Our writers think these backstops could be excellent value picks in drafts and auctions this spring.
Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers
In the last three seasons, the only full time catchers with more home runs than Yasmani Grandal are Brian McCann (69) and Salvador Perez (60). Grandal has 58. His batting average, runs, and RBI have drained some of his fantasy value over those seasons, but I think there’s some untapped potential with Grandal going forward that might be a little under the radar.
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A look at where the backstops have been going in drafts completed so far.
Welcome back to our Positional Series, where this week you’ll find everything you need to know about the catching crop in 2017. Last year, we debuted our Early ADP Analysis feature, and it’s going to be continuing this year. For a refresher, I’ll be looking at the ADP data from NFBC leagues and searching for some trends based on last year. I imagine our audience is fairly split between 12- and 15-team leagues, but for the purposes of the tables below, the average round column reflects a 15-team draft. With all of that out of the way, let’s look at some backstops.
Reranking the backstops based on early-season performances, injuries, and the like.
Welcome, to Baseball Prospectus’ first (or at least first time in a long time) in-season rankings update to our preseason positional tiers article. As we did during the preseason, players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by a “star” rating. In addition, unlike with the preseason “star” ratings, these lists can also be viewed as a straight ranking.
Mining for values in a position group where value can be hard to find.
With the possible exception of closers, there isn’t a position in fantasy baseball that is associated with a greater amount of dread than catcher. This is particularly true in -only leagues, where there are 24 catching slots to fill and only 15 starters to choose from. If this isn’t bad enough, this isn’t like other positions on the diamond where you can at least pick up a few steals or a smattering of home runs from more than a few backups. If you do get stuck with a defensive cipher, it is possible that you will get zero offensive production from the position for the entire year.
Fantasy managers often lament the decrepitude of a position incorrectly, relying on faulty memory and anecdotal evidence. But last year it turns out that their whining was not misplaced; the position was bad.
You might want to let someone else draft or buy these players in your leagues this spring.
Nick Hundley, Rockies
How does a catcher entering his age-31 season move from 37th among catchers in 2014 to seventh at the position in 2015, despite only receiving 156 more plate appearances? Signing a free agent deal to play half of your games in Coors Field is a good place to start. Hitting 10 home runs and stealing five bases made Hundley quite valuable in 2015, no question about it, but I have serious doubts about what, if anything, he’ll be able to replicate in 2016. Hundley’s 10 taters were the second most of his eight-year career, despite a four percentage point drop in his hard-contact percentage and a drop of over five percentage points in his flyball rate. Hundley’s five steals were more than he swiped in the five seasons prior combined, and his .807 OPS was the first time that he registered an OPS of above .700 since 2011. His career-high .301 AVG in 2015 was a 58-point improvement over 2014, a number likely buoyed by his .356 BABIP.
Like countless examples of Rockies hitters past and present, Hundley hit much, much better at home (.355/.393/563) compared away from Coors (.237/.275/.355), and 2016 is the last season that the Rockies have Hundley under contract. Prospect Tom Murphy hit 23 home runs between the high-minors and majors last season and appears ready for an extended run of regular at-bats, which could earn Hundley a ticket out of town before the trade deadline, putting into question not only how many plate appearances that Hundley will receive above the 389 that he received in 2015, but how many of those will actually come at Coors. Hundley is currently being drafted in the roughly the same spot as Derek Norris, and just behind Yasmani Grandal, which is pure insanity to me. —J.J. Jansons
The Outcomes return to run down the catcher crop for Scoresheet leagues.
We are delighted to return for a third season of Scoresheet Baseball-specific coverage on Baseball Prospectus, just in time for BP’s catcher week. If you haven’t played Scoresheet before, it’s a baseball simulation engine (similar to Strat-o-Matic, or Diamond Mind for the computer savvy), using real in-season results to give you that rush of watching your fantasy baseball team succeed or fail during the season. If you’re interested in starting a team, we would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to figure out how to jump on board either through email or in the comments section below, and we’re sure other longtime players will jump in as well.
Stacking up the future fantasy contributors at the position.
We, at Baseball Prospectus, have been talking about catchers for a while now (three days and change to be exact, depending on when you are reading this) and the party continues to rage on. Yet before we rage, we shall calibrate—since rankings aren’t useful without knowing what you’re reading. The list you are about to read here presupposes a 16-team standard (read: 5x5 roto) 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 2016 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.