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January 13, 2014

State of the Position

Catchers

by Bret Sayre


The beginning of each week of pre-season positional coverage here at BP is going to kick off with a high-level view of that position before we start diving too deeply into rankings, individual players and the like. And as a reminder, here is what the rest of the week’s schedule will look like:

  • Today: State of the Position, Players to Target (staff post)
  • Tuesday: 2014 Tiered Rankings (top-25), Corresponding Infographic
  • Wednesday: Three-Year Rankings (top-30), Prospect Overview
  • Thursday: Dynasty League Rankings (top-40), Tale of the Tape
  • Friday: Scoresheet Strategy, Players to Avoid (staff post)

And before we jump into the meat that is the catcher position, I wanted to talk briefly about one of the additions to the weekly lineup (and beyond). I am very happy to announce that we have a three-headed monster of knowledge joining the fantasy staff to provide ongoing Scoresheet coverage throughout the season. Ben Murphy, Ian Lefkowitz, and Jared Weiss will bring their years of experience to BP both to write content for the site and to provide audio content through their new podcast, Three True Outcomes. After rankings season is over, they will continue to write about the format, both through analysis of their own and critiquing me in my adventures as a first-time Scoresheet owner.

Now, the aforementioned meat. Catcher has always been one of those positions where the concept of value doesn’t come into play nearly as much as the concept of strategy. And by that I mean that you have your owners who come into the auction with the specific intent to not draft a catcher until all of their other starting spots are filled, or only spend $1-2 on the position. These owners, who exist in every league, can often have the added effect of artificially lowering the prices on some of the catchers who are target-worthy from a value sense. However, those owners who write off drafting a catcher outside of the endgame before the draft starts should be more flexible when it’s appropriate.

The depth of the catcher position has been discussed at relatively great lengths over the past season or two, but this year something interesting happened to the class—the top got stronger. Last year, it was Buster Posey and then everyone else. This year, some of the players who would have been clear steps down from Posey have seen their values rise for different reasons. Joe Mauer is going to be playing first base full-time in 2014, so his playing time should increase nicely along with his potential to stay healthy. Brian McCann is moving into a cozy new stadium (Yankee Stadium) and with Robinson Cano out of town, the Yankees may choose to increase his playing time by occasionally using him at DH against right-handed pitching. Jonathan Lucroy has established himself as a reliable name with his second straight strong season.

It has also has been true that historically catchers have not been known as a hotbed of stolen bases. This is only more noticeable from 2013. Between 2008 and 2012, the position as a whole averaged over 93 steals per season (yes, that’s EVERYONE combined), and there were 23 individual player seasons of more than five steals. But in 2013, that total dropped to 73 stolen bases and Jonathan Lucroy (9) and Russell Martin (9) were the only two players who could count their thefts on more than one hand. This is both quirky and relevant information, as those are stolen bases that other teams are simply not getting and adds quietly to the value of those two going forward. It also helps the case of someone like Derek Norris, who has stolen five bases each of the past two years in limited playing time.

The League Breakout
Surprisingly, the league breakout is not too noticeable as far as the 2014 tiers go, until you get the bottom of the list, where the National League dominates the list. These differences are only further accentuated by the types of players who are available at those later spots. In the National League, you have more unproven players with upside like Travis d’Arnaud, Devin Mesoraco, and Welington Castillo. In the American League, those corresponding spots are fewer and further between, as it’s more consistent players with limited ceilings like Dioner Navarro and John Jaso.

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Players to Tar... (01/13)
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Next Column >>
Fantasy Article State of the Position:... (01/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (01/13)

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