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Brian McCann and Position Scarcity

After a down season in his sophomore year in the majors in 2007, Brian McCann bounced back last year to be in the top four among catchers in AVG, HR, RBI and Runs. The projection systems predict McCann essentially to repeat his 2008 performance this year and the mock drafting crowd agrees, making McCann the second-rated catcher with an ADP of 46, three spots behind Russell Martin.

McCann had nothing fluky in his profile last year. He hit equally well at home and on the road, versus LHP and RHP and both before and after the All-Star break. He posted the highest BB% of his brief career, and checked in with a 10.1 percent walk rate. His K% dropped over two full points to 12.6 percent and his BABIP was a normal .308 for the season.

With McCann the question is not so much where he rates among players at his position, he clearly ranks among the top catchers in the game, but rather when to draft catchers. According to the RotoTimes Player Rater, McCann turned in a $13.94 season last year. That placed 64th among hitters in mixed leagues. Add the top pitchers to the pool and does it make sense to spend a fourth-round pick on McCann?

Yes it does.

One of the challenging things to incorporate into projections is position scarcity. Last year Mauer was the top catcher with a $14.89 value. There were 12 first basemen with higher dollar values. Mauer’s $14.89 was worth more than Derrek Lee’s $15.96, much like how a run in the Astrodome in 1968 was worth more than two runs in Coors Field in 1996.

Yet somehow it is easier to wrap our heads around the idea of park factors and run environments than it is to understand position scarcity. Perhaps this is because when we attempt to calculate position scarcity, we have to not only compare how each player at a position does versus his direct peers, but also how that rates with all of the players in MLB.

Catchers are undervalued by their raw stats. The next time you participate in a mock draft, try drafting a catcher in the first three-to-five rounds, if you do not normally do this. And then examine the impact on your team and see if you are better off with McCann as your catcher than with Yadier Molina or whomever you normally get in the 20th round, even though you passed on an impact hitter like Nick Markakis or Jason Bay.

Properly calculating position scarcity is beyond the scope of this piece. It is one of the most valuable things at pay sites ranging from FantasyPros911.com to BaseballHQ to The Fantasy Baseball Sherpa. But position scarcity is real and it makes McCann a good value at his current ADP.