Fantasy Baseball catcher rest-of-season rankings tiers: Where does Willson Contreras land?

It’s time to kick off the Shuffle Up series for fantasy baseball, the in-season version. What you see below is how I would arrange the catcher position if I were entering a new draft today. Use it to evaluate your team, consider pickups and drops, grade trade offers — it’s up to you.

My salaries are unscientific in nature, meant primarily to show how I rank the players and, more specifically, where the clusters of talent are. Your list will look different, of course. That's why we have a game.

Other positions will follow in subsequent weeks. Today’s assignment is catchers. Let's dig in.

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Asterisks * signify injured players at the position.

The Big Tickets

$23 Sean Murphy

$22 Will Smith

$21 Salvador Perez

$21 Daulton Varsho

$21 JT Realmuto

$20 Adley Rutschman

Murphy has been the position’s dominant player, and what’s incredible is that he has actually been unlucky. According to Baseball Savant data, Murphy’s average should be 32 points higher, and his slugging percentage should be 69 points higher. As is, Murphy leads the position in home runs and RBI, and he’s second in runs scored. And as you’d expect from the batted-ball data, he’s tops in barrel rate. Being tied to the NL’s most reliable lineup doesn’t hurt, either.

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Realmuto has had a surprising drop-off in walks, and his power has also dipped a bit, but it's nothing to be panicky about. He’s still one of the rare catchers interested in running, and the Philadelphia offense — ordinary to this point — has the potential to spike now that Bryce Harper is back in the mix ... Rutschman hasn’t taken off yet, though he currently grades as the C7. But he leads the position in at-bats, and he has more walks than strikeouts — anyone who’s doing that is an elite hitter. He’s a potential MVP at some point in his career.

Speaking of walk/strikeout rates, look at Smith with 14 walks against six strikeouts. That’s just absurd. Obviously, he has missed some time due to a concussion, though he started nine straight games prior to Monday. He still has the upside to be C1 the rest of the way ... Varsho is getting the playing time we expected, with 33 outfield starts and no work behind the plate. We always love catcher-eligibles who aren’t tasked to catch. The Blue Jays' offense hasn’t gone to the moon yet, but it's ninth in runs with plenty of plausible upside.

Legitimate Building Blocks

$17 Willson Contreras

$16 Jonah Heim

$13 Cal Raleigh

$12 Elias Diaz

$11 Gabriel Moreno

$11 Tyler Stephenson

$10 Eric Haase

$10 William Contreras

Heim’s breakout is fully supported under the hood, as batted-ball data suggests a .304 average and .589 slugging. Heim has picked up occasional starts at DH, underscoring how valuable the Rangers consider him. His plus framing is going to get him behind the plate most of the time, anyway. Texas’ offense has been a surprise so far, leading the majors in runs per game. And things should stay afloat with star shortstop Corey Seager nearing a return ...

Raleigh’s profile is similar to last year: a healthy walk rate, a lofty strikeout clip and plenty of power. He has also bumped his line-drive rate about 5%, though his average, curiously enough, is the same .211 he showed last year. So long as the homers keep showing up, we can handle the average — we just have to make it up somewhere else. Raleigh has no chance to be an elite fantasy catcher with this much swing-and-miss, but he’ll be comfortably inside the top 12 at the position.

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The Contreras situation in St. Louis is a little weird, because the Cardinals had almost a decade to scout their new acquisition. You couldn’t have judged his defensive limitations over that time? But most of Contreras’s hitting trends are stable, and when you hand someone a five-year, $87.5 million contract, they’re going to play somewhere. His fantasy value is still sturdy. Ultimately, I suspect the Cardinals will realize Oliver Marmol isn’t the right person for the manager’s chair.

Some Plausible Upside

$9 Keibert Ruiz

$7 Christian Bethancourt

$7 Alejandro Kirk

$6 *Yan Gomes

$6 Blake Sabol

$6 Yasmani Grandal

$6 Travis d'Arnaud

$5 Shea Langeliers

$5 MJ Melendez

$4 Connor Wong

Wong has had a recent power spike and might be ready to take over the Boston catching gig for good, though the expected stats wave a warning flag. His batted-ball profile suggests he should be batting .225 with a .402 slugging; not kill shots at this position but below his actual levels at the moment (.257, .459). At least the Red Sox lineup has been better than expected, and Fenway Park is always an offensive float.

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Ruiz hasn’t been lucky in the opening month or so; expected stat data says he should be batting .291 and slugging .461. His hard-hit stats aren’t great, but he has elite bat control and almost never strikes out. The Washington offense isn’t a destination group, but Ruiz makes sense as a target in medium and deeper pools.

Bargain Bin

$3 Francisco Alvarez

$2 Danny Jansen

$2 Jose Trevino

$1 Jason Delay

$1 Christian Vazquez

$1 Joey Bart

$0 Mike Zunino