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June 12, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

Catcher Acquisition: A Mixed Bag

by Jason Collette

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Drafting catchers in fantasy baseball is treated like drafting kickers in fantasy football. A few owners recognize the value of having the best at the position and will spend money to acquire them. Some owners treat catchers like kickers and draft them in the final rounds. Some leagues have gone so far as to eliminate the second catcher on standard fantasy rosters and made the position a second utility player, an extra pitcher, or a flex position, allowing owners to juggle the spot on a weekly basis.

Personally, I do a mixture of the first two strategies, as I tend to draft one of the better catchers and then pair him with a $1 mate. Two seasons ago, I drafted Joe Mauer at $23 and Adam Moore for $1 in AL Tout Wars, and neither worked out. Last season, I went back to the Mauer well at $20 and paired him with a $2 Ryan Lavarnway. This season, determined not to spend $20 on a catcher, I saved money and spent $18 on Jesus Montero and $1 on Carlos Corporan. It took three seasons, but I finally made a great catcher selection—with my second catcher.

It has been a rather interesting season at the catching position, as guys like Corporan have come out of nowhere to be surprisingly productive while former stalwarts are still trying to figure it out in 2013. Let’s compare the catcher values from the Player Forecast Manager at the start of play yesterday to their draft-day prices in each of the single-league format Tout Wars auctions to see where the profits and losses have been thus far.

AL-Only (auction price/current value):

Only Napoli has earned the money he was paid as one of the big-dollar catchers, and that is helped by the fact that he never plays catcher; he hits more frequently than most backstops. Arencibia, Saltalamacchia, and Castro have turned nice profits—particularly Castro, who was an afterthought after injuries and a disappointing 2012. The end-game catchers have performed pretty much as they were paid, while Martinez and Montero, two highly desired names during draft season, have been disappointments. Undrafted catchers that have produced value so far include Yan Gomes ($6), Jose Lobaton ($5), and Chris Stewart ($4).

NL-Only:

Posey has not met draft-day expectations, but the biggest disappointment in NL-only formats at this position has to be Montero—Miguel, in this case. Molina, Lucroy, and Rosario are producing as they were paid, while Buck, Kratz, and Gattis have produced nearly $40 of value while costing only a combined $5 to roster. Welington Castillo has been the most profitable undrafted NL catcher at $6.

If you are typically a player that targets the high-end catchers, the results so far are rather mixed. For those who target the cheap catchers at the end, those players have produced as they have been paid, save the special three in the National League. The answer to the question, “Which catcher acquisition strategy works best?” is yes.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Joe Mauer,  MLB,  Buster Posey,  Jesus Montero,  Fantasy,  Miguel Montero

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