Catcher Targets and Avoids for 2018

Catcher sucks – it really does, and two catcher leagues… woof.  You might want to buy yourself a nice gimp mask from your local S&M store before putting yourself through that kind of torture.  Still, we have to start a catcher in fantasy so let’s dive into some guys we should target and avoid in 2018.

Avoid

Buster Posey

This feels weird for me to type.  I’ve long been a big Posey guy, especially in points leagues. I’ve always felt that he should be valued like a top 14 or 15 player overall due to how big of an advantage he gave you at that terrible position.  It was a lot like having Adrian Beltre play catcher for your fantasy team.  The points were never gaudy but when compared to some of the other scrubs out there – you were generally looking at a 100-150 point advantage at that position.

So why would you worry now?  Posey batted .320 with an .862 OPS last year.  Why would you turn on a dime after he just turned in an amazing season?  His .320 average was likely driven by a .347 BABIP, which is 34 points higher than his career average.  The average was a big reason Posey was valuable last year.  That inflated BABIP also contributes to his impressive .400 OBP.  His walk rate is still a very nice 10.7% so I think his approach at the plate is still intact.  He should still be very good in points and OBP leagues, just not as good as his name has warranted in years past.  

It is also worth pointing out that he only hit 12 homers last year. That’s down from the 14 he hit in 2016.  Posey’s home run pop seems to be the only thing leaving the yard at this point.  The lineup around him is also pretty bad.  Adding Evan Longoria will help some, but Posey had a meager 67 RBI last year off of a year where he had an .862 slug.  That does not bode well for a narrative where maybe the counting stats will help make up for any regression coming his way.

I still love Posey as a real world player.  And I’ll still take him if he falls in any leagues, especially points leagues.  That said, he will turn 31 this coming season.  His pop is disappearing at a rapid rate.  He plays in arguably the worst hitter’s park in the league with a bad supporting cast.  I’m not paying the 4th or 5th round pick that it will likely still take to get him.  I’m also not paying the $20+ that it usually takes to land him in an auction draft.  I don’t think the bottom is going to drop out here, but the production seems unlikely to match the brand name.  It’s never fun to quit on old favorites, but we also do ourselves a disservice if we ignore trends simply because it’s a player we like.

Yadier Molina

Molina is another player that I love to watch in real life. He will likely be a first ballot Hall of Famer, and he is one of the best defensive catchers I’ve had the pleasure to watch.  He has continued to have fantasy value into his twilight years largely because he plays so darn much.  Molina is a warrior and does not miss much time compared to other catchers.

He has now had back-to-back seasons where he was especially useful in fantasy–more useful than the “showing up for work” kinds of points that we had grown accustomed to in the second half of his career.  In 2016 his relevance was powered by a .307 batting average.  This was explained by a BABIP spike of 34 points.  In 2017, his BABIP normalized and so did his average, but he had a power explosion.  Molina hit 18 homers, which is the most he’s hit in six seasons, as well as the second most in any season.  Some of this can be explained by an 8% jump in fly balls.  Maybe Molina is on board with the fly ball revolution that has helped power breakouts for names like Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy.  Maybe, but I’m not buying it.  His HR/FB rate doubled to 11%, from 5% in 2016.  His K% also jumped up to a career high 13.6%.  That’s still really good when compared to many of today’s hitters, but any increase is cause for concern as he ages.

I think Molina is unlikely to repeat the 18 homers from last year.  I would hope for 12-15 homers with his normal .270 average and the understanding that he’s entering his age 36 season.  There’s a lot of innings on those knees, and his home stadium is a far cry from Coors.  I’m going to avoid drafting Yadier unless he falls to the 12th or 13th catcher off the board.



Target

Evan Gattis

I am going to be targeting Evan Gattis in most leagues.  I don’t believe I will be paying the exorbitant price for Gary Sanchez (even though he might be worth it), and I already outlined why I’ll likely be missing out on Posey this year.   The Astros are saying that Gattis is going to slide back into the full-time DH role in 2018.  This is great news!

