Why You Should Start Each Cardinals Catcher With Confidence Moving Forward

Both Cardinals catchers belong in fantasy lineups.

Willson Contreras and Iván Herrera might not be fantasy baseball’s top two catchers. That distinction belongs to Will Smith and one of Adley Rutschman and (if healthy) Sean Murphy. Yainer Diaz could be in the mix for one of those two places by the end of the season and J.T. Realmuto is still providing quality fantasy production.

And while the Cardinals’ catching tandem isn’t quite at the top of the list, neither is too far off, especially considering how they’ve hit so far. Arguably the best duo of catchers on the same team in the league, at least where fantasy baseball is concerned, Contreras and Herrera are also the rare catching tandem where both players should be depended on daily by fantasy managers.

They’ve been that good so far, and in the case of Contreras, for much of the last few years.

Let’s start with the veteran catcher.


Willson Contreras


Willson Contreras has quietly topped a .340 xwOBA in every season since 2019, finishing with the second-highest hard-hit rate (39.6%), third-most home runs (82), fourth-highest wRC+ (124) and the eighth-highest on-base percentage (.348). So you get it, he’s good. Maybe you prefer just strictly fantasy-counting stats? Contreras is third among all qualified catchers in RBI (225), runs scored (226), and stolen bases (16).

So perhaps he does belong near the top of that initial list at the beginning of the column. Or rather, he should very much be in the conversation for fantasy baseball’s best catcher, and certainly one fantasy managers can depend on as a lineup staple.

Because for as good as the Cardinals’ catcher has been, you can make the case he was at his best last year in his first year with St. Louis.

The backstop established a new career-best in each of the following categories while logging the second-most plate appearances (495) that he’s ever logged in a major league season while also striking out at the second-lowest clip of his career (22.4%).

Willson Contreras‘ Career Highs In 2023

Contreras hasn’t missed a beat so far in 2024, hitting .283 with a .389 on-base percentage, a .361 xwOBA, a 9.4% barrel rate, a .889 OPS, and a pair of home runs in 54 plate appearances.

With the Cardinals’ lineup struggling to a degree, St. Louis entered play Wednesday with the eighth-fewest runs scored in the league, Contreras has also seen an upgrade in his regular lineup placement, something that is a decided plus for fantasy managers.

After hitting fifth in his first four starts, the veteran has batted either third or second in five of his last nine played games.

It’s an ideal situation, as even with Nolan Arenado (98 wRC+) and Paul Goldschmidt (55 wRC+) struggling, Contreras’ advancement in the order provides a bit of a safeguard for his fantasy value. If or when the veterans return to form, Contreras will have two more quality batters to hit near.


Iván Herrera


A bone bruise in Contreras’ left hand opened the door for fellow backstop Iván Herrera to step into a regular role for a stretch this season.

And Herrera did not disappoint.

From April 3rd through April 10th, Herrera hit .321 with a .345 on-base percentage, three home runs, six runs scored, and five RBI in 29 plate appearances. That stretch also included four barrels and a 47.8% hard-hit rate.

For the season, the 23-year-old owns an 18.8% barrel rate, a .413 xwOBA, and just a 17.1% strikeout rate in 41 plate appearances.

It’s a tiny sample size to be sure, but the catcher’s xwOBA (91st percentile) and barrel rate (98th) both rank in the 90th percentile.

Furthermore, his six total barrels, as of the beginning of play on Wednesday, were the same as Mookie Betts, Matt Olson, José Ramírez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

For reference, among catchers, only Salvador Perez and William Contreras have more total barrels despite a wide gap in plate appearances.

2024 Total Barrel Leaders Among Catchers

Herrera is a borderline must-start when he’s in the lineup given the damage he’s done at the plate so far.

In most cases, having two hot-hitting catchers on the same major league roster would be a headache for fantasy managers if said major league team didn’t have three backstops on their active roster as starting one catcher behind the plate and the other at designated hitter isn’t exactly a common occurrence.

But that’s exactly what the Cardinals are doing. Contreras and Herrera have occupied the catcher and designated hitter spots in three of St. Louis’ last four games, all without the safety net of a third catcher on the roster.

With Arenado, Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker all off to starts that are equal parts slow and unideal, the club could certainly use the added lineup production.

And for now, that means starting both catchers on a regular basis.

Contreras is probably already rostered in most leagues, as evidenced by a 75% rostered rate, via FantasyPros rostered rate data. Herrera, on the other hand, is rostered in an astonishingly low 9% of leagues, also per FantasyPros.

Not only is he worthy of a regular spot in your lineup, but he’s also worth adding in Roto leagues as a bench option where there’s a limit on the total number of appearances by position over the course of the season. Generally speaking, if most teams aren’t rostering and utilizing a second catcher, that’s an under-the-radar route to add value and production where your league mates aren’t over the course of a season as even the most durable, star catchers won’t start as often as regular infielders or outfielders. And Herrera makes for the perfect addition in that regard.

Regardless of scoring format, league size, or roster construction though, both Willson Contreras and Iván Herrera should be considered fantasy starters behind the plate moving forward.


Photos by Icon Sports Wire and Adobe Stock | Adapted by Carlos Leano

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

One response to “Why You Should Start Each Cardinals Catcher With Confidence Moving Forward”

  1. Neil says:

    So which one of the two would be top priority ?

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