In a perfect world, we would end up with great players at each position, but because of league format, the skill of our opponents, the nature of relativity and competition, or all three, this does not happen. In fact, in an AL or NL only keeper league, we are often faced with the reality that in order to fill a roster spot we will need to either overpay for a player or spend $1 for whatever is left. It is important to be able to know what you will be looking at if you only have a buck or two to spend for a particular position because then you can do the appropriate cost-benefit analysis of spending on a position or just taking what is left.
For example, last year in an AL-only the last two 3B off the board were going to be Matt Dominguez or Alberto Callaspo (neither was going to be drafted at corner infield or utility). The analysis thus goes, would I rather spend $6 on the more expensive of these two (this being pre-2013 Dominguez, Callaspo was actually the get at the time) or $1 on the cheaper option? The last piece of the analysis is determining the value of that extra $5. Sticking with the previous example, that $5 could have been the difference between getting Justin Masterson and settling on Miguel Gonzalez or Joe Blanton. After doing this exercise, you can determine if the extra bid dollars generated from settling for a $1 player is worth having extra money elsewhere (Opportunity Cost in the HOUSE).
That said, I will be rolling out a series of articles that explains what you will most likely be looking at as your $1 options for each C, CI, MI, OF, SP, and RP for both AL and NL only leagues. We will assume a standard roto roster format and 10 team leagues. Note that even though suggestions will be made, these will not be sleeper lists; rather, these articles should be used as exercises to help you plan better for your upcoming auction and, thus, help you make better strategic decisions at your auction.
Today we begin with catchers. Again, we are assuming a 10 team, 5×5 roto, $260 auction budget, and a roster of 2 C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, 5 OF, UT, 9 P
The last bunch in: Pinto, Soto, Iannetta, Conger, Norris, Stassi, Arencibia, Suzuki (20th C), Phegley/Flowers, Murphy/Romine, Buck, Lavarnaway (italics denote not drafted)
The last bunch of catchers is a pretty motley crew that really depends on owner preference; however, it does really tail off at the end. I have Suzuki as the last AL catcher off the board (I personally prefer Phegley, but this would be dependent on him winning the job). The drop off is really after Stassi, where the thought of owning batting average killers like JPA, a White Sox catcher or Buck becomes very unappealing. Now if your keeper list includes a bunch of high average guys, but is lacking in homers, maybe one of these guys is a good fit at $1. The other potential $1 guy is Suzuki, and he is just a pile of nothingness from a fantasy stand point, but he is less likely to crush your batting average than the guys who offer more HRs. Other Suzuki-like, not god awful K% options would include the backup NYY catcher (Romine/Murphy) or Ryan Lavarnaway, but these options both appear to face very limited at bats.
The nice thing about the AL catcher end game this year is that while there will most likely not be any $1 steals, it looks like you should be able to get an interesting second catcher for no more than $3. Between Iannetta, Conger, Norris, and Stassi, one should go for $3 or less, and that player will have a good chance to return profit on that $2 to $3 investment (maybe you get lucky and are even able to snag one for $1).
AL Recommendation: Unless a few extra dollars is really going to be a big difference maker, budget about $3 to not end up with JPA or worse.
Last bunch in: Ryan Doumit, Yasmani Grandal, Brayan Pena, Nick Hundley, Hector Sanchez, Tim Federowicz, George Kottaras, Rob Brantley/Jeff Mathis, Austin Hedges, Wil Nieves, Martin Maldonado, Anthony Recker, Brayan Pena, Cameron Rupp, Christian Bethancourt, Tony Sanchez (italics denote not drafted)
As in the AL, this last crop of catchers in the NL are certainly not players you should be banking on producing to win your league. If you fail to land one of the elite options, be sure to spend an extra few dollars to land some middle-tier players. If I miss out on an elite catcher I am aiming to grab Miguel Montero, Carlos Ruiz, Russell Martin, Devin Mesoraco or Travis d’Arnaud, and then one of the better options at the end, for perhaps $3-5. If you already have an elite catcher, you can wait for this bunch. Realize there is a tier here as well, and here is how I would break it down.
These #2 catchers have a few catchers worth spending an extra couple of dollars on, just like their counterparts in the AL. Ryan Doumit has produced double-digit HR in the past, and could get quite a few starts if the Braves elect to play Gattis in the OF. George Kottaras has shown some power in the past in limited duty (never played more than 85 games), and his batting average is awful, but unfortunately you could do worse. If I am a Buster Posey owner, I am making sure to grab Hector Sanchez. He has shown an ability to produce runs in limited at-bats and with Posey possibly getting some games at 1B, and catchers always being in the line of fire, it is wise to handcuff the #1 catcher.
I am a fan of Brayan Pena in Cincinnati. When he plays, he should be able to drive in some runs in a productive Reds lineup. Another possible $1 guy is Martin Maldonado in Milwaukee, but his batting average is like an anchor. Cameron Rupp hit 15 homers between 4 levels in 2013. Ruiz has never played more than 132 games in a season, so there could be some at-bats for Rupp in 2014.
If your league allows you to roster minor league catchers, there are some intriguing $1 guys out there. I like Tony Sanchez and Austin Hedges the most. Hedges could break camp with the Padres. Christian Bethancourt is also an interesting prospect, but with an already crowded group of catchers in Atlanta is a bit further away from regular MLB playing time.
NL Recommendation: Unless you are going to budget the money for an elite catcher, be ready to pay a few extra dollars to grab a mid-tier option and one of the better catchers from the last group in.