The last time Gattis was the DH for the Astros was in 2016.  He had catcher eligibility and finished in the top 3-5 depending on format.   This is the line he put forth:

PA AVG R HR RBI OPS
499 .251 58 32 78 .827

That’s a pretty good year from a tried and true power hitter.  It’s even better at the cesspool that is catcher in fantasy.  I would bet on better counting stats as well given that the Astros had the top offense in the league in 2017.   Based on early rankings from other analysts, Gattis seems to be ranked in the 7-12 range.  In a vacuum I like him as much as any catcher after Sanchez and Posey, so I’m definitely happy to wait and grab Gattis and hopefully net another top 3-5 finish.

Wilson Ramos

I really like Wilson Ramos.  I kept waiting for the breakout that never came, and then I owned zero shares when he finally exploded in 2016.  He was a top three catcher in all formats that year. Sadly, he tore up his knee, and it was likely one of the major reasons for a lackluster 2017.  Anyone who’s read me in the past knows that I love bounce back candidates.  I bought the narrative of the laser eye surgery helping him break out in 2016, just as I am buying him coming back from the knee injury from 2017.  He even showed some signs of coming back to life once he started to get acclimated last year.  Here are Ramos’ numbers from August 2 until the end of the year:

PA AVG R HR RBI ISO OPS
143 .293 13 8 22 .203 .820

That looks a lot like the elite catcher who was a major difference maker just a season before.  Ramos is generally ranked somewhere around 10th by most industry analysts.  I’m not too different, slating him in at 9th.  I couldn’t bring myself to put him in front of more consistent commodities that also have less of an injury history.  At the same time, I’m more of a risk taker and will gamble that Ramos returns to 2016 form.  I would rather have Ramos than all but four other catchers.  And at the discount he should be coming for, it’s a no-brainer compared to the other catchers who will cost more and offer less upside.

Hopefully we can hit on a few of these cheaper catchers and come up with a bit of an advantage at a bad position.  Even better, hopefully we can do it without spending too much.

 

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Mike Sheehan

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Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.

4 thoughts on “Catcher Targets and Avoids for 2018”

  1. If you’d rather have ramos over all but 4 catchers he should be ranked fifth, not ninth. Which is one reason i don’t follow your rankings.

    1. I don’t know about Mike, but I know there have been plenty of times I have ranked a guy lower even though I would draft him higher. Case in point: I have Josh Bell ranked 19 in next weeks fist base rankings, yet I would probably take im over the guys I ranked 11 through 18. Why rank him low then? Because while I like him, I can’t dismiss the upside or potential numbers from guys like Chris Davis, Matt Carpenter, Jay Bruce and the rest. Plus, I also have to acknowledge that he may not live up to my own liking giving him a lower floor.

      Rankings are not always about where we would draft a player, but where they should be drafted. Just like we don’t always draft a player where they should be drafted based on personal preference, reaching a few rounds to ensure we get our guy. Not sure if that clears things up for you or not. Feel free to respond back if you want to discuss this further- I’m always around.

    2. Hi Brad-

      I pretty much agree with what Jim had mentioned. Thanks Jim!

      It’s also worth remembering that a lot of people read our rankings so we tend to take a more holistic approach. For example, Brian McCann is likely a safer fantasy catcher than Ramos but he doesn’t have the same upside. I am a risk taker when it comes to my approach to fantasy. I generally have a few stable building blocks and surround them with high variance players. This strategy tends to give you a great shot at potentially running away with a league. I like to win leagues and this strategy has helped me do that with quite a bit of frequency over the past several years. I do not approach rankings that way though. My rankings are generated primarily from projections based on the past two years and just a little room for narrative/hunches. My rankings tend to be more conservative whereas my articles tend to delve more into my analysis, strategy, and preference.

      There is also the matter of tiers and cost. I think catchers ranked 3-13 are basically one big blob of a tier. Rankings are important but grouping similar talents into tiers is more important for fantasy. I would rather pay less for a player in the same tier. Part of my love for Ramos is that I believe he’s undervalued. That value is kept in mind when I say that I prefer him over all but 4 other catchers. I like the idea of having a catcher with top 3 upside when he is likely to be the 8th or 9th backstop off the board. That’s preferable to me over drafting steady Sal Perez at his likely ADP.

      Hope that clarifies where I’m coming from and that you will continue to read. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and to comment. We have a lot more draft materials coming soon. I am likely to write something about creating tiers for some of the other positions as well. I believe it may be one of the biggest advantages that you can give yourself at the draft table.

      Best,

      Mike

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