Last Updated: 2/8
A couple of things to note before reading:
- These rankings are for 10- and 12-team head-to-head category leagues with standard scoring and a starting lineup consisting of 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF, 2 UTIL, and a shallow bench, and were created by Scott Chu with input from Nick Pollack.
- These rankings do not contemplate keeper or dynasty rules, nor do they consider whether there is an overall prize beyond the league itself (such as NFBC).
- Within the write-ups, we will call out individual players who would see value boosts or drops in alternative formats, such as rotisserie leagues, deeper leagues, or points leagues
- We are more than happy to answer your questions, requests, and counter-points in the comments or on Twitter!
1. Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals) – His unbelievable 2021 was something to behold. Not only did he mash a bunch of home runs, but he piled up well over 600 plate appearances, which basically never happens or catchers. I just can’t imagine the Royals putting Sal’s body through that again, and even if they did, it’s hard to imagine that going well. He’s still probably the best catcher due to his contact ability, power, and volume, but I expect it to be far less dramatic in 2022.
2. J.T. Realmuto (Philadelphia Phillies) – Another season of plus batting average and plus counting stats for a cacher, not to mention double-digit steals! The little bit of everything that Realmuto does isn’t as exciting as Perez, but it pays the fantasy bills in a lot of ways. While he’s now “over the hill” going into his age-31 season, the dependable veteran is a lock as a top-three catcher.
3. Will Smith (Los Angeles Dodgers) – After all of that preseason talk of Smith playing less than 100 games and sharing backstop duties, he played more games in the majors than he had in all of 2019 and 2020 combined. While he didn’t keep the outstanding plate discipline he showed in 2020, he did clobber 25 home runs and piled up plenty of counting stats (again, for a catcher). Opening up a DH spot in the NL would probably give Smith a few more plate appearances every week, but even if it doesn’t, this is a top-tier catcher.
4. Yasmani Grandal (Chicago White Sox) – After a slow start where he did nothing but walk, Grandal had a batting average well south of .150, but managed to turn it around in June, hitting eight home runs that month before dealing with injuries. He returned at the end of the season fully healthy, though, and when all was said and done Grandal had posted yet another season of a double-digit walk rate, at least 20 home runs, and a healthy number of runs and RBI. I would expect the same in 2022, with 25-30 home runs and a hefty OBP.
5. Willson Contreras (Chicago Cubs) – It’s now that you start seeing how thin this position gets and how quickly it happens. Contreras may be traded by the time the season ends (though it’d be unlikely to hurt his value much unless he wasn’t going to be the starter, which would be weird). I really wanted to put one of the younger, more exciting catchers above him, but dependability matters and Contreras has at least been consistent when playing. I don’t think the batting average will get back up to the .270s like it had been in years past, but it’ll be good enough that you won’t think about your catcher again unless he gets hurt.
6. Daulton Varsho (Arizona Diamondbacks) – He’s the one everyone will want because he came on strong at the end of last year and can steal some bases. The fact he plays outfield is only relevant for fantasy in that it provides an avenue to playing time that doesn’t require getting hit with foul tips every few minutes. In terms of raw production, it’s basically Realmuto-lite.
7. Keibert Ruiz (Washington Nationals) – One of the cornerstone returns from the Scherzer/Turner trade, Ruiz showcases excellent plate discipline while maintaining a keen ability to put the ball over outfield fences. He should see a world of plate appearances with plenty of men on the basepaths, and playing time is a big deal for catchers (even if you’re streaming).
8. Tyler Stephenson (Cincinnati Reds) – With the departure of Tucker Barnhardt, Stephenson becomes the lead backstop for Cincinnati, and the full potential of opportunities lies ahead. Given the small home park dimensions and Stephenson limiting the strikeouts, he could be intriguing for batting average and power.
9. Travis d’Arnaud (Atlanta) – Injury played a menacing factor in the overall production for d’Arnaud, and he only found his way into the lineup for a mere 60 games. If he can stay healthy in Atlanta’s stout offense, his decent quality of contact (7% barrel-rate) will help provide plenty of counting stats with a modest batting average.
