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Staff Post: Catchers to target in 2022 fantasy baseball

The Fake Teams writers make their cases for five backstops in 2022 fantasy baseball.

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Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The fantasy baseball season is afoot! Catcher Week is already drawing to a close, with first basemen on tap for next week (beginning Monday). For now, be sure to scope out our NFL DFS content for ahead of the NFL divisional round.

All catcher ADPs are derived from roughly the last month’s worth of NFBC 50 ADP, or the last 20 drafts since December 27th. I like using 50s ADP for this—despite the industry standard being two-catcher, 15-team tilts, many people still play in 12-team formats. Hopefully there’s a target here for everyone...

Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds (Skyler Carlin)

NFBC ADP: 133.00
Draft rank: 7th

Tyler Stephenson isn’t known for his hard-hitting tendencies, with his .431 SLG percentage (tied for 11th among Cs with 300 PAs in 2021) and 38.2% hard-hit percentage (17th among Cs). But what he lacks in the power department, he makes up for with efficiency at the plate. Just last season, Stephenson recorded an impressive 18.7% strikeout rate (fourth-best among Cs) and an OBP of .366, which was the third-best mark at the catcher position. Stephenson finished with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs while splitting time with Tucker Barnhart on the Cincinnati Reds—but with Barnhart now on the Detroit Tigers, I expect Stephenson to see more of a full-time role. Another positive is that Stephenson could see an increase in home runs playing at a hitter-friendly venue in the Great American Ball Park, which has yielded the most home runs since 2019. Any improvements in the power department would make Stephenson an extremely valuable catcher this season given his already-efficient approach at the plate.

Keibert Ruiz, Washington Nationals (Andrés Chávez)

NFBC ADP: 150.50
Draft rank: 8th

He may not have had the most impressive Statcast profile in his short MLB stint last year (86.0 mph average exit velo, 106.5 max exit velo, 2.5% barrel rate) but Ruiz should have two things you should be looking for in a catcher: a proven ability to hit, and playing time. He hit .311/.381/.631 with 16 homers and a 143 wRC+ in Triple-A with the Dodgers before going to the Nationals and posting a 146 wRC+ in Triple-A. Between the two organizations, he slashed .273/.333/.409 with a 101 wRC+ in the bigs, a nice floor for a catcher, and his minor league stats suggest there is plenty more upside. Invest.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 260.30
Draft rank: 18th

I’m not overly concerned with his .233 batting average from his first year in MLB in 2020. Plenty of catchers have a slow first year and rebound. Bart has showed a strong pedigree, ahead of where someone his age should be in rookie level, A-, A+ , Double-A and Triple-A. Given his plate discipline, he will likely need a month or two to get the cadence down and work his walk rate and K-rate into more respectable levels, but he is smart and talented enough to figure it out. I think we are looking at a top 12 catcher if you can weather the storm through a potential slow start.

Elias Diaz, Colorado Rockies (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 260.55
Draft rank: 19th

In truth, I like a lot of different backstops at different levels. But the guy I find myself aiming for is Diaz, given what looks like a certainty of playing time and the Coors Field backdrop. Like Stephenson and Ruiz before him, Diaz doesn’t have the greatest of profiles if you’re looking solely at Statcast. Here’s what manager Bud Black had to say about Diaz after Colorado signed him to a three-year deal worth $14.5 million:

“It’s a combination of the physical strength and the durability and the work capacity,” Rockies manager Bud Black said of Díaz’s ability to catch a majority of games. “And also mentally, to be able to withstand the rigors of catching and feel fresh and know that you’re fine to play that many games. It’s a mindset.” (Source: The Athletic)

That durability and the certainty of playing time, coupled with his draft day price as a mid-range C2...I’m not sure what better sort of “floor” you could be hunting at the catcher position. Diaz has begun to elevate the ball more since his arrival in Colorado, and the thin air plus the PT could mean he pushes for 20 homers in 2022. Even if not, a 245+ BA and 15+ homers seems super attainable. I’m 100% in.

Eric Haase, Detroit Tigers (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 291.00
Draft rank: 22nd

Haase came out of nowhere last season. He hit .231 with 22 home runs and 61 RBI in just 98 games. He posted some solid Statcast numbers as well. Haase was 79th percentile in average exit velocity, 84th percentile in hard hit rate, and 86th percentile in barrel rate. Plus, he logged 22 games in left field, giving the Tigers flexibility in boosting his playing time—similar to Daulton Varsho in Arizona. Haase offers solid power, and is being drafted at the tail end of drafts in most formats.