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Just How Valuable Is Posey as a Catcher?

Yes, Buster Posey, we get it. You are worth a Johnny Bench rookie card, and you can deliver babies. They changed the catcher collision rule partly (mostly?) because of you. Is there anything you can’t do? Next we’ll be seeing “Posey in 2020” bumper stickers.

But what does Posey in the catcher slot mean for a fantasy team? Is he worth the high price he’ll cost at the draft? How do you justify reaching so early on a catcher when the next options don’t go until five or more rounds after him? Let’s see what we find.

The Rest of the Field

Early last offseason, I did a series looking at the average value of top-5 players at their position, compared to the rest of the field. The catching article revealed the large drop-off in quality after the top five catchers. Here are the averaged stats of each tier.

  • #1-5: 66 R, 22 HR, 79 RBI, .280 BA in 508 AB
  • #6-10: 48 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, .262 BA in 460 AB
  • #11-15: 49 R, 12 HR, 59 RBI, .250 BA in 430 AB

There’s a clear gap between the top options and the rest of the field. Let’s take a look at the names in the top-5 that aren’t Posey.

  • 2015: McCann, Martin, Perez, Vogt
  • 2014: Lucroy, Mesoraco, Gomes, McCann
  • 2013: Molina, Lucroy, Saltalamacchia, Perez
  • 2012: Molina, Pierzynski, Ruiz, Montero

Over the last four years, no other catcher has been in the top-5 for more than two years. There are names that provide good value every season, but the names do change, with newcomers having great years (Vogt, Gomes, Mesoraco) but then often fading. Veterans McCann and Martin used to be staples in the top-5, but some poor years (age, injuries) knocked them out. They’ve returned in 2015, but for how long? Yadi was my favorite option at catcher when he was hitting quite well and cost half the price of Posey, but several years of injuries, declining stats, and a rising price make him risky. The best argument for the catchers who randomly pop up into the top-5 is that they were likely endgame draft picks or waiver wire grabs, so the profit is high. But you can’t tell me with any certainty who’s going to be in the top-5 next year, with the exception of Buster Posey.

Consistent Awesomeness

If only we COULD clone you, Buster.

                          If only we COULD clone you, Buster

You can’t deny it when a player completely dominates a positional ranking for numerous seasons. For years it was Pujols and Miggy at 1B, and Cano at 2B. Now we have studs like Kershaw at SP, Trout at OF, Aroldis at RP, and Posey at C. Buster is putting up a run at catcher that is better than any other top dog since Pujols. The evidence stares us in the face, and we can’t ignore it any longer. Here are Posey’s stats from the last few years compared to the average of the top-5 from 2014 — which includes his numbers, remember.

  • 2014 top-5 average: .280/66/22/79
  • Buster Posey 2015: .318/74/19/95
  • Buster Posey 2014: .311/72/22/89
  • Buster Posey 2013: .294/61/15/72
  • Buster Posey 2012: .336/78/24/103

We’re looking at the cream of the crop average for catcher, and Posey exceeds the average in 13 out of 16 instances. During this four-year run, here are his catcher rankings according to standard 5×5, working backward: first, first, third, first. In other words, Posey has been the top catcher more times in the last four years than any other catcher has made the top-5. You can’t get any more consistent than that.

As for the dominance factor, Posey ranked 47th overall last year out of all players. That’s not just good for a catcher — it’s good for the entire player pool and warrants a third round pick, which is where Posey has often been taken. Now let’s look at the overall rankings of the top-5 catchers for the last four years, with Posey’s rank in bold.

  • 2015: 47, 107, 109, 172, 176
  • 2014: 51, 101, 118, 126, 185
  • 2013: 81, 90, 132, 157, 167
  • 2012: 28, 59, 104, 127, 129

Posey barely misses out on three top-50 player appearances. Of all other catchers across four seasons, only three managed to break the top-100. Posey justifies the fact that he costs more than any other catcher because he consistently performs at an elite level. If he’s taken in round 3, he’s worth that price, and I can see justification for the end of round 2.

For points leagues, here’s the top-5 average WITHOUT Posey, followed by Posey’s results for four years and his average over that time.

  • 2014 Top-5, non-Posey average: 465 points
  • Posey 2015: 629
  • Posey 2014: 588
  • Posey 2013: 508
  • Posey 2012: 640
  • Posey average: 591

Again, it’s not just that he’s the top player most of the time. It’s the fact that he’s so far ahead of the guys behind him. Add in the fact that his 3-year average in AB of 541 is the highest as well (with only one other catcher above 500), and it really is “set it and forget it” for your fantasy team all year.

