“YAN”-IMAL INSTINCTS

So here you are, early autumn, obviously poring over your fantasy baseball rosters wondering who is worth keeping, who over performed, who underperformed, etcetera, etcetara. But ya know what?  I have a feeling you don’t want to do that all by your lonesome, am I right?  Of course I am! (Just play along.)  So that’s where your good friends at Fantasy Assembly come in!  You’re welcome.  You’ve already read our catcher keeper rankings (obviously), but you are probably looking for even more guidance.

The catcher position, after all, is the most volatile of all the positions.  Okay, I’m not entirely sure that “volatile” is the correct terminology to use here, but I think you get the gist.  If you don’t, you probably will shortly.  The basic gist (this is what I meant about shortly) is catchers are a tough position to evaluate when it comes to fantasy.  Offensively there are, maybe, a handful of catchers that are top-notch fantasy assets in the overall gambit of fantasy baseball and it is arguably the most taxing defensive position out there.  Still unclear?  Okay, so what I am saying is, catchers are, on their own, more or less a fantasy baseball afterthought.  They don’t stack up against most other positions in the offensive ranks.

Look, all keepers are relative to your league settings, who you have, yada, yada, yada, but catchers are almost equivalent to tight ends in fantasy football, in that when you’re drafting you either want to be the first to get one or one of the last. Well, sort of.  What I mean is, outside of, well, the top catcher (in this case Fantasy Assembly consensus number one, Buster Posey) catchers are not worth picking in the first five rounds. Again, this is relative to your keeper/dynasty settings, but personally I don’t think most catchers are worth keeping.  I usually judge keeper value based on the number of keepers and if a player is, say, worth a pick within that number of rounds. Perhaps that was poorly worded, so let me clarify.

If you have, say, six keepers, and this is assuming every keeper is equal (i.e. no dollar/ round value attached), then you should ideally be keeping players you would draft in the first six rounds.  As I mentioned, for this scenario, that would probably only be Posey.  Now, the truth is, few leagues actually stick within that “all keepers are equal” parameters, so maybe that is somewhat moot.  Regardless, fantasy baseball is, at its simplest form, about value.  Enter Yan Gomes. In the aforementioned Fantasy Assembly keeper rankings, I ranked Yanimal lower than almost all my other Fantasy Assembly brethren, and have caught some flack for said ranking. I will say, I may have ranked him lower than I should have and now we’re going to find out why.

First off I want to say that I love Yan Gomes, plenty. Pah-lenty. Sure, a lot of that has to do with him being nicknamed Yanimal.  The fact of the matter is I don’t like him as much, down the road or even relative to his current value for fantasy purposes.  Gomes is arguably a top five catcher in fantasy at this very moment, but is he that for the foreseeable future?  That is the real question here, folks. Here is what Yanimal put up in 2014- 21 HR, 61 R, 74 RBI with a .278/.313/.472 slash line.  As fantasy seasons go for catchers, that ain’t half bad.  In fact it is down right stellar for the weaker position of catcher.  So is that sustainable over the next five years?  Let’s look at some other numbers.

Yanimal had a BABIP of .326 and I understand this is not the end all be all, nor is it ridiculously above the league average, but it puts the brush to the canvas for the beginnings of a picture.  I don’t like batting average as a statistic in general, but many leagues still use it so it is a factor.  Yanimal may hit around .260-.270 for the next few seasons, which is not fantastic, but very solid, especially for catcher.  If he were to hit, say, .267 in ’14, that would put him around the 10 spot amongst catchers with 300 or more plate appearances.  Not top five, but also not a BA that will really hurt you too much, either.  But now let’s say you are among the super enlightened baseball geeks (like me…perhaps minus the enlightened part) and use OBP, well this is where I have some minor concerns.

