2021: Year of the Catcher

Alejandro Kirk heats up

Contributor: John Dudley

Baseball catchers get a bum rap in the hobby, but the class of 2021 might change things. Some collectors adhere to the advice of staying away from catchers, and I get it. While not as popular as other positions, I was always pleased to get a Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk, or Ivan Rodriguez growing up and later learned to love Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, and Yadier Molina. There is room, it seems, for about three hobby-relevant catchers at a time. 

With Yadier Molina retiring, there is a void for the most popular active catcher in the hobby. There are a few solid veteran catchers, but this void will be filled by a young up-and-comer. While the rookie class of 2021 is widely considered disappointing, it is packed full of catchers.  I think it’s likely that it will end up remembered as the year of the catcher and that the catcher hobby stars of the future will have some key cards from 2021 products.

2021 Rookies

Let’s check out the rookies from last year. 2021 had Joey Bart, William Contreras, Sam Huff, Alejandro Kirk, Keibert Ruiz, Tyler Stephenson, and Daulton Varsho all of whom have long-term starter potential. Which catcher I like best changes almost weekly as there are positives for each of the guys here. 

One of the things I like best about each of these guys is that they are cheap. You could pick up an auto rookie of each of the eight players listed for under $100. Some of those could even be nice Topps Chrome or even parallel cards. Table 1 below lists prices for Topps Chrome Rookie autos where available and Topps Chrome Black Rookie autos where not. 

Table 1: Topps Chrome Auto Prices for Catchers

PlayerChrome AugustChrome July
Joey Bart2025
William Contreras2926
Sam Huff415
Alejandro Kirk*2244
Keibert Ruiz*810
Tyler Stephenson2940
Daulton Varsho410
TOTAL116170

Keibert Ruiz has not had a great season. It also seems the hobby hates the Nationals and all associated with the organization right now. Still, $8 is staggeringly low for the guy who was the centerpiece of the ransom the Dodgers paid to sit at home and watch the Braves win a World Series only a year ago. Ok, well the centerpiece of the Trea Turner/Max Scherzer trade. 

On the downside, the class took a dip pricewise recently. None of them are commanding attention, but some instead are having solid seasons for young catchers. Even the pair, Kirk and Contreras, that are both All-Stars now still have to fight for playing time behind the plate. It takes a lot for the hobby to notice a catcher and it seems like none of these guys have gotten there yet. The good news is there is room for one or more of them to do so. The better news is one can build a great collection of any of these guys for very little.

2021 Prospects

The real future top catcher might not have had their rookie year in 2021, but still appeared on 2021 products as a prospect. Henry Davis looks like he is ready to be the face of the Pittsburgh franchise and Harry Ford is an intriguing young prospect too. The catch is that investing in nice autographed cards of these guys is a more expensive proposition with Davis’s Bowman Chrome 1st Auto going for $100 and Ford’s for a mind-boggling $200. Both will likely need to see a position change to keep that kind of value though. 

Wrap-Up

Of course, maybe the next big catcher is one destined to have his rookie in 2023 (and Bowman Chrome Auto in 2019). Adley Rutschman is as likely a candidate as any and there are a few other talented players not tied to 2021, but the sheer volume of catching talent in one year is remarkable and I still think the odds are good one of these players becomes a hobby favorite. Who do you think the next big catcher in the hobby is? Let me know in the comments.

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