Welcome to the fifth edition of Fantasy Baseball State of the Union. I’ve been looking back to see if this “new” version of our favorite game had any meaning in fantasy. Of course, some of the things you can already imagine, such as the number of stolen buses and the number of major strikes without change, but what does this mean for each unit? Did it lead to greater profits in other areas? How does this affect our strategy for 2024? These are the questions I’m looking to answer in this State of the Fantasy Baseball Union series.
You can check out my basic test here and search My second interruption here and a summary here also third base here. Today, we turn to the trapper. I ranked the players who hit 200 games this season and in 2022 and looked to see if there were any changes in the 5×5 offensive categories (batting average, home runs, runs, RBI, and steals). Then I tried to dig deeper to find out WHAT the change was, WHY it happened, and what are the chances that we will see it again.
You’ll see a red box above, which means the player has the fewest hitters over .240. However, 21 catchers have hit over .240, and there are only 30 teams, so about a third of MLB teams use a catcher that won’t hurt your batting average. That’s not a story we get very often.
Additionally, there were four hitters who hit .280 or better, seven who hit .270 or better, and 13 who hit .260 or better. If you want to remove Freddy Fermin and Reese McGuire from that list because they weren’t consistent starters, you’re still looking at 11 guys who hit .260 or better. It is an 11-burner that will give you a solid place in your batting line-up. In a popular 12-year, one-player league, that means it’s easy to set up a catcher with a hard hit.
To narrow down our top goals, the four catchers who hit over .280 were William Contreras, Gabriel Moreno, Yainer Diaz, and Freddy Fermin. If you add in the players who hit over .270, which includes Adley Rutschman, Ryan Jeffers, and Mitch Garver, so aside from Fermin, we’re looking at six players who are names we’d be happy to have. .
Catcher might not be the best power center, but it had a lot of players with 20 home runs in the second and shortstop, so there’s that. There was only one hitter who hit 30 home runs this year, Cal Raleigh, and Raleigh led all home runs in 2022 with 27, so it’s clear that he’s the number one hitter.
Others who played in more than 20 games were Francisco Alvarez, Salvador Perez, Yainer Diaz, Shea Langeliers, Sean Murphy, Jake Rogers, Willson Contreras, JT Realmuto, and Adley Rutschman. Gary Sanchez, Mitch Garver, and Will Smith each had just one home run.
Of the players who hit 20 or more, Raleigh, Perez, Contreras, and Realmuto did it again in 2022 while Murphy had 18 in 2022 and, as mentioned above, Will Smith missed in 2023. So we have at least six. Catchers with consistent power and young players like Alvarez, Diaz, and Langeliers who seem capable of repeating as many as 20 home run bats for years to come.
As a result, it seems that we have to find the power to produce power from our point of use, and some names have already given us power and almost (Diaz, Rutschman, and Garver) and Will Smith and Willson Contreras are all hitting again. 260 this year, which means we’re starting to see the team isolate itself.
Now we are getting to the levels where we are seeing the cost of labor starting to dry up. There aren’t many hitters who hit the middle of the lineup, so finding those with similar RBI value is difficult.
Guys like Salvador Perez, Adley Rutschman, and William Contreras hit in the middle of their rules, which helps them get to his scoreboard, and then guys like Jonah Heim, and Will Smith are hitting in the tight ends, which helps. The biggest surprise was that Elias Diaz had 72 RBI this season, but he plays for Coors and had over 520 plate appearances, which is less than we expected.
If we look back at the first three teams, Adley Rutschman and Will Smith are the only names we see regularly, but William Contreras missed a home game, so he offers a solid price in these three teams. Additionally, interesting names that just missed the cut here are Murphy, Realmuto, Alvarez, Langeliers, Willson Contreras, and Keibert Ruiz. If we put those names together, we start to see some consistent players in these first teams.
This is about the type of list. Catchers aren’t hitters-leaders, and most hit below their command, so their run production depends on them getting to the ground and over the line (usually) they drive. That’s why the guys at the top. on this leader board were all the best guys: William Contreras, Rutschman, Smith, and Raleigh.
We also had Realmuto slide here as the fifth and final qualifier, but runs are not a team where we get tons of production from the shooting guard. If we expand the board to 60 runners, we also get Heim, Sean Murphy, and Salvador Perez, who had 59 because we’re being generous.
So that means that William Contreras, Rutschman, Smith, Realmuto, Heim, Murphy, and Perez will all start making regular appearances in all previous leagues.
Considering we probably won’t see any more value when it comes to steals, we have to think of players like three players with little names that could be four guys.
I’ve narrowed this down to 10 stolen bases because that’s the catch and only JT Realmuto is eligible. That was the reason for reaching Realmuto in the first place, but with stolen bases easy to come by in other places now, you don’t need a catcher who can move multiple bags. It doesn’t hurt, but I don’t believe it should affect your draft strategy, especially since Realmuto has 10 more steals than most catchers and will be 33 next year. Is an extra 8-10 steals worth carrying a catcher a few runs ahead of where he needs to go? I don’t believe so.
A few other names here who contributed to the steals (let’s say six or more) were Connor Wong, Gabriel Moreno, and all of the Contreras brothers.
TAKEAWAYS AND RANKINGS
So at the end of the day, JT Realmuto is still the only catcher on the verge of being a five-team player. However, even though they help you in many positions, they are very close to the right names in batting average, runs, RBI, and home runs. What that means is that he doesn’t hurt you anywhere, but his pace per team isn’t as high as other players at his position. As a result, I don’t believe he’s a lock to be a top scorer. If you have planned your strategy so that you do not need to steal from your assistant, it is better to take one of the players who have the most value in the other teams that are hitting.
If we look at the catchers, Adley Rutschman, William Contreras, Will Smith, Willson Contreras, Yainer Diaz, Jonah Heim, and Mitch Garver are the ones who appear frequently on the posters. If you’re okay with a catcher who will have a lower batting average, Cal Raleigh, Francisco Alvarez, and maybe even Shea Langeliers are also good options. We also have young guys like Gabriel Moreno, Bo Naylor, and Keibert Ruiz, who have shown up in several leagues and we can feel good about preparing them for more growth in the future seasons.
In the two paragraphs above I listed 14 players that I would be comfortable taking in a 12-team league. This should tell you that, if you are in a one-man playoff race, there is no reason to be the first player to take a catcher, unless the big payoff falls to you. It also means that, in a two-player format, it should be easy to find one catcher who can give you value, and then you can circle the second position or pick a player who has a good value in one group or buy. on a bounceback season from a player like Tyler Stephenson, Ryan Jeffers, Alejandro Kirk, or Danny Jansen.
Be sure to check back next week as I go through the final stages.