Which Catchers Are Overrated and Underrated in Fantasy Baseball Drafts?
Do you think Player X is being drafted too high and Player Y is a steal right now? Today, we’ll compare the average draft positions of catcher-eligible players, as found on FantasyPros.com, with our preseason projections.
Players such as Carlos Santana and Joe Mauer, who may be catcher-eligible depending on the site or league structure, will be omitted. To clarify, Santana has a higher nF score than Evan Gattis, but Gattis will be listed as numberFire’s third-most valuable catcher behind Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy for this article’s purposes.
Below, I have listed the top 12 catchers in FantasyPros average draft position (ADP) and sorted them by their fantasy score "nF", which takes a player’s projected statistics and adjust for category, position, and position scarcity to rank the player among all positions. Also listed are the numberFire positional rank for each catcher, the positional rank based on ADP, and the difference of ADP and the numberFire ranking, with positive numbers indicating a player is undervalued.
|Name||nF||nF Catcher Ranking||nF Total Ranking||FantasyPros Catcher ADP||FantasyPros Total ADP||FantasyPros - nF|
With a 1.225 OPS in spring training thus far, it looks like Lucroy will in fact be healthy for the start of the season. We're optimistic about his playing time, projecting him to reach 590 plate appearances this year, which is now possible thanks to his platoon with the newly-acquired Adam Lind, who will sit against lefties. A healthy Ryan Braun and positive regression for Khris Davis could be an added bonus for Lucroy's value.
I’ll admit the wrist injury that has nagged Gattis during spring training worries me, but it looks like he has been given the green light to play in spring training games. With only 540 projected plate appearances, Gattis has mediocre projection totals for runs and RBI, but you’re buying him for the 28 home runs we think he’ll smack.
By moving to the Astros, Gattis looks to benefit from the short left field dimensions. Last year, 19 of Gattis' 22 blasts were pulled to left- or left-center field. He will also avoid catching duties, which likely means more playing time than we have seen from him when he was with the Braves. That, of course, assumes the Astros can tolerate his defense hopefully your leagues don't account for defensive metrics.
Wieters’ ADP is actually right around where we would recommend, but he’s being selected as the ninth catcher off the board when our projections peg him as the fourth-best option. Recently, O’s manager Buck Showalter told reporters the team will place Wieters on the DL to begin the season, hoping he returns around April 11, as he's still recovering from season-ending Tommy John surgery.
I expect once fantasy owners realize this, his draft stock will plummet, allowing you to extract even more value, assuming you can get by with a replacement option for a short time. Tommy John recovery is typically shorter for position players, and players can resume their expected level of play much quicker than pitchers, meaning Wieters isn't such a risky investment.
Gomes has had his share of buzz this spring, mostly about his power. However, plenty of catcher options this year can hit 15 home runs, and we project Gomes for 17 this year. Given his 14.4% home run per fly ball last year, he’ll need to hit more fly balls this year (39.4% fly-ball rate) if we wants to stand out from the pack. Gomes' value in the field means he will likely have a long leash in the case of a slow start at the dish.
In retrospect, Molina's 2012, where he had 6.1 WAR, 22 home runs, and 12 stolen bases, was a career year. He might always have real-baseball value as a brilliant defensive catcher, but we don't even expect him to surpass the magic number of 50 in runs/RBI (each) or 10 home runs. At this point, it is only safe to expect above-average contribution in the batting average category.
Many look at Mesoraco's 440 plate appearances and 25 homers from 2014 and see a 30-homer bat if he sees more trips to the plate. But as a full-time catcher in the Senior Circuit, he is unlikely to improve that figure by much. We project 429 plate appearances and 21 home runs for 2015, meaning the hype may not be totally justified.
The Royals backstop does have 20 home run potential, as advertised by his 11 homers in the first half last year, but we project a .714 OPS and only 15 homers, which is not elite by any means. If Perez maintains his 44.8% fly ball rate from last year’s second half, we may be too down on him.
He’s actually being drafted 10 spots too low by our estimates, but he is far and away the top catcher on the board. The Giants recognize his value as a batter, and Posey will be given more time at first base to keep his bat in the lineup. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger in the second or third round.
This analysis corroborates the idea that catchers are the quarterbacks of fantasy baseball -- in a few aspects, anyway. All 12 catchers listed here are capable of 15 home runs, and based on ADP, you would get more value out of your catcher pick if you picked him early or late in your draft, but not in the middle.