Catcher Tiers – September 2014

The San Francisco Giants’ backstop is who his fantasy baseball players thought he is when they drafted him, it turns out. It wasn’t always as apparent as it’s been in the past month and a half or so: He’s batted .342/.391/.565, with eight home runs, in 174 plate appearances since the All-Star break. That is why he was (presumably, at every host) the leader among crouchers in average draft position this past March. He’s the only catcher to remain in the first tier all season. At no point did we waver. Right, folks?

My favorite hip-hop act, De La Soul, is supposed to be dropping a new LP by the end of this year. I don’t get excited for many things pop culture, but for this, I am a little. Your definition of pop culture probably doesn’t even include the trio also known as the Plugs, at least not since like high school or something, so just take it easy on me, please.

I can listen to De La’s sharp samples and exceedingly clever lyrics for hours. In a bit of an odd tribute, I named this month’s tiers after the eight legit studio albums in their catalog. They appear roughly in the order of my favorite to least favorite. I could change up the list a little at any given time, depending on my mood, no doubt. I’m not much of a critic, but I gave some of my general thoughts.

De La Soul Is Dead
Buster Posey
Jonathan Lucroy
Carlos Santana

De La Soul’s second album might be the most critically acclaimed of all their releases. With good reason: It’s a masterpiece. This rap opera captures their disenchantment, post-entrance, perfectly. Couldn’t even pick a favorite joint from it. I ripped the final bit of the chorus from “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” for my voice-mail notification.

The bitties in this C lounge are all roto acclaimed, too. Kind of fitting that there are three of them. You may have some doubts about whether Santana belongs. You might think that the Cincinnati Reds’ breakthrough bomber should be ahead of Santana. Cincy’s man is listening to “Let, Let Me In” right about now. In season-to-date rankings, that’s true, but I don’t expect that to be the case by the end of it. They’re neck and neck.

3 Feet High and Rising
Devin Mesoraco
Salvador Perez
Yan Gomes
Evan Gattis
Joe Mauer
Wilson Ramos

Their debut album is a classic, the most popular, the only one of them to hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. The hipster fans, however many of those there are, might pan this pick pretty quick, then. Meh. If De La has any hipster fans, then those people might be missing the point of some of the poetry. Smooth, fun, witty, brilliant, groundbreaking stuff.

Mauer has been putting up magic numbers (.297/.402/.473, with two round-trippers, in 87 PAs) since his activation from the disabled list a few weeks ago. Finally, he’s done more than “Tread Water.” Let’s hope that he keeps this up, so that his owners really enjoy the final month of his last season as a catcher-eligible commodity. Sigh.

Ramos has rediscovered his power stroke. Amazing what a dose of good health will do. Mesoraco’s post-break marks (.235/.336/.391, with four ding dongs, in 134 PAs) might surprise those who haven’t been paying attention. Still, he’ll probably warrant a warrant a top-six pick at the position next year, pending scrutiny.

Stakes Is High
Brian McCann
Russell Martin
Miguel Montero
Mike Zunino

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that De La’s fourth album shows them at their most cynical. I appreciate how raw it is, anyway.

Martin is a few months from scoring a nice contract. He’ll easily be the best backstop in “The Bizness” this winter. Montero has been pulling a little of that 2013 crap since the ASB (.239/.341/.350 in 135 PAs). His owners must be hoping that he’s not going to take it too easy in September.

“Betta Listen”: Zunino is going to be a good one … although perhaps not for a few years, for fantasy purposes. He’s struggled for several weeks at the dish, but his average is so bad that you can’t tell. So much power, though. The Seattle Mariners seem to be conscious of the position in which they’ve put the 23-year-old. They have a lot of confidence in the player he is and they believe that he’ll be. I think that they’re correct.

The Grind Date
Yadier Molina
Dioner Navarro
Travis d’Arnaud
Jason Castro
Stephen Vogt
Wilin Rosario

This album has been on repeat for me lately. A lot of good guests on it. But the collaborators never steal the show. Some fantastic lines, samples, beats. Could say something that they diverted from the AOI sequence and dropped this one, which might otherwise have been the third in the series. Sometimes, I’ll skip a couple of tunes, but there’s an excellent string of tight tracks on it.