Yanimal’s walk rate is a paltry 4.6%, which is also down from 2013 and his K-rate is 23.2% which is up from 2013.  Yanimal also had a drop in wOBA from 2013 to 2014.  None of this on its own, per se, necessarily means a decline is coming, but it also does not point in a good direction.  Gomes was already 19th this season amongst catchers in OBP and with this plate discipline I wouldn’t expect that to increase much, if at all.  The sample size is small, for sure, with this being the first real full season of numbers, but those on base numbers and walk rate do give me a bit of pause.  You will almost certainly see a drop in average in 2015 which, with his OBP being so hit dependent, will, naturally, lead to a drop in OBP as well.  Less time on base, in a basic simplistic formula, leads to less opportunity to score runs, right?  Bit of a stretch?  Well, yeah, perhaps, but, I mean, it does make some sense.

Gomes is 27, so he is rolling right into his prime, but I feel like his production numbers have peaked already.  The HR/FB ratio is not gaudy at 14.4%, but that is bound to decrease a bit and should land Gomes more in the 15 home run range. That would, again, have dropped him out of the top five at the catcher spot.  With fewer dingers and less time on base, it stands to reason that other productivity numbers would see a bit of a drop.  Still in a serviceable area, though, say between 50-55 in both the runs and RBI departments.  Now, don’t get me wrong, these numbers are perfectly fine, especially at a weak catcher position (geez how many times have I said that?), but those numbers are right around the tenth spot or so, not top five.  Plus the age and Yanimal just starting to play 100 plus games per season at a taxing position does not inspire a productivity increase at the plate.

Yanimal is supposed to be a good defensive backstop, so I don’t think they move his position anytime soon.  Catcher is certainly a position where it is difficult to stay top five year in and year out, due to its taxing nature.  Plus, Gomes is somewhat old for having his first full season behind the dish, and he also doesn’t have an attractive prospect pedigree we like to hold so dear.  Generally, that may not matter, though, right?  I think it does play a part, to some small degree, though. Scouts are occasionally wrong (sorry to burst your bubble), but that is usually in regards to the guys they tout not living up to the hype, not as much the other way around, right?  How often do guys we never hear about before their MLB debuts have great extended careers?  I don’t know, I’m actually asking.  Seems like not that many, though, right?  Good hitting catchers certainly don’t seem to come out of nowhere.  Of course, this in and of itself, is a kind of flimsy argument, I understand.  At the same time, I think it is something that bears mentioning and plays a part, albeit small, in predicting future major league success.

I think you can get another couple of solid years of the production like I mentioned above, but without some better plate discipline, I think you get no better than what he produced this season, in any of the major offensive categories.  This keeps him outside of the top five at the catcher position over the next five years.  Yanimal definitely stays top 10 overall; I’m thinking as high as six or seven for the next couple seasons, with him remaining top ten a few seasons after that.  That being said, again, it is all about value and where Yanimal was valued before the 2014 season began is most likely the cost it will be to keep him.  That value is roughly just inside the top 20 at the position, which is a great deal.  So the moral of the story here is, you are still getting good value so you want to keep that kind of production at that price point if you can. If I were to rank just for 2015, I would put Yanimal right around six or seven. I am just not as on board with some others in regards to years down the road. I would keep Gomes for next year, if you can, see how it plays out into 2015 and be prepared to sell high.

Will Emerson

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Affectionately know by close friends as Willie Moe, Will is back living in Boston after brief, 11 year stint, in upstate New York. Will loves numbers and baseball, so it is no surprise that he has been addicted to fantasy baseball for over two decades. That’s right, Will was playing fantasy baseball since before the internet was providing up to the minute stats and standings, and you had to get your hands inky checking box scores in the newspaper.

2 thoughts on ““YAN”-IMAL INSTINCTS”

  1. Gomes brings up a choice I need to make in my 12 team keeper league. We are allowed only 8 keepers and for my last keeper I need to choose between: Gomes, Kipnis, and Ryu. 25 Total players, Points scoring that is normal except we count BB for one point and 2B & HR both count 2. Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

    1. I play in a 12 team H2H league with 8 keepers, and the only catcher that has been kept in the past 3 years is Buster Posey. Kipnis didn’t have a great season, but he is still young, could bounce back and has the name the owners might trade for so I’d keep Kipnis. There will be plenty of catchers and mid level pitchers available to you in the first 4-5 rounds.

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