The Padres backstop has his warts, but he can be a useful fantasy asset if properly deployed.
The fact that Derek Norris simultaneously outperformed fantasy expectations and disappointed owners says a lot about the catcher position in 2015. He ranked as the eighth-best catcher in ESPN leagues, yet only hit .250/.305/.404 with 14 homers on a sub-par Padres club. His infamous walk rate (at least amongst saber-minded baseball fans) crashed to a mere 6.3 percent, the worst mark of his career, at any level, by over two percentage points.
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The A's backstop is off to a sizzling start; what does it mean for Norris and other young catchers who struggled early in their careers?
I kind of have a thing for catchers. That’s a weird thing to have to admit, and frankly I didn’t even know this was the case for much of my life. You don’t necessarily know you’re weird until you’re on a podcast with three supposed friends and they call you out for having a catcher fetish. What a shameful moment.
All this is to say, I tend to value catchers more than your average fantasy analyst. There’s not a right or a wrong in this concept, it’s just a different approach. Except when it comes to Derek Norris, in which case it’s a totally correct approach because have you seen his slash line? His .313/.416/.531 line is likely a mirage of sorts, but there’s plenty of supporting evidence as to why Norris, who has previously struggled, is now a monster at the plate.
At one position, the A's are still Moneyballing like it's 1999.
For the most part, pitch receiving operates on a level that’s easy to overlook. Over thousands of pitches, certain catchers establish an edge, and those edges add up in a way we can’t see without looking at a leaderboard. Every now and then, though, framing on a small scale comes to the fore, usually when it leads to a larger event. Brett Lawrie, let’s say, strikes out looking out a pitch that appears to be outside, hurls his batting helmet at the home plate umpire, and gets ejected from the game. Our first impulse, like Lawrie’s, is to blame the umpire who blew the call. After reviewing the video, though, we realize that the real culprit was Jose Molina, in the catcher’s box, with the catcher’s glove. The ump was a red herring, a patsy, or maybe an unwitting accomplice.
In the first installment of this series, Ben and Craig take you from Domingo Santana to Jonathan Schoop.
We’ve done it, Internet. We’ve compiled a Big List of Players just for you.
Craig and I have spent the past six weeks breaking down each division, forming individual top-30 U25 dynasty rankings and comparing those lists with some witty (read: tired) commentary in each installment. We’ve also been debating each list on TINO, with the help of Dear Leader Bret Sayre and Mauricio Rubio, and have fielded many questions and concerns on Twitter and via the comments section, too.
As the offseason winds down, Bret shares some of his late-draft sleepers for various league sizes and formats.
With spring training reaching peak twilight and the biggest drafting weekend of the year approaching, it’s time for my final marker post column of the preseason.
We’ve been doing rankings and analysis here for the last three months and hopefully they’ve been helpful to you as you sort through all of the information that lead to your most important draft decisions. And to top it off, as we get to the endgame of draft season, it seems only natural to focus on the endgame of drafts. It’s the most interesting, and often most important segment of your draft. Sure, if you miss on your first round pick or get $5 in value from your $25 player, you’re in a hole that can be very difficult to climb out of. As I’ve said many times, closing out your draft strong is a must if you want to win your league.
From Buster Posey to Christian Bethancourt, this list is loaded with both big leaguers and high-upside prospects.
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. Feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or league–only formats.
The catcher position is a tricky one, as there are a lot of players at or near the top of the list who may be playing another position in three or so years. That, plus with most leagues using one active catcher, prospects are featured a little more prominently due to both the major-league depth right now and the fact that there are diminishing returns to carrying too many backstops.
These young players may have lost some of their luster, but they could still offer plenty of fantasy value next year.
Despite the addition of a second wild card in each league, the playoff races aren’t exactly scintillating this year. For many teams, the season is over and it’s time to start evaluating talent. So it goes with fantasy. As we march on toward the end of August, there are many owners who are already looking toward 2014 and can use the remainder of this season to evaluate talent. One of the most important things an out-of-contention owner can do is correctly identify talent that could be undervalued heading into the offseason.
One reliable resource of undervalued talent that I’ve found is those players who are no longer prospects (and thus cannot be kept on a minor-league roster in keeper/dynasty leagues), but who have yet to establish themselves as full-time players or known quantities. In short, they’re post-hype prospects. Obviously, these types of players carry with them significant risk, hence the potential for undervaluing them. The flipside is the potentially huge payoff if they hit, with recent examples including Domonic Brown, Patrick Corbin, Josh Donaldson, and Starling Marte. All of these players flashed at some point or another, but not being able to stash them in a minor-league system hurt their keeper value and they were likely available for less than they should have been.
A look at players who might be available to help your fantasy team, depending on the format in which you play.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres
A June groin injury followed by an awful July caused a number of standard mixed-league owners to run for the exits, as Gyorko is only owned in about 29% of ESPN leagues. If he’s available in your mixer, snatch him up. Even without taking the injuries into account, since May, Gyorko has been an offensive force. His ISO in May, June, and August has been no lower than .242. In other words, Gyorko is a legit source of power at a middle infield position. Unless you’re in a points league that penalizes severely for hitter strikeouts, there’s no way Gyorko should be a free agent. —Mike Gianella
A look at Soto, Aybar, Norris, and Everth in this week's VP
The Pirates backstop, Rod Barajas(Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 0%, CBS 17%), has felt regression, and it has been swift and unkind. At this point in the year, though, his slash is similar to his career line. What you see is what you get.
A trio of perplexing pitchers leads off today's Ten Pack.
Dylan Axelrod, RHP, White Sox (Triple-A Charlotte)
The fact that Axelrod even reached the big leagues is quite an achievement. A 30th-round pick in 2007 by the Padres, Axelrod lasted a year and a half before landing in Indy ball, but all he did was get better. His primary skill is the ability to throw strikes. He pounds the strike zone with an 88-91 mph fastball, has a decent slider, and a somewhat-less-than-decent curve. He has no changeup, but he hits his spots and keeps hitters off balance; while that's the kind of pitcher who should hit a wall, he just hasn't yet. With 7 2/3 shutout innings on Sunday, he now has a 1.08 ERA in four starts for the Knights to go with 26 strikeouts and just four walks. He's already a great scouting find for the White Sox, and has to upgrade that status by becoming a usable arm as a No. 5 starter or middle reliever, which exceeds any expectation ever put on him.