Last year Bengie Molina was the ninth-best fantasy catcher, according to final dollar numbers from the RotoTimes Player Rater. He finished with a $2.62 value, just behind Miguel Olivo ($2.65) and ahead of A.J. Pierzynksi ($2.50). But what should fantasy owners expect from Molina in 2010?
First, let’s start by breaking down Molina by category. Here are his ranks by position in each category, along with his raw numbers in parentheses:
HR – T6th (20)
R – 12th (52)
RBIs – 6th (80)
AVG – 14th (.265)
SB – T 30th (0)
It is pretty clear that Molina derives most of his fantasy value from HR and RBIs, so to continue to be a worthwhile fantasy player, he needs to come close to matching those numbers next season.
Last year, Molina was the cleanup hitter for most of the season for the Giants, as 487 of his 520 PA came in the fourth spot in the order. Now a free agent, Molina is unlikely to return to San Francisco, as the Giants want to open the position for top prospect Buster Posey sooner rather than later, while Molina is looking for a long-term deal.
Molina is not likely to hit cleanup for any other team in the majors, so his RBI totals are going to fall off wherever he ends up, as he bats lower in the order, comes to the plate fewer times and sees fewer runners on base.
But we also have to consider that Molina will be hitting in a new park. Last year he had the following home/road splits:
The previous two seasons in San Francisco, Molina had been fairly neutral in his home/road splits. Last year’s numbers were in part caused by a big BABIP split. He had a .300 BABIP in home games compared to a .234 mark in road games. For the year he had a .273 BABIP, compared to a lifetime mark of .281 in the category.
Another factor to consider when projecting Molina’s 2010 HR output is that last season he had a 52.5 FB%, by far the highest mark of his career. After five seasons of FB% in the mid to upper 30s, Molina has seen increases the last three seasons, culminating in last year’s mark, which was the third-highest in the majors.
Meanwhile, his HR/FB rate was 8.8 percent, which matched his career average.
Another important thing to consider is that Molina will be 35-years old in 2010. Catchers take more abuse than any other position player and normal aging patterns do not necessarily apply to those who don the tools of ignorance. Among 34-year-old backstops, Molina’s 2009 HR output ranked tied for sixth while his RBI totals ranked eighth. Here’s how the top 10 in both categories fared in their age 34 and age 35 seasons, starting with HR:
Now the same chart for RBIs:
The top 10 catchers at age 34 averaged 22.8 HR and 84.2 RBIs. Those same catchers (minus Molina) averaged 13.8 HR and 59.6 RBIs as 35-year olds. Five players (Posada, Parrish, Howard, Campanella, Cooper) from the HR list made the top 10 both at 34 and 35 while four players (Posada, Howard, Cooper, Hartnett) made both RBI lists.
If we look at the top 10 catchers at age 35, they averaged 17 HR and 75.8 RBIs. Carlton Fisk had the top HR season with 26 while Posada had the top RBI year with 90. If Molina matches last year’s 20-HR, 80-RBI season as a 35-year old, he will tie Posada for the second-best HR season and finish with the fifth most RBIs for catchers of that certain age.
Also, Molina appeared in 132 games last year. Only 11 players in history have caught 70 percent of the time and appeared in 132 games or more as a 35-year old.
And while at least one team considers Molina an asset defensively, the numbers paint a different picture. Our own Matt Klaassen did a comprehensive post on various aspects of catcher defense and had Molina ranked 102nd out of 114 catchers with a -3.4 TotalRuns score last year.
So, Molina has to hook on with a new team and hope he does not fall too far in the batting order, hope that last year’s BABIP road numbers were a fluke, hope that he can maintain one of the best FB% in the majors and hope he can put up arguably the best season of a 35-year-old catcher in history to match last season’s numbers.
That seems like a lot to ask for from anyone. Look for your fantasy catcher elsewhere.