Following up on our Top Prospect January where the Dynasty team covered 30 teams in 30 days, and our recently released consensus Top 100 Prospects, we now look at the top 10 prospects at each position. We’re starting with Drew Wheeler’s favorite: catchers.
In some circles, you’ll hear that the catching position isn’t worth a look when it comes to prospects. Some even go as far as to change the famous moniker TINSTAAPP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect) to TINSTAACP to highlight that there really aren’t catching prospects worth your time. While that was probably mostly true for a while, I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.
A look at the 2023 catching pool and beyond illustrates we could very easily be in a catching renaissance. Adley Rutschman is leading that charge—rightfully so—but Alejandro Kirk, MJ Melendez, William Contreras, and Cal Raleigh are all young and talented in their own rights. Will Smith and Daulton Varsho are still relatively young as well. Keibert Ruiz might just be a good example that sometimes it takes a few years to put together the defense and offense roles. Gabriel Moreno doesn’t qualify as a prospect anymore, but he’d be on this list if he did. These are just some names that weren’t even included in the list of 10 below, which should add a few more names to the list of successes this season.
So before you skip over this list, remember Bryce Harper was once a catcher. Don’t let the catching positional cover fool you into overlooking some potential impact players.
Disclaimer: Do keep in mind that it is a tall task for young catchers to come up and produce both defensively (which is extremely important to the success of your pitching staff), and offensively (which is important for fantasy leagues) so there could be growing pains with most on this list. And while it might be common and easy to discredit catching prospects, maybe it’s worth a second thought.
Let’s get into the list:
Top 10 Catcher Prospects for Fantasy Baseball Prospects
1. Francisco Álvarez, C, NYM
Age: 21/2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 411 AB/.260/.374/.511/27 HR/0 SB/74 R/78 RBI
MLB Stats: 12 AB/.167/.286/.500/1 HR/0 SB/3 R/1 RBI
Francisco Álvarez was signed out of Venezuela in 2018 by the Mets and has delivered on that 2 million plus signing bonus thus far displaying potential plus hit and power tools with a strong ability to take a walk. That’s a lot of what you look for in a hitter and is the primary reason why Álvarez finds himself atop this list for another season. Álvarez has elite bat speed partly thanks to very quick hands which should help him hit for power in the majors. Like many young hitters, he does have swing-and-miss in his game and can struggle with off-speed pitches at times, which we saw in his very small MLB sample size. However, I can’t fault a then 20-year-old for in his first shot in the show. Álvarez is unlikely to be a plus defender, but he should be good enough to stay at his current position. The potential for a 25+ HR .250+ AVG and plus OBP at the catcher position is a lot to be excited about. The ceiling for Álvarez is a top 5 fantasy catcher if he can limit the strikeouts so the bat can sing. He should get a chance in 2023.
2. Endy Rodriguez, C, PIT
Age: 22/2022 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 458 AB/.323/.407/.590/25 HR/4 SB/92 R/95 RBI
Arguably the biggest breakout on this list, Endy Rodriguez had a huge 2022 season improving on both sides of the ball and surpassing Henry Davis on a lot of evaluator’s lists. And it’s for good reason, there is a lot to like in Rodriguez’s profile. Known for his hard work and leadership abilities, Rodriguez is a very athletic switch-hitter that climbed three levels and showed little to no signs of struggle nearly slashing .300/.400/.500 from both sides of the plate. Rodriguez has a good approach with plus feel for the strike zone and showed growing power in 2022. The ceiling is a solid all-around hitter that can be a C1 in 15-team leagues. Rodriguez can play second base, but his development coupled with Davis’ injuries might point toward Rodriguez as the catcher of the future in Steel City.
3. Diego Cartaya, C, LAD
Age: 21/2022 Stats (A/A+): 362 AB/.254/.389/.503/22 HR/1 SB/74 R/72 RBI
Diego Cartaya was signed out of Venezuela in 2018 by the Dodgers and is one of my favorites on this list. The combination of bat speed, plate approach, and athletic frame with good projectable growth check off a lot of intriguing boxes, and the numbers back it up too. Cartaya has slashed .269/.380/.502 in 175 career games and looks the part behind the plate with a strong arm and quality receiving. Keep in mind he is very young, but there is a lot to like and he’s in a great development system. Cartaya’s ceiling could be in the superstar atmosphere, and I would say he is likely the heir apparent to Will Smith in Hollywood, but Smith is under contract for four more seasons so we will see how that puzzle fits in 2024. Did I mention he was a favorite of mine?
4. Bo Naylor, C, CLE
Age: 23/2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 415 AB/.263/.392/.496/21 HR/20 SB/73 R/68 RBI
MLB Stats: 8 AB/.000/.000/.000/0 HR/0 SB/0 R/0 RBI
Bo Naylor was a first-round pick by the Guardians’ in 2018 and may be the next new catcher that can produce in all five categories. When you hear the name Naylor you may think of Josh initially, but the younger brother, Bo, is very athletic and is a speed threat. But they are similar in some ways as Bo possesses the skills of power and patience that Josh has demonstrated. Naylor went 21/20 between Double-A and Triple-A which resulted in an eight-at-bat cup of coffee in the majors. Which I suppose would be more like a demi. You don’t love to see five strikeouts in that span, but it’s far too small of a sample to write him off. The question is how much will Naylor hit against the highest level pitching. If he can hit enough to let his power and speed play, he could be a top-10 option at the position. And if that happens, Naylor is a threat to become only the third catcher in MLB history to go 20/20 HR/SB (Ivan Rodriguez and JT Realmuto).
