Catchers & DH, 2024

NOTE: Our preseason Market Pulse column is an exercise in identifying the valuation gaps between the "popular" market (as reflected in Average Draft Position, or "ADP") and BaseballHQ.com. This is an exercise in relative valuation, not absolute. 

Each hitter is being considered at his scarcest qualified position (in order: C/DH, SS, 2B, 3B, 1B, OF), as it is the scarcest eligible position that typically drives fantasy value. If a player is not listed here, it's likely that he qualifies at a scarcer position, or he's not in the ADP Top 500-600 (it's a bit fluid). The rankings are a risk- and position-adjusted estimate using current BaseballHQ.com projections. It is a purely quantitative ranking, with no specific consideration of "upside" (aside from reliability scores). The BaseballHQ dollar values are position adjusted, with some adjustment for risk. Average auction values are approximate. These are not the "official" BaseballHQ.com straight draft rankings, but they should be close.

A positive number in the "Diff" column indicates a player that BaseballHQ.com ranks higher than the "market," and a negative number indicates we have the player ranked lower, based on Average Draft Position (ADP). The list is split into tiers, based on ADP. ADP is based on National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) Draft Champions leagues over the past (approximately) four weeks. We may extend the number of weeks to get a minimum number of drafts. Any references to number of rounds assumes a 15-team mixed league.

NFBC ADP Report | Unofficial Rankings

We'll kick off our annual look at the the differences between BaseballHQ and the market, starting (as usual) with the "slow guys"—catchers and designated hitters. We've adjusted our rankings, which usually push catchers much higher than other hitters (relative to the market) due to a large positional adjustment. As usual, our recommendation is to look for value in the early middle rounds. The top catchers tend to go early, but you're sacrificing too much production there. In the endgame, you're taking catchers who would have negative value if they weren't needed to fill in rosters. Putting it another way: $1 catchers will generally hurt your team. We tend to look in the 9th-15th rounds.

         ------ HQ Projections ------
PlayerPOSRELADPHQ RKDIFFHQ$AAVDIFFABAVG-HR-RBI-R-SB
Rutschman, Adley20AAA5361-81720-3503288-41-97-98-19
Realmuto, JT2AAB72333923176537273-18-69-77-3
Contreras, William20AAB7972716160461262-23-79-80-14
Smith, Will2AAA86632317152454275-21-64-67-4
Diaz, Yainer20ABD106881815132458259-22-78-74-3
Perez, Salvador203DAB136140-414104524265-28-71-59-0
Raleigh, Cal2AAB138202-64810-2435257-23-85-57-0
Contreras, Willson20BAA1401281212102396225-26-63-58-1
Murphy, Sean2AAB143855815105454267-21-62-58-4
Alvarez, Francisco2ABA1441311312102465257-25-69-71-0
Moreno, Gabriel2ABD15081691697501230-29-73-60-2
O'Hoppe, Logan2FDA157180-231293465290-10-71-61-8
Naylor, Bo2AAC163187-2489-1417245-24-74-57-2
Ozuna, Marcell0DAD16416401394464238-19-58-55-10
Ruiz, Keibert2AAC167215-4878-1478264-29-78-66-1
Heim, Jonah2AAC17117101082438262-14-58-51-2
Campusano, Luis2DDF194294-10047-3418251-17-75-53-2
Garver, Mitch2FCF197186111275420256-12-54-51-1
Stephenson, Tyler20DAD226277-51651403248-24-66-62-2
Jimenez, Eloy0FAB231181501156507255-13-58-54-1
Martinez, J.D.0BAC2349014416511467269-26-75-58-0
Langeliers, Shea2AAB2412410550474265-28-92-67-1
Jansen, Danny2FCD248263-15743340220-24-61-54-3
Jeffers, Ryan2BBC25122328743368234-21-64-52-0
Díaz, Elias2AAC255349-9414-3444254-18-55-54-2
Kirk, Alejandro2BAB261305-4434-1394242-11-57-42-1
Buxton, Byron0FBF28427113633376265-11-52-42-0
Wells, Austin2ACA299376-7713-2373228-24-58-66-10
Rogers, Jake2FCC319484-165-32-5249214-15-57-40-7
Wong, Connor2ABA321458-137-22-4322224-14-37-36-1
Meneses, Joey0AAA350366-16110546241-9-34-40-7
Gomes, Yan2BAC35128863413389258-11-54-56-1
Bailey, Patrick2ADF352533-181-41-5413257-12-57-43-1
D'Arnaud, Travis2DBC372375-3101349222-9-55-36-1
Fermin, Freddy2ACD380527-147-30-3288238-14-52-43-0
Pinto, Rene2AFF395514-119-30-3457247-11-36-33-0
Sanchez, Gary2BBB434361731-12309192-19-47-50-3
Herrera, Ivan2AFF451689-238-7-1-6174228-20-50-37-1
Amaya, Miguel2AFA460699-239-7-2-5247241-4-25-27-5
Bethancourt, Christian2ABB466540-74-4-2-2260223-9-32-27-1
Sabol, Blake2o7ABA4821062-580-14-2-1294243-9-30-39-2
Vientos, Mark0AAA497859-362-10-2-8318216-4-12-10-1
Fortes, Nick2ABB505852-347-10-3-7255223-11-39-34-0
Murphy, Tom2FFF511666-155-9-3-6154210-6-22-29-3
Vazquez, Christian2AAB537682-145-7-3-4255259-7-18-20-0
Caratini, Victor2AFF551636-85-6-3-3253247-6-28-27-2
Kjerstad, Heston0ACF555781-226-9-3-6255261-7-27-25-1
Aranda, Jonathan0AAC5671175-608-17-4-1392248-12-24-33-2
Ramírez, Harold0CAB56950762-3-41292260-3-14-13-1
Trevino, Jose2DDB570773-203-11-4-7195287-7-43-36-3
McCutchen, Andrew0DAC5723282443-47438228-4-21-20-1

