Judging by these initial rankings, 2023 looks to be the year that catcher turns the corner, going from being a veritable punchline to a position that demands to be taken seriously on Draft Day.

A wave of new talent is largely to credit for the turnaround. Rookies like Adley Rutschman and MJ Melendez made immediate contributions in 2022 while second-year players like Daulton Varsho, Alejandro Kirk, William Contreras and Cal Raleigh took a big step forward in their development. And there are still more to come, like the Mets' Francisco Alvarez.

In all, I count seven players with a realistic shot at ranking No. 1 at the position in 2023 and another six who rate as quality starters. That's more than enough to go around in the typical one-catcher league.

The drop-off thereafter is steep, as you can see. It's still not long before I'm inclined to play the lottery at the position, resorting to prospects who may or may not have a job right away. Just because there's more talent at the position doesn't mean you can wait around forever, in other words. Sure, you don't have to sell out for the top guy, but the norm will no longer be to have a dud at the position, making the consequences of missing out even greater.

Note that the focus here is standard 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but scroll a little further and you'll see my rankings for points leagues.  

Top 20 catchers for 2023
J.T. Realmuto Philadelphia Phillies C
Just when it seemed like he was entering his decline phase, Realmuto surged to the finish line with numbers so superlative that you could hardly justify taking anyone else No. 1 at the position. He continues to play more than the typical catcher, is clearly the best base-stealer at the position and was impacting the ball as hard as ever by the time the season ended.
Daulton Varsho Arizona Diamondbacks RF
The Diamondbacks are trending toward making Vasho a full-time outfielder, but we have at least one more year to enjoy his production at catcher, where he's one of only two base-stealers of note. He also led the position in home runs, making up for modest metrics by pulling the ball in the air a ton.
Salvador Perez Kansas City Royals C
This high ranking is sure to meet with some resistance given how Perez failed to live up to a high draft pick this year, but the bat came around after he returned from thumb surgery in late July, revealing him to be the best source of home runs and RBI at the position still. The lack of walks holds him back a little in points leagues.
Adley Rutschman Baltimore Orioles C
It took him a couple months to get acclimated, but once the rookie began walking like he did in the minors (say, July 1 on), he was about an .850 OPS guy, which would be good enough to lead the position most years. The power only figures to improve, and the Orioles have already shown a willingness to DH him on his "off" days.
Will Smith Los Angeles Dodgers C
Perhaps the greatest testament to the improved state of the catcher position is how Smith has gone from being the next big thing to sort of a safe, boring pick. He does everything well enough and with a great lineup backing him, but the four players ranked ahead of him outshine him in one way or another.
Alejandro Kirk Toronto Blue Jays C
Kirk's best trait is that he seldom strikes out, which counts for more in points leagues, and if the Blue Jays' catcher surplus didn't compromise his playing time so, he might challenge for the top spot in that format. He's not all batting average, though. His exit velocities suggest even more power could be in store.
Willson Contreras Chicago Cubs C
Contreras was looking like the best catcher in Fantasy for the first three months before regressing to numbers more in line with his career norms -- which are still great. His most likely scenario may not be so different from the six ahead of him here, but his ceiling is lower. He's also facing the uncertainty of free agency.
William Contreras Atlanta Braves C
The younger of the Contreras brothers rates so similarly by all the Statcast metrics that it's almost uncanny. Reaching the 20-homer threshold over a relatively small sample is sure to inflate expectations for him, but he's in a similar spot to Kirk, being his team's second choice behind the plate while also having to share DH.
Sean Murphy Oakland Athletics C
It's been a bumpy ride for Murphy since reaching the majors, but he began to live up to his potential over the final two-thirds of the season, shaving 10 percentage points of his strikeout rate to bring the batting average up around .280. He could be traded this offseason, which would further enhance his value.
