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.
The Mariners saw something they liked in John Jaso. After a few changes, Jaso has power you never saw coming.
We know that catchers are late to bloom and early to wither. We know this because of Nate Silver’s work on aging curves from nearly eight years ago. Part of the late peak, Silver proposed, stemmed from teams’ reluctance to play young catchers. Had Silver attempted to chart the perceived upside of a catcher, he would have done so in a scientific way. The chart below is decidedly less scientific, but reaches the same likely conclusion with fewer headaches and deceased Excel spreadsheets.
As the Winter Meetings approach, Joe Nathan goes to Texas, Ty Wigginton joins the Phillies, the Marlins acquire another pitcher from Petco, the Indians re-sign Sizemore, the Royals keep Bruce Chen, the Rays and Mariners make a trade, and Freddy Garcia stays a Yankee.
Value Picks opts for playing time over promise this week.
This week, Value Picks opts for the guarantee of playing time over the promise of stardom. Stepping down for now from the list is Indians top prospect Carlos Santana. While his plate prowess is unquestionable, his well-known defensive problems may keep him away from the majors for a little while. Of course, incumbent catcher Lou Marson isn't looking any better (batted just .087/.222/.217 in the last week), so this may be a competition of "who is the lesser evil," Marson's bat or Santana's glove. Expect Santana to be the last of the major top prospect callups.
Two players graduate and one player gets demoted from Value Picks. Michael Jong covers the new replacements.
This week, Value Picks graduates two players and demotes one, all while bringing in three fresh names in completely different situations. Cliff Pennington's usage shot up in ESPN mixed leagues, as he is now owned in 33 percent of leagues, up 17 percent from last week. As it is, he's no longer undervalued, and why should he be? His unexpected hot star finally caught fantasy players' eyes, but note that he has been in decline for the last few weeks, especially in the power categories. Chris Snyder only spent a week in this space, and it was not a pretty one. Snyder hit .154/.421/.154 during that week, with only two hits. Still, he too saw his ownership jump up to 22 percent of ESPN leagues. With Miguel Montero still not available, Snyder should provide pop and playing time at the catcher position for a little while longer. If either of these players are still available in your deeper leagues, go ahead and snatch them up. The one demotion is John Baker, who slumped through a .125/.192/.208 line in his two weeks in the Value Picks portfolio. Baker can and should regress to his norms in due time, but with limited upside in terms of both talent and playing time, Baker should take a back seat in your search for a catcher.
Entering the portfolio are two catchers in completely different scenarios. Value Picks may be a bit late to the John Jaso party, but better late than never. Jaso took the starting role for Tampa Bay when Kelly Shoppach went down with injury and has not looked back since. While that .314/.479/.486 line Jaso put up in 48 PA is a mirage, it's certainly a hot one. Jaso has been good in the minors at avoiding strikeouts (minor league career strikeout rate of 12.2 percent in eight seasons), so he will certainly strike out more than in 4.1 percent of his plate appearances. With the increase in strikeouts, that batting average will fall, though PECOTA projects an above average contact rate of 83 percent that should help keep the AVG afloat. Jaso has never shown much power, but in the Rays lineup, you do not need a whole lot of power to drive in runs. His solid, patient approach at the plate should get him on base to score runs as well, even near the bottom of the lineup. Jaso's skill set compares favorably with Shoppach, with less power and more contact ability, but the results should be similar. With the lion's share of playing time, he's a good player to have on AL-only leagues and leagues with two-catcher requirements.