Tuesday, February 12, 2013

RotoBaller Rankings: 2013 Catcher Rankings with ADP Comparison

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Miguel Montero

In less than two weeks, pitchers and catchers will start working out the winter’s kinks– that’s right, folks, baseball is nigh! Nigh, I say! Since the time could not more ripe for some frank and well-considered rankings discussion, I have compiled RotoBaller’s first rankings release of the 2013 season, appropriately focused on… you guessed it: pitchers and catchers (though not necessarily in that order). It’s time to strap on your tools of ignorance and get ready to run through the signs with RotoBaller’s 2013 Catcher Ranking Preview!
Before we get to the preliminary rankings, two notes: first, there has long been debate as to whether and how much to invest in a top-tier catcher, under what circumstances an owner should spend that late-first/early-second round pick or bid in excess of $30 at auction for a premiere guy. Let me set the record straight: don’t do it. If you play in a single-catcher format, it’s very hard for a first-round catcher to make good on your expectations. Optimistic projections for an everyday catcher are that he will reach only about 520 ABs, and that’s a problem: if you’re deciding between Posey and, say, Carlos Gonzalez or Giancarlo Stanton, I think you’ve gotta go with the everyday ABs and the less risky defensive position.
Note the lack of quantitative differences between the ~500 ABs each catcher produces in a season; it’s just not substantial enough to warrant overpaying for the #1 guy. If both are healthy, Posey and Yadier will be separated by only a handful of bombs and a few BA points, so why spend a first-round pick if you can get an equivalent replacement three rounds later? There are ALWAYS draft-day bargains to be had in single-catcher leagues. Lo, bargains! And in the 2013 crop, ladies and gentlemen, there are bargains, indeed.
So let’s take a look at the rankings. I’ve included some ADP data where it’s available, and I’ll keep this updated as Yahoo, ESPN, etc. make their leagues’ draft results available. As you can see, I’m projecting that the fantasy impact of the catcher position will be distributed among three distinct tiers in 2013:

In that first tier, the guy I’m higher on than many is Wilin Rosario. I just love his raw power, and his age and home park make me salivate. Rosario is perfect example of a guy that you could easily wait on (8th round or later) instead of investing in a Mauer, Molina or Napoli. The COL catcher is still really young, (just about to celebrate his 24th birthday,) and also still very much under the radar despite an explosive second-half in 2012– all of which is more than you can say about Carlos Santana or Matt Wieters.
Two other guys I want to highlight are Alex Avila and John Jaso. These are players who are perfect targets for the late-round catcher draft strategy in deeper single-catcher formats. Entering into a good-side platoon (LH-hitter) could actually increase Jaso’s BA upside, since he’ll likely get to 420+ ABs while avoiding LH pitching. Avila, too, should be healthy and productive: look for him to hit 15+ HR, right in line with most of his tier-mates.
The tiers are really the point that these guys drive home: in that third tier, most of those players are basically interchangeable. If there’s a run on catchers, that’s all the more reason not to take the bait early. Once all the other owners have their guys, they’ll likely forgo drafting a second C, so you should feel liberated, not pressured. In a 12-team single-catcher league, any of those third-tier catchers (provided he has the job) is totally serviceable, and each is equally risky. Let someone else pay full retail for the risk while you take what’s left, at zero opportunity cost.

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