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Catchers: Buy or Sell

While it’s still fairly early, we should probably take a moment and see if we can evaluate some of these early starts to the season, both good and bad. We’ve got a guy like John Buck who is clearly playing way over his head right now and most everyone knows that he is clearly a “find the sucker in your league and sell high to him right away” type player but there are a few catchers out there where the jury is still out. Hot starts, cold starts — which do you believe in and which do you not? Here’s my take on three backstops who you might be wondering about…

Kurt Suzuki, WAS — When Suzuki found himself on the outs in Oakland last season, he welcomed the trade to the Nationals, a team clearly headed for the post-season and in need of a veteran backstop to play regularly. He rewarded them with a .267/.321/.404 slash line with five home runs and 25 RBI over 146 at-bats, numbers far superior to what he had given the A’s in the few years prior. This year, things still seem to be going his way as he is currently batting .360 with a pair of home runs and five RBI over his first 10 games. He’s making good contact and drawing walks when he needs to and overall looks like a solid option. But we’re all aware of the small sample size and know that a .368 BABIP, a .440 ISO and a 20-percent HR/FB are completely unsustainable and the more plate appearances he gets now that Wilson Ramos is on the DL the more those numbers are going to normalize. Couple that regression with the knowledge that the Nationals ultimately want Ramos to be their number one backstop and you’ve got yourself some good trade bait here once Ramos gets ready to make it back. He may not draw much on his own, but as a throw-in to “upgrade” someone at catcher, he can certainly be helpful. Verdict: Sell

Salvador Perez, KC — Given the hype that Perez has received between the second half of last year and the entire offseason this year, those who are easily swayed by the anxiety of a slow start are probably getting a little frustrated by his .259 average and complete lack of power. His strikeout rate is significantly higher than usual, his 1.7-percent walk rate is laughable, and the subsequent .271 on-base percentage is pretty ugly. But you all know better, right? Perez’ 1.92 GB/FB is fairly high in comparison to his usual totals, his infield fly-ball rate is twice what it should be, and while he’s still making above-average contact, the rates are still lower than what he usually brings to the table. So either he’s just simply forgotten how to hit or we’re headed towards a surge at the plate. Given what we know about his skill set and what his previous totals (both major and minor league) have dictated, it makes sense to start putting those feelers out and see what your league mates are made of. If you can somehow pry Perez away, you’ll be one happy camper in a month’s time. Verdict: Buy

Evan Gattis, ATL — In this case, it almost doesn’t even matter what the numbers are. We all know that Gattis is off to a phenomenal start and those that have been using them are grateful for what he’s done. But Brian McCann is on his way back (target date: May 1) and that will immediately push Gattis into a reserve role. He’s definitely earned the right to stay and his performance should be enough to push Gerald Laird aside again, but even if he does, you’re still looking at maybe two starts a week, at best. An earlier return for McCann probably would have been better as Gattis would have spent more time at first base with Freddie Freeman out and made himself more attractive trade bait, but alas, that is not the case. What’s worse is that the way the Braves are structured, there’s no room for him anywhere else on the diamond. His value might improve a bit with interleague play happening throughout the year and having a DH in AL parks, but it’s still not enough to warrant holding onto him much longer. Verdict: Sell