THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2023 TOP 40 DYNASTY LEAGUE CATCHERS, #11-20
Continuing with our highlights of the league’s top Catcher, as judged by our collection of industry experts, below are the players ranked #11-20.
11. SALVADOR PÉREZ, KANSAS CITY ROYALS (AGE: 32, PREVIOUS RANK: 4)
The fantasy hive mind is a cruel mistress. A year removed from his historic season, Sal Pérez is seemingly considered washed up and broken. Don’t believe it. A slow start and a torn thumb ligament last June must have been enough to wipe our collective brains. Hitting 12 home runs with a 131 wRC+ after his return in late July should have jogged our memories. But alas, we ignored him.
The likely C/DH split with Melendez is a blessing for those who already roster Sal. Historically Pérez has been as healthy as they come, averaging over 130 games per season. A rotation into the DH will just help prolong his excellent offensive career. He’s not the best catcher in OBP formats (3.6% career BB rate), but he doesn’t strike out a ton (K-rate 23%) and is good for 20+ homers with 120 R+RBIs yearly. If any catcher-eligible player can have a long outstanding career, it’s Pérez with the current Royals C/DH platoons. (Chris Knock)
12. CAL RALEIGH, SEATTLE MARINERS (AGE: 26, PREVIOUS RANK: 34)
At this point, Cal Raleigh needs no introduction. And he doesn’t even need a thumb as we found out after the season that his DTD thumb injury in mid-September was actually a broken digit and torn ligament. Hilariously, those final 37 regular season thumbless PAs resulted in 4 homers, including the memorable game-winner that sent the M’s to their first playoffs in 21 years.
The Big Dumper smashed 27 homers last year in all and is another OBP-drain catcher. He differs from Pérez though via his near-30% K-rate and .211 AVG. While he is a power-over-hit profile, Raleigh isn’t in a hot seat for playing time. The switch hitter socked 24 of his 27 homers from the left side of the plate. Though he was still effective as a righty with a 112 wRC. Catchers are notoriously slow offensive development projects, so this is looking like the start of a great career for Raleigh. (Chris Knock)
13. TYLER STEPHENSON, CINCINNATI REDS (AGE: 26, PREVIOUS RANK: 12)
Unlike the Big Dumper, TStep needed a thumb last year. In fact, he needed a whole lot of other healthy body parts as well. In all Stephenson only played in 50 games last year. A concussion knocked him out almost a month in April. Then a fractured thumb in mid-June resulted in another lost month. And then he fractured his collar bone on 7/23 which was season-ending. Even with the slew of injuries, his 50-game slash line (.319/.372/.482) and 6 home runs put him on pace for a career year.
I may be a skewed writer here – TStep was the focus of my TDG application article. But I would love to be getting a buy low price on him this off-season. A career total of 18 home runs isn’t a lot, and he doesn’t pack the raw punch of the names above him. But Stephenson is a much more complete hitter who calls Great American Ballpark home. As long as he’s healthy, the Reds will be batting him in heart of their lineup where he will make his offensive name known. (Chris Knock)
14. GABRIEL MORENO, ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (AGE: 22, PREVIOUS RANK: 14)
Gabriel Moreno was one of the marquee names in one of the marquee trades of the off-season. He’s a hit-over-power backstop, who progressed through the MiLB ranks of one of the best bat- developing organizations. Last year with Toronto, Moreno had a 25-game audition in the majors, and he was pretty much as advertised. 11% K-rate with a 5% walk-rate and one home run translated into a .319/.356/.377 triple slash.
He has the hit tool to stick in the majors, but really questionable in-game thump. Statcast though shows he has the ability to unlock some of that thump. His avgEV of 89.2 mph and maxEV of 109.2 are decent but his 57% GB rate is killer. He also sprays the ball currently, with over 75% of his hits going to the center or right side of the field. Some swing adjustments could help tap into some power.
Carson Kelly will still be under team control through next year in Arizona. So time shares or Triple-A assignments may be in the immediate future for Moreno. The latter is likely better for him to make any swing adjustments and really grow his offensive skills. We just need to be patient. (Chris Knock)
15. BO NAYLOR, CLEVELAND INDIANS (AGE: 23, PREVIOUS RANK: 76)
Speaking of being patient, prospect growth isn’t linear and Bo Naylor showed that this past season. The Guardian’s top draft pick in 2018, Naylor had a rough ‘21 with an ugly 31% K rate in AA. Then last year, a season split between Double-A and Triple-A, Naylor hit 21 home runs and swiped 20 bases. He brought his K rate south of 26% and maintained a 12.8% walk rate.
Naylor gets compared with Realmuto often because of his success so far on the basepaths. Double-digit steals definitely are possible early in Naylor’s career. But I wouldn’t expect 20/20 seasons from him – remember even JT has only stolen more than 9 three times in his ‘speedy’ career.
