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Catchers: Potential September AB Decliners

One of the biggest concerns at this time of year is whether or not your guy is going to play the same amount in September as he did during the previous five months of the season. Young pitchers deal with innings caps which cuts down on the number of starts while veterans on non-playoff teams run the risk of losing at-bats to the September call-ups. Given the fact that squatting behind the plate is the most physically taxing position, your catchers are no different. After five months of work behind the dish, some are, much to the chagrin of fantasy owners, in need of some time off whether they’re playoff-bound or not. Here are a few backstops who could see fewer at-bats in September…

Brian McCann, ATL — The Braves are sitting pretty with a 13 game lead over the Nationals in the NL East and unless they’re the 1978 Red Sox or the 1995 California Angels, they are likely to head into the playoffs as one of the favorites to win the NL pennant. But to do that, they’re going to need to be firing on all cylinders and by that I mean they’re going to need all of their starters, their top performers, at peak health and ready for some playoff baseball. We’ve already seen his playing time diminish here in August between a bothersome knee earlier in the month and then the recent benching against southpaws and as a result, there’s been a relative decline in his production. Through 71 at-bats this month, he’s hitting just .239 with three home runs and six RBI; close to his worst month of the season. But in a playoff series, McCann’s bat is golden and the Braves don’t want to risk not having one of their most productive bats in recent years. Given their lead in the division, McCann’s troublesome knee, and the presence of both Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis,  the Braves could easily rest him up throughout the month without affecting their playoff standing. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, it just might be their smartest move.

Russell Martin, PIT — Granted, it’s hard to say that you’ll miss Martin’s August average of .203 with two home runs and six RBI, but the acquisition of John Buck could easily mean less playing time for the Pittsburgh standard behind the plate. Neither one hits lefties particularly well, so we’re not talking a straight lefty/righty platoon, but Buck has more power potential and because he’s started to play a more secondary role over these last two months, he’s definitely got the fresher legs to work behind the plate. That minute upgrade might not be enough to sway the outcome of many games the rest of the way, but it’s unlikely to hurt the Pirates who are a half-game out of first in the Central and own a six-game lead in the Wild Card standings. Fantasy owners who were hoping to see another late season surge from Martin who batted .258 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in September of last year, just might have to look elsewhere as he could see his at-bats cut nearly in half if the Pirates want to keep him well-rested.

Joe Mauer, MIN — Quick and simple…is there any reason to rush him back from a concussion? The Twins aren’t going to the playoffs, they have Ryan Doumit and Chris Herrmann already on the big league roster and are in the process of adding Josmil Pinto who has a slash line of .308/.399/.478 with 15 homers and 74 RBI between Double and Triple-A. Doumit and Herrmann add versatility to the lineup as both have the ability to play in the corner outfield spots while Pinto could be an interesting sleeper should he actually see some regular playing time. Obviously, none of these guys are the equivalent of a healthy Mauer, but then again, there’s no such think at the moment.