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January 17, 2014

TTO Scoresheet Podcast

Catchers

by Ian Lefkowitz, Ben Murphy and Jared Weiss


Welcome to BP’s take on Scoresheet fantasy baseball. Scoresheet, for those unfamiliar, is a type of fantasy baseball in which your drafted team plays simulated games each week against other teams in your league, with your players’ performance depending on how they played in real life that week—but not entirely, unlike in a roto or head-to-head league. Other differences from most roto leagues include the importance of real-life fielding ability and a tendency for rosters to be rather deep. While many Scoresheet leagues have their own unique quirky rules, most allow players to be kept for an indefinite number of years, and allow rookies to be kept very cheaply. For non-Scoresheet players in deep or dynasty leagues, we urge you to check out BP’s new TINO podcast, but after you listen to that, we think we will be able to provide some supplementary value as well. Or, better yet, sign up for a Scoresheet team to explore a whole new world of fantasy baseball.

We want to thank BP for this chance to contribute to their suite of fantasy baseball offerings. Our goal is for the weekly column and podcast to complement each other. Both will cover similar ground and maybe even the same jokes. But we believe reading the article will make the podcast more meaningful. And vice versa. In upcoming weeks we look forward to joining in the BP Fantasy fun by taking a position-by-position look at the upcoming season, starting with catcher this week. We’ve got lots more planned after that, but if there’s anything you’d like us to tackle, please feel free to contact us @TTOScoresheet on Twitter or at scoresheet@threetrueoutcomes.com

Our catching rankings for Scoresheet fantasy baseball are below. They should prove useful for the keeper, trade, and draft decisions you are making at the point in the fantasy season.

KEEPERS

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

1

R

26

SF

Buster Posey

2

B

27

Cle

Carlos Santana

3

R

22

KC

Salvador Perez

4

L

30

Min

Joe Mauer

5

R

30

StL

Yadier Molina

6

L

29

Atl

Brian McCann

7

R

26

Mil

Jonathan Lucroy

8

R

24

Col

Wilin Rosario

9

L

25

Hou

Jason Castro

10

R

25

Was

Wilson Ramos

11

R

26

Atl

Evan Gattis

12

B

26

Bal

Matt Wieters

13

B

24

SD

Yasmani Grandal

14

R

24

NYN

Travis D'Arnaud

15

R

25

Cle

Yan Gomes

16

L

29

Ari

Miguel Montero

17

L

26

Det

Alex Avila

18

R

26

ChN

Welington Castillo

19

R

24

Oak

Derek Norris

20

R

24

Min

Josmil Pinto

CUT BUBBLE

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

21

R

34

Phi

Carlos Ruiz

22

R

22

Sea

Mike Zunino

23

B

29

ChN

Dioner Navarro

24

L

29

Oak

John Jaso

25

R

24

Cin

Devin Mesoraco

26

B

27

Bos

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

27

R

30

LAA

Chris Iannetta

REDRAFT FOR VALUE

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

28

R

30

Tex

Geovany Soto

29

R

30

Pit

Russell Martin

30

B

32

Min

Ryan Doumit*

31

R

32

LAD

A.J. Ellis

32

R

20

NYA

Gary Sanchez

33

R

19

Tex

Jorge Alfaro

34

L

29

KC

George Kottaras

35

R

32

Cin

Ryan Hanigan

36

B

20

Bos

Blake Swihart

37

R

29

Was

Kurt Suzuki

38

R

20

SD

Austin Hedges

39

R

27

Tor

J.P. Arencibia

40

R

21

Atl

Christian Bethancourt

DEEP ROSTERS

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

41

L

36

Tex

A.J. Pierzynski

42

R

22

Hou

Max Stassi

43

B

25

LAA

Hank Conger

44

R

22

Col

Tom Murphy

45

L

18

Pit

Reese McGuire

46

R

22

NYN

Kevin Plawecki

47

L

19

Ari

Stryker Trahan

48

R

23

SF

Andrew Susac

49

R

22

Bos

Christian Vazquez

50

R

25

ChA

Josh Phegley

51

R

22

Mia

Jacob Realmuto

52

R

25

Bos

Ryan Lavarnway

53

B

28

TB

Jose Lobaton

54

L

18

TB

Nick Ciuffo

55

R

18

Bos

Jon Denney

56

R

19

Mil

Clint Coulter

57

R

29

SD

Nick Hundley

58

R

21

Phi

Tommy Joseph

59

R

36

Bos

David Ross

60

L

28

Oak

Stephen Vogt

61

R

33

Atl

Gerald Laird

When researching catchers, we found a large middle class who project to hit around .260/.310/.410, most of whom are under 30 years old (which, as we’ll repeat over and over, is so important in Scoresheet, with its liberal keeper rules). So if you aren’t fortunate enough to be keeping someone in the top tier of catchers, we recommend monitoring your draft to make sure you end up with a catcher somewhere in this tier, preferably one with upside potential and who is likely to log plenty of innings now and in future years (and who will remain catcher-eligible for the foreseeable future). And don’t forget that catcher defense is relatively unimportant in Scoresheet, so don’t use it to make any decisions on the position.

