“The Wizard of Goz” 2017 Hits & Misses Catcher Position
Everybody has tracks in life. Two of my favorites are fantasy sports and writing and so here I am. Special thanks to majorleaguefantasysports.com for providing me a forum this coming baseball season as a writer and a radio co-host with Brian Roche Jr, every Sunday from 7:30 pm- 9 pm E.S.T. The mania as far as fantasy sports started in baseball in 1987 and in football in 1991. I’ve played and been competitive in countless leagues ever since.
As far as sports writing, I served for a fledgling sports website as the Atlanta Braves and Falcons beat writer. On the fantasy side I wrote BUY/SELL articles in baseball and during football season as the Individual Defensive Players tipster. My goal is to make it thought- provoking with bold predictions mixed with common sense based strategical options. Last, and most important, is that your feedback counts: no holds barred.
Below you will see my maiden voyage at MLFS which analyzes CATCHERS that happened to be overrated and underrated based on last year’s trends and some of the boneheaded, as well as solid choices, I made last year.
Tom Murphy (COL)– 26 years old, homegrown talent, playing in Coors, flashed potential the previous September. The stars seemed aligned, right? NOT EXACTLY. A lousy thing happened on the way to sleeper pick hall of fame – a preseason broken wrist. Betting on injured players is risky business however and legions still took the plunge. But instead of seeing waves of homers, owners had to paddle into the maelstrom known as the free agent catcher pool for a long-term fix.
Evan Gattis (HOU)– increases in homers four straight years on a young team on the rise were positive signs. But then again, proper player evaluation requires deeper analysis. Three key factors for any player are means, motive and opportunity. Tipping point players are the ones that check all three boxes, have a modicum of health and perform as appropriately drafted. Let’s see how Oso Blanco did in 2017
- Means- a proven power hitter , only 30 years old and situated in a historically good hitters park
- Motive- for the first time in his career he had a shot at a ring
- Opportunity- looking back this was the RED FLAG. The villain of the story was the Astros addition of veteran Brian McCann who was regarded better defensively and a leader. In addition, he BATS LEFTHANDED on a team overloaded with righty batters. The good news was that Gattis got the ring. But, despite being mentioned as main DH, he ended up losing beaucoup playing time (174 fewer at bats than in the previous season). This was a crap sandwich for an owner knowing that the pedestrian 12 homers and 50 RBI that Gattis produced could have more than likely been acquired on the cheap
Kyle Schwarber (CHC)– even before the spectacular outfield crash that caused him to miss most of 2016, his days were numbered at catcher. Nonetheless thanks to the standard but goofy position eligibility rule he remained listed at catcher. Millions of dynasty owners and redraft owners rejoiced. But those smiles got flipped once the season started and by June 22 Schwarbs was sent to the minors to get it together. In spite of a solid last few months, his strike outs almost doubled from previous levels and his average crashed to a clownish .211. He did manage to belt 32 homers but had a measly 59 RBI. All in all a train wreck of massive proportions.
Jonathan Lucroy (COL/TEX)– bluntly – he stunk. He will rue the day he told Cleveland no thanks. Going into last year he was no less than a top four talent but proceeded to hit six homers in over 400 at bats. Not a misprint: in a year featuring a record 6,105 homers, a guy that played in arguably the two best hitting parks in America tanked big time and cost owners accordingly.
Austin Barnes (LAD)– Strictly a desperation pickup who rode a hot streak all the way to the World Series. This is a classic case of a late bloomer whose defense and athleticism got him through the door. Barnes excelled as an afterthought pickup especially in the dreaded two catcher slot leagues. Always known as a superior contact hitter, last year he discovered some pop (8 HRS and 38 RBI), had an eye-popping .408 on base average (batted.289). The epitome of an outstanding plug and play pickup.
Kurt Suzuki (ATL)– a great example of a guy who got a new lease on life, in this case, with the Braves. This guy toiled in relative obscurity, mostly in two of the worst hitters parks imaginable — Oakland and, more recently, Minnesota. So how does a seasoned veteran (33 years old) lose playing time and yet crack a career high 19 homers (more than his last three years combined) with a .538 slugging percentage? Other than the obvious new league/pitchers-didn’t–know-him factor and the happier Sun Trust Park hitting matrix, I couldn’t tell you. What I can say for sure is, if you picked this guy in the end game Nostradamus got nothing on you.
Yadier Molina (STL)– a true icon in today’s game who is best known as an incredible defensive player more flexible than Gumby. Off the field he resembles an aging L.A gang member (more tattoos than you can count). But on it, he is the guiding light. As far as fantasy is concerned, in the past he’d be a guy you’d pick to avoid picking a dreg. He plays a ton and has always hit for average but normally, not a viable heart-of-the-order presence. Last year was a different story. Simply put, Molina was a squirrel no more. While his average dipped to a still respectable .273 he cracked 18 bombs and had a career high 82 RBI. Tremendous season.
Mike Zunino (SEA)– As a hitter this guy was a force in the minors but up until last year you’d have to go to page two of the WELL BELOW THE MENDOZA LINE list to find him. Regardless, last year at the age of 26 he broke out in a big way with 25 homers and, for him, a great .251 batting average. And all of this was despite of being a whiffing machine (35% rate) and playing in the wasteland known as Seattle. Surely, most fantasy owners weren’t too pumped up about a guy that spent the previous four years on the AAA to the Show shuttle. For those that believed in the Z man , kudos and I hope you didn’t spend it all in one place.
The paradigm for catchers has evolved over the years from that of a position filled with oafish, defensive minded, bottom -of- the- order hitters to today’s crew of leaner run producers that crack plenty of long balls.
Drafting a team is nothing more than a series of decisions. Ordinarily a catcher is one of the easier decisions to make because there are basically three options
- go for one of the big guns
- stay in your lane with a mid-level type
- just pick a scrap off the heap in the end game
Over the course of a long season there are plenty of times to do the River Gambler thing. It’s exhilarating being the guy orchestrating the big trade, making a successful jump bid or picking the right rookie. But when it comes to catcher think RISK REDUCTION due to the indisputable facts that the catcher position will: a.increase your chance of injury, b. guarantee you fewer AB’s than other position players and c. limit your ability to be a stats stuffer (produce good stats in three or more categories).
PRUDENT PLAY TIP don’t be a skinflint- but set a limit of $5 (auction) and 12th round maximum (snake). Based on the current depth of the catcher pool there is no reason that you can’t finagle solid numbers ( 20HR- 60RBI- OPS >.750) for your team’s bottom line.
Thanks for reading the piece. Next week the real digging begins with 1B RANKS (PART 1) – SEE PREVIEW BELOW
30. C.J Cron (LAA)- smoked the ball last summer after returning from AAA. Still not old at 28. If you believe he finally “got it” AND that Pujols is washed grab him to bolster bench.
29. Logan Morrison (Free Agent)- calling what he did last year a career year – 38 HRS/85 RBI/ .868 OPS -would be like calling Einstein a tad smart. Valid only if he finds the right home.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday February 11th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #97 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. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a tenured writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Click on his name to see his portfolio of writing. His main focus is in the pitching arena.