Justin Mason’s 2023 Catcher Ranks: 2023-01-31

Now that football season is over, it’s time to really get ready for baseball checkers!

This year, to improve my preparation, I am doing full projections on each position that are reflected in my ranks. My ranks will be available here on FanGraphs and daily updates and full projections will be available on the Sleeper and the Bust Patreon as I complete them.

Justin Mason’s 2023 Catcher Ranks: 2023-01-31

Position eligibility is based on 20 games played in 2022.
Blue indicates the beginning of a layer.

The ranks are for 20-game leagues, meaning Francisco Alvarez and Shea Langeliers are not included.

Langeliers would have been behind Jansen and Alvarez would have been in the back row due to playing time concerns.

Thoughts on Level 1

JT Realmuto stands alone in the up-and-coming ranks and for good reason. He was only the second catcher in MLB history to have a 20/20 season, doing so with a .276 batting average. In a league with two catcher’s, he is a fairly easy pick in the second round and could return value in the first round.

Thoughts on level 2

I hate having one level of players, but it’s pretty clear that both Realmuto and Varsho deserve their own levels. With the move to Toronto, it seems quite likely that Varsho’s catching days could be over with both Kirk and Jansen on the roster, but that’s an issue for next season. This season, he could be a monster with daily at bats in the outfield. There is power and speed that is unusual for the catch position. I doubt the batting average, but the counting stats at a position known for poor batting averages could make him a league winner. In a 10-team or 12-team catcher league, I can rationalize taking Varsho or Realmuto where they go, but if I don’t end up with one of them, I’ll probably wait until the end of the draft.

Thoughts on Level 3

Salvador Perez could arguably be on his own level too, especially if you think he’s likely to be another 550+ record player. That said, he’s one of the safer bets to be one of the few plate appearance monsters at the position and he’s about as safe as can be in terms of the overall stat line.

Will Smith is another at bat monster at the catching position with two consecutive seasons of 500+ at bats. I don’t know if we’ll ever really see another level for him as we initially thought he might have, but he’s very safe and still in a very good top half of the lineup.

I don’t like Willson Contreras’ move to the park, but in the end he’ll be in arguably the best lineup in the National League and should throw in a lot of at bats with a great stat line. I feel like the market is pretty much sleeping on him.

I like the advantage Rutschman has, but I do worry about the price in the market and having to pay for that advantage before we see it at the major league level. That said, the plate skills and contact skills are elite for a catcher and the power develops. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a huge step forward this year, but I don’t want to pay for it just yet.

I love Kirk, but I’m afraid the addition of Belt could take away some of his extra plate appearances with DH. That being said, few catchers have his plate skills and I’m willing to bet on that and I hope Toronto continues to give him as many chances as possible.

Melendez is another plate-appearance monster who has a fantastic advantage, but struggles to make enough contact to fully unlock it. That said, he should play so much that he is a great accumulator at the position at worst and could jump to the top of the level at best.

Thoughts on Level 4

Sean Murphy led all catchers in at bats last season, but I doubt he’ll be able to do that again since he won’t be the only great player on the team like he was last year in Oakland. That said, I think the Braves will find ways to get him into the lineup as much as possible and he should get a nice boost from the park and the lineup around him.

Tyler Stephenson hasn’t lived up to his future pedigree, but his seasons have been disjointed due to injury. I still believe there’s a lot of power in the bat and the contact skills have been great for a catcher. Recent reports are the Reds would like him to play 140-150 games between catch first base and DH but I think that’s pretty ambitious given his injury record but if he did he would could be a monster.

William Contreras should be getting more opportunities to play now that he’s in Milwaukee, but unfortunately I don’t know if there’s another level for him. However, his good average and strength on the position make him handsome on the position.

Thoughts on level 5

I think Cal Raleigh is what he is right now, a big powerhouse that will drain your average. It’s hard not to love him as a player with a nickname like Big Dumper, but I’d much rather have a guy in the previous level or a guy who won’t kill my mean.

Jansen is the most likely guy in this level and below to jump to higher levels, but I’m now doubting his upside down record performance with Belt in tow. He was so good in the second half that I’d be surprised if the Jays didn’t find a way to maximize his chances, which makes him pretty safe mixed with a ton of advantage.

Ruiz had the best zone contact of any catcher in baseball with at least 300 at bats, but there just isn’t enough power to qualify for one catcher competition. It makes sense as a high floor C2 in deeper formats, but the benefit is limited.

Thoughts on level 6

d’Arnaud is a really good player when he’s on the field, but between the addition of Murphy and his injury history, I’m very concerned about whether he can score enough at bats to have value.

Has Grandal been washed? He certainly looked like that, but I’m willing to take a chance on him if there’s some kind of replacement value on the wire. There are reports that he is completely healthy for spring training, so that’s a start.

Thoughts on level 7

Vazquez is a man who doesn’t really hurt you, but doesn’t really help either. However, sometimes that’s all you’re looking for in a C2 or an AL only catcher.

Is this finally the year that Campusano can play? I think he will, but the defense will probably keep him from playing enough to matter in most formats. The top is big, but the chance of it reaching it is small.

I want Bart to be good as a Giants fan and I see the potential, but he really struggled with offspeed and breaking throws and until he figures that out, he’s not going to make much progress.

I like Endy Rodriguez as a catch candidate, but I just don’t know when his turn is coming and the Pirates have a history of not wanting to start the boy clock for as long as possible.

Nick Fortes is really interesting if he can get the playing time, but with defensive tough Stallings around, I think that’s going to be a problem.

O’Hoppe is a forward thinking prospect, but reports say the Angels are interested in Gary Sanchez and may even want to give Thaiss the backup job as he is out of options. If he gets the job, he could be a fun player this season.

Bethancourt was a nice story last year, but I just don’t know if I’m buying it to be able to take a lot of it into 2023.

Thoughts on the rest

Gary Sanchez is very interesting depending on where he ends up. He still has a lot of power and made the best zone contact since 2018. First he needs a job.

Jonah Heim was really good but completely fell apart in the second half. If he gets his first half shape back, he could be a huge bargain.

Moreno is a potential top tier candidate, but I’m afraid splitting the role with Kelly will limit his advantage for this year.

Jose Trevino was another fun story in 2023 and he should play a fair amount and not really hurt you, which is something for a low-end C2.

I want Stassi to get well again, but the injuries have taken their toll and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up being an afterthought with O’Hoppe and Thaiss as options.

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