TDG 2022 PLAYERS TO AVOID: CATCHERS
This is a companion piece to our annual Top 40 Dynasty League Catchers series, which you can find here and here and here. The opinions below are my own and do not reflect the TDG consensus. Each of these players has plenty of fans among my colleagues.
The first draft of this article simply contained the words “Avoid them all.” While that is a comprehensive summary of a valid approach, I’ll try to present some context and nuance. In 2021, the first five catchers by consensus ADP each finished in the top 7 at the position: J.T. Realmuto 1/2 (positional ADP/position final rank); Salvador Perez 2/1; Will Smith 3/3; Willson Contreras 4/7; Yasmani Grandal 5/6. Sounds like a good investment, right? Well, only two of them (Perez and Smith) actually outproduced their draft value. And one of those needed an unrepeatable MVP-caliber season to do so.
You may then be thinking, “Well, I’ll just get in early on a more affordable hot-hitting prospect.” Not so fast, my friend. Going back to 2014, MLB’s yearly top 10 catcher prospect list has contained 53 different names. Of those 53, just two of them finished in the top 10 at the position this year (Realmuto and Contreras). That is a remarkably high rate of failure, and it’s unique to this position. Catcher is a grind physically, and it takes its toll on the offensive production of all who dare to man the position. Since every spot up and down the catcher ranks comes with risk and you can’t actually “avoid them all,” I’ll highlight a few I think you should consider staying away from.
FRANCISCO ÁLVAREZ; TDG 2022 CONSENSUS DYNASTY CATCHER RANKING: 6TH
There are few questions about Francisco Álvarez’s offensive ability. According to Jordan Rosenblum’s Scouting the Statline, he ranks as one of the best hitting prospects at any position in the minor leagues. His projected peak MLB wRC+ of 138 would put him in rarified air. Only a few catchers have reached that mark in recent years. Unfortunately, even those that have come close, have only done it once, with most of their other seasons topping out at least 10% worse. The question with Álvarez lies simply in the fact that he plays the most difficult position on the diamond. When will the Mets be willing to call him up to handle their staff? How many games will he play? Will his offense struggle as each season, and a career spent, behind the plate wears on him? Because of my hesitancy to dabble in catching prospects, this cautionary tale could easily be Adley Rutschman and his number two consensus catcher ranking, but he at least has the benefit of a highly likely 2022 call-up. There are just too many speed bumps along a catching prospects road to success for me to be interested at this high of a ranking.
YASMANI GRANDAL; TDG 2022 CONSENSUS DYNASTY CATCHER RANKING: 5TH
Yasmani Grandal is one of my favorite players. He has an incredibly unique game, and has been one of the most valuable players to his real-life teams over the last decade. The downside to having such a long track record of success is that it can only be accumulated with age. Grandal will be 33 next season, and that does not bode well for a catcher. Only two catchers age-33 or older played at least 120 games behind the dish in 2021, Yadier Molina and Martin Maldanado. Those two managed just an 83 and a 63 wRC+, respectively. It is clear that aging catchers cannot be relied upon for offensive production. On top of that, Grandal has only reached the 502 plate appearance threshold to qualify for the batting title in a full season twice since his debut in 2012. Since he is joined on the White Sox roster by an aging José Abreu, a defensively limited Eloy Jiménez, and up-and-coming sluggers Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets, supplemental DH plate appearances could be diminishing moving forward. As much as I have enjoyed Grandal, and hope to continue to enjoy him, I’d much rather take the risk of getting out too soon than being in too long.