At this point in Fantasy Baseball, there's really only position where scarcity really matters: Catcher. Sure, third base might seem shallower than we're used to, but catcher is the only position on the board where half of your league will likely be starting at least one player who simply wouldn't be rosterable if positions weren't a concern. 

Just look at last year's results: DJ Lemahieu was the No. 12 third baseman in CBS Fantasy points leagues, with 393 points; only Salvador Perez outscored him among catchers. Luis Urias was the No. 12 third baseman in Roto leagues, and he hit .249 with 23 homers, 75 RBI, 77 runs and five steals; only three catchers had more homers in 2021, only two had more RBI, and only one had more runs.

It's especially a problem in a two-catcher Rotisserie league, where most of the players at catcher will actively drag your team down. In that format, you're mostly just trying to keep your head above water at the position. Which is why those rare players who can make a difference are so valued. This season, three of them are going inside of the first five rounds of a 12-team league based on NFBC Average Draft Position data, and only three more are going inside of the top-10 rounds. 

Let's go through that ADP data to try to identify who is worth their cost, who is going too early, and who might not even be worth your time. It's a trickier task at catcher than any other position. 

Tier 1

  • Salvador Perez - 32.81

Perez is a tier of his own, and for good reason. He had arguably the best power production season by a catcher of all time, hitting 48 homers and driving in 121 runs, and it was largely a continuation of his massive (albeit brief) 2020. He's clearly taken his game to a new level, and even if he doesn't repeat what he did in 2021, he stands apart from the crowd right now. 

Tier 2

But, I think how much Perez stands apart might be pushing Smith and Realmuto up draft boards perhaps more than they should be. Smith makes more sense to me, for what it's worth, because he does really have a chance to be in Perez's neighborhood as an offensive contributor – he's a career .262/.365/.527 hitter in 221 MLB games, after all. He needs an increase in playing time to get there, but if he catches 125 games and is DH for another 20, that might be enough to get him to 30 homers, 90 RBI and 85 runs. 

Realmuto is a little harder for me to justify at this cost. He's 31 and coming off his worst hitting season since 2017, so a lot of his value is tied to volume and speed – his 13 steals from the catcher position are incredibly valuable when most players might get three in a good year. The problem is, if he falls back to single digits in steals, like he was in four consecutive seasons, it's not clear where he stands out anymore.

Tier 3 

The hope here is that Varsho becomes the next J.T. Realmuto, providing out-of-position steals and a playing time advantage over most at the position. If Varsho nails down an everyday job as an outfielder who occasionally catches, that could make him one of the most valuable players in Roto, because there is legitimate 20-20 potential here. It is also possible that he won't hit enough to lock down that everyday job. I think he's worth the risk at this price in Roto leagues only. 

Grandal and Contreras are kind of viewed as the boring fallback options at catcher, but I think that applies much more to Contreras, who figures to give you a middling average and run production numbers, with home runs being potentially the only place he really stands out. Grandal, on the other hand, is on OBP stud with 30-homer potential. He's never hit better than .247 in a full season, but production similar to Perez isn't entirely out of the question, either. His age and the fact that he needed knee surgery last season probably hold him back, but if he's right, Grandal could very easily be the No. 2 player at the position. He's a much better buy than Contreras, and the gap in their cost should be even bigger. 

Tier 4 

I'll admit, I don't really get it with Stephenson. There just doesn't seem to be anything about him that makes him special aside from the fact that he hit .286 last season. That he backed it up with a .257 expected batting average and doesn't project for even 20-homer upside makes him an also-ran at the position in my eyes, and not someone who belongs in this mini-tier.

Ruiz is much more interesting. The 23-year-old wasn't incredible in his first real taste of the majors, hitting .273/.333/.409, but he's been excellent in the minors, sporting a career .301 batting average and a minuscule 9.7% strikeout rate overall. He was tremendous at Triple-A, hitting .311/.374/.599 with another sub-10% strikeout rate, but the 23 homers in 81 games overstate his power potential – he did that in the inflated offensive environments of the former PCL, and his max exit velocity of 106.5 mph in 2021 was below average. Still, a catcher who can hit for the kind of batting averages Ruiz can is an asset, even if he's more like a 15-homer guy than 20-plus. And, if the power gains from Triple-A are in any way real, he could be one of the best at the position. 

Tier 5

This is, of course, a big tier, encompassing 70 picks, but they all effectively represent the last of the No. 1 catcher options. Rutschman is the obvious standout here; he's the best prospect in baseball in most eyes, coming off a .285/.397/.502 line in 123 games between Double-A and Triple-A. There probably isn't a real baseball reason to keep him down – everyone uniformly raves about his defense and his makeup, as well as his bat – so if the new CBA incentivizes teams to call their top prospects up, Rutschman could be the Orioles everyday catcher. Making the leap to the majors is harder at catcher than other positions, but Rutschman is a Buster Posey/Joe Mauer-level prospect, and he very well could hit the ground running the same way those guys did. If we knew he was going to be on the Opening Day roster, he'd probably be in Tier 3. 

After Rutschman, you're left with a lot of imperfect choices. Zunino and Sanchez will hit for power, but they also might hit .190; Vazquez might hit .280 with single-digit homers; Kirk is a tantalizing prospect with real bat-to-ball skills, but he also has playing time concerns. 

The catcher I draft most from this tier is Garver, who has hit .254/.349/.546 with 46 homers in 184 games over the past three seasons despite a miserable 2020. Injuries have been an issue for him, but he's the most likely player from this group to be a difference maker. If I'm drafting anyone else from this group besides Rutschman or Garver, it's likely just as a last-round pick. 

The late-round No. 2s

And this is, more or less, your No. 2 catcher crop, especially if you wait. In keeping with a theme, the best option here is probably Bart, the former top prospect who is going to get an opportunity to be the Giants everyday catcher with Posey retiring. Bart is one of my favorite sleepers, and an easy late-round pick for me if I waited for my No. 2 catcher. Melendez is also worth singling out coming off a simply massive .288/.386/.625 line between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 as a 22-year-old. It's not clear where he would play – that Perez guy has the position locked up in Kansas City – but he'll likely be ranked as a top-12 catcher the minute he gets called up and gets an opportunity to play regularly. 

Otherwise, it's a whole lot of pretty boring players. Mostly, you're hoping to end up with someone who runs into 18 homers and doesn't kill you in batting average, but there isn't a safe bet among the group. Bounceback candidates like Max Stassi, James McCann, or Austin Nola probably make for the best options, but if you're choosing a starter from this group, you should be steeling yourself for a lot of waiver-wire cycling until and unless you land on someone who can actually solidify the position for you.