Ones to watch: Catchers

Presuming we will get to see some baseball this season, here are three catchers that offer intriguing fantasy value.

The breakout: Austin Nola

With Victor Carantini and Jorge Alfaro on the roster, the San Diego Padres have three catchers vying for playing time, but everything points towards Nola getting the biggest share. A late developer, Nola debuted in the majors as a 29-year-old in 2019. Although he might not have the power of a Salvador Perez, Gary Sanchez, or Will Smith, Aaron’s older brother offers an understated level of production.

Willson Contreras115 wRC+
Austin Nola114 wRC+
Buster Posey113 wRC+
J.T. Realmuto110 wRC+
Selected catchers (2019-2021). Minimum 600PA.

If the National League gets designated hitters, then Nola could be a significant beneficiary.

The veteran: Tucker Barnhart

I hope the former Reds’ catcher is not offended by the veteran tag, considering he is one year younger than Nola. Barnhart gets the veteran tag thanks to playing four times as many games as the Padres’ catcher.

After eight years in Cincinnati, winning two Gold Gloves, Tucker embarks on a new challenge with Detroit. The young, exciting Tigers rotation can only benefit from Barnhart’s exceptional skills behind the plate.

Despite hitting .247 AVG in 2021 (his career batting average is .248), Barnhart enjoyed a massive BABIP boost of .324, up from .231 the previous year.

With 22 home runs in 98 games, Barnhart’s catching understudy, Eric Haase, offers considerably more fantasy interest… if he can get enough playing time.

The rookie: Adley Rutschman

In 2007, the Orioles took a catcher (Matt Wieters) with the fifth overall pick. To grasp how highly-regarded he was, MLB ranked Wieters as the second overall prospect before he debuted in 2009. By comparison, Buster Posey was down in 19th. Wieters was a no-risk prospect.

There appears the same degree of confidence in Rutschman. It appears that the only thing he isn’t good at is… texting. 

His promotion will signal the start of the transition of the Orioles into a franchise with ambition. I can’t wait to watch him in action in the major leagues and see whether he can bring his 2021 minor league production of 23 homers, 0.899 OPS, and almost as many walks as strikeouts.

Photos by Dylan Buell, Dustin Bradford, Thearon W. Henderson, and Michael Zagaris