Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Series: Catchers (2023)
It’s finally that time of the year to start doing prep for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. I play a lot of fantasy sports but baseball may be my favorite. That may be more due to baseball being my favorite sport but either way, I’m excited to be talking about fantasy baseball.
Each year I do this sleepers series, offering my favorite sleepers per position leading up to draft season. Typically per position I will offer my three favorites, while offering five sleepers for the outfield, starting and relief pitchers.
We’ll kick this series off the way we normally do, with catchers. Catchers are a position I preach year-in-and-year-out to not draft high. This is due to the limited play time that even the best of catchers get due to the hardships of the position. In my opinion it’s much better to get a player earlier on that will see 600-plus plate appearances and not a catcher who will peak out at around 500.
Now there is a big drop off between top tier catchers to even the middle tier and that can be enticing to get a leg up in the position that way, but beyond the top guys, there is not that big of a separation for the middle to lower tiers.
Use your earlier selections on more important positions such as first base, third base, the outfield or pitching.
With that being said, let's jump into things!
Keibert Ruiz (Washington Nationals)
2022 Stats: 433 PA, .251 BA, 7 HR, 33 R, 36 RBI, 6 SB & 50 SO
2023 Projected Stats: 426 PA, .258 BA, 9 HR, 39 R, 43 RBI, 5 SB & 61 SO
The Nationals tend to have a way of offering sleeper value at the catcher position each and every year. This year is no different with Keibert Ruiz. He’s currently being drafted as the 14th catcher off the board in the late 15th round of 12 man leagues. The value is insane for what you’re getting from Ruiz for his ADP. He’s more of a target in category leagues opposed to points leagues with the lack of pop off his bat but hitting for a good average for a catcher.
Catchers are a catch-22. You often need to pick what battle you’re looking to win. The power hitting catchers will tank your batting averages and jack up your strikeouts. If you play in a points league, there’s no need to worry about the batting average. Ruiz makes a lot of contact and hits a lot of line drivers. However, due to his lack of pop and slowness on the base path, that hinders his overall skill set.
He is still just 24-years-old and has the time to further develop. If he can make better contact with the baseball and alter his swing, he could easily be a catcher hitting .280 with double digit homers. In his second full season with Washington and second consecutive year as being a primary catcher, this could be the year he makes that leap. Even if he makes a slight leap, he can be a top ten catcher, taken 70 picks later than the current projected 10th drafted catcher.
Danny Jansen (Toronto Blue Jays)
2022 Stats: 248 PA, .260 BA, 15 HR, 34 R, 44 RBI, 1 SB, 44 SO
2023 Projected Stats: 303 PA, .238 BA, 16 HR, 45 R, 48 RBI, 2 SB, 69 SO
If Danny Jansen were to play for another team, he would be projected as a top 12 catcher. Right now he’s being drafted as the 15th catcher off the board in the 16th round of 12 man leagues. With Alejandro Kirk ahead of him it’s clear to see why he’s getting knocked down. However, Kirk will be utilized as a designated hitter at times, opening the door for Jansen.
Due to injury a year ago Jansen played just 72 games, but still saw 248 plate appearances. He hit for 15 home runs during that time with a quality batting average for a catcher. He had career highs in both barrel rate at 13.1-percent and a hard-hit rate of 46-percent. He too made improvements in all aspects of plate discipline. He will be hitting in a very good lineup. Pro Baseball Reference has him set at a baseline of just over 300 plate appearances but we know how impossible it is to gauge the catcher position for a 162 game season.
If you’re drafting catchers this low, it’s useful to grab two and in that case, being able to play Jansen on his days will give you a top ten catcher upside. In the event that Kirk is to become injured, Jansen has a clear path at top ten catcher potential. You have to take chances in finding sleepers this far down the draft and being able to find someone with Jansen’s upside will go a long way.
Elias Diaz (Colorado Rockies)
2022 Stats: 351 PA, .228 BA, 9 HR, 29 R, 51 RBI, 1 SB, 82 SO
2023 Stats: 428 PA, .235 BA, 13 HR, 43 R, 51 RBI, 1 SB, 86 SO
When it comes to drafting catchers late, sometimes playing time is all we’re looking for and that’s what Diaz offers in the 24th round of 12 man leagues. He’s projected via Pro Baseball Reference to see 428 plate appearances. This is a near every game catcher you’re grabbing in the 24th round.
For catchers predicted for over 300 plate appearances Diaz has the 12th-best K-percentage projection and the 10th-best BB-percentage projection. He too hits in one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in the league. If you’re playing in a points league, Diaz will be an absolute steal.
A catcher projected to hit double digit homers with over 50 RBIS in this area of the draft is rare. If you’re playing category leagues he will cause a hit to batting average but depending on the way you structure your team, the elevated home runs and RBIs too can go a long way.