Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Ranking the Catchers

As I said in a prior post, I have decided to rely on a metric, Projected SLG%, to rank my fantasy baseball hitters this season.  Oh, I will take other things into consideration including Projected PA's and SB's, but my workhorse metric will be Projected SLG%.   Now, before you get all upset and start calling me a baseball version of a Luddite, remember that the projection systems account for good things like BABIP, BB and K rates, HR/FB, etc.  The thing is, I don't have to go through all those items and then try to eyeball a summary result.  The projection system does the work for me!  The reason I chose SLG% as my main outcome was that SLG% includes elements of BA and HR's, 2 common fantasy categories and SLG% probably is the main determinant of Runs and RBI's too.  OPS might give you a better idea of the player's contribution to TEAM runs, but SLG% is going to be closer the estimating the Runs and RBI's scored by the individual player.

OK, with that out of the way, let's take a look at 2015 catchers ranked by Steamer Projected SLG%:

1.  Wilin Rosario(Rockies)- .488, 343 PA.  The 343 PA's might actually be an overestimation here.  The Rockies appear to have given up on Rosario as a catcher and it is not clear there is a place for him in the OF.  He could be traded.  Stay away until his situation clears up.

2.  Buster Posey(Giants)- .476, 566 PA.  Barring injury, Buster Posey is the elite fantasy catcher for 2015.  Not only is he a great bet to put up a SLG% at least this high, he will get more PA's than most catchers due to his ability to slide over to 1B on some of the days he would otherwise sit.

3.  Peter O'Brien(D'Backs)- .447, 1 PA.  Well hello there, Peter O'Brien!  O'Brien played at AA level in the Yankees organization last year, then was traded at the deadline to Arizona for Martin Prado.  Arizona has pretty much nobody rostered at catcher right now.  There are questions about whether O'Brien can be an adequate defensive catcher, but Dave Stewart is quirky enough that he just might have penciled in O'Brien as his starting catcher for 2015.  No way I rank him #3, starting or not, but his situation is worth monitoring as the season and fantasy draft day approach.

4. Evan Gattis(Braves)- .446, 528 PA.  Evan Gattis position is looking better by the day, that is unless he gets traded by Atlanta before the season starts.  Right now, he's looking like the starting LF in the ATL, from which he could put up some mighty sweet offensive numbers, and you don't care about D in fantasy baseball.

5. Brian McCann(Yankees)- .445, 518 PA.  McCann might be on the downside of his career, but should still put up some nice numbers in Yankee Stadium next year.  Just not sure I would rank him quite this high.

6. Devin Mesoraco(Reds)- .442, 421 PA.  Steamer obviously expects a regression from the breakout catcher of 2014.  At minimum, I would expect another 100 PA's out of him in 2015, so he may approach the 25 HR's he hit in 2014.  I might rank him above everybody but Posey here, definitely above everybody but Posey and Gattis.

7.  Wilson Ramos(Nationals)- .438, 428 PA.  We've been waiting for Ramos to play a full season for just about forever.  It may happen one of these years, but I wouldn't bet my fantasy draft on it.

8.  Michael McKenry(Rockies)- .437, 61 PA.  McKenry will likely have a lot more than 61 PA, but it's not clear how many to expect.

9.  Yan Gomes(Indians)- .435, 458 PA.  Gomes should be the starting C in Cleveland.  I would expect about 50 more PA's.

10.  Carlos Santana(Indians)- .433, 592 PA.  Santana hangs onto his C eligibility in some leagues by the skin of teeth.  His main fantasy value is in the high number of PA's he will get playing non-catcher positions with catcher eligibility….if you followed all that.  He probably won't play C at all in 2015 which means you won't be able to roster him as a C in 2016.

11.  Jonathan Lucroy(Brewers)- .432, 424 PA.  Don't ask my why Steamer has Lucroy, who had 580 PA's in 2013 and 655 in 2014, projected for just 424 PA's.  Lucroy is another C who can slide over to 1B, which he will still do against some LHP's even with the acquisition of LH hitting Adam Lind.  He should easily surpass 500 PA by a healthy margin.  Lucroy is more valuable for BA than for his power, though.

12.  Travis D'Arnaud(Mets)- .428, 503 PA.  I'm looking for something of a breakout from Travis D'Arnaud in 2015.  He was much better in the second half of 2014 and just check out his minor league numbers.  OK, he was in Las Vegas in 2013, but check out what he did to the Eastern League in 2012!  I might even write a more detailed post on why I am wiling to wait on catcher and target D'Arnaud.

13.  Salvador Perez(Royals)- .425, 479 PA.  I've been thinking of Perez as a breakout candidate for a couple of seasons.  Although you gotta love the guy after the Royals run in 2014, I think it's pretty clear why his hacking ways will probably not lead to a breakout season.

14.  Matt Wieters(Orioles)-  .418, .476 PA.  Wieters got off to a hot start in 2014 before missing most of the season with TJ surgery.  No, he was not headed for a long awaited breakout season.  He would have regressed to his mean by mid-season.

15.  Yadier Molina(Cardinals)- .418, 412 PA.  Somebody in my expanded 12 team league will draft Yadier Molina as their catcher.  They shouldn't.

16. Mike Zunino(Mariners)- .407, 452 PA.  Zunino hit 22 HR's last year.  His Mendoza Line BA kept suppressed his SLG%. Tough to see him being much different in 2015 with a 30+% K rate.

17.  Russell Martin(Blue Jays)- .405, 508 PA.  Martin has alway hit for pretty good power and he upped his BA last year.  He is moving to a much more hitter-friendly ballpark, but he's also getting older.  I look for his BA to regress.

18.  Yasmani Grandal(Dodgers)- .401, 447 PA.  Grandal will likely be the Dodgers #1 catcher in 2015 and there is no telling what he might do with a full season's gig.  He has prodigious power, but has been a bit BA challenged.  Decent bet for a breakout season, though.  My back up plan if somebody overpays for D'Arnaud.  The Dodger fans in my league are more likely to overpay for Grandal, though.

19.  Derek Norris(Padres)- .386, 406 PA.  I'm surprised by Norris' low SLG as he does have HR power.  The Padres are selling out for power, so Norris is likely to get a lot more than 406 PA.

So, where does that leave my final rankings?

1.  Buster Posey
2.  Devin Mesoraco
3.  Evan Gattis
4.  Brian McCann
5.  Yan Gomes
6.  Carlos Santana
7. Jonathan Lucroy
8.  Travis D'Arnaud
9.  Salvador Perez
10. Wilson Ramos
11. Russell Martin
12. Yasmani Grandal
13.  Matt Wieters
14. Derek Norris
15. Mike Zunino
16. Wilin Rosario
17.  Yadier Molina
18.  Michael McKenry
19.  Peter O'Brien

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