Yadi: “He Comes” back, not down like water, and the St. Louis Cardinals are way happier than Molina’s fantasy owners should be. The now first-place club essentially cut his rehab assignment short because that’s how much they missed his presence behind the plate. His owners might be encouraged by the six hits in 17 at-bats he’s accrued since his return, but they’re all singles. I wouldn’t expect a ton of fantasy production from Molina ROS. He wasn’t going particularly well before the torn thumb ligament, and that hand seems unlikely to be at full strength for a few weeks, at least.

Tired of this crap, Rosario. Just tired of it. Hope we can look back on 2014 and blame a lot of it on your bum wrist. “Much More” is what you were supposed to have in store. Oh, and some guy says that you probably shouldn’t be a catcher any longer.

First Serve
Carlos Ruiz
Derek Norris
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Alex Avila
Chris Iannetta

“De La Soul’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present” this great LP, which they released just a couple of years ago. Enjoy the allusions, the retrospection. It sounds as if it’s the most fun they’d had in on an album in years.

Quietly, Iannetta has been productive all season. Or perhaps I’ve just been dismissive for too long. He’s been a viable No. 2 catcher in 12-team mixed leagues. Looks like he made it … to the fifth tier, anyway.

Buhloone Mind State
Caleb Joseph
Welington Castillo
Tomas Telis
Kurt Suzuki
Tyler Flowers
Yasmani Grandal

De La Soul’s third album is really quite good. It just had a tough act to follow. It also kind of signifies a change in style, I think, with something I haven’t placed fueling a new emphasis in their rhymes. “Eye Patch” sets the tone extremely well.

The Texas Rangers are getting a look at their potential pair of catchers for the 2015 campaign. Probably won’t be much “Ego Trippin’” in their future. Since Telis’ call-up, he’s played in five contests. The fella with whom he’s sharing time – Chirinos, below – three. Incidentally, the grouping doesn’t involve Arencibia – also below – who still stinks, it turns out, and will steadily lose time at first base, too.

Suzuki’s empty batting average isn’t doing the trick anymore. I’ll give him enough credit for the changes he’s made to become such a consistent line-drive hitter, but again, it’s just empty batting average.

Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
Josmil Pinto
Hank Conger
Robinson Chirinos
J.P. Arencibia
A.J. Ellis
Ryan Hanigan
Christian Vazquez

I like the first LP in this run a tad more than the second. It’s just that it has a few misses. “I. C. Y’all,” with Busta Rhymes, is nice. And the Beastie Boys guest on an awesome, goofy cut called “Squat.” Perfect, for the catchers, don’t you think? I dig “The Art of Getting Jumped,” too, and a few others have a good groove.

The Twinkies might be done with Pinto as a catcher. Or maybe they still haven’t figured out this whole player development thing. They sent him to their Triple-A affiliate so that he could work on his defense, but he still “saw significant time at designated hitter for Rochester.” SMH. He still has work to do, but apparently he’s improved. Which is why Suzuki will make $12 million total for the next two years and have an option for a third. And why Pinto probably won’t get a ton of PT behind the plate in September. Let’s see. His bat still plays, so if there’s any chance that he’ll get ABs often enough to matter more than those in the last tier, then I’d take it.

AOI: Bionix
Andrew Susac
Christian Bethancourt
Brayan Pena
Geovany Soto
A.J. Pierzynski
John Jaso

Look, I like both of these albums (the AOIs). I throw one or the other on every now and then. Each contains at least a few tracks that don’t sound to me as if they’re the group’s best efforts, though. They tried to do some conceptual things, perhaps, messed with a variety of styles, samples, guests, some other things. Nothing wrong with that. The contemplative “Trying People” might be my favorite on this LP.

Susac looks like a promising piece. He might eventually ask Posey “Am I Worth You?” in a manner of speaking. The kid could be enough reason for los Gigantes to move their stud backstop to first base. San Fran will do it if they really want this thing to be special.

It’s really a shame that Jaso has been experiencing concussion symptoms for the past few weeks. He could return very soon, in theory. A report from the reliable Susan Slusser suggests that the Oakland Athletics would be happy just to have the veteran available as a pinch hitter, however. That sounds ominous for his ROS value.

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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He's played in both Tout Wars and LABR since 2010. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

7 Responses to “Catcher Tiers – September 2014”

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  1. Mix says:

    I saw De La Soul at a concert a few years ago in Calgary. They’re still good!

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  2. Cool WHIP says:

    Thanks for this Nick. Very Grantland-y

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  3. frivoflava29 says:

    I’ll leave this here for consideration:

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  4. jfree says:

    What is an LP?

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  5. Ryan Sullivan Kelley says:

    This article was shit, please do a better job next time.

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