StrategyJanuary 27, 2012


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Two Up, Two Down: Catchers

By Michael Marinakis

Welcome back to another season of the “Two Up, Two Down” series where we discuss two players from each position that we feel will outproduce their draft spot, and two players who we feel will disappoint where they’re being drafted. We start yet again with catchers, where I honestly feel there aren’t many clear cut choices for this article. Most catchers are going right around where I would expect, and while I do feel like there is some upside in a couple of picks (one in particular), I don’t see a ton of downside with any of the catcher MDPs.

Two Up

Mike Napoli

This may seem like a weird pick seeing as how he’s being drafted as the third catcher overall (second now that V-Mart is out) and has an MDP of 45, but he went 58th overall in the first Cafe mock and it seems like there could still be some value there. In 2011, Napoli had a breakout season in a huge way; but was it really all that surprising? Almost all of the skills that Napoli showed in his ridiculous run are supported by past numbers. His ability to take a walk and hit for power has never been in question and, given enough playing time, it seems like it was only a matter of time before he had a 30 home run season. While the expected regression of a career low strikeout rate and career high BABIP doesn’t bode well for a batting average repeat, it’d take a string of bad luck for him to go sub-.270 again and I personally have him in the high .280s.

I get the feeling that Napoli is being valued by just regressing his outlier numbers from last year. People expect his HR/FB, BABIP and walk rate to come down and his strikeout rate to go up, and all of those are very likely to happen. However, what I think some people are failing to see is the upside of Napoli if he manages to get a full season’s worth of plate appearances between catching and DHing. After playing in only 52 of 92 games in the first half, he was in the lineup 61 of 70 games in the second half, including every game in August and 21 of 25 games in September. The current designated hitter for the Rangers, Michael Young, is also their utility man extraordinaire, one who should see plenty of time at first over Mitch Moreland and who will also be used to spell oft-injured Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre at second and third. This should leave plenty of opportunities for Ron Washington to keep Napoli’s bat in the lineup when he needs a day off from his catching duties. Assuming he stays healthy, Napoli seems like a lock to get 130 starts, which would mean an extra 100-150 plate appearances in 2012 with the potential for even more than that. With Napoli’s power in Arlington, in a potent Rangers’ offense, those extra at bats could lead to another huge year for fantasy owners.

My projection (based on three-year averages): .287-80-33-89-4 in 525 plate appearances

Matt Wieters

After a disappointing start to an incredibly hyped career, Wieters finally started putting it all together in 2011. He doubled his home run total from 2010 through a large jump in HR/FB and improved his batting average by significantly cutting down on strikeouts. Normally these may be signs to expect regression, but Wieters was primed for a breakout as he entered his age-25 season with almost 900 MLB plate appearances. Wieters is currently in his physical prime, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see more improvement in 2012. Despite his breakout year, it seems that Wieters may have been a bit unlucky as he posted a .276 BABIP despite an expected BABIP of .308. Even if his career low strikeout rate regresses some in 2012, his batting average should see an increase through an increase in his BABIP. I expect he’ll be hitting cleanup for the Orioles and that increase in batting average along with the possibility of more power growth mean better counting stats for Wieters as well.

Currently Wieters is has an MDP of 105 and is being taken as the ninth catcher overall. He was taken 82nd overall in the Cafe mock draft, and at any of those positions I feel that he’s a huge bargain. I currently have him ranked as the third overall catcher, almost in a dead heat with Brian McCann and only behind Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana. With McCann’s MDP at 45 spots higher than Wieters, there is a lot of value to be had if you can jump on Wieters two to three rounds after McCann is off the board.

My projection (based on three-year averages): .279-75-23-84-1 in 550 plate appearances

Two Down

Joe Mauer

At this point in his career, Mauer isn’t much more than an empty batting average with decent counting stats, which will probably be stunted by loss of playing time to injury. While it’s unlikely that he’ll have a sub-.300 batting average again, his .365, 28-home run season of 2009 feels more like a decade ago. He doesn’t hit for much power and doesn’t steal bases, and almost all of his value is tied to where he hits in the batting order. His average, run and RBI numbers still make him a top ten catcher, but not one I want to take a risk at his MDP of 78. Right now Avila, Montero, and Wieters are all being taken 20-30 spots later than Mauer and they all carry quite a bit less risk. Knowing I’d probably have a good shot at grabbing on of those guys two to three rounds later means I won’t be touching Mauer at his MDP.

My projection (based on three-year averages): .313-74-8-70-1 in 550 plate appearances

Buster Posey

Oh, how it pains me to put Buster here, but I’m having to reach a bit as I don’t see a lot of bad value in catchers this year. The main reason for Posey being on this list is uncertainty as he returns from a serious leg and ankle injury. Everything that I’ve heard says that Posey will be back at full strength in time for the season, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t considerable risk in assuming he’ll be fully healthy. He missed a huge chunk of the season last year and still hasn’t had a full season in the majors, yet despite the risk, he’s still being taken at an MDP of 54 and as the third catcher overall. Given the uncertainty and the fact that he’ll still be hitting in a mostly bad lineup, there are quite a few players near his MDP that I would feel much better about drafting. While I do have Posey as the fifth ranked catcher, I just can’t justify taking him that early with guys like Avila, Montero, and Wieters going over four rounds later.

My projection (based on three-year averages): .292-69-17-80-4 in 575 plate appearances

Next up on “Two Up, Two Down,” will be first base. Thanks for reading!

 
Michael Marinakis is a 26-year-old Giants' fan who took 2011 off from fantasy baseball to bask in the glory of the World Series victory. He's now back in the game and looking forward to another year of baseball obsession. You can find him on the forums where he posts as GiantsFan14.
 
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