Unless your league has some rule where catcher statistics count double in comparison to the rest of the players on your roster, this is a position where you should allow your league mates to get the advantage on you. Well, perceived advantage anyway. Yan Gomes, Devin Mesoraco, Dioner Navarro, Evan Gattis, and Russell Martin were all considered value picks in 2014. There’s a good chance all of these guys were taken between the 11th and 20th catchers off your boards back in March drafts yet all of them put up top 10 catcher seasons in 2014. Put another way, you had just as solid a chance of landing one of 2014’s top 10 statistical outputs at the catcher position if you had waited into the 11-20 range of catcher ADP than if you spent an earlier round pick to ensure you landed one of the consensus top 10 heading into 2014 drafts.
There’s a good chance eligibility rules in your leagues will no longer allow such names as Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana to man the catcher position heading into next season, so the pool is thinning. Fortunately, all we need to tread water at the catcher position is a backstop that nets us something north of a .250 batting average, mid-teens in the HR category, and something in the neighborhood of 120 R + RBI. Here are some catcher bounce back candidates who could prove to be one of 2015’s catcher value picks that ascend to top 10 status:
Wilin Rosario (Rockies): Rosario’s statistical output in 2014 left much to be desired for people who spent a top 100 pick on him for a piece of the Coors pie. Mmmmm, Beer Pie! He will be just 26 in February. After seasons of 28 and 21 home runs in 2012 and 2013 respectively I am going to bank on 2014 being an aberration. In 2014, Rosario saw his GB% go to the 50% range after a 41.1% showing in the 2013 season. Along with his increased ground ball rate I don’t want to shock you but his FB% dipped as well, falling to the low 30% range after having a FB% of no less than 36% the previous three seasons. Mind blown, I know. One thing keeping me on board is that Rosario’s K% greatly improved. In both 2012 and 2013 Rosario posted a K% above 23%. His 2014 K% dropped to just above the 17% mark. Along with the improved contact rate, his age factor, home ballpark, and an off-season to get the lift back in his swing, Rosario is the best catcher bounce back candidate heading into the 2015 campaign. If he falls out of the top eight catchers in 12-team single-catcher leagues, I’ve got dibs.
Yadier Molina (Cardinals): Old reliable did not seem too reliable in 2014 as the grind of the game took toll on the St. Louis catcher. Yadi-Mo is the anti-Rosario in that he does not have a launching pad to call home, he does not have age on his side (33 in July, 2015), and his best years are definitely behind him. That said if drafters want to start giving him the A.J. Pierzynski treatment starting in 2015, I’ll thank them for the discount. Health permitting, there’s no reason Molina won’t be a top 10 backstop in 2015. Slightly declining skills and all, Molina could at least be counted on to put up the .284 avg, 38 R, 12 HR, and 68 RBI put up by Dioner Navarro, rated 8th on ESPN’s Player Rater. Even in dynasty type formats, I think Molina will be a fine pick. Catchers are a dime a dozen and it’s the easiest position to find a capable replacement in case your top guy goes down.
Wilson Ramos (Nationals): Health is all that seems to stand between Ramos and a top 10 catcher performance. If we could get a healthy season out of Ramos, his 130 game pace over the past two seasons would produce a 45 R, 20 HR, 85 RBI, .270 avg season. Forget top ten, that’s a top five catcher! As mentioned above, catcher is the easiest position to replace in most formats and Wilson Ramos is a player I want to take a shot on in all 10 and 12 team single catcher formats.
Matt Wieters (Orioles): Wieters may finally have turned a corner in the early going of the 2014 season where he got off to a .308/13/5/18/0 start through 104 at bats. Too bad the sample size is likely too small for us to trust the glimmer of hope he showed before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. In fairness, his impressive albeit brief 2014 stat line was supported by an uncharacteristically high .329 BABIP. We would normally expect his BABIP to hover around the .280 mark. Without having too much to go on from his 2014 season, it’s at least encouraging to note that Wieters finished his 2013 campaign with a .275/10/3/16/0 September. It’s interesting that his September 2013 BABIP came in at .318. So, was his 2014 stat line a fluke or not? To help figure that out we need to call on another underlying stat, LD%. The Baltimore backstop would normally post a LD% of around 18% in the category. What he showed at the end of the 2013 season and the start of 2014 was a combined LD% of 26.8%. It appears that Wieters may have made a mechanical correction that he was able to carry over to the following year even through the off-season.
The real question is whether or not he can replicate whatever adjustment he made after his TJ surgery down time. Wieters may not be ready to go right from the start of the 2015 season but has a chance to suit up for a majority of the year provided there are no set backs in his recovery. It helps that he doesn’t have a breaking ball he needs to regain touch on before making his return. If you play in a league with a deep bench or one that allows a few extra DL spots, Wieters could prove to be a nice stash in a deep single-catcher league or two-catcher format but don’t be too surprised if he’s a little shaky through his first 100-150 2015 ABs.
Jason Castro (Astros): Only one time in seven years of pro ball has Castro experienced a BABIP as low as his 2014 season produced. He will be just 28 in June, 2015 and will have a more developed surrounding lineup around him in Houston so I suppose there’s room for hope here. If Castro can get his K% under control (29.5%) I like him to make his way back onto our radars in 2015. Of the five catchers listed so far in this write-up Castro will come cheapest in 2015 drafts. For my liking he’s more in the deep league range or someone to consider for a second catcher in two-catcher formats.
Yasmani Grandal (Padres): Rene Rivera took over the late season duties at Catcher for the Padres and with Austin Hedges on the way up the San Diego pipeline, Grandal’s time behind their dish might be numbered. That can only mean good things for him though. Either he finds his playing time at first base for San Diego or they deal him to a team with a park where hitters actually have a fighting chance. After an impressive showing through 226 at bats in his big league arrival during the 2012 season Grandal has battled injury, a PED related suspension, and an underwhelming performance ever since. Grandal has power, though it might not show up in the HR category having taken a great majority of his at bats in San Diego and surrounding West Coast stadiums. His 2014 HR/FB% of 14.7% isn’t too far off from his 2012 HR/FB% of 17%. While his 2014 HR/FB% is undeniably a tad lower than what he initially showed, he has compensated by hitting more fly balls to the tune of a 38.1% FB% in 2014 versus his FB% of just over 30% in 2012. I find Grandal appealing as a second backstop in a two catcher league even if he stays in San Diego and could actually find him worthy of being my catcher in a deeper single-catcher league if he somehow lands significant playing time elsewhere in 2015.
Mike Zunino (Mariners): If you’re going to bury us in a category like Zunino did with his batting average in the 2014 season, at least give us power. Zunino did just that as his power developed much sooner than most of us imagined it would. Most projections had him in the range of 10-13 HR going into the 2014 season. Surpassing the 20 HR mark (22) in 2014 was impressive. Flirting with a sub-.200 average (.199), not so much. Maintaining the power while making some corrections to his K% (33.2%) and his BABIP (.248) would go a long way to boosting his average up to something more tolerable. Zunino is young enough still (24 in March, 2015) that he can be counted on to make gains at the plate in the next couple years making him a decent value play as a second catcher in deeper two-catcher formats for a fantasy owner that’s built up a bit of a batting average cushion with their earlier picks.
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