It’s time to stop using the argument that we’re “reaching” for Posey just to get a good catcher. He’s proven he’s capable of being a top-50 player in any season (or nearly EVERY season), which means he’s a legit 3rd round pick. The fact that he’s leaps and bounds above all other catchers is an added bonus to his value. I’ve been reluctant to jump on the Posey bandwagon because I normally don’t like spending early on catcher, but as we’ve learned with the recent SP surplus, and with high K% and lower BA among hitters, the game changes over time. Posey is beyond valuable as a catcher, and you shouldn’t hesitate to acquire him and never let go. Unless you really CAN get a Johnny Bench rookie card for him…

 

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.

3 comments on “Just How Valuable Is Posey as a Catcher?

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I’ve been bugging poor Jim about a posey for sale trade in an auction, keeper, points league. Sale is $17 and posey is $20. I really want to pull trigger bc draft should be rich for pitching and I already have Scherzer. Only downside is I’d be trading two years of sale for one year of posey. Plus sale sexy name in league so maybe I can hold out for more?

    Esp in a points league, seems like posey is so valuable. Potential 100 point advantage on other catchers. I’m high on lucroy bouncing back as well but would still love some added insight from the guy who wrote the posey article.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      From what I see in earlier comments, Sale and Posey score about the same? In my points leagues, elite SP usually score better than all hitters, so it’s not close. But if they’re about the same, I guess it merits consideration. The extra year is hard to swallow, but if you’re in “win now” mode for 2016, then don’t even consider just one extra year.

      If you don’t have a C already, I’d say go ahead. If you do have Lucroy (because you mention him here), it’s a harder sell. Yes, Posey is leaps and bounds above everyone else, but then what do you do with Lucroy? Can you trade him? I guess they can both play C/1B, but Lucroy is only valuable at C, and Posey’s value is far higher at C too. Lucroy is at least capable of top-5 C if all goes well.

      I won’t ask for your entire keeper list and the top names of SP in the FA pool. You know your league better than us. With points, you can break it down to percentages. If Posey’s 460 points from last year is truly 100 points more than the average catchers, it seems like a steal (460 / 360 = 27% more production than the average guy). However, it’s best to compare him to other top-5 candidates, or to who’s available in the FA pool, not the entire average of the top-10 or top-12. Again, if you already have Lucroy, who’s a top-5 candidate, and the difference is 60 points, it’s “only” a 15% improvement. How does Sale rank in your league? If he’s a top-10 guy, what is the percentage difference between his score and, say, the #11-20 or #15-25 guys? Or pick a 10-SP range around the best available FA starters. If only guys ranked below the #30 SP are available, maybe the percentage gain for Sale is better than Posey’s upgrade to Lucroy (or the best available C).

  2. Hi Kevin,

    I don’t have any catchers I can keep. Thought I could keep Darnaud but he didn’t play enough games.

    Posey last two years: ’15 455 points (80 more than gattis next best C)
    ’14 433 2nd most points (7 points less than lucroy)

    Sale past two years: ’15 459 points 8th most overall sp
    ’14 426 points 13th most overall sp but 3rd most on per game basis

    I guess the other thing that I got from you is that the upside for a sp to score more in a points league is higher. Like I have scherzer also who was was 4th best sp with 560 points which made him the 7th most valuable player in the entire league. Sale could potentially have that kind of season where posey likely won’t.

    I will try to get lucroy on the bounceback discount of 10-12 bucks and if not then I’ll take a younger kid like darnaud or maybe even swihart for cheap and invest elsewhere.

    The main reasons I’m looking to sell on sale are that he seems like an injury risk, I’ve had him 2 years so wouldn’t mind a fresh face, and b/c my draft should be pitching rich.

    8 of the 17 guys I consider aces are available in the draft (arietta, greinke, degrom, carrasco, price, Harvey, Strasburg, and Felix). Plus there’s also Hamels, Wainwright, Cueto, and others that are close and I already have Scherzer.

    I think you talked me out of posey for now unless maybe I got some other form of compensation as well. I also think that I may have had a development where I could maybe even swing him for Stanton. If not maybe do something like an ace for ace swap with kluber and save a few bucks.

    Thanks for the help!
    Mike

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