Catching by Committee

The catcher position is not exactly loaded with “can’t miss” talent, so you can either land an “elite” catcher early, settle for the middling tier catchers, or get a little creative. We’ve all heard the “by committee” phrase bandied about the sports world. In baseball the most notable usage of the word is used when discussing the dreaded closer position. Dreaded because it’s success rate is comparable to my high school success rate with the ladies – meaning little to none. Apparently playing tons of Strat-o-Matic baseball is not a trait high school girls look for. Sorry, I digress. In real baseball leagues closer by committee is usually a mess, but the “by committee” strategy for catchers has a much better chance of success; mainly because catchers don’t expect to be locked into the starting catcher’s role every day unless it’s like Jake Taylor or something. Don’t believe me? In 2015, three catchers played in 140 or more games. Three! Stretch it to 130 games it becomes eight catchers; make it 120 games and it goes to 11.

In fantasy baseball you basically want as many possible players in action on any given day, and you want to do that without sacrificing productivity. Counting stats are great and all, but these days OBP, SLG and OPS are all the rage, and you don’t want to hurt your slash numbers. Granted there are instances where you can predict when a catcher will sit; say the day game after the night game, but the rest of the time you may be playing a guessing game. Plus there’s always the chance you have two catchers both riding the pine on the same game day. Now on a Sunday, especially in a weekly head-to-head leagues, that could be a valuable loss of PAs. This is where you can try and ride a real life baseball team’s catcher by committee situation to get you as close to 162 productive games at your C spot (sounds almost dirty, but I’m just gonna let it go) as possible. Below are three situations where you may be able to get solid year round production by grabbing both catchers on a team’s major league roster.

Oakland A's LogoStephen Vogt / Josh Phegley – Athletics

Stephen Vogt, somewhat quietly, put together a solid season in Oakland this past season, but what may surprise folks is how productive Josh Phegley was on a somewhat more limited basis. Sure, Vogt got some time at first base as well, but still played in 136 games. For those not quick with the arithmetic, in theory, that is 26 games you could have played Josh Phegley, knowing Vogt would be on the bench. But let’s get back to the more important numbers. Let’s start with the most primitive route and imagine that we can just combine their numbers to form one super-ish catcher. By that simplistic equation you get a player with 670 at bats, with 27 home runs, 85 runs, 105 RBIs and a slash line of .257/.328/.445. Those are some pretty good numbers, but not realistically what you would get if Phegley only gives you 26 games, so let me do a simplistic prorating to adjust to some more reasonably accurate numbers.

Basically we are looking at these numbers in a vacuum without regards to matchups and assuming Phegley’s numbers chug along at the same pace from game to game. I’m basically cutting into how often you would (in theory) start Phegley at catcher. Since Phegley has lower slash line numbers, which actually helps a couple of the numbers in the Vogt/Phegley overall line – .260/.336/.441. The counting stats are naturally reduced, but 21 dingers, 68 runs and 83 RBIs is still good. Using my simplistic math analogy, you have a fairly decent catcher. For instance, somewhat highly drafted Salvador Perez had 21 homers, 52 runs and 70 RBIs, with a slash of .260/.280/ .426. Those numbers were good enough to rank him at #5 among catchers on ESPN’s Player Rater in 2015. As you can see, riding the Athletics catching train could reap you some good benefits.

Los Angeles Dodgers LogoA.J. Ellis / Yasmani Grandal – Dodgers

Like the Vogt/Phegley combo, one of this duo saw some time at 1B in 2015 as well. The thing is that was fairly minimal for Grandal, so I don’t need to pull out the fancy algorithms here. Grandal was the lead dog in this tandem, but both Dodger catchers (when they played) seemed on a similar plane as far as offensive productivity was concerned. The slash lines were almost identical as a matter of fact, so you really don’t lose much by owning the Dodger duo and being able to know who plays the C each game. Combining their numbers overall, you get 643 plate appearances and 536 at bats, which is about as many at bats as our good friend Salvador Perez. The combined stats have the Dodger twosome hitting two more homers, scoring 15 more runs and driving in one more run than Salvador. Their overall slash line would not be as good, but somewhat comparable at .235/.355/.403. Now, using Sal Perez as the comp is not to take anything away from Sal or his 2015 season, but he is a very good comp here. While you may want to get these ABs primarily from one catcher, every catcher rests and a Grandal/Ellis combo can still come at a cheaper value than Salvador Perez on draft day, without sacrificing too much elsewhere.

Colorado Rockies LogoNick Hundley / Michael McKenry / Tom Murphy – Rockies

In this situation, Hundley is sort of the lead dog; injuries derailed a chunk of his 2015, but I still don’t see him getting any more than 500 PAs, regardless. McKenry is raw for sure, and Murphy is even more raw than McKenry, so this one is a bit tougher to project. One thing these guys all have going for them right away is home games in Colorado – a regular hitter’s haven. The downfall here is there are three guys listed, and you are most likely not going to carry three catchers. Murphy could push McKenry for the #2 catcher slot and it bears monitoring, especially since Murphy posted a nice little .257/.333./.543 slash line in his limited big league time this season.

For now though, let us just highlight this as a Hundley/McKenry timeshare. Now this is a bit tougher to project as the injury bug reared its ugly head here, so I am going to have to do a tad more educated projected. I am going to give Hundley 450 plate appearances and a total of 610 PAs to the Hundley/McKenry combo for our purposes and see where we land. What I came up with is a slash of .275/.337/.453 and approximately 15 homers, 83 runs and 76 RBIs. Again this is me projecting at bats and adjusting the numbers in a vacuum, but I don’t think I’m too far off base, here.

Some viable options there, wouldn’t ya say? What you have to remember is you are playing slots here, as in you don’t care how many people you rotate through the slots; all that matters is the overall production. Of course for dynasty purposes, you should monitor the real life contracts, trades and such, but for immediate purposes you can sit back and enjoy the nice overall production from your catching tandem without a care in the world. Okay, maybe not quite with a care in the world, but hopefully you are picking up what I am putting down, here.

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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.