Draft Scripts: Using NFBC ADP’s to evaluate Catcher & DH

Buster Posey is a world champion & reigning #1 catcher on the Player Rater but he is not worth his ADP
Buster Posey is great but is not worth taking at his current ADP

Draft season is approaching and it seems that we still overthink how to handle catchers. While the production from the position and their ADP’s seem to be coming closer together, there are still owners out there who think that acquiring a top catcher is of the utmost importance. In that, a player like Buster Posey gets drafted too soon. He was the only catcher to crack the top 50 via ESPN’s Player Rater (he finished 49th). He and Jonathan Lucroy were the only two to finish in the top 100 (Lucroy broke out, finishing at 97). Even in two-catcher leagues, I think you can get by owning a top-12 option at the position and waiting until later on in your draft to gamble on a flier type. Devin Mesoraco circa 2014 comes to mind on the flier front.

Due to the declining power numbers in baseball, designated hitters are in transition as well. The top player at the position will be 39 this year and though there seems to be a player who can match Ortiz’s thump, Chris Carter’s batting average leaves something to be desired. 30-homers out of a single player will be rare in 2015, making Carter more valuable than he would have been otherwise. Whether it is the new age of pitching dominance or the emergence of shifts and specialty pitchers, run production will be in demand in fantasy next season. Power is such a scarce commodity that batting averages will likely be ignored if a player can produce 30 home runs. The stigma about a player that hits below .240 and launches 30 bombs is all but gone.

So how do we treat the players and rankings for these positions going forward? I gave my thoughts above about catcher, I try to target a solid top 10-12 catcher and get him at a fair market price whether in auctions or drafts then target a bounce back candidate or younger catcher who could break out later on. If the gamble does not work, there is bound to be someone on the waiver wire I can move on to. If any position in fantasy baseball is related to the kicker in fantasy football, it’s the catcher. Find one with a good chance to get at bats on a solid team and you’re golden. These are your Yan Gomes, Salvador Perez, and Russell Martin types. After that, take a flier or get two of the types above and gamble on upside later in the draft. But to spend a second round pick on a Buster Posey, as good of a real baseball player as he is, just does not make much sense to me.

Following up on my article about the NFBC’s top 200 by ADP, I will list the catchers taken in the top 200 along with their average draft position in the chart:
Catchers ADP Chart
As much as I liked Devin Mesoraco last year, I am shying away from him at the present cost this year. There are too many other players I will be targeting at pick 80. Knowing a catcher rarely makes the top 100 in overall rankings makes it tough to grab one early. Bounce back candidates include Matt Wieters, Wilin Rosario and Brian McCann (if he can solve the shift). Stephen Vogt and Carlos Santana lose catcher status in leagues that use 20 games played for eligibility purposes, so that stinks. In an effort to gather statistics, I made a spreadsheet listing their projections by Steamer and CBS:

Catchers Projection Chart 1-6
Catchers Projection Chart 7-13

Two players catch my attention on the chart above; Evan Gattis and Travis d’Arnaud. One is limited by his defense and the other has durability questions. Rumor has it that Gattis will open 2015 as Atlanta’s left fielder now that Justin Upton has been traded to San Diego. This means good things for his value since he will not wear down physically due to the rigors of catching. This should allow him to get 500 at bats. That would be huge since he has hit 43 home runs in 723 career at bats in the majors. If he hits the magic 500 number, that would pace him for 29.74 homers if he maintains his career rates. 30-homer potential out of my catcher slot is something I will definitely be exploring at pick 125.

Travis d’Arnaud also has the ability to be a stealth starting catcher for fantasy owners in 2015, but he has to stay on the field. In the second half of 2014, d’Arnaud slashed .265/.313/.474 while hitting 7 home runs and showed us why he was a top catching prospect. He did appear in 108 games last year and had some bone chips removed in October, so if he is healthy and can stay healthy, then he represents a bargain in 2015.