10. Mike Zunino (Tampa Bay Rays) – The herculean power was in full effect for Zunino as he smashed 33 bombs in only 333 at-bats. However, the all-or-nothing plate approach led to a robust 35% K-rate and worrisome batting average. Also, there is concern about playing time, specifically against RHP, where he only showcases a 73 wRC+.
11. Omar Narváez (Milwaukee Brewers) – Narváez’s season resembled more of his 2019 breakout than the 2020 slump. The K% dropped below 19% to help solidify a .266 batting average; however, a 21 wRC+ vs. southpaws will likely mean he will only be a strong-side platoon. At least that’s better than a weak-side platoon!
12. Christian Vázquez (Boston Red Sox) – It was a rough season for the everyday backstop, but at least he managed to keep an acceptable batting average and steal eight bases. Six home runs and a smattering of counting stats won’t cut it, though, and unless he shows the kind of consistency and .400 or better slugging, he’ll just be another streamer for when the Orioles come to town.
13. Mitch Garver (Minnesota Twins) – The power is evident in Garver’s game, as shown by his .261 ISO(4th best among catchers). His 12.8% walk rate makes him very intriguing for OBP leagues. The big concern is health, as the 31-year-old Garver has never made it to 350 plate appearances in a season.
14. Alejandro Kirk (Toronto Blue Jays) – No doubt, Kirk looks like he is ready to take the catcher position by storm. The rare attribute of a high barrel% and lack of strikeouts could catapult him into top-five contention, but an unclear pathway to playing time stands in Kirk’s way. Is this just Willians Astudillo all over again? Because my heart can’t take that.
15. Gary Sánchez (New York Yankees) – Since 2018, only Salvador Perez has had more HRs than Gary Sánchez at the position. But the elephant in the room is his batting average or lack thereof. High strikeout rates and a low BABIP could lead to another poor BA. Although, if he can make enough contact, the counting stats will follow in the potent New York offense.
16. Elias Díaz (Colorado Rockies) – Díaz new home helped set career highs in home runs (18), runs (52), and RBI (44). Furthermore, he managed to lift his FB% to 40% while maintaining a slightly-above league average barrel%. The biggest question: Can he repeat the newfound success? I mean, probably not because it’s Colorado and they’ve screwed everything up over the last few seasons, but it’s a new regime, right?! I’m skeptical that he has the power to keep clearing the walls in Colorado, but there should at least be playing time and batting average here if nothing else.
17. Austin Nola (San Diego Padres) – A thumb injury took Nola out of the lineup for nearly two months. This completely zapped his production at the plate, and we didn’t see a fully healthy Nola until the second half. In his final 37 games, Nola slashed .291/.326/.394 with a strikeout rate slightly south of 12%.
18. Sean Murphy (Oakland Athletics) – Murphy showcased his 60-grade raw power by swatting 17 balls into the bleachers and finished his second straight season with a double-digit barrel rate. However, Murphy wore down, and most of that production was in the first half as he only slugged six HRs in the second half and lost nearly 20 points in wRC+.
19. Carson Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks) – It was a tale of two halves for Kelly, as he only had nine plate appearances in June. The first half was great as he racked up eight HRs with 54 combined runs and RBI; however, the second half was considerably leaner with respect to both power and counting stats. In the end, 2021 was a decent season, and he should be able to repeat, if not surpass. In a perfect world, he might even keep Varsho in the outfield an extra day or two per week (which is a win-win as it should keep Varsho fresher).
20. Joey Bart (San Francisco Giants) – With Buster Posey’s retirement, Bart is finally ready to step into a full-time role as the Giants catcher. The prospect community will be watching with bated breath to see if Bart can live up to his second overall pick status. If he can keep the K% under 30%, there is plenty of power and raw tools to flash great things in a good offense. A lot of the shine has worn off, but there’s still a glint of something if you squint and look at him from the right angle.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)