We’ll now highlight a few catchers to consider targeting or avoiding, and please check out our podcast below for more tips, picks, and strategies for the position.

KEEPERS
With a track record of health outside of one traumatic injury, tremendous bat-to-ball ability, and a clear shot to start the vast majority of games each season for the near future, Salvador Perez has worked his way to the top of the continuing league rankings in the American League, and potentially a low-first- or high-second-round value in a startup continuing draft.

Perhaps the epitome of a win-now catcher is Joe Mauer, who promises to put up another stellar season. As you’ve no doubt heard, the Twins have said he is now a full-time first baseman, which should hopefully save his knees and correspondingly boost his production. However, it also means this year is likely his last to be catcher-eligible. If he’s on your team and you aren’t playing for this year, he’s a great trade chip.

Jonathan Lucroy is entering his prime years as a hitter and has shown a consistent ability to get on base each of the last two seasons, posting an exceptional line at the plate in 2012 and followed it with a strong showing in 2013. He’s expected to continue as the full time catcher for the Brewers in 2014 and beyond and represents an underrated opportunity in the top 10 catchers for now and the future.

After a really disappointing performance in 2013, Miguel Montero is a gambling opportunity for those of us open to taking a chance on a 30-year-old guy that got on base less than 32 percent of the time last year. Before that, though, Montero was quite valuable as a catcher that played full seasons for several years in a row with an .820-plus OPS in three out of four. We don’t have complete agreement here, however; Ben is way more optimistic than Jared that Montero can recover some of his past value, with Ian splitting the difference. We have a similar debate over Carlos Ruiz, who is five years older and also had a much better season two years ago than last year.

We see Derek Norris as a good value just on the keeper side of the border line. He put up an OBP of .345 last year with power trending in the right direction, and he only turns 25 in February, suggesting he hasn’t yet reached the peak of his offensive output. Combined with an apparently clear path to significant playing time (at least for now), he’s a target for a trade in which you’ll win.

CUT BUBBLE
While Mike Zunino likely somebody who you may have invested a high supplemental pick in order to draft, his early exhaustion of rookie eligibility means that he's coming up on a keeper decision sooner than you'd like. Zunino is projected to be well below keeper level value in 2014, with limited upside in the out years. While there is probably a path to keeping him, it may be best to consider your investment a sunk cost and try to move or even cut him.

REDRAFT FOR VALUE
Ryan Doumit was the subject of an extended discussion at the end of this year’s Scoresheet Mock Draft—an invaluable resource to Scoresheet players, organized by Brian DewBerry-Jones and sponsored by the Bartons each year—as speculation centered around his role and his potential in 2014. Most of the questions are about whether or not he can get enough games at catcher—likely spotting for Evan Gattis—to retain his catcher eligibility beyond 2014. He’s old enough and had enough struggles the last couple of years that he’s not going to be a long-term value, but for 2014, he represents a decent value in spring drafts as a guy who should get enough plate appearances and has a chance to be average at the plate.

We sure hope you aren’t considering Kurt Suzuki as your long-term answer at catcher. But while all the hype in Minnesota surrounds Josmil Pinto, all indications here in January are that Suzuki will be the Twins’ Opening Day starter. The playing time, plus the potential to bounce back a little from last year’s performance, suggests he’s a guy to consider late.

George Kottaras is slated to be the backup catcher in Chicago behind the Cubs’ Welington Castillo in 2014, and he has reinvented himself in recent years as a high-OBP backup. As a left-handed batter, Kottaras is likely to benefit from platoon splits that would have him facing right-handed pitchers and can be a fun value pick near the end of the draft. As a way to make sure you don’t run into game reports with “Catcher, AAA” listed under your team, Kottaras is an option to keep in mind.

DEEP ROSTERS
A.J. Pierzynski is being chased by several Red Sox prospects, and has all the flaws you've come to expect from his last decade of performance. At the back end of the draft, however, your priority should be a strong health record and some offensive performance, and Pierzynski is in line to provide both if you choose to make every other position on your roster a higher priority. The low Scoresheet replacement level and the high wall at Fenway should combine for late-round mediocrity.

PROSPECTS
If 2014 isn't your bag, catching depth in the minor leagues is weak, but extant. Travis d'Arnaud and Josmil Pinto are likely rostered in all leagues, and will offer average ability with a late-round minor-league pick value. Gary Sanchez and Blake Swihart have similar offensive profiles, but Sanchez is moving backwards and is about to get seriously blocked by Brian McCann, while Swihart only has to beat out fellow prospects Christian Vazquez and Jon Denney (and young veteran Ryan Lavarnway). Tom Murphy, a Rockies catcher, is going under the radar in a lot of leagues. If he's not rostered in your spring draft, he should be, as the payoff of having a regular in Colorado is too great to pass up. Austin Hedges is highly valued in real-life rankings, but he doesn't hold as much Scoresheet value (and may be getting slightly overrated by scouting-based ranking systems in the first place). If you're in deeper leagues, check to see if Stryker Trahan and Nick Ciuffo are rostered, as left-handed catchers make for tremendous platoon partners or pinch-hitters in this game.

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