Draft This, Not That: Catchers

This will be the start of a series of write ups that focuses on early ADP data to find where similar statistical gain can be had significantly later in drafts which will allow you to maximize upside with your earlier picks.

On Friday, our Fantasy Assembly crew will unveil our 2015 Composite Rankings for Catchers. If you can find a site that tells you to draft your catcher early, they must be catering to people who play in 15-team, three-catcher leagues. By telling you to wait on catcher in 2015 I am just playing the broken record for you. Same draft strategy, different year. I tend to like more well-rounded stat options and big time arms when some people are looking at locking up their catcher far too early.

In identifying potential 2015 Catcher Bounce Back candidates back in a September write-up, I identified that last season, “you had just as solid a chance of landing one of 2014’s top 10 statistical outputs at the catcher position if you had waited into the 11-20 range of catcher ADP than if you spent an earlier round pick to ensure you landed one of the consensus top 10 heading into 2014 drafts.”

Furthermore, I am a strong believer that you are not going to win your league because you made sure to lock up Evan Gattis before the consensus top 10 catchers evaporates from you draft board. You might win your league because you passed on Gattis and took the upside of Rusney Castillo instead though. Similarly, you are not going to win your league because you felt the need to get trigger happy on a steady option such as Yadier Molina but you might win your league if you snag pitcher Carlos Carrasco and his immense upside. Catcher picks are boring because catchers typically do not separate themselves from the pack enough to enforce the need to land a top option at the position.

Here are a couple of examples of guy I feel you should pass on for specific options that should be available much later in 2015 drafts:

Draft Yasmani Grandal, Not Yan Gomes

There is nothing wrong with Yan Gomes at all. He is a fine player and a productive one at that. The problem for me is that he is going off the board in the early going at an ADP of 104. 104 is not the time to be taking the average run of the mill catcher, which let’s face it is anyone outside of Buster Posey at this point. Nobody is going to win their league because they snagged Yan Gomes at 104. This is the time to be drafting potential game changers such as Kolten Wong, Mookie Betts, Jorge Soler. Alex Wood, Jacob deGrom, or Sean Doolittle are pitchers that can be had at or around the 104 ADP mark.

What are we drafting Gomes for anyway? Power, right? I mean, he is not going to hit .300, drive in 90, or score 80. He gives you a solid chance at a healthy handful of home runs which is why last year, he was in the same position Yasmani Grandal is in going into 2015. Speaking of last year that was probably about as good as it is going to get for Gomes.

In pulling off the 61/21/74/0/.278 slash line it appears Gomes has some parallels to what can be expected of Grandal in 2015. Since it is the home runs we are after let’s start there. Gomes hit fly balls at a rate of 38.4% with a HR/FB rate of 14.4% to pull off his 21 HR in 518 PAs. Last year, Grandal was getting reacquainted with the game following a PED suspension and knee surgery the previous couple seasons. To hit his 15 home runs in 443 PAs, Grandal hit fly balls at a rate of 38.1% with a HR/FB rate of 14.7%. Those numbers are eerily similar to what Gomes gave us in 2014.

Grandal was a little unlucky with his BABIP of .277 that along with his slightly elevated K rate of 26% led to just a .225 batting average. Gomes on the other hand had a BABIP of .326 with a K rate of 23.2% to pull off his .278 average. Like Gomes, Grandal consistently posted a BABIP in the .300+ range throughout his time in the minor leagues and even pushed that number to .293 in the second half of 2014. A higher batting average can be expected from Grandal in 2015.

You have to like that Grandal is out of San Diego, even though Dodger Stadium tends to favor pitchers as well. Also encouraging is that Grandal is just hitting his physical prime at 26 years old. One more nugget is that only seven players posted an average fly ball distance greater than Grandal’s 304.13 feet in 2014. He had some impressive company just ahead of him in the form of Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Abreu, and George Springer. Gomes checked in at a respectable 290.65 feet in the category.

Yasmani Grandal does most of his damage from the left side which will benefit his playing time even if AJ Ellis takes the lion’s share of games against left-handed starters. That, along with the fact the Dodgers targeted Grandal because of his pitch framing ability should keep his bat in the lineup close to 125 games. Benefiting from eight extra games at DH, Gomes played in 135 games last year.

I believe it is reasonable to expect a 50/18/60/3/.250 slash line as a floor from Grandal in 2015.  If you opt to go for upside elsewhere and pass on Gomes, Grandal might be had near his current ADP of 214. At the 214 ADP mark, you might be looking at hitters such as Arismendy Alcantara, Carl Crawford, or Rajai Davis. If you find yourself looking for a pitcher around the 214 ADP mark you may opt for Tanner Roark, Homer Bailey, or Santiago Casilla.