Speaking of health, Yadier Molina is not even being drafted in the NFBC top 200 so if you like a low double-digit home run hitting catcher that will actually help your batting average then he is your guy. If a team has loaded up on power hitting early, then Molina is a perfect target to balance a team. Another player I like with spotty health issues but burgeoning power is Wilson Ramos. He may break my heart one more time but he can hit 18-20 home runs for Washington while batting .270. Speculate. One more target is Yasmani Grandal of the Dodgers. I think he can hit 15 or more home runs for Los Angeles and be a player that is the perfect flier type to pair up with an Evan Gattis. Every draft or auction is different but I think it will pay to wait at catcher.

Since only two designated hitters were taken in the Top 200 NFBC ADP’s it is not too hard to look at them. First here are their projections by Steamer and CBS:

DH Projection Chart

As much as David Ortiz can light up a room and hit home runs, power hitters do not age well. Ortiz has been defying the odds for years. I give him all the credit in the world, but with an ADP in the top 90, I think it is better to let him age on someone else’s team. It’s better to be a year early than a year too late.

Chris Carter does not always make contact, but he has hit 66 HR in 1013 AB's the last two seasons.
Chris Carter does not always make contact, but he has hit 66 HR in 1013 AB’s the last two seasons

Chris Carter will be a polarizing fantasy player since he is the prototypical three outcome kind of guy: a walk, a home run or a strike out. In fact, over his 572 plate appearances in 2014, 48% of his outcomes were one of the above. Carter hit 37 home runs, struck out 182 times and drew 56 walks. But over the second half he slashed a respectable .252/.338/.521. This was fueled by a line drive rate that he cannot maintain for a full season, but the seeds are in place for some growth. Both projections above account for a batting average in the Dunn range, but there is a chance he can hit .240 which increases his value. With the potential for 40 home runs at pick 140, I’ll gamble.

Values are likely to change as all of the sleeper lists and under the radar picks will be coming out, but having a grip on where to take a catcher helps. Don’t be that guy who grabs Posey in the second round to preserve your team’s batting average while other teams are collecting power. It is a precious commodity in fantasy baseball today.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, CBSsports.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/29PPDZ (Posey), http://goo.gl/SwH7RT (Carter)

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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

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Post Break Preview: Catcher

Cool Hand Luke tops Fantasy Catchers going foward
Cool-hand Luke tops fantasy catchers moving forward

It used to be a catcher preview started with Buster Posey and ending with Joe Mauer. However, entering 2014 there were enough intriguing options emerging that the “depth” word started to surface. I have never been a proponent of drafting a Buster Posey type at the point in drafts that it would take to get him. So far so good this year, but with the injuries to Yadier Molina and Matt Wieters the margin for error is closing quickly. In order to rank the catchers for the second half I will look at how this season is going while taking into account what the catchers have done over the last statistical year (last 365). Not only that, I will also list how ZiPS feels about the second half by projecting how the catchers are projected to finish the year. But first, some fun with numbers:

• Player A – 148 G, 63 R, 20 HR, 77 RBI, 1 SB 288/331/450
• Player B – 145 G, 60 R, 12 HR, 62 RBI, 1 SB 267/335/382
• Player C – 104 G, 60 R, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 1 SB 256/332/415

One of my favorite parts of Matthew Berry’s fantasy baseball work was his blind test for players. If you take the names out of the equation you cannot make a decision about a player based on perceptions (or name value). Of course all of us would want player A in this scenario and it is a player I was very high on entering the season. He was on the All-Star team for the American League and on his way to being an elite fantasy baseball catcher. Players B and C are both in the National League but were drafted nowhere near each other. The aforementioned Buster Posey’s last 365 days are represented above but Player C is Wellington Castillo. Yes, of the Cubs. Even though our mind says that player A is Buster Posey, it doesn’t always happen that way. As the season enters the second half, here is how the catchers stack up via ESPN’s player rater:

1. Jonathan Lucroy
2. Devin Mesoraco
3. Evan Gattis
4. Salvador Perez
5. Buster Posey
6. Miguel Montero
7. Yan Gomes
8. Derek Norris
9. Yadier Molina (DL)
10. Kurt Suzuki
11. John Jaso
12. Carlos Santana
13. Joe Mauer (DL)
14. Russell Martin
15. Brian McCann

I feel like I am bashing Buster a bit and he is still in the top five on the first half player rater. That is not a slight on him but at his pre-season ADP, it is a disappointment. After his All-Star game performance, Jonathan Lucroy may finally get some attention for being the top fantasy catcher not only in the first half, but moving forward. If people do not rank players the way they are accustomed it is frowned upon but I promised myself a year ago to trust my gut. I hyped Salvador Perez, Devin Mesoraco and saw Evan Gattis as a bargain compared to Brian McCann. If you had Kurt Suzuki on your radar entering 2014, my hat is off and I tip it to you. So how did this happen? Are there predictors? Not always, but as much as I was right about Perez and Gattis, I have been way off on Carlos Santana. Although, Santana can definitely salvage his season in the 2nd half. Are you listening Wilson Ramos? Please fantasy gods, allow him to stay healthy and not hit eighth in the second half for about ¾ of my teams, thanks. Using WAR (wins above replacement) to rank the Catchers over the last 365 days here is how they stack up, with statistics included (I excluded Yadier Molina who was fourth on this list):

1. Jonathan Lucroy – 78 R, 15 HR, 76 RBI, 10 SB 304/376/474
2. Salvador Perez – 63 R, 20 HR, 77 RBI, 1 SB 288/331/450
3. Yan Gomes – 62 R, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 0 SB 280/333/449
4. Russell Martin – 43 R, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 6 SB 244/357/375
5. Devin Mesoraco – 47 R, 21 HR, 67 RBI, 1 SB 279/331/511
6. Chris Iannetta – 40 R, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB 262/376/419
7. Carlos Santana – 74 R, 23 HR, 69 RBI, 4 SB 235/363/416
8. Jason Castro – 50 R, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 0 SB 254/334/427
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – 56 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 4 SB 246/326/430
10. Wellington Castillo – 33 R, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 1 SB 256/332/415
11. Buster Posey – 60 R, 12 HR, 62 RBI, 1 SB 267/335/382
12. Carlos Ruiz – 47 R, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 3 SB 261/344/382
13. Miguel Montero – 47 R, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 0 SB 262/346/417
14. Evan Gattis – 49 R, 23 HR, 67 RBI, 0 SB 265/308/484
15. Wilson Ramos – 37 R, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 0 SB 269/307/429

Using a ranking system like this is far from perfect, but being able to see the numbers from the last year does provide some clarity. To sort this list out I also had 350 at bats as the minimum so there may be a couple of emerging players who were omitted from this list but it is a nice start to try and rank the catcher going forward. Of the players in the player rater top 15 not listed above, Brian McCann was 18th, Joe Mauer 19th, Matt Wieters 20th and Kurt Suzuki 21st as you go down the list provided above. These are a nice baseline, so now here are ZiPS projected leaders for standard categories for the rest of the season (ROS):

ZiPS Runs leaders:
1. Carlos Santana: 31
2. Joe Mauer: 29 (DL)
3. Buster Posey: 27
4. Mike Zunino: 26
5. Jonathan Lucroy: 24
6. Salvador Perez: 23

ZiPS HR leaders:
1. Carlos Santana: 9
2. Evan Gattis: 9
3. Brian McCann: 9
4. Wilin Rosario: 8
5. Posey, Mesoraco and Zunino: tied at 7

ZiPS RBI leaders:
1. Buster Posey: 33
2. Carlos Santana: 32
3. Jonathan Lucroy: 30
4. Miguel Montero: 30
5. Brian McCann 29

