My Catchers in 2014: A Look Back

The Fantasy Assembly crew has covered all the bases (or maybe just home plate) with catching options from 2014 to 2015. It’s certainly a volatile group of players regarding their value, almost as bad as closers and saves. Will your catcher be one of the lucky few to net 500 AB? Do you need two active catchers, or just one? How much time will your guy miss due to the almost certain dings and dents that catchers take? Do you bother rostering a backup C in leagues with only one active slot, and can he play another position?

We have 2015 rankings for catcher coming up this week. Tommy has given you his reasoning why he hates Rosario and likes Martin. Ron made great comparisons between Grandal/Gomes and d’Arnaud/Wieters. As it turns out, I only rostered one of these six guys in my 2014 leagues: d’Arnaud in September. Therefore I thought I’d touch on the guys I used in my primary leagues, as well as my strategy during drafting and the season.

Weekly Lineup Leagues

When it comes to weekly lineups, the biggest thing to target for catchers is at bats. You don’t want a part-time catcher who may play a platoon or only catches certain starters on the team. If you can’t change your lineup often, then you want high AB guys who are also good at what they do. In 1 C weekly leagues, I give bumps up in value to the top names. That’s why I took Jonathan Lucroy and Yadier Molina in two of my three weekly lineups. Lucroy has a great bat for catcher, and the Brewers clearly wanted to keep him in the lineup every day because they played him at first for 19 games. He led all catchers in AB, which contributed to his league-leading runs, and he ranked second in 5×5 behind Posey.

As for Molina, he missed significant time in 2014, but the two previous seasons he had 505 AB, and when looking at 3-year averages, he was fourth in AB. As it turns out, he’s also fourth in overall 5×5 rankings for the 3-year average. When Molina went down in July, I was able to grab Stephen Vogt as my DL replacement. Vogt had a hot July and then cooled off considerably in August, but at least his AB total was in the mid-80s each month, so it was still a “set it and forget it” position for me until Molina returned.

My third weekly league was 5×5, and I played the waiver wire game. I gambled on Tyler Flowers in the hopes that his power would be enough to keep him starting. It turned out that the had very little power in the first half, but April saw his average soar with a crazy BABIP. He struggled in May, and when he showed no signs of improvement early in June, I switched to John Jaso. June was a down month for Jaso in average due to BABIP, but he still put up 10 R and 10 RBI, and he was hot in July. After Jaso went down with a concussion, I switched to Travis d’Arnaud, who has great long-term potential and showed it in September.

Daily Lineup Leagues

My daily leagues are points leagues. One is a 12-team dynasty auction league, and after top FA like Yadier went for far more than I wanted to pay, I picked up the cheap Dioner Navarro for a buck. It turned out to be a steal because Navarro was a full-time guy in Toronto, ranking #9 in AB at catcher. What’s more, he was the #8 catcher in points for that league, and at a buck he was tied for cheapest in the top-10, with most of the others sitting in the $12-20 range. In this league I didn’t have enough bench space to roster a backup C, but that’s where Navarro’s respectable playing time came in handy.

My second daily points is 15 teams, with one catcher. I started the year with a one-year flier on AJ Pierzynski. He had a fine first two months, and at least he didn’t hurt me. After AJ’s poor June, in July I opted for Wilson Ramos in the FA pool. Stephen Vogt found his way on my bench after July, because he’d done so well in my other league. However, Vogt only played on Ramos’ off days and when my 1B or DH was off. It was a good thing Ramos stayed healthy through the end of the season, because as I noted earlier, Vogt struggled from August onward. In this case, having a second catcher in a 1 C league didn’t help me. If you end up with two above-average catchers, then it can work better, but even most good catchers aren’t better than whoever you can plug into your DH slot. You’re probably better off filling a bench slot with someone who will play more often in your lineup.

Final Thoughts and 2015 Strategy

I said it many times throughout this piece: it greatly benefits my teams to have a full-time catcher who is near the top in AB for the position. All of these leagues were 1 C, and rarely would I have benefited from a backup option on my bench. Also, note that when I had a top C who was healthy, it was a set and forget roster slot.

If you plan to gamble on late-round pickups, I can’t blame you, but you’ll have to be active in your searches on the waiver wire in case things don’t work out. Flowers flopped, AJ lost playing time, and Jaso had concussion issues, which led to a revolving door at the position. I don’t need to overpay for a Posey, but general reliability in guys like Lucroy, Molina, and Salvador Perez go a long way toward easing my mind.

Kevin Jebens

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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.