Ask yourself this, would you rather have:

Mookie Betts and Yasmani Grandal or Carl Crawford and Yan Gomes
Kolten Wong and Yasmani Grandal or Arismendy Alcantara and Yan Gomes
Alex Wood and Yasmani Grandal or Homer Bailey and Yan Gomes
Sean Doolittle and Yasmani Grandal or Santiago Casilla and Yan Gomes

I will take the first option in all of those scenarios. There is simply little to no upside with any of the latter options above.

Draft Travis d’Arnaud, Not Matt Wieters

Admittedly, this is not as shocking as the 110 pick difference between Grandal and Gomes in the lead of this write-up. With d’Arnaud and Wieters we are currently talking about a difference of 47 picks between them based on early ADP data. Wieters is currently coming off the board at 138 versus 185 for d’Arnaud.

Whereas I felt Gomes was a perfectly productive player and could be reasonably expected to produce again in 2015, Wieters simply comes with too many question marks. There are some things to like such as his production spike at the end of the 2013 season that seemed to carry over to the 2014 season. That sample size is pretty small for the often overhyped Wieters who has largely failed to deliver the level of upside so many people expected from him. Coming off a season mostly lost to Tommy John surgery, I worry it might take Wieters a while to rediscover the stroke he started to put together before going under the knife. With this many question marks I find it hard to spend anywhere near a 138th overall pick to make him a part of my 2015 plan.

Travis d’Arnaud is kind of the new Wieters. Entering the 2015 season, d’Arnaud will be 26 years old which might come as a surprise to many given that his career is just starting to take off. Catchers often take a little while longer to develop and that has certainly been the case with d’Arnaud. What d’Arnaud has in common with Wieters is pedigree. Each was a first round draft pick and expected from day one to become something great. Wieters has proven to be something average though the bar was admittedly set higher for him by scouts than it has been for d’Arnaud.

The question marks surrounding Wieters who will have only seen a couple of months of game speed pitching in the past 17 months once Spring Training gets under way in February is one reason I am willing to wait nearly 50 picks to select d’Arnaud instead. Another is a compliment to the development of d’Arnaud who made major strides as the 2014 season played out.

2014’s second half saw d’Arnaud post a 30/7/22/0/.265 slash line in just 211 plate appearances. Extrapolate that out to 500 plate appearances and d’Arnaud looks really appealing as a late catcher grab. In the case of d’Arnaud versus Wieters, I am telling you to absolutely skip Wieters and just realize there are upside options like d’Arnaud available later on.

Draft This: Not That
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Outfield Part 1 Outfield Part 2 – Pitcher Part 1 – Pitchers Part 2 – Relievers

9 thoughts on “Draft This, Not That: Catchers”

  1. Nice piece Ron!

    Drafting in general is all about value, but you hit the nail on the head with regards to the catcher position. If you are not getting an elite option, you best wait on those picks or at least not reach.

    1. Thanks, Tommy. I’m certainly not re-inventing the wheel here or anything but I think it helps to consider what a catcher/outfielder combination or a catcher/pitcher combination could look like depending on if you spent the early pick on the catcher or waited.

  2. So, is Posey good enough to justify his ADP at the position or is it simply best to just punt the Top 10 catchers, including Posey?

  3. Buster Posey is probably the one true catcher I would consider making the exception for and it would largely depend what size league I am playing in and whether or not two catchers were required.

  4. In a 2 catcher, 12 team roto league, is it important to get one of the top catchers in say the 1st 8-10 rounds?

    1. I don’t think it is vital to grab a catcher early, but if others fail to adjust their draft boards, it can be a terrific investment in two catcher leagues. The one thing I will try to do is make sure I am avoiding the dregs toward the bottom of the list. While I might not reach for a catcher early in 2 C leagues, I will usually draft two top 16 options.

    2. I’m right there with Tommy on his response. If someone falls and becomes a value pick, great! I usually prefer to just target two catchers in the 10-16 range of my rankings rather than aim for a top tier option paired with a 20-24 ranked catcher. A pairing of guys like d’Arnaud, Grandal, or MMontero will work just fine and can be had beyond pick 150 and perhaps even beyond pick 200 in most drafts. Vogt and Jaso are nice options for deeper formats too.

  5. Who would you rank higher, d’Arnaud or Grandal? I made my catcher pick late, and ended up with Jaso – but im thinking of moving to one of these 2.

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