season.
Look outside. The weather is slowly warming up, the snow is melting, and the birds are chirping. That can only mean one thing: Major League Baseball is coming … eventually. We may not be getting a season that starts on time, but once it does start, there will be fantasy baseball to be played. So it’s time to start moving through ranking each positional group starting today with catchers.
As is typical with the catcher position within fantasy baseball, the rankings are pretty clear-cut. You have a relatively defined set of top guys, followed by shots in the dark later in the draft. This season, we only have three players in the top-100 of average draft position (ADP) and nine within the top-200.
While I love some pleasant chit-chat, let’s get into the real meat and potatoes of the article, the rankings.
Other Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings:
Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catcher
1. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
It was a remarkable season for the Royals catcher in 2021. His 48 home runs were the most ever by a catcher in a season, and his 121 RBI were the most since prime Mike Piazza in 1997 and 1999. Perez offers you power that will be hard to match by anyone at this position.
He currently has an average draft position (ADP) of 30 overall, according to FantasyPros, but his profile does not come without warts.
When looking at drafting a catcher in the Top-40 who will be 32 by the start of the season after just playing in 161 games last season, you need to worry about injury. While injury potential is a concern, keep in mind that Perez also mixes in starts at DH. It’s pretty clear that Perez has sold out for power in the last few seasons. He combines a horrid 18.6% swinging-strike rate (11% is league average) with a 58.9% swing rate. He swings way more than the average batter and whiffs more than the average batter. This combination shows that the .273 average he posted in 2021 may look more like .240-.250 this season.
A healthy Perez, even with regression in average and power, will bring you value due to his ability to rack up plate appearances at such a volatile position. He can still provide value even with a slash line of .250 average, 30 HR and 170 R/RBI, but it is too rich for my blood.
2. Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
These two are genuinely interchangeable for me, reflected by their current ADP of 57 (Realmuto) and 68 (Smith). However, both players offer the combination of a safe floor mixed with upside, which is rare for the catcher position.
I lead slightly toward Smith — and I mean by the thinnest of margins. He has the sexy ability to combine an excellent batting average floor with 25+ HR pop. The young Dodgers star has already blasted 48 home runs in 834 plate appearances in his short career, with a career on-base percentage of .365. Smith is incredibly patient at the plate with both O-Swing and Swing percentages better than league average. You cannot ignore that he will slot in the middle of the order on a Dodgers team that was fourth in total runs last year while playing nearly every day.
While Smith is ascending into the top echelon of fantasy catchers, Realmuto has been a mainstay there. The soon-to-be 31-year old (his birthday is before the presumptive Opening Day) has a different makeup to the power of Smith.
First, Realmuto offers a profile that adds speed to the equation. The Phillies’ star nabbed 13 bags in 2021, and almost all projections expect him to post another double-digits bags in 2022. Second, Realmuto is the pillar of consistency from the catcher position. You can expect more than 520 plate appearances, which he has accomplished every year since 2016 (discounting the short season in 2020). I expect a floor of 20 HR mixed with around 140 RBI+ R.
4. Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox
5. Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks
6. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
We are now looking at players outside of the top-100 in this tier. You are no longer looking at players you expect to anchor your team but rather players who compliment your team’s composition.
Yasmani Grandal is incredible at getting on-base. His 23.2% BB rate led to a surprising .420 on-base percentage, the third-best in the MLB. He will not benefit your team in the average category, but he will provide power, runs and RBI in a robust White Sox lineup.
Daulton Varsho is a unique case. He started 37 games behind the plate for the Diamondbacks in 2021, which granted him catcher eligibility. He will also start games in the outfield and batting third this upcoming season. This combination is rare but can hugely benefit your team to avoid the pains of your catcher sitting three games a week. In addition, Varsho offers double-digit stolen base potential and 20+ HR power.
Contreras offers a similar profile to Grandal, but he trades some walks for a slightly better batting average. Contreras is a career .259 hitter and has hit 20 or more home runs in three of the last four full seasons. However, the Cubs’ catcher had issues making contact in 2021 with a 28.6% K-rate, a healthy jump from his career 24.6% career average. When he does make contact, it’s loud contact, with an average exit velocity of 91.8 mph and a max exit velocity of 115.4 mph.
7. Keibert Ruiz, Washington Nationals
8. Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds
You could argue players like Travis d’Arnuad or Mitch Garver belong in this tier, but I think these guys offer something unique. Currently, we have an ADP of 160 for Ruiz while Stephenson is sitting a little lower at 166.
Both Ruiz and Stephenson have a big thing in common: They can match the upper echelon of fantasy catchers on average. In addition, they are both projected to hit near .270 on the season. These factors separate them from the likes of Garver, who is projected to hit .230 and D’arnuad at .250. However, these two don’t only contribute to the average category, and they can also provide some pop with 15-20 HR.
Stephenson put together an underrated season last year, slashing .286/.366/.431 with a .346 wOBA in 402 plate appearances. The righty added 10 HR and 100 runs + RBI to his excellent slash line. In addition, he finally can claim the catching position as his own after Tucker Barnhart was shipped out. The combination of everyday at-bats, hitting in the Great American Band Box and a solid average floor makes you dream of the possibilities.
Ruiz is a touch different from Stephenson because his breakout with the bat came in Triple-A. He had always been able to handle the stick, but we saw him mash 21 home runs in 72 games in the minors in 2021. The potential power mixed with his batted ball profile is what you look for in the middle tier of catchers when swinging for the fences.
9. Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves
10. Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
11. Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics
12. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
13. Elias Diaz, Colorado Rockies
14. Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles
15. Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays
We have now ventured into the wasteland of catchers. Each player has their strengths but some glaring weaknesses which keep them down here. You have the power potential in Gary Sanchez, Mitch Garver or Mike Zunino and an average that can kill your team. Adley Rutschman has all the potential in the world but will he even be up within the first month of the season?
Elias Diaz is my favorite among this group. He has a current ADP of 275, which is pretty much free by all accounts. Diaz signed a three-year deal to stay in Colorado and should take the lion’s share of at-bats over the backup catcher, Dom Nunez. An everyday catcher in Coors who is almost free is the dream. He saw gains in his contact% and strike rate, to pair with a career-high 18 HR. Diaz is a threat for 20+ HR to pair with an average in the .250 range.
All ADP data is courtesy of FantasyPros