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“The Wizard of Goz” Catchers- 2018 HITS and MISSES

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The model for catchers has evolved over the years from  a position filled with oafish, defensive minded, lousy hitters to today’s crew of leaner run producers with plenty of power. Some of them even are decent enough assets to play in the field or DH on occasion.

Drafting a team is nothing more than a series of decisions. Ordinarily a catcher is arguably the easiest decision to make since there are only three paths

  • go for one of the big guns
  • pick a mid-level safe type (after four or five catchers are off the board)
  • just pick a scrap off the heap in the end game

The big caveat is the obvious fact that the catcher position is easily the most injury prone (other than pitchers perhaps!). If you seek “THE MAN” and he finds the abyss you may put your team in a trench that may be untenable.

2018 BOOMS

Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh

After managing only 13 homers in the previous three seasons he powdered 12 in only 332 at bats last year. Additional contributions were 57 RBI and an excellent .809 OPS . All in all, the Venezuela native provided a stable presence on fantasy teams, more than likely, from the garbage bin. Every year, Cervelli types emerge from the catcher position- nothing spectacular but players that can inch you to glory.

Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay (N.Y Mets in 2018)

Despite missing a lot of time due to a hamstring injury, The Buffalo was an instrumental part of the comeuppance for the Rays. In only 293 at bats he pummeled 14 homers and had 53 RBI with a stellar .834 OPS. Even as a mid level pick at his position this was a plus play even though he only played in 78 games. The reason being that you’d have found another catcher to fill the spot in his absence. Conservatively speaking, in a standard one catcher league you’d find an MLB starter in the free agent pool that would have whacked a handful of homers, driven in some runs and didn’t drain batting average. Add it all up, Ramos and whoever combine for 22 homers with 80 RBI and the catcher position would have been an asset.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rangers

Contrary to logic, there are plenty of two catcher leagues out there. Last year, this guy would have provided value at little or no cost. The stats alone, 4 HR-34 RBI-7 SB- .261 AVG, were unimpressive but the fact that he played a lot of games at C (35),  3B (46) and 2B (20) made him worthwhile. Talk to any knowledgeable owner that was in an AL only, two catcher mash up and they’ll tell you that he was a useful spare part.

2018 BUSTS

Gary Sanchez, Yankees

Last year I knew to stay away from this guy. Not because I knew he’d play a meager 89 games, nor hit .186, nor crack only 18 homers. I stayed away for two VERY LOGICAL REASONS, cost and regression worry.

The cost was immense- in the eight leagues I was in he was grabbed in the 2nd- 4th round region. which was similar to industry rankings. In order to justify this kind of respect I’m talking minimum numbers or 35-100-.280. Surely manageable in that lineup, in that launching pad for the youngster, right? Picking Sanchez early was an EDGE PLAY, in other words my catcher will blow away the other catchers by a mile.

The potential of further regression lurked, even for a 24 year old, based on the back of the baseball card. In 2016, he undeniably took the league by storm- easily the biggest power threat at the position since Johnny Bench. Banging 20 homers in 201 at bats is video game stuff especially for a catcher. In addition, he batted .299 ,had 42 RBI and an OPS of 1.032. This guy had baseball fans, even the Yankee haters very impressed. And then came 2017.

At a glance the return on investment in year two was satisfactory based on strong power numbers (33 HR) as well as 90 RBI. Batting average however took a 21 point hit to a still respectable .278 and OPS (.876) declined significantly but still stood at second best at the position. The bigger red flag was health as he missed mostly due to injury 40 games. The book on Sanchez : huge power but despite a gun, a below average defensive player. Rumor mill was that the Yanks would mitigate this by giving the Ox some time at designated hitter.

Last year, was a physical disaster as Sanchez missed  big chunks of the season with a bad groin and, as it turns out, a left shoulder that needed surgical correction after the season. Defensively, 2018 was also a train wreck. Stats showed that last year he was average at throwing out runners (30%) which was down from the year before (38%). Passed balls went up to a league worst 18 (from 16) in a season that he caught 158 less innings. As a point of reference, solid catchers keep below 10 PB’s (Molina led league with fewest, 4).

In theory, in a 23 man active roster a 2018 Sanchez-like stink bomb can be overcome provided you made a bunch of smart moves/ picks. But more than likely this ended up being a six month bout of indigestion and the haunting of not taking any number of players that actually excelled in 2018…

Willson Contreras, Cubs

Easily a top three rated backstop in 2018 after a stellar 2017 season (21 HR- 74 RBI- .276- .855 OPS) much was expected. Instead all stats declined significantly IN SPITE OF ALMOST 100 MORE AT BATS. In fact, at the catchers position he ranked 14th in HRs, 7th in RBI and 8th in batting average.

Mike Zunino, Seattle (now Tampa Bay)

Visions of the Z Man finally “getting it” after 2017’s breakout (25 HR-64 RBI-.251 -.840  OPS) made him a trendy choice last year. Going into the season he sported the lousy lifetime combination of a .209 AVG, strikeout rate of 37%  and a cruddy .686 OPS. The glimmer of hope was that he was of prime age (27) and when he did hit the ball it had a pretty good chance of leaving the ballpark (20% home run rate). But something went amiss again last year and for the fourth year in a row he needed a refresh in AAA to get back on track. By the time the smoke cleared the stat line for 2018 was ugly (20 HR- 44 RBI- .201-.669 OPS) and not even close to top twelve at the catcher position. The fact that Zunino was a late pick (average ADP 20th round) softened the blow but this was still a despicable letdown.

In summation, nothing earth shattering here. Next up will be a four part series MEN OF THE CORNERSTONES. Part one will be Third Basemen- #20- #11.

CHEERS

Wiz-O-Goz


Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #136 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. Join us for our first Sunday night show of 2019. We will be breaking down the National League divisions over the next 3 Sundays. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. East.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and a frequent guest on our Sunday night shows.

Intense sports lover . a writer who specializes in creative non- fiction almost always challenging the status quo. I've suffered but remain a staunch Atlanta Braves fan and this year became a seasons ticket holder with the Atlanta Falcons (Mercedes Benz Stadium is AMAZING!) . Very proud of my wife Kerrie and awesome children Christianna and Trai Van. Hoping to retire in a few years at the most and to finally get my golf game to the next level more than likely in a warmer climate...lastly I'm looking forward to contributing as a staff writer and being "on air" for Major League Fantasy Sports this season

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