ZiPS batting average leaders:
1. Jonathan Lucroy: .291
2. Buster Posey: .287
3. Salvador Perez: .286
4. Joe Mauer: .285
5. Kurt Suzuki: .272
6. Wilson Ramos: .271

Being projections, these are not completely going to fit the script. But, it does give a glimpse into what the computer projects for the remaining games of the season. While his average is not great, it does suggest a bounce back is in the offing for Carlos Santana and Jason Castro, two disappointments thus far. Evan Gattis in on rehab assignment now and if he gets back soon, should not see a huge drop in his first half numbers. The wild cards are players like Devin Mesoraco and Wilson Ramos. One is emerging and the other just needs to stay on the field. Below are my rankings for catchers for the second half of the season. I will be wrong, Wilin Rosario will not be hitting 30 home runs this year or ever, but I think there are emerging players who are worth a shot. As always these are up for debate.

My top 20 post-ASB catcher:
1. Jonathan Lucroy – Milwaukee – I believe as should you
2. Salvador Perez – Kansas City – Any uptick in power is a plus
3. Devin Mesoraco – Cincinnati – No Dusty to screw him up, watch him emerge
4. Carlos Santana – Cleveland – Still think he is a buy low, real low
5. Buster Posey – San Francisco – Solid, but not number one anymore
6. Wilson Ramos – Washington – Hit 16 HR in 287 AB in 2013, health risk though
7. Evan Gattis – Atlanta – Power is legit, hope back holds up
8. Yan Gomes – Cleveland – Very underrated but helps across the board
9. Miguel Montero – Arizona – Could be a trade target for St. Louis
10. Wilin Rosario – Colorado – Better days should be ahead, but not elite
11. Russell Martin – Pittsburgh – A poor man’s Lucroy as he adds steals but an average risk
12. Brian McCann – New York Yankees – Still has power but the shift is killing him
13. Jason Castro – Houston – Bounce back candidate in second half
14. Stephen Vogt – Oakland – Has hit his way into the lineup a 2H sleeper
15. Travis d’Arnaud – New York Mets – Has mashed since his demotion/promotion, sleeper
16. Mike Zunino – Seattle – Power is real but his batting average weighs it down
17. Kurt Suzuki – Minnesota – Just the opposite, has the average but little power
18. Derek Norris – Oakland – Great first half but wrong side of platoon and back worries
19. John Jaso – Oakland – Solid but Vogt is pushing his way ahead of Jaso
20. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Miami – Solid #2 catcher but that is his upside

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Statistical credits: Fangraphs.com (including the ZiPS Projections), Baseball-reference.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/z8UxPA

2014 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings

MLB season is upon us and Fantasy Baseball is back and better than ever! I am here to unveil my 2014 Fantasy Baseball rankings. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be providing my rankings, sleepers and answering 5 questions about each position. All in hopes of getting you ready for any of the upcoming Fantasy drafts you have. Today we start with Catchers.

2014 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings (as of 2/17/14)

Rank Player Team
1 Buster Posey SF
2 Yadier Molina STL
3 Carlos Santana CLE
4 Joe Mauer MIN
5 Jonathan Lucroy MIL
6 Brian McCann NYY
7 Salvador Perez KC
8 Wilin Rosario COL
9 Wilson Ramos WAS
10 Evan Gattis ATL
11 Matt Wieters BAL
12 Jason Castro HOU
13 Miguel Montero ARI
14 Carlos Ruiz PHI
15 A.J. Pierzynski  BOS
16 Yan Gomes CLE
17 Russell Martin PIT
18 Devin Mesoraco CIN
19 Jarrod Saltalamacchia MIA
20 Alex Avila DET
21 Travis d’Arnaud NYM
22 Dioner Navarro TOR
23 Mike Zunino  SEA
24 Welington Castillo CHC
25 A.J. Ellis LAD

If you have any questions about the upcoming Fantasy Baseball season make sure to hope on over to twitter and ask. You can follow me @rickygangster and I will answer any and all questions.

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