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January 17, 2014

Fantasy Players to Avoid

Catchers

by BP Fantasy Staff

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On Monday, the BP Fantasy staff brought you a collection of catchers you’d be wise to target in your drafts this season. Because every internet column has an equal and opposite column, we shall now bring you the names of many backstops you should avoid.

Travis d’Arnaud, Mets
Dissing d’Arnaud, while certainly a catchy name for a cover band, isn’t something I jumped at. In long-term leagues, by all means, go crazy. But for the upcoming season, I’m not going out of my way for any Met not named David Wright (pitchers not included). The 24-year-old will be buried at the bottom of a New York lineup that finished 29th in terms of wOBA (.297) in 2013, and while the team might be marginally better with Curtis Granderson onboard, I’m not seeing an offensive revival of great significance. We have only 31 games of major-league data to go by, and that small sample size produced a lowly line of .202/.286/.263 and one home run. A full-time job doesn’t guarantee anything—even for a former no. 1 organizational prospect—and I’m afraid the name might outweigh d’Arnaud’s actual value on draft day. —Alex Kantecki

Devin Mesoraco, Reds
There's no question that Mesoraco has been a bust so far in his major-league career, but it's hard to hold that against him as he's gotten inconsistent playing time from former manager Dusty Baker and catchers tend to develop slowly at the plate. However, with the depth of mid-range options at catcher this year, I'd prefer to spend my draft-day dollars (especially in a two-catcher league) on one of the similarly priced options with more safety. In a one-catcher league, it's much less of a risk as you've likely waited on catcher if you're starting Mesoraco and there are other names in our rankings available on the wire. If faced with the decision of Mesoraco versus Alex Avila, Welington Castillo, or A.J. Pierzynski, I might as well rename my team "No Devins.” —Bret Sayre

Salvador Perez, Royals
Perez is another guy who doesn’t walk much, but rarely misses, which allows his impressive average to play up even more, given how often he makes contact. He also has the benefit of the Royals catching him more than other teams play their own catchers. That said, with Perez, it all comes down to whether the power comes. At only 23 years old, it’s too early to say anything definitively, but it seems like people are holding on to the 11 home runs in 305 plate-appearances in 2012 and overlooking the 13 he had in 526 PA last year. He’s very clearly a useful player, and might produce top-10 value even without a 20-home-run season. The issue is where you have to reach for him to get him. He’s being valued as a top-seven type of catcher, and the honest truth is that you should be able to get a guy like Jason Castro (less average, more power, more on-base) rounds later. —Craig Goldstein

Wilin Rosario, Rockies
Rosario followed up an impressive 2012 campaign with a strong 2013 as he slashed .292/.315/.486 with 21 HR and good RBI/R numbers. However, Rosario sported a 3.2 BB percentage in 2013 and he saw a big jump in BABIP from .289 in 2012 to .344 in 2013. Given the body type and LD% (22.9 percent) I doubt Rosario will be sporting a .290-plus average in 2014. Rosario will go high because there’s a genuine lack of offensive talent at the position. Owners will see a .292/21 guy available at the C position and pounce. I wouldn’t. I think his production takes a dip in 2014 despite the park he plays in. The power might stick around but I don’t expect the average to at all especially if he doesn’t gain some sort of approach at the plate. Major-league pitchers are very good at figuring out patterns, and I think they’re about to figure out Rosario’s. —Mauricio Rubio

Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
From a real-life perspective, the Phillies’ logic behind giving a 35-year-old catcher a three-year deal makes some sense. In fantasy, while Ruiz is a safe choice, there is little if any upside. Chooch isn’t even a great bet for a lot of playing time; he has logged more than 450 plate appearances only once in his career. He is fine in two-catcher leagues, but there are multiple options that will go for less money/a lower draft slot than Ruiz who will put up similar or perhaps even slightly better numbers. —Mike Gianella

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Marlins
If Saltalamacchia hadn't lucked into an astronomical .372 BABIP in 2013, we may not need to have this conversation, but here we are. Despite the worst contact rate among MLB starting catchers (min. 300 PA) and a career strikeout rate hovering in the 30 percent range, Salty's rendezvous with lady luck pushed him into the top 10 for catcher value in standard 5x5 leagues last year. In addition to the artificially inflated batting average, though, a significant chunk of his value was tied to his RBI and R totals (ninth among catchers). A move from baseball’s highest-scoring offense to its lowest coupled with all-but-certain BABIP regression makes Salty one of the less appealing catching targets on draft day. Add in the fact that at least one of your league mates will probably be willing to pay an inflated price for his 2013 stats, and he’s an unequivocal stay-away. —Wilson Karaman

Matt Wieters, Orioles
You can almost put 22/75 in the bank from Wieters, but at what cost? Wieters has been a drain on your batting average the last two years with .249 and .235 efforts, because he simply shouldn’t be switch-hitting. When you’re that bad at something, can you really still say that you “do” it? Wieters has hit .224 and .214 against righties the last two seasons, helping him to those poor totals. And if he hadn’t hit .339 against lefties in 2011, his .235 against righties would’ve helped usher in another garbage total. At 28, the Matt Wieters Facts aren’t coming true. He simply isn’t going to be the player everyone expected back when he was obliterating the minor leagues. His price isn’t even particularly high these days, but I would still opt for guys Wilson Ramos, Jason Castro, and even Yan Gomes at a friendlier price. —Paul Sporer

Mike Zunino, Mariners
In yesterday’s piece about catching prospects, I spoke to how fantasy owners generally overrate catching prospects because the bar for being a relevant fantasy backstop is so low. In my opinion, that phenomenon is partially to blame for all of the hype Zunino received as a fast-moving catcher in the minors, and it’s a big reason why he’s poised to break some hearts over the next few years. With his decent power and ability to hit for modest averages Zunino should be a top-12 fantasy catcher at some point in his career, but after struggling mightily in Triple-A and the majors last season, you can’t expect him to produce much in 2014. Zunino has many of the markings of a player who was promoted too soon, and when you couple his accelerated path to the majors with how long offensive development takes for many catchers, the picture really isn’t pretty for a few more years. You might be tempted to view Zunino as a sleeper because of his past prospect status, but take a pass on him for next season. —Ben Carsley

BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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