5. Austin Wells, C, NYY
Age: 23/2022 Stats (A/A+/AA) 336 AB/.277/.385/.512/20 HR/16 SB/60 R/65 RBI
Austin Wells was the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2020 out of Arizona. The 6’2″ 220 lb catcher climbed three levels in 2022 thanks to an offensive profile that has a lot of what you look for in a hitter. Wells makes hard contact, has low chase tendencies, and showed the ability to make swing adjustments, which helped improve his contact. A perfect stolen base record of 32 in his minor league career hints that he could contribute in the category at the highest level which would create a potential five-category player. There has been plenty of talk about his ability to stay at catcher, but he has made strides defensively and it might not even matter if the hitting profile proves to be as good as it looks. Wells is a potential five-category contributor with a boost in OBP leagues. Another one of my favorites on the list.
6. Harry Ford, C, SEA
Age: 20/2022 Stats (A): 390 AB/.274 AVG/.425 OBP/.438 SLG/11 HR/23 SB/89 R/65 RBI
Harry Ford was the Mariners’ first-round pick (12th overall) in 2021 out of North Cobb High School in Georgia. The 5’10” 200 lb catcher may be short in height, but he oozes athleticism and physical skills that should help him become a strong fantasy contributor in the future. Through 445 pro at-bats, Ford has shown a quality approach with a good eye (19.4% BB% in 2022), explosive bat speed, and plus speed that plays on the basepaths. Ford projects to have an above-average hit tool and is so athletic with a strong work ethic that he will likely continue to grow into more power, not to mention he will play the entire 2023 season at the fresh age of 20. If that happens, we’re talking about a potential five-category contributor, and you don’t need me to tell you how valuable that is. Ford has the skills to stay at catcher, and while I can’t argue with how a plus offensive profile at catcher can provide flexibility to a lineup, I’d personally like to see a move to the outfield where his athleticism and complete toolset can shine every day.
7. Logan O’Hoppe, C, LAA
Age: 22/2022 Stats (AA): 360 AB/.283/.416/.544/26 HR/7 SB/72 R/78 RBI
MLB Stats: 14 AB/.286/.375/.286/0 HR/0 SB/1 R/2 RBI
Logan O’Hoppe is another exciting young catcher that many people are suspecting will make the team out of Spring Training. That’s probably due to his quality 2022 season displaying an improving hit tool, power, and eye, though the underlying metrics suggest there could be some regression in the power department. This time last year O’Hoppe was probably wondering how he’d ever play at catcher with JT Realmuto in town. But a swap for Brandon Marsh springs a much clearer path unless you believe in Matt Thaiss (out of options) or Max Stassi behind the dish. O’Hoppe should provide us with another example of how young catchers transition to all that being a Major League catcher entails. O’Hoppe will likely be an above-average defender so maybe his transition curve won’t be as steep, but that remains to be seen. O’Hoppe has made a lot of gains to develop into the player he is today so if he can maintain or continue the growth he has experienced offensively, the ceiling is a top-10 catcher. Be patient if it doesn’t happen right away.
8. Tyler Soderstrom, C/1B, OAK
Age: 21/2022 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 505 AB/.267 AVG/.324 OBP/.501 SLG/29 HR/0 SB/66 R/105 RBI
The former first-round pick in the 2020 draft, Tyler Soderstrom, is the definition of a legit bat-first prospect with growing power. Tooled up with a plus hit tool, Soderstrom has done nothing but hit since joining the pros (.279/.344/.521 41 HR in 727 career AB), and the power is showing up even more now in games (29 HR in 505 AB in 2022). Soderstrom can make quality contact and pairs that with a patient approach that should serve him well against better competition. He has the skills to stay at catcher, but the bat may suggest a move to first base. It is that good. Soderstrom projects as a future 25+ HR hitter with a solid batting average and OBP, and that might be his floor. The upside is an All-Star bat, but make no mistake, there is pressure on the bat to produce the majority of his value if he changes positions.
9. Henry Davis, C, PIT
Age: 23/2022 Stats (A/A+/AA): 212 AB/.264/.380/.472/10 HR/9 SB/39 R/42 RBI
Henry Davis was the Pirates’ first overall pick in the 2021 draft, and he has struggled to live up to that hype thus far due primarily to injuries and inconsistencies. Wrist injuries specifically have really hampered Davis’ development, but he did still climb three levels in 2022. He enjoyed success in Single-A and High-A before finishing the season in Double-A (116 AB) where he struggled to make consistent contact hitting .207 with a .244 BABIP, but he did keep the strikeouts somewhat in check with a 22% mark. With such a small sample size of game repetitions the jury is still out on Davis and what his future profile and role look like. Davis could move to a corner outfield spot or first base if the projected plus power is realized, and he can stay on the field. There’s a chance he gets healthy and can get back to what made him the first-overall pick, but I’d like to see some positive signs before moving him back up.
10. Dalton Rushing, C, LAD
Age: 22/2022 Stats (Rk/A): 104 AB/.404 AVG/.522 OBP/.740 SLG/8 HR/1 SB/27 R/30 RBI
Let’s just get this out of the way. This dude can rake. Rushing must be a believer in making good impressions because he rushed into his first taste of pro ball like he was late for class. In 104 AB, Rushing had a 47% hard-hit rate, a 104.7 mpg 90th percentile exit velocity, slashed .404/.522/.740, and posted the highest xwOBA of any Minor Leaguer with over 100 PA. He also displayed a strong ability to stay within his approach and not chase too much. Rushing is likely multiple years away from making an impact unless he is moved off the position, which certainly is possible. And there could be some growing pains, but Rushing looks like a legit bat no matter where he ends up playing. I’m a big fan.
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)