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“Tranquilo” – The Catcher Conundrum

Raise your hand if you’d like more production for your catcher. It’s a tough spot to fill. Do you want to invest an early pick in a top-shelf player or punt on the spot on pick up below average contributor later in the draft?

Posey

The face of fantasy catchers

It’s a conundrum that gives fantasy owners headaches. One way to address the problem, if you play in dynasty or keeper leagues, is to invest in catching prospects. It’s a high risk, high reward deal but hitting on one will make your life easier in the long term. Consider it.

Last week we reflected on premium defensive positions and the superiority of carrying bat-first shortstop prospects on your fantasy league MiLB roster. Catcher is another premium defensive position but with a vastly different profile than shortstop.  

MLB-caliber defense behind the dish requires technique and repetition that dominates a prospect catcher’s preparation time. Leadership, baseball acumen, and defensive prowess are prerequisites while offensive production is a secondary asset. Catchers can get reps in the cage once all their other prep work is done.

There is an impressive fraternity of defense-only catchers and there are plenty more to come. They’ll have prosperous careers in MLB but are no use to fantasy hounds. As a result, it seems like the majority of fantasy owners steer clear of any catching prospects. But, imagine a future where you do worry about finding production from your catcher. You invested in a catching prospect that paid off!

This is not advising you to annually focus your MiLB capital on catching prospects. Rather, it is a reminder to take a step back before your next MiLB draft and reflect upon the possibility of drafting a catcher. Fantasy owners are restless and catching prospects require patience, but there is valuable to be found. You need to choose the right time to capitalize on it because, when you find the right one, the reward exceeds the risk.


The question we need to ask is this: what type of scouting profile do we searching for and identify as worthy of taking the risk in investing in a catching prospect? There are two options that both deserve consideration

1) With this guy, it will vary which tools scouts praise first. JT Realmutorealmuto1280_hdbc57j3_l0ak66gy is the darling of this prospect profile. Most evaluators will highlight this prospect’s defense but there’s also praise for his offense.  There’s no doubt this prospect will stay behind the plate on defense but he also offers promise in the batters’ box. Neither the hit for average or hit for power tool are particularly loud but there aren’t any glaring holes in the profile. It is a lower risk, lower ceiling profile that will offer steady at-bats and generally won’t dent your ratio categories.  Sure beats relying on Jesus Sucre off the waiver wire! Below is the lowest range of scouting grades that warrant consideration from fantasy owners.

Fielding

55

55

65

60

60

60

Hit for Power

40

45

50

40

45

50

Hit for Average

50

45

40

50

45

40

2) This is the preferred catching prospect for the fantasy community because this profile is spearheaded by the player’s offensive capabilities. This guy is a fringy defensive catcher that generates debate amongst the scouting community as to his future behind the plate.

There are some believers sprinkled in amongst an army of doubters. ct-kyle-schwarber-called-up-cubs-spt-0616-20150615However, the offensive tools offer promise and even the doubters think the offense may carry him Players like Kyle Schwarber fit this mold. The wild card is whether they’ll stay behind the dish. Fingers crossed he catches enough to maintain eligibility but if not his fantasy value takes a hit. So how much do you believe in the bat? Just like above, here are the lowest range of scouting grades that warrant consideration.

 

Fielding

40

40

40

45

45

45

Hit for Power

50

55

50

50

55

50

Hit for Average

50

55

60

50

55

60

*Please note that the fielding grades below combine the fielding and arm strength grades into one number. For fantasy purposes, we do not need both grades because we are merely trying to gauge his future as a defender. The specific defensive qualities he profiles is of no concern to us. We will leave the MLB front offices to worry about that. 

*Furthermore, these are future profile grades which scouts conclude upon through evaluation of a player’s baseball tools, body type, physical projection, and makeup. A 50 grade is a league average player.


So where do the current catching prospects fit into this framework? 

There are a few prospects from each profile that I propose are worthy of consideration depending on your league depth. Obviously, in a shallow format it is imprudent to invest in Meibrys Viloria but, in deeper leagues, right now is the time to buy. A solid understanding of your league format and opponents will help you find the appropriate time to make the move on a catching prospect.

Below are two catching projects that offer valuable upside that fit the framework laid out above. Let’s review their profiles:

Carson Kelly is a prototype of the first profile. Scouts rave about his defense prowess but carson kellyare also impressed with his improvements as a hitter. He’s viewed as a guy with respectable power that understands what he’s doing in the batters’ box. His defense leaves no doubt about his future in MLB but he also won’t hurt you on offense. He’s the type of guy that will accumulate counting stats because he plays every day but will do so without hurting your ratio categories. Kind of like a poor man’s JP Realmuto because he doesn’t offer any stolen base potential.

The flip side of that coin is Chance Sisco. SiscoThere are plenty of believer in the defense but doubts still linger so not everyone in the scouting community is sold because of his slightly below average arm strength and fringe-average fielding. However, on offense, he shines. He’s an advanced hitter at only 22 years old and projects to have at least average power. This is a plus offensive profile from a catcher and defense is fringy, but there is hope.

Both have risk associated with their profile but, for me, it is outweighed by the future reward. If I had to choose between the two I’d select Carson Kelly. It’s the lower reward of the two but also the lower risk because there is no doubt he stays behind the dish. Chance Sisco could reach his high offensive potential but not have a future behind the dish. In that case, his bat far less valuable.


There is only catching prospect in MiLB right now that deserves universal ownership no matter the depth of your MiLB roster, Francisco Mejia of the Cleveland Indians.  He profiles as an above-average defender with a plus hit tool and at least league average power. He’s a slam dunk.

Mejia

Mejia is as close to a fantasy gem behind the plate as they come.

The other that warrants consideration in shallow leagues is Jorge Alfaro. Aided by his proximity, Alfaro offers plus, plus power but has plenty of holes in his swing that have created some strikeout issues. It appears he’ll make the cut as a defender behind the dish but there’s also still a slim chance he’s moved to the outfield. Either way, many feel his bat will play.

These are the easy picks. Once you get beyond them it is essential to consider your league format and roster depth. When do you need to grab these catching prospects before another owner does? For some, it’s when they reach AA while others in deeper formats need to grab a prospect once he’s succeeded in or Low-A or Rookie-Ball.

Ask yourself: how does this shake out in your league? No one should know your league better than you, and your expertise will help you exploit your opponents’ disregard for catching prospects. Before signing off consider these options. sfl-zack-collins-honored-canes-ranked-in-preseason-polls-20150120

First, there is Zack Collins. The jury is still out on whether he’ll fit the defensive requirements behind the plate but his bat is exceptional. Even if he does move, the bat will play. Fantasy owners love betting on bats so you should double down on Collins. If he sticks behind the plate his value soars.

 

The other guy I recommend for those in deep league formats is Meibrys Viloria. He’s far from a finished product, but the 2013 international signee Viloriaout of Columbia has demonstrated promising progression so far in his professional career. He’s a bat-first guy that won the Rookie-level Pioneer League MVP last season after slashing .376/.436/.606. He has the profile of a bat-first catcher that will contribute a dozen home runs with a respectable batting average from behind the dish.

 

 

 

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 30th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #85 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, a 5 year veteran in MLFB leagues, and a really handsome guy. His articles publish every Sunday. He helps “Pick Your Spots” for the coming week.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

Native Mainer. Ski the East. I enjoy dynasty league formats and am partial to Latin American prospects. Currently living in the Dominican Republic.

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