If you’ve been following along with the positional spotlights here in Fantasy Alarm’s Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, you’ll know that we’ve been covering every single position at depth. Thus far, we’ve covered the top 5 catchers in fantasy baseball, as well as a high-level overview highlighting the overall depth behind the dish for the 2023 fantasy baseball season. Now, it’s time to talk about the best value catchers in fantasy baseball, and the guys to target in the later rounds. Whether you play in a one catcher setup, or you’re daring enough to join a two-catcher format, you need to be privy to the value options, especially if you don’t have your heart set on grabbing two top-10 guys and calling it a day. Catcher isn’t the sexiest position, but there is depth at the position, and there are guys that you can get after the top 175, or even top 275 picks that can give your fantasy baseball team enough production behind the dish. Without further ado, let’s talk about my favorite value options and late round targets behind the dish in fantasy baseball for the 2023 Major League Baseball season.
Keibert Ruiz, Washington Nationals
Ruiz was moved up through the minors relatively quickly, so do not lose sight of the fact that he turns just 24 in July. Prior to his power binge in Triple-A in 2021, he was never a massive power bat, but always showcased elite contact skills and plate discipline. The 2022 season was his first full year in the bigs, and across 112 games, he hit seven home runs, stole six bases, and slashed .251/.313/.360. His xBA last year was .277, his xSLG was 43 points higher than his actual slugging percentage, and what we saw in the second half of the season is more of what Ruiz projects to be in the bigs. His pace from the second half features a .260/.321/.394 slash line with 16 home runs and eight stolen bases over the course of a full season.
Ruiz may not be hitting in a potent lineup by any means, but he’s a sneaky candidate to join the 10/10 club as backstop this year, while also providing an excellent batting average for the position.
Gabriel Moreno, Arizona Diamondbacks
Unlike Ruiz, Moreno doesn’t have a guaranteed starting spot, as Arizona likely opens the year with Carson Kelly as their primary catcher. However, outside of 2019, Kelly hasn’t been anything exceptional, and Moreno is a talented young player that has the look and feel of a professional hitter for years to come. His power hasn’t quite progressed as many would have expected in terms of actual home run production, but he posted a .651 SLG in 21 games at Double-A for Toronto in 2021, and followed it up with a .420 SLG in 62 games at Triple-A. Moreno ran a bit in the minors, and in 25 games with Toronto last year, he hit .319, posted an 81.1 percent contact rate, and only a 9.1 SwStr%.
Moreno runs well for the position, and Arizona won’t have a choice but to get his bat in the lineup more often than not. Most of his time in the minors was spent behind the dish, but Toronto experimented with him at different positions in 2022 (2B, 3B, & LF), likely because they know the bat is ready. If it’s not behind the dish, they could get him some at-bats at DH or perhaps either corner infield spot. If he gets the at-bats, he’ll endear himself to many, and we won’t see him being drafted outside the top 15 catchers in 2024. We’re betting on Moreno’s talent here, and the hope that his talent meets [regular] opportunity in 2023.
UPDATE 3/21: Carson Kelly is going to miss time with a fractured forearm. MOVE MORENO UP THOSE DRAFT BOARDS, BABY!
Shea Langeliers, Oakland Athletics
Langeliers wasn’t exactly shipped out of Atlanta because he fell out of favor, but more so the team had catching depth that made him expendable to help fill a bigger void on the team. Langeliers will prove to be a plus-defender at the game’s highest level, and as we’ve seen in the minors, the pop is legit. He posted respectable .498 and .510 marks in the slugging department in Double-A (2021) and Triple-A (2022) respectively, and while there may some strikeout woes early on his major league career, he projects to be a guy with a strikeout rate in the mid-to-upper twenties. Yes, he punched out nearly 35 percent of the time in 40 games with Oakland last season, but that was his first major league action, so let’s cut him a bit of slack.
Despite the whiffs and strikeouts last year, when he did make contact, he posted a 9.9 percent barrel rate, 16.9 degree launch angle, and he has enough juice to leave the unfriendly hitter confines in Oakland. The home park doesn’t do him any favors, but he’ll be an easy 20+ homer bat behind the dish when he hits his stride, which could be as soon as 2023. Depending on your league settings, he may be a Util-only guy, but it won’t be long until he adds the catcher designation, so don’t fret.
Eric Haase, Detroit Tigers
Is Eric Haase a household name? Nope. However, when you look at the current landscape of the Detroit roster, his playing time is locked in. When he doesn’t catch, he likely serves as the team’s DH, because as crazy as it is to say, the Tigers need his bat in the lineup, especially against southpaws. The team’s current backstop is Jake Rogers, who is a .182 hitter with a career 38 percent strikeout rate, and there’s no one in the minors that is ready to contend for time, at least in the beginning of 2023.
Over the last two years, Haase has 36 home runs, which is the eighth-most at the position, and he’s one of just five backstops with at least 30 home runs and .240 average over the past two seasons. He destroys southpaws, and compared to 2021, he was much better against righties last year, posting a .201 ISO and 107 wRC+. As mentioned, he should be a stalwart in the Detroit lineup, and he should enjoy the updated dimensions of his new home park. It’s hard to argue with a .240 average and 15+ home runs outside of the top 20 backstops, and as we saw in 2021, Haase has enough juice to surpass the 20-homer threshold.