J.T. Realmuto (C, PHI) is a great example of what we said above. Compare Realmuto's projection with Gunnar Henderson (3B, BAL, ADP 31):

If you draft Realmuto at #33, you give up 4 HR and 12 R while picking up only one each in RBI and SB. That's a lot to give up, assuming the projections are accurate. Realmuto is also 33 years old, though his skills have held up pretty well into his 30s. His 2023 production was a slight step down from his 2022, which is perhaps why the market is a bit down on him. We're obviously not recommending him at #33 in any case.

Cal Raleigh (C, SEA) is a more traditional evaluation. The market is looking for a repeat of his 2023 season, while BaseballHQ is expecting some pullback. The difference mainly comes down to playing time. Raleigh started 114 games (and appeared in 128 games) at catcher in 2023, which is a relatively high number. With the acquisitions of Mitch Garver (C, SEA) and Seby Zavala (C, SEA), his playing time could well drop. We'll lean towards BaseballHQ on this one, and not pay for a full repeat.

Gabriel Moreno (C, ARI) was supposed to be an instant stud, but he disappointed many a fantasy GM in 2023. The market doesn't like disappointment, though he's not quite at the post-hype prospect level yet. His second half, at least, showed some promise, with a .304 BA and 5 HR, clearly supported by his skills. His 50%+ GB% will need to change before he becomes a power threat, but you could do worse than a catcher with .300 BA. And if he can add some loft to his batted balls, he could have a breakout year. He's clearly more valuable than his 10th-round ADP.

Luis Campusano (C, SD) definitely has some upside, but be careful not too pay too much for it. His .319 BA in 2023 was 35 points higher than his xBA, and his 87 PX and 36% FB% don't exactly portend a power breakout. A repeat of .300 is a stretch, but with regular playing time, .285-15-60 is possible. And yes, there's room in his overall profile for more than that. But at #194, you're likely passing on Mitch Garver (C, SEA) who, if healthy, will almost certainly put up better numbers. The BaseballHQ rank of #294 looks low, but he's probably worth a 15th-rounder or later.

J.D. Martinez (DH, FA) represents a buying opportunity. His strong 2023 season was fully supported by his skills, and you're not going to find many potential 30/100 guys with good BA past the 15th round. We suspect his lack of a home is the main reason GMs are passing him by—that and his lack of a defensive position. Obviously, he's too risky to take at his BaseballHQ rank, but there's a wide gulf between than and his ADP. Don't reach too much, but do reach.

Elias Díaz (C, COL) plays in Colorado and his ct% is decent. Okay, that's the good part. The bad? He's 33 and his skills have declined for two straight years. His 2023 bump was playing-time related, but you're going to get PT when your competition is Austin Wynns and Brian Serven. They've upgraded their second and third catchers, so Díaz could see a decline in PT. His .267 BA in 2023 was his highest in five years, and his .236 xBA says it's not likely to repeat. He'll be hard-pressed to repeat his 2023 success, so we'll agree with the BaseballHQ projection on this one.

We can see why GMs are high on Patrick Bailey (C, SF). His 2023 season wasn't awful for a #2 catcher, with 7 HR and a .233 BA. He showed league-average power, with a good (10%) Barrel rate and an abnormally low (9%) hr/f. However, his plate skills (69% ct%) will hinder his ability to take advantage of that power and he also plays in one of the worst parks for HR power. He's going at the very, very end of regulation, so we can't quibble too much with the pick, but we think there are better options in that spot.

Andrew McCutchen (DH, PIT) is the kind of boring veteran who can help fill out your roster in the endgame, and he's essentially free. Yes, he's 37 and with the "D" health score we'd expect of the elderly. But he's a guy who could go 15/10 without hurting your BA. He'll get PT as long as he produces. If you target a prospect in the endgame who's going to hang around in the minors for a while, McCutchen is a great option in the reserve rounds. He'll give you much better production than the typical endgamer, and his earliest pick was in the 26th round. Scoop him up.

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