Why You Shouldn’t Play Your Catcher Eligible Stud at 1B

It usually happens innocently enough. You really covet that elite catcher on draft day so you invest heavily in Buster Posey, Joe Mauer or Carlos Santana and because of how the draft flows, you never really get the right value on an elite first base option. You then whiff on your mid-round selection of Ike Davis or Ryan Howard. Or maybe the big bat you do draft gets injured (looking at you Mr. Pujols). Now what do you do?

 Come May, you see Jonathan Lucroy sitting on the free agent list, so you grab him. Since Lucroy holds down the C position very admirably and Buster is the best 1B option on your roster, the solution seems simple, right?

 Not so fast. Just because Posey, Mauer and Santana are 1B eligible does not mean you should play them in that spot as more than a temporary fill-in. If Posey is your best first basemen and you have another serviceable catcher whom you feel comfortable with, then you have one course of action. You must trade Posey. If you don’t, you are grossly mismanaging the assets on your roster.

 Because of the physical demands of the catcher position, the production for most is nowhere near their counterparts at other positions. Nearly all catchers need days off each week and many see their offensive numbers suffer because of nagging injuries and the exacting toll that defending the position can take on a player.

Don’t believe me? Try getting in and out of a catcher’s squat 15-20 times over a 10 minute period. Repeat that process 9 more times. How do you think your legs will feel during that 9th inning AB? Now consider all the times that a catcher gets pounded by a foul tip or has to sacrifice his body to block the plate during a close play. There is good reason most catchers sit for day games following night games.

 Still don’t believe me? Let’s look at some numbers. Here is some ADP data from 2013 drafts, courtesy of fantasypros.com:

Player ADP
P.Fielder 12.4
B.Posey 15.5
E.Encarnacion 31.9
A.Gonzalez 35.8
B.Butler 46.2
A.Craig 50.3
P.Goldschmidt 50.5
J.Mauer 50.8
C.Santana 60.6
F.Freeman 73.9
M.Trumbo 83

When I attempt to value players, I always ask myself the following question: If my league were to draft today, where would this player be selected? Now, obviously some of the players from the list above will be valued much differently heading into 2014 but their 2013 ADP still gives us an idea of the type of 1B options that get drafted at the same time as the elite catchers. Looking at ADP data gives us an idea about which players were similarly valued during 2013 draft season.

Now let’s see how production compared from the 2013 season:

Player R HR RBI SB BA Rank 1B Rank
P.Fielder 82 25 106 1 .279 46 11
B.Posey 61 15 72 2 .294 156 25
E.Encarnacion 90 36 104 7 .272 21 6
A.Gonzalez 69 22 100 1 .293 67 12
B.Butler 62 15 82 0 .289 143 24
A.Craig 71 13 97 2 .315 68 14
P.Goldschmidt 103 36 125 15 .302 5 2
J.Mauer 62 11 47 0 .327 197 31
C.Santana 75 20 74 3 .269 129 22
F.Freeman 89 23 109 1 .319 16 3
M.Trumbo 85 34 100 5 .234 66 13

-Ranks are pulled from Y!’s 5×5 player rater

-Rank is the player’s overall ranking

-1B rank is how that player ranks when compared to all other 1B eligible players on Y!

This chart tells most of the story. It lists the next eleven 1B eligible players that were drafted after round 1.  Of these players, seven of them produced top 70 overall value and were inside the top 15 players at 1B. Who were the 4 players that finished outside the top 20 1Bs? You guessed it, they were Posey, Santana, Mauer and Royals’ DH Billy Butler. Players like Daniel Nava, Chris Johnson, Brandon Moss and Daniel Murphy who weren’t even on most drafters’ radar in March ended up out-producing Posey and Mauer.

Unless you are comfortable watching your premier catcher toil away while masquerading as a low-end 1B, you must act if you find yourself in this position. You drafted that catcher where you did because of his ability to produce at an extremely scarce position. If you then go ahead and stick him at the most talent rich position in fantasy baseball, you essentially give away the advantage for which you paid top dollar. Posey would be worth more to another owner in need of a catcher upgrade than he is to you as a 1B.

The answer here is to trade your stud catcher. Chances are there is someone in your league who will give you a more productive asset in exchange. Posey was drafted in the 2nd round after all. Despite his relative struggles in 2013, he is still worth 3rd or 4th round value in trade. This means that you would be looking at players like Craig, Hosmer or Pujols in 1 for 1 trades if a deal were to go down today. Who would you rather have at 1B? The numbers don’t lie.

I know what you are thinking. What about Posey’s 2012 season? Wouldn’t those stats play nicely at 1B? Sure they would. The thing is, if his numbers are good enough to make him a valuable 1B, think how much more valuable he is as a catcher when the next best option puts up a line like Santana’s 2013 campaign. You could land a 1B with similar production and an ace pitcher from an owner hard up for catcher production.

Position scarcity is tremendously valuable. Make sure you are using it to your advantage. Don’t be fooled by the depth at the catcher position. Just because there are many catchers who can post serviceable fantasy numbers does not mean those numbers would be serviceable at another position in your line-up.

Tommy Landseadel

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Tommy is also known as tlance on the CBS and Sports Hoopla message boards. He has been playing fantasy baseball for 16 years in many different format types and looks forward to helping you with your fantasy baseball questions! You can now follow me on Twitter @tlandseadel

2 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Play Your Catcher Eligible Stud at 1B”

  1. There are a few people in my keeper league that use catchers at first base and it drives me nuts. Hopefully they read this.

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