3 Breakout Catchers for 2023

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Several emerging backstops have given the position a bit of a renaissance right now and it feels the deepest it has been in quite some time. While that does offer more options lean on for quality production, it also means you need more production from the position to compete with your leaguemates. Here are 3 catchers I like to put up quality numbers behind the dish this year:

Tyler Stephenson | CIN

My Projection: .288/.359/.477, 19 HR, 72 R, 77 RBI, 1 SB in 506 PA

Stephenson was on his way to a breakout in 2022 before injuries derailed him and limited him to just 50 games. I’m right back on the train for 2023! The 26-year-old hasn’t delivered a ton of power yet (.158 ISO), but his 6’4, 225-pound frame says more in on the way, especially in that ballpark. The Reds also plan to utilize his bat more by way of starts at 1B and DH ($) which is always great for catcher-eligible bat. Power is plentiful in the upper rungs of the catcher ranks, pairing it with the batting average is what makes Stephenson special.

Gabriel Moreno | ARI

My Projection: .286/.349/.428, 9 HR, 46 R, 58 RBI, 3 SB in 373 PA

I had my money on Danny Jansen getting traded from Toronto to clear their backstop logjam… turned out it was Moreno in the big Daulton Varsho trade. There isn’t an obvious spot for Moreno to play every day with Carson Kelly likely locked into the starting role, but he has bounced around the diamond a bit in the majors and minors which could be his avenue to finding more time. While limited, he has time at 1B, 2B, 3B, and OF over his career and of course the NL now has the DH which offers yet another spot. His bat is good enough to make a big impact in the 373 PA I have him down for with the upside to be so much more if they do carve out a role north of 400 PA for Moreno. The 23-year-old hit .310/.365/.479 with 10 HR and 8 SB per 400 PA in the minors. Moreno is a great fit in 2-catcher formats where the lesser volume won’t put you at a disadvantage against your leaguemates.

Logan O’Hoppe | LAA

My Projection: .253/.343/.431, 13 HR, 46 R, 52 RBI, 2 SB in 400 PA

I became a big fan of O’Hoppe after seeing him at the 2021 Fall League but of course worried about his path as he was stuck behind J.T. Realmuto in Philadelphia. The summer trade to Los Angeles put him back on my short-term radar and I wasn’t surprised to see him get a little sip of espresso at the end of the season (16 PA in 5 games). I did grow a little concerned in the early offseason as some reports seeme to suggest that Matt Thaiss could overtake him for the backup catcher role because Thaiss is out of options, but I’ve moved off that worry when it became clear that O’Hoppe is fully in the mix for the starting role. Manager Phil Nevin did make it a point say we shouldn’t read into O’Hoppe consistently catching Shohei Ohtani before he left for the WBC, but I think Nevin might just be throwing his fantasy leaguemates off the scent of his rookie catcher so he can acquire O’Hoppe at a great draft price. Orrr we take him at face value and he just wants the 23-year-old rookie to get comfortable with the team’s best pitcher. Either/or.

March 10th Edit: I am not as in on O’Hoppe at his recent draft surge. I obviously should’ve checked ADPs before including him, but I just didn’t realize he was being pushed up as much as he is right now. He’s going as C15 in March Rotowire Online Championships (12-team redraft leagues) which is just too high for me. He was more in the C19-22 range in Draft Champions leagues (15-team, 50 round draft & hold) and I was much more comfortable with that. At current prices, I’d have recommended someone like Nick Fortes in this space instead of O’Hoppe. Fortes is going at C28, a price I love!

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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12 days ago

You missed the only catcher other than J.T. Realmuto that can hit double digit homeruns and steal double digit bases…Keibert Ruiz. That is your breakout catcher for 2023.

Contact skills of Howie Kendrick with decent foot speed.

Lunch Anglemember
11 days ago
Reply to  deweycheatham

I love Ruiz as much as anybody but you’re high, right 😛 20 grade speed according to this website and 11th percentile foot speed, according to Savant. Yeah. I guess that is pretty decent, for a catcher!

9 days ago
Reply to  Lunch Angle

Ruiz’s foot speed is great for a catcher. When you look at other percentile rankings and see catchers bunched at the 1 percentile level (Grandal, Maldonado, Leon, Chirinos, Barnhart, Molina) and realize that Molina has stolen 12 bases in a season and stole 9 bases in a season two other times…you then realize that your comment holds no weight.

Remember, Paul Goldschmidt is in the 26th percentile as far as foot speed and yet he has stolen as many as 32 bases in a season. Either the percentiles aren’t accurate or Statcast is unable to differentiate between all runs and a competitive base stealing attempt.

Statcast appears to measure all runs but it does not note when a player is trying to steal a base. It is most likely that catchers don’t really run unless they have to so their average foot speed scores are lower. I don’t expect catchers to lead the pack in foot speed but it is highly unlikely that the 1st percentile would be overloaded with catchers if that were a true representation of their actual foot speed.

10 days ago
Reply to  deweycheatham

Double digit SBs? Can I have some of what you’re smoking?

9 days ago
Reply to  fartinyourface

Here’s the neat thing. Paul Goldschmidt has sprint speed in the 26th percentile and has stolen as many as 32 bases in a season. Carlton Fisk, the bastion of speed that he is, hit double digit stolen bases 4 times in his career and managed 17 stolen bases in a season TWICE. Similarly, Yadier Molina, speed demon supreme, has managed to steal as many as 12 bases in a season and managed to steal 9 bases in a season two other times.

Keibert Ruiz stole 6 bases last season. Or as I like to say, “Keibert Ruiz stole more bases in 2022 than Mike Trout stole in 2020, 2021, and 2022 COMBINED.” Double digits is easily doable. You just have to actually try.

On a separate note, Mike Trout has given up on baseball. He is there to cash a check and go home. Anybody that believes otherwise knows nothing about baseball or hasn’t watched baseball in the past 3 seasons.

9 days ago
Reply to  deweycheatham

I mean maybe he doesn’t care about our fantasy baseball, but his production hasn’t dipped at all

9 days ago
Reply to  carter

Mike Trout’s production has dipped big time.

2012 – bWAR = 10.5
2013 – bWAR = 8.9
2014 – bWAR = 7.7
2015 – bWAR = 9.6
2016 – bWAR = 10.5
2017 – bWAR = 6.9
2018 – bWAR = 9.9
2019 – bWAR = 7.9
*******Trout quits trying*************
2020 – bWAR = 1.8
2021 – bWAR = 1.8
2022 – bWAR = 6.3

If you are in the 95th percentile in sprint speed and have only stolen 4 bases in the past 3 seasons (208 games) then you are not trying. Keibert Ruiz stole more bases in 112 games in one season.

Trout’s back injury is going to shorten his career. Trout may squeak into the Hall of Fame based off his MVP awards but his numbers have him as more the equivalent of Alfonso Soriano or Ron Gant.

3 days ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

If Trout retired today, he would be a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.

Mike Trout is Steve Finley with more hype.