Regardless of his 5 category fantasy contributions, Naylor should be Cleveland’s primary catcher in short order. While his defense still needs work – I know, that’s shocking for a young, converted position player – his bat is ready to play. I would be anticipating Naylor to take the top spot on the depth chart sometime this year or to open ‘24 at the latest. (Chris Knock)
16. LOGAN O’HOPPE, LOS ANGELES ANGELS (AGE: 23, PREVIOUS RANK: 52)
While Bo was patient, Logan O’Hoppe decided to cut almost everyone in the catcher line. Considered a solid, deep prospect entering the 2022 season, O’Hoppe outjumped all expectations. Starting in Double-A for the Phillies, he put together a 144 wRC+ half-season. His .275/.392/.496 slash line resulted in 15 home runs with 6 stolen bases. It was so good, he was the main return in the deadline deal for Brandon Marsh. The Angels decided to keep O’Hoppe at Double-A after the swap and he was even better. His 16.8% K-rate almost mirrored the first half’s 16.5% but he walked in a jaw-dropping 22.1% of his 131 post-trade plate appearances.
He was called up to the parent club for the final week of the season and held his own with a 98 wRC+ and 2 walks in the 16 PA sample. O’Hoppe is my target for a ‘young’ catcher in dynasty leagues. He’s already slated to bat 8th in the Angels’ lineup and not in a platoon either. I would expect this stock to continue to rise. (Chris Knock)
17. ENDY RODRIGUEZ, PITTSBURGH PIRATES (AGE: 22, PREVIOUS RANK: UR)
Endy Rodriguez is another name that has taken off in the dynasty conversation over the past season. And with good reason – his wRC+ was only below 140 once in his minor-league career. That was in 2018, during Endy’s first taste of professional ball. Last year he was twice as good offensively compared to both his Double-A competition and Triple-A competition, with wRC+ of 199 and 208 in the two leagues.
With walk rates in the low teens and K rates in the upper teens, it’s easy to see why even public projections see Endy succeeding as early as this year in the majors. The biggest hurdle for him in dynasty baseball is ranked just two spots below. Though in the world of universal DH, even a strong prospect in the same org isn’t a large obstacle. Look for at least a cup of coffee for Endy this year, the Pirates aren’t in rush to promote but his performance should put all sorts of pressure on the organization. (Chris Knock)
18. KEIBERT RUIZ, WASHINTON NATIONALS (AGE: 24, PREVIOUS RANK: 11)
Detractors of Moreno often point to Keibert Ruiz as Exhibit A for their concerns. Both have produced low teens K-rate and acceptable walk rates in minor league and (short) major league careers. Beyond their contact abilities and strike zone judgment, Ruiz’s exit velocities as a professional have been just a touch below Moreno’s small sample. Where they differ is that Ruiz already pulls the ball almost 50% of the time and has a 15-degree avgLA. There’s not much wiggle room in his swing plane to unlock more power.
He does have a full-time gig as the catcher for the Nationals, and their weak organizational depth includes catcher as well. Because of this playing time allowance, he makes a reasonable deep league backstop with a good floor. We could see power numbers scale up as he ages a bit, and he’ll get the opportunity to do so. (Chris Knock)
19. HENRY DAVIS, PITTSBURGH PIRATES (AGE: 23, PREVIOUS RANK: 13)
As alluded to above, Henry Davis is the second of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ oncoming two-headed monster catcher. The top pick in the 2021 draft, Davis hasn’t dominated quite to the extent of Endy but he has not been remotely close to a bust either. Despite a nagging wrist injury that kept him out of half the season, Davis still hit 10 home runs in 59 total games between the A/A+/AA levels. Raw power is his calling card, so a mediocre .172 ISO in Double-A at the end of the year is ugly at first blush. Take into account how much wrist injuries can sap power plus it being his first full professional season, and the total numbers are much more appealing.
Neither Davis nor his counterpart Endy are exceptional defensive catchers, so the timeshare really looks to be split for their future. And just like with Endy, this can be very beneficial for Davis (and your dynasty team) as rotating out from behind the plate will do wonders for his long-term productivity. (Chris Knock)
20. DIEGO CARTAYA, LOS ANGELES DODGERS (AGE: 21, PREVIOUS RANK: 27)
Diego Cartaya has a lot going for him. Another catcher initially known for his home run stroke, the then 20-year-old hit 22 home runs between Low and High-A last year. But not only can he blast homers, but he has a heck of an eye to boot. His 63 walks last year produced a .389 OBP combined between the two levels, again as a 20-year-old. Add in on both of those factors that he’s in one of the premier development organizations and fantasy managers should be drooling.
A familiar caveat exists though. A player named Will Smith is ahead of Cartaya in the organizational pecking order. While he’s on the 40-man roster currently, we likely won’t see Cartaya earn significant playing time until 2025. The Dodgers will be patient with Cartaya, and you should be too if you roster him. (Chris Knock)