The Dynasty Baseball Performance Report is a regular series, highlighting each position and providing insight into the risers and fallers of both the Major Leagues and prospects. Each week we’ll publish a positional report on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Welcome to our second installment in this dynasty series where we are specifically checking in on catchers across the league. There have been quite a few surprises at the position along with just as many disappointments. In today’s episode, we will examine four guys all across the spectrum in the majors as well as check in on a couple of prospects.
Daulton Varsho (TOR)
There are moments in every offseason when certain fantasy circles become echo chambers that reinforce groupthink. So, what’s so wrong with that? The problem is that independent and critical thinking can at times give way to hype and dreams. Those things might not sound all that bad, until you are on the receiving end of a disappointing acquisition in fantasy baseball. If you can’t tell by now, I am very heavily insinuating that Daulton Varsho has not only underperformed, but that the hype around him this offseason needed some serious tamping down. As it stands, Varsho is batting .221/.298/.396 with 6 HR and 6 SB. This is even taking into account his hot May where he has swatted 4 of his 6 HR while batting .275. Before anyones says it, I know he is still in the top 10 at the position… but still, this is not at all what managers envisioned when they selected Varsho on average at pick 38 in NFBC redraft leagues.
Is there hope he will turn it on and satisfy the managers who once dreamt on a catcher supplying them with 25 HR power and 15+ SB? His Baseball Savant page would indicate that things are looking grim.
Outside of Varsho’s speed, the only other real positive here is his max exit velocity. Everything else rates out as average or below average. The scariest indicator I can see is Varsho’s terrible average exit velocity of 86 MPH. He just isn’t barreling up on the ball as much as he did last year and his overall production is suffering as a result. When it comes down to it, Varsho is not a bad baseball player. His blend of power and speed is still very valuable, but it is more likely that his numbers last year will never be eclipsed. For dynasty leagues, he can still be useful and a strong buy. I just don’t think I could come anywhere close to the asking price he demanded two months ago.
DYNASTY STATUS: Falling
Cal Raleigh (SEA)
Cal Raleigh has performed quite well so far this year and rewarded anyone who took a chance on him after the elite at the position were gone. Coming off a monster 2 HR game this past Monday, Raleigh’s is looking every bit like a guy who might build on his 2022 campaign that saw him smack 27 HR. This year Raleigh is batting .228/.312/.463 with 7 HR in 35 games played. Those numbers may not jump out and grab you initially, but they are good enough to place him as the 6th best catcher in leagues that account for average as well as OBP leagues.
The good news here is that Raleigh’s power is the real deal and, as indicated by an xBA of .243, there may even be growth in store for his batting average. My main concern here is his penchant for striking out. Raleigh’s strikeout rate has always hovered around 30% in the majors with this year being no different at 30.4%. This means that when he isn’t taking a walk (which he does at an impressive 10.9% clip), he is likely to strike out in close to a third of his at bats. I don’t love that, but there is enough here that has me encouraged. If you can sell his owner on the high strikeouts and low BA, then he is a definite buy for me. There just might be another level to unlock and I’m willing to jump in before that happens even given the risks. I mean, how could you not love a catcher who hits two monster homers, one from each side of the plate?!
Cal Raleigh goes OVER the Green Monster.
He's homered from both sides of the plate tonight! pic.twitter.com/MSsKXpHxOT
— MLB (@MLB) May 16, 2023
DYNASTY STATUS: Rising
Jonah Heim (TEX)
Maybe I buried the lead here, but what in the world is going on with Jonah Heim? He went from a draft day and dynasty afterthought to being one of the most valuable fantasy catchers in the majors. There is enough of a sample size at this point where I am slowly becoming more inclined to believe that this is more real than not. Heim has slashed a torrid .313/.368/.519 with 6 HR through 36 games played. The power isn’t prodigious by any means, but catchers with decent pop and an amazing batting average don’t exactly grow on trees either. I want to see a little more from Heim before he jumps into my top 10 catchers for dynasty purposes, but I can absolutely see someone making the case for it.
DYNASTY STATUS: Booming
Elias Diaz (COL)
Elias Diaz has risen from the ashes like a phoenix this year. As of this writing, Diaz is batting .328, which is literally 100 points higher than where he ended last season. His .383 BABIP and .292 xBA both indicate there is some regression coming. Even if he hits .280 the rest of the way, that’s not something to complain about. With just three HR and an average exit velocity hovering under 90 MPH, Diaz appears to have traded power for a higher batting average. To that point, you could say that Diaz is like Jonah Heim light… very light. I wouldn’t mind going after Diaz in two-catcher formats, especially if I am hurting in the batting average or OBP departments.
DYNASTY STATUS: Rising… slightly
Yeiner Fernandez (A+, LAD)
We are going to check in on two catchers in the Dodgers system, and the first of which is probably the lesser known of the pair by far. Yeiner Fernandez is a 20-year-old prospect who is still making up for lost time in the Dodger’s farm system due to coming in right before COVID shut things down in 2020. He is not an imposing figure by any stretch at 5’9″ and 170 pounds, but he is athletic and could move off catcher to 2B.
So how do his tools breakdown from a fantasy standpoint though? Well to put it simply, the guy can hit. He is batting .321 in High-A so far this year, but the power hasn’t quite developed yet with just three HR. The comp everyone like to make for Yeiner is Austin Barnes, but he is showing more potential and could end up being at least a league average bat at second base or an above average bat at catcher if that’s where he sticks. Fernandez has good plate discipline and is someone to watch for sure, especially when he gets pushed up to Double-A. In deeper dynasties where more than 300 prospects are rostered, he is definitely worth a look. Either way, keep an eye on him because if he can grow into 15-20 HR power and retain a high average, then he will shoot up prospect ranks.
Yeiner Fernandez had 4 hits yesterday for Great Lakes, including his 3rd homerun, and is hitting .321 on the year. Fernandez is 6 for his last 10. #dodgers pic.twitter.com/qaHM14JoJN
— Dodgers Daily (@dodger_daily) May 8, 2023
DYNASTY STATUS: Watchlist
Diego Cartaya (AA, LAD)
Once seen as the top catching prospect on the Dodgers farm, Diego Cartaya seems to have hit a wall at Double-A slashing .198/.305/.358. He is a big guy with an explosive swing who also knows how to take a walk. Those things will all play in the bigs, but his 27% strikeout is something to keep an eye on. More concerning than that is how stacked the Dodgers are in the majors and the minors at the position. They currently have Will Smith on the MLB roster, hot prospect Dalton Rushing destroying the minors, and the aforementioned Yeiner Fernandez climbing the ladder. Cartaya looks like a good buy-low right now for deeper dynasties, but his value might ultimately be tied to a trade. Fingers crossed!
DYNASTY STATUS: Falling