Ah yes, the ever fickle catcher position. The amount of proven consistency at the backstop slot, for fantasy purposes, is not all that great. Well, maybe I am overstating that. There is not a ton of proven good consistency. I mean who are the studs at catcher entering 2015? Posey’s a given, of course, but how’s about after that? Carlos Santana still has eligibility in some leagues and is still providing fantasy goodness (somewhat) on the right side of 30, so I’ll give ya Santana as well. Okay, but after that? I guess, maybe, Yadier Molina could be in that conversation as well, but he is on the wrong side of 30, which usually spells trouble, especially for a catcher. Yadi is not exactly what I would call a “power” hitter to begin with and, while he should hit for average, I don’t see him being a fantasy stud, by any means. To be fair, most catchers won’t be considered fantasy studs overall, we’re sticking to fantasy “studliness” as it pertains to the catcher position.
After the three mentioned in the opening paragraph, it’s not like there is nothing good available, just nothing in the realm of consistent and proven fantasy goodness….yet. After the aforementioned “big” three you’ve got the “young’uns” law firm of Gomes, Lucroy and Mesoraco. Those three finished six, four and three among catchers on the 2014 ESPN Player Rater, respectably. Naturally, they will have some decent hype coming into 2015 and I won’t argue that all three are not potential top ten catchers. The thing is, all three have a somewhat limited major league sample size.
Mesoraco really only has two seasons under his belt, and only one of them (last season) was chock full of fantasy goodness. One thing that lead to such fantasy goodness was a 20.5% HR/FB ratio. Mesoraco does call a hitters park home, but nevertheless I think that number is bound to back down to earth. Messy is still gonna give you pop, but I think you will see a drop in the production numbers. His BABIP also seemed high for him, and I think you will see a big drop in the average department. I am not saying Mesoraco is dropping to below average or that he can’t replicate his 2014 season in 2015, per se. What I am saying is I am just not quite sold, on Mesoraco replicating 2014.
Lucroy has been solid the past three seasons, so that is actually a fairly decent sample size and, although, at face value, Jonny seemed to have his best offensive season in 2014, he was the number four catcher on the ESPN Player Rater in both 2014 and 2013. I am not quite as bullish on Lucroy as some, but I think he is a catcher that has a very good chance of duplicating his 2014 numbers. For me, I think that lands him just outside the top five and may be one of the closest to providing consistent fantasy goodness.
Yan Gomes, the Yanimal, is more in the Mesoraco boat, here, just one season of relevant fantasy goodness in the majors. I think you may see a production drop from Yanimal in 2015 as well but, like the previous two catchers I mentioned, I am not saying they are not good. In fact, I think they will probably all finish in the top ten at the position but, what I am driving at is the sample size is fairly small right now. So, rather than pay for 2014 numbers, why not try to find 2015’s Yan Gomes, Jonathan Lucroy or Devin Mesoraco? Enter Travis d’Arnaud.
Alright, only took five paragraphs to get here, but sometimes the journey is the most important part, said someone famous, once, maybe? The whole breadth of Travis d’Arnaud’s 2014 is not spectacular. It rarely is when you get sent down to Triple-A in the middle of the season. Let’s strike the numbers from before he was sent down, from the record and focus on the post call-up numbers. For starters, in the three-month span after he returned to the Mets, d’Arnaud had an ISO of .209. To isolate that isolated power number, only 16 hitters who qualified for the batting title, topped that number in 2014. For even more context, only two catchers topped that mark in 2014. Evan Gattis and Devin Mesoraco. some good power guys, for sure. Pretty good, but what else I got, you ask? Oh, I’ll oblige.
In the second half of 2014, d’Arnaud was top six amongst (not a word, but I’m making it one) catchers in home runs (4th), ISO (4th), wRC+ (5th) and wOBA (6th). That landed him in the company of Posey, Mesoraco and Lucroy. Good company, huh? In the last two months of the 2014 season, d’Arnaud had a slash line of .280/.335/.510. That’s a pretty darned (sorry for cussing) nice, am I right? If I was offered those numbers from my fantasy catcher, I would respond with an enthusiastic “YES PLEASE!” Of course, cause I know you so well, I can read your mind and to answer your question, no, it’s not necessarily all puppies and rainbows.
I spent a good deal of time, earlier in this piece (you were there), writing about small sample sizes, and, well d’Arnaud has the smallest sample size of all the aforementioned backstops. I am not disagreeing with that and understand that there are no guarantees, because of the size of said sample. What I also understand, however, is, d’Arnaud changed his approach at the plate to obtain that second half fantasy goodness and, while he is no more proven than any of the other catchers I have mentioned today, he will come at a far cheaper price.
I don’t realistically expect that d’Arnaud’s second half numbers will translate over a full season and to do so, I think we would all agree, would be foolhardy. d’Arnaud has an aggressive new approach at the plate which lead to more contact and, more importantly, more hard contact. Maybe this is a bold prediction, but I feel like d’Arnaud will not only be 2015’s Yan Gomes, but will finish in the top five at the catcher position. The early rankings and mock draft ADPs have him as the number 16 or 17 catcher to come off the board. I am betting d’Arnaud and Gomes have similar seasons, but the difference right now is, you can get d’Arnaud roughly six or seven round later. Now that’s the value I’m looking for!