It’s no secret that the catcher position has been the least desirable fantasy position for quite some time now. It’s not sexy by any means, but you still need to fill the position. I’ve never recommended punting any category or position when assembling your fantasy teams and that includes catchers. Entering 2022, the catcher position remains the low position on the totem pole, but there’s more intriguing talent throughout drafts this season, especially after pick 200. That’s where I’ll do most of my shopping in drafts this season, especially if I can land one of the first two names below. So, if you’re one of many that prefer to wait on catchers, I’d recommend targeting one of my catcher sleepers below.
For this article, I limited it to catchers with an ADP outside the top-200. Keibert Ruiz and Tyler Stephenson are two others that fit this criteria (On Fantrax, not NFBC), but I have them 7th and 8th in my rankings respectively, and did not include them below. If you like the price on either of them in your drafts, I’d recommend them as well.
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2022 Catcher Sleepers
Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
Without question, one of my favorite catching targets in 2022 drafts is Mitch Garver. I’ve been scooping him up so far in over half of my leagues and will continue doing so as long as his ADP remains just outside the top-200 overall on NFBC (2-Catcher format) and close to the 300 on Fantrax. Pound for pound last season, Garver was a top-5 offensive catcher. However, Garver recording only 243 plate appearances in 68 games kept his overall line in check. Still, a .256/.358/.517 slash line with 13 homers is nothing to scoff at in that amount of PA.
Mitch Garver is one of my favorite catcher targets in 2022.
In 2021, Garver had a higher wOBA & wRC+ than Sal Perez, & was close to him in ISO/SLG.
1 of 5 C w/ .230+ ISO & .350+ wOBA (Perez, Smith, Grandal, Zunino)
ADP: Fantrax 298.1 | NFBC 205.1 (2C format)#FantasyBaseball
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) January 22, 2022
When you dig further into Garver’s metrics, that’s where it gets increasingly impressive. Among the 54 catchers with 100+ batted ball events in 2021, Garver ranked 4th in AVG EV, 3rd in AVG EV on FB/LD, 2nd in hard-hit rate, and 2nd in barrel rate while also finishing in the top four in ISO, wOBA, and wRC+. Garver absolutely mashed fastballs last season as well to the tune of a .330 AVG, .688 SLG, and .468 wOBA with expected metrics that back up all three.
There wasn’t a massive gap between Sal Perez and Garver last season. Obviously, I’m not hinting that Garver will outperform Perez in 2022, but it does show how underrated he is in drafts thus far. Many of his quality of contact metrics were in line or even better than his 2019 breakout season.
The two worries I have with Garver this season are the strikeout rate and playing time. Ryan Jeffers is in the picture but he hit below .200 last season and profiles better as a power-hitting backup catcher that starts 1-2 times a week. Garver is the far superior hitter and I’m expecting him to vastly exceed his 243 PA from 2022 if he stays healthy, which was also an issue last season with groin, rib, and back injuries. Over 400 PA could mean 25 homers for Garver, but don’t bank on the AVG being much higher than it was last season. Garver posted a 29.2% K rate with worse than league average contact, whiff, and chase metrics.
If Garver can keep the K rate in check and exceed 400 PA, there’s a high likelihood that he finishes 2022 as a top-10 catcher, maybe even flirting with top-5 value at this position. Sign me up.
Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays
You could make an argument that Alejandro Kirk is a top-5 hitting catcher in baseball right now and top-10 at the very least. Kirk is a 5’8/265 pound bundle of hitting prowess. All Kirk has done during his time in the Toronto organization is rake, rake, and rake some more. In 675 minor league plate appearances across three seasons, Kirk slashed an exceptional .318/.416/.503 with 44 doubles, 19 home runs, and far more walks (94) than strikeouts (69). You won’t find many hitters in the minors with a .300+ AVG, 13.9% walk rate, and 10.2% strikeout rate that also has the power to exceed 15 homers annually.
At the Major League level, a .242/.328/.436 slash line isn’t anything to write home about, but the underlying metrics are rock solid. Kirk registered an 11% barrel rate, 92.3 AVG EV, and 46.9% hard-hit rate last season while maintaining his usual excellent level of plate discipline with a 10.1 BB%, and 11.6 K%. The lackluster slash line can be attributed to a touch of unfortunate luck. Kirk’s .288 xBA and .515 xSLG tell a completely different story and correlate more with the metrics I mentioned above.
Alejandro Kirk is the youngest catcher since Joe Mauer in 2004 to record a 4-hit game. pic.twitter.com/YvapaLwFnk
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) September 22, 2020
We know the skills are there. That’s unquestioned. Outside of the impressive approach and quality of contact metrics above, Kirk also posted better than league average contact, zone contact, and chase contact rates with an 8% SwStr rate that ranked 5th best at the catcher position for those with 180+ PA. With a starter’s workload, Kirk posting a .270+/15+ season is certainly attainable with solid counting stats as well.
But his playing time is the big question right now. Toronto has Danny Jansen listed as their starter which makes sense given his strong defensive skills and improving offensive profile in 2021. That means Kirk likely only gets a start or two per week behind the plate. However, it’s plausible to see Kirk get a couple of starts per week at DH as well to keep his bat in the lineup as frequently as possible. If Kirk can get in the lineup four times a week, that should be enough for him to return top-10 value at the position this season. There have also been rumblings of him getting traded. Keep monitoring the situation and move him up your draft boards if that happens.
Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants
The Major League career of Joey Bart hasn’t gone according to plan, but Bart has two things going for him entering 2022: Power and opportunity. Sure, Bart has yet to leave the yard in his 117 Major League plate appearances, but Bart consistently showed in college and the minors that he’s capable of 25-homers annually with a starting gig. Bart swatted 39 homers in 197 minor leagues games after cranking 30 in 144 games at Georgia Tech. Combined, that’s one dinger every 19.3 at-bats.
Joey Bart homered (107mph EV) to straightaway centerfield on Monday night as part of a 2 for 5 night in Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/nUQ2yYLhYp
— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) May 12, 2021
In the Major’s it’s been an extremely small sample size but Bart does have a 48.5% hard-hit rate through his first 66 batted balls. But on the flip side, he’s also struck out 36.8% of the time compared to a measly 2.6% walk rate. The approach he showed in college has slowly fallen apart as he climbed the minor league ladder and makes me question if he’s ever more than a .240-.250 hitter with an equally uninspiring OBP. But I’m still going to bank on Bart’s raw power and the opportunity is there for him to start in San Francisco following the surprising retirement of Buster Posey. If you don’t want to pay up for a catcher early and wait until the end of your draft, Bart is an intriguing target.
Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays
If you can hold down your lunch after seeing Mike Zunino’s AVG and OBP, you’ll see that he’s actually a solid late-round flier in fantasy leagues if you wait on this position. Zunino is a career .202 hitter with a .274 OBP, but he’s also exceeded 20 homers every season that he’s played 100+ games with the exception of 2015. That was the case yet again in 2021 with Zunino cranking 33 homers in 109 games as Tampa Bay’s primary catcher.
As usual, Zunino’s quality of contact metrics were top-notch for the position with a 24.3% barrel rate, .535 xSLG, 47% hard-hit rate, and .517 xwOBACON. Is he going to repeat his 33-homer output from last season? Probably not. Is he going to hit above .220? Highly unlikely. But if you need a power boost late in your draft and haven’t filled your catcher position yet, Zunino is a decent player to go after. He should be Tampa Bay’s starting catcher once again in 2022.
Media Credit: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire, MLB Stats, SFGProspects, MLB Stats
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