Big power might suddenly be tough to come by at a position that had been well stocked before 2014.
If 2013 looked like the dawn of a grand new era at first base, in 2014 reality came crashing down on this supposed new paradigm. Ten first basemen earned $25 or more in mono formats in 2013; in 2014, only five first basemen managed to reach this vaunted plateau. It could be argued that first base has been impacted more by the limited offensive climate than any other position. The days of the 25-30 home run hitter aren’t dead and forgotten, but with fewer top shelf big boppers to go around, fantasy owners have to decide if they want to invest a high draft pick on a major power play or if they want to try and opt for cheaper production that is attached to more of an all-around player. James Loney’s 2014 line looks excruciatingly boring, but he was the 13th-best first baseman in fantasy in 2014. Unless your league is super shallow, what were once pedestrian-looking numbers are now a staple in some team’s lineup.
Despite the lack of top tier production in 2014, the top of the player pool still looks strong. Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera both look to bounce back from injuries and take their rightful place at the top of the heap in mono leagues. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Abreu offer strong power production and could easily fill the void if Cabrera’s injury recovery winds up being on the longer side. Immediately beneath this quartet of $30-plus potential earners is a trio of grizzled veterans—Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, and Albert Pujols—accompanied by last year’s big breakout player, Anthony Rizzo. Martinez produced at an elite level last year, but the fickle nature of V-Mart’s high batting average makes Rizzo the most likely to crack the top five this year assuming further growth.
You might want to let someone else acquire these backstops in your drafts and auctions this spring.
We’re changing things up a bit this year when it comes to our Players to Target and Players to Avoid fantasy series.
Last year, we had every member of the BP fantasy staff provide you with quick-hit blurbs for every target and every avoid piece. The problem is, this led to so many players being covered that we ended up being duplicative, supporting some guys we didn't really love or knocking down some obvious candidates. It got so bad that Mauricio Rubio told fantasy players not to target Derek Jeter, leading to one of the greatest BP comments of all time.
A breakout 2014 campaign put the Reds catcher on the doorstep of fantasy stardom.
A first-round draft pick by the Reds out of high school back in 2007, Mesoraco struggled with both his production and conditioning in the low minors in his first few seasons. He showed up to spring training 2010 in the “best shape of his life” and restored his promise by hitting 26 home runs with a .302/.377/.587 line across three levels.
The Outcomes return with a Scoresheet-oriented look at the catcher position.
Welcome back to Scoresheet season! Scoresheet baseball, for the uninitiated, is a fantasy league that acts as a hybrid between traditional roto leagues and sim games such as Strat or Diamond Mind. If that's of interest to you, we definitely recommend jumping in feet-first. We'll be sticking around all season to help.
In most leagues, setting a keeper list is the key decision point of your offseason. Scoresheet rosters tend to be larger than traditional roto rosters, so many teams have set their starting lineup and pitching rotation once their keepers are locked in. Also, as Scoresheet more closely mirrors real life, many traditional keeper rankings won't be adequate. Our rankings reflect the rules of a traditional public league: 10 teams, 13 keepers, of which two may be crossovers from another league. That leaves the keeper line pegged at about the 115th-best player in each league. Naturally, if your league varies in composition, please feel free to adjust accordingly. And, of course, if you disagree with any particular player ranking, you should certainly go with your instinct. The game is more fun that way.
The senior-circuit backstop crop is deeper than it has been in recent years.
In our circles, position scarcity is a dreaded term and can give even the most seasoned fantasy owner agita on draft day. From an auction/draft preparation perspective, when preparing your player valuations and raw bids, a position that is void of depth presents the dilemma of how to price that particular position. How much do you bump up the value of a mid-level player at a weak position? What auction price/draft round do you set as your ceiling for the select few elite players at that same position? These are tough decisions that require much thought when trying to assemble a balanced fantasy roster.
Most years, we have a seen the catcher position fall under this category: top heavy with a select few fantasy stars rounded out with average backstops and part-time $1 end-game plays. For example, NL-only leagues in the late 2000s had Brian McCann, Bengie Molina, and Russell Martin for a 3-4 year stretch as the steady top-tier catchers. After those three were just a couple of reliable second-tier options, followed by a bunch of lesser players who either had little power, had pop but were AVG drains, or did not garner enough at-bats to have any fantasy relevance. As such, in my NL-only auction home leagues, I would watch McCann, Molina, and Martin all go for a premium, then look on as owners scrambled, subsequently overpaying for marginal catchers to ensure they would get a least some fantasy production from their no. 1 backstop. I on the other hand chose not to get involved in that mess, and would often dollar out my catchers, allowing me to spend my money elsewhere for better buys. It’s a strategy that has worked for me in the past when position scarcity has reared its ugly head, and I have been able to celebrate a couple of titles using that philosophy. Taking that money and allocating it in other places rather than overspending for catcher stats had been my fantasy M.O. for years, and I was comfortable with that approach.