Travis d'Arnaud Atlanta Braves C
The up-and-down career of d'Arnaud continued in 2022 with a rebound performance that earned him his first All-Star nod, but he'll be 34 next year and has William Contreras breathing down his neck. He already plays less than most everyone ahead of him here, and any slippage in production could exacerbate the issue.
Tyler Stephenson Cincinnati Reds C
Stephenson continued to thrive in spite of largely unimpressive Statcast readings, which is a validation of sorts, but it's worth pointing out the sample was small due to a couple broken bones along the way. As deep as this position is shaping up to be, there's a chance he goes overlooked.
MJ Melendez Kansas City Royals C
Melendez's rookie season was a mixed bag, highlighted by plus plate discipline and strong exit velocity readings. Most impressive, though, was the Royals' commitment to playing him alongside Perez, having the rookie spend much of his time in the outfield.
Cal Raleigh Seattle Mariners C
Raleigh is useful, but limited, and it's hard to imagine him getting much better while striking out 30 percent of the time. Still, his swing is geared for power, generating premium exit velocities and a ton of fly balls, so you know the home runs will be there even if there's little to go with them.
Yasmani Grandal Chicago White Sox C
I have nothing good to say about Grandal's 2022, and seeing as he'll be 34 next year, it's possible he's simply reached the end of his rope. But there comes a point at this position in particular where your best hope is simply to shoot for upside, and the possibility of a bounce-back season with improved health isn't so far-fetched.
Danny Jansen Toronto Blue Jays C
For all of the Blue Jays' catcher riches, Jansen was the one setting up behind the plate most often down the stretch, and he was better than ever at the plate, too, giving good reason to believe it will continue. He makes contact at a nice rate and pulls the ball in the air well, maximizing his power output.
Francisco Alvarez New York Mets C
Alvarez ended up making it up before season's end, being used primarily as a DH against left-handed pitchers, which puts him in a good spot to claim the opening day catcher job in 2023. He'll be only 21 and may need to hone his skills at Triple-A a little more, but the fact he's been pushed so hard speaks the world of his potential.
Logan O'Hoppe Los Angeles Angels C
The breakthrough catcher prospect of 2022 earned a late-season look with the big club, so there's a chance he skips Triple-A altogether next year and, at worst, is probably starting for the Angels by midseason. Few can match his plate discipline, and the power has really come through this year.
Joey Bart San Francisco Giants C
For as much as we looked forward to Bart inheriting the starting catcher job, early returns have been less than promising. His numbers were closer to respectable after a return trip to the minors, but he was still a sitting duck against offspeed stuff and is the kind of player you pick because there's no one else worth picking.
Gary Sanchez Minnesota Twins C
Sanchez hits the open market after a three-year stretch with a sub-.200 batting average and sub-.700 OPS, and he's never earned high marks for his defense. It's possible, then, he doesn't get another shot as a major-league regular, but if a team signs him to fill that role, he can be a cheap source of power.
Keibert Ruiz Washington Nationals C
Like Kirk, Ruiz has an uncanny ability to put the bat on the ball. Unlike Kirk, there's not a lot of force behind it. He's more usable in points scoring than standard 5x5, but he's more of a space-filler than a standout in either format, barring significant improvement in Year 2.

What changes in points leagues?

1. J.T. Realmuto, Phillies
2. Adley Rutschman, Orioles
3. Will Smith, Dodgers
4. Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays
5. Daulton Varsho, Diamondbacks
6. Salvador Perez, Royals
7. Willson Contreras, free agent
8. William Contreras, Braves
9. Sean Murphy, Athletics
10. Travis d'Arnaud, Braves
11. Tyler Stephenson, Reds
12. MJ Melendez, Royals
13. Yasmani Grandal, White Sox
14. Cal Raleigh, Mariners
15. Danny Jansen, Blue Jays
16. Logan O'Hoppe, Angels
17. Francisco Alvarez, Mets
18. Keibert Ruiz, Nationals
19. Carson Kelly, Diamondbacks
20. Christian Vazquez, free agent