Because dynasty league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2015 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.
Catcher is a highly divergent position, and it leads to a slightly different ranking style than other positions—which we’ll get to over the course of this series. The fact that these rankings are designed for one-catcher leagues (those of you in two-catcher leagues can bump up any player either in the majors or who gets dinged for their defense) helps make the band of usefulness at the major league level smaller than a position where you could start a player at either a mash position (CI/MI) or at a utility spot. The low ceiling of the average fantasy catcher and the high floor of the average waiver wire catcher puts the focus more clearly on upside at the plate. Of course, it’s also mildly offset by the fact that catching prospects are often slow to develop both in the minor leagues and in their early careers.
Choosing between the Jay and the Giant based on their projected statistics over the long haul.
As much as it pains me to say it, Matt Collins did an excellent job of introducing the 2015 Tale of the Tape series yesterday. I’m here with another installment, and a bit of a wrinkle. While last year’s (and yesterday’s) focused on the upcoming season, this year we’re bringing you the same template with an eye toward the future (and from a dynasty perspective). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the players in question will be prospects (as today’s are), but that they’re younger players that require more projection than an established regular. Of course, this also means that the conclusions drawn are a bit shakier, as projecting further out is a bit more hazardous. That doesn’t mean you can’t hold me to it though, when I’m inevitably, invariably, wrong. To kick off the dynasty portion of this series, let us look into the futures Blue Jays’ recent draftee Max Pentecost and Giants’ backstop Andrew Susac, who checked in at 24 and 25 on the Top 50 Catchers list, respectively.
The Brewer is on the verge of being a bona fide stud at the catcher position.
In early August 2014, Jonathan Lucroy was the top-producing fantasy catcher, and it wasn’t exactly close. He was so far clear of second place that it took an otherworldly performance from Buster Posey over the final two months to surpass the 28-year-old backstop. Still, Lucroy established himself as an elite fantasy option at the catcher position. Owners who drafted him, on average, did so outside the top-five catchers– and those owners were collecting massive surplus value throughout the entire year.
Examining backstops who move up or down the rankings in points and/or OBP formats.
Friends, Romans, countrymen… welcome to The Adjuster. As a longtime proponent of OBP-league play, it brings me great joy to debut this column as a way to hopefully offer some helpful guidance for others who play in non-standard formats. Each week we’ll be running an Adjuster article as a subsidiary to our positional rankings, and I’ll use the opportunity to highlight players who see their values rise or fall relative to our tiered rankings. For hitters the plan is to focus on value adjustments in OBP and points formats, though this being a new series suggestions are welcome in the comments, and if enough of a consensus forms to include additional formats we can adjust (Eh? Eh?) as we go. If you got yourself cut up in a monkey knife fight or something yesterday and missed the debut of our tiered ranking for catchers, I’d strongly recommend checking it out here before you continue on with this piece. Otherwise, let’s go ahead and get our feet wet, shall we?
These backstops need further seasoning, but they could hold fantasy value in the coming years.
Prospects are a tricky bag altogether, and while pitching prospects get the fancy acronyms (TINSTAAP), it’s worth noting just how hard it can be to accurately peg a future stud catcher, especially in fantasy. It’s a demanding position that saps strength, and makes it nigh impossible to be consistent offensive force. This makes what guys like Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy do year in and out all the more impressive.
It also makes investing in catching prospects extremely difficult. Remember when Matt Wieters was Mark Teixeira at catcher? Where did you have Yan Gomes ranked as a prospect? In fact, Ben Carsley made the case against investing in the position outside of deeper dynasty leagues in September. That is with the caveat that you can’t entirely ignore the position, and to that end we want you to be as informed as possible when you’re choosing who to ignore and who to target. We’ve broken the prospects you need to know into names for 2015 (immediate value) and 2016-and-beyond (long-term value). Still, there aren’t any catching prospects I’d be investing in as a fantasy starter for 2015 alone, a la Travid d’Arnaud last year.
A look at how the position stacks up from now through 2017.
When Bret Sayre is your boss, rankings are in your future. We have one-year rankings and dynasty rankings and tiered rankings and will probably have ranking rankings someday; we’re turning into the fantasy baseball equivalent of Deadspin, and for many of you, that’s a good thing.
But of all these breakdowns, three-year rankings are, in my estimation, among the most unique and the most useful. Best designed for those of you in keeper leagues, but of note for dynasty leaguers and even re-drafters as well, these lists break down the future landscape of a position in a more reasoned manner. We’re not worried about Low-A guys or young players who might switch positions in their mid-30s. We’re worried about the here and now yet don’t want to totally mortgaging the future, which is a strategy that will win you many a league.