Archive for Catchers

Tout Wars Prep: Initial Player Evaluations

So far in my Tout Wars preparation series, I’ve documented the league’s draft tendencies and the stats needed to win. Today, I’ll create the framework for player pricing. Along the way, I will show how there is no position scarcity except with catcher. At least for this league

Completing this step brings the preparation is laborious, but necessary. Once it’s done, I can spend most of my time evaluating players and their projected playing time.

For evaluating players, I utilize the Standings Gain Points (SGP) method. I previously outlined the procedure and it‘s the same method Larry Schechter recommends in his book, Winning Fantasy Baseball. Normally, this procedure is fairly straight forward since I’ve historically used three-year average values. Last year’s offensive explosion complicates the math. With more offense available, home runs, Runs, and RBIs become less important. Predicting 2017’s run scoring environment is impossible so I won’t for now. I feel I need to use a weighted average system with 2016 getting the most weight but I am just not sure how much to weight them. To get the process started, I will use the average standings from 2014 to 2016 for this work.

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What To Expect From Gary Sanchez In 2017

We have been blessed with many outstanding rookie seasons throughout the history of baseball, especially in recent decades. Ichiro Suzuki crossed the Pacific and instantly turned into a super star. Mike Trout, well, he did Mike Trout things. We’ve seen Mike Piazza, Britt Burns, and Troy Tulowitzki all put up 7 WAR rookie campaigns. Each of these stories are amazing in their own right, but they are all about guys with truly phenomenal rookie seasons. Emphasis on season. Gary Sanchez, well, he was just a little bit different.

Gary Sanchez put up similar power numbers to a lot of those guys I just mentioned, he hit 20 home runs and 12 doubles, not too shabby for a rookie.  That isn’t the story here, of course.  No, he did this all in less than half a season, 229 plate appearances.  Closer to a third of a season, really, and in that time he put up over 3 WAR and made a strong case for the league ROY (and MVP, which lead to many silly arguments).

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Deep League Draft Targets – Catcher

In the run-up to last season, I started a position-by-position series aimed at deep league owners and who, outside of the top 15 or 18 players at each position, they should target in drafts. I don’t know if it was helpful and I’m sure if I looked back at my picks, I’d find some duds in there. As I quickly found out covering my Deep League beat last season, finding studs amongst the bottom rung of players can often feel like an exercise in futility. But don’t tell that to deep league managers for whom there’s value in mediocrity. So, with that compelling introduction, let’s look at some mediocre catchers, eh?

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Early ADP Thoughts – Catcher, First Base

Can you feel it? Baseball is inching closer and closer. I realize the country was just punished with devastatingly low temperatures almost everywhere (it was in the 20s here in Texas), but STATS recently released the early NFBC average draft data to keep us warm. You better believe I’ve got some thoughts, but I can’t fit them all in one piece, so I’ll cover two positions per and knock this out throughout the week.

CATCHER

  • It’s basically Buster Posey (pick 35), Gary Sanchez (47), and Jonathan Lucroy (50), then everyone else. Even an ailing Posey finished second to only Lucroy among catchers last year.
  • I want to preach caution on Sanchez, but he was so otherworldly, even accounting for the small sample. There just aren’t any comparisons. The only other catchers to put up a 150 or better OPS+ in their rookie seasons were Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza and they both did it for way more than Sanchez’s 229 PA.

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Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Schwarber, Thames, & Much More

Time to talk a little Kyle Schwarber

I touched on it yesterday, but Schwarber’s fantasy value is going to fluctuate a ton depending on each league’s settings. In all my keeper leagues, he is getting the Utility tag because he didn’t make the minimum five games played last year (just two games in the outfield). I can’t emphasize enough, know your league settings. Most leagues require five starts until a player is eligible at a position, so I see him getting outfield eligibility the first or second week depending on the schedule and weather.

For him to get the five games at catcher to gain eligibility, let me say I am skeptical of him catching just one game, let alone five. Just to make sure I wasn’t off kilter, at least on this subject, I ask my Twitter followers when they thought he would reach the five games.
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The Change: Finding the Next Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana had/is having quite the season. It’s his best by virtually any metric. Pick slugging, isolated slugging, strikeout rate, batting average, hits, home runs, even baserunning runs, and you’ll get either a career-best or second-best effort this year. He ended up the 10th-best fantasy first baseman and we have so many positive changes to choose from if we want to say why he was so good this year.

Here’s my guess: he swung more this year. I’ll explain, but it’s clear from his career-low walk rate and career-high swing rate that he was more aggressive. That might have been more important than anything else he did, and that might give us a road map to finding other mid-career breakouts like Santana.

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Out of Nowhere: 2017 Breakout Candidates at Catcher

Way way back in 2015, the catcher position was Buster Posey, Buster Posey, and more Buster Posey. Per Zach Sanders’ calculations, Posey outperformed the two next-best catchers (Russell Martin and Brian McCann) by $11. The fourth best guy was $15 less valuable than Posey. Clearly, it was a year to own Posey.

This year, Jonathan Lucroy, Posey, and Wilson Ramos produced between $20.60 and $22.60 according to the FanGraphs auction calculator. Several other catchers weren’t too far off their pace. However, we can’t do a pure apples-to-apples comparison between the two calculations. Sanders did his analysis for a one catcher league. I assumed two catchers.

For the purposes of conducting fantasy analysis, I consider the two catcher format to be more instructive. In a one catcher league, the optimum catcher strategy is overly simplified. You can pay out the nose for Posey, hope to get a bargain on a modest investment like Realmuto, or take the best $1 catcher. Personally, I always opt for the $1 unit. You’re almost as likely to get the next version of Ramos.

However, I’m still curious how 2015 compares to 2016. Fortunately, the auction calculator is very flexible. I recreated the values for a one catcher league. The prices for the top trio decreased by about $7 – mostly because the position adjustment dropped by $6.

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Mike Zunino’s Not Too Shabby

Mike Zunino reached the majors in 2013 with just 208 plate appearances in the upper minors on his resume. It’s not as if he raked his way to The Show, either. In 47 games at the Double-A level, he tallied a .238/.303/.503 line with a 105 wRC+. He also struck out a ton (28.4%) while walking at a low rate (6.7%). Alas, the M’s brass didn’t seem to care about his shortcomings at the dish.

Big leaguers exploited him, and he tallied a .214/.290/.329 line with a 77 wRC+ and a 25.4% strikeout rate. He spent the entire 2014 season in the majors and smacked 22 homers. That’s where the offensive positives end. His power was dragged down by a 33.2% strikeout rate and .199/.254/.404. He also grew more impatient and walked in just 3.6% of his plate appearances. Remarkably, things got worse for Zunino in 2015, yet he remained in the majors until the end of August. At that point, the Mariners finally sent him down to the minors for more seasoning.

His 47 wRC+ and 34.2% strikeout rate in 386 plate appearances in 2015 were dreadful, and not even his strong work behind the dish could make up for his truly dreadful offense. In general manager Jerry Dipoto’s second year with the Mariners, he and the rest of the M’s brass made the wise decision to start the year with off-season acquisition Chris Iannetta starting at catcher and 25-year-old Zunino starting at the Triple-A level.

Even after a fast start, the Mariners exercised patience and allowed the previously-rushed top-five pick the opportunity to hone his craft with the lumber in the minors, and he thrived (17 homers, 10.7% walk rate, 21.1% strikeout rate, .286/.376/.521 and 138 wRC+ in 327 plate appearances). His improvements in the minors resulted in a strong showing from July through the end of the season in the majors. What’s on the horizon for the still young backstop? Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s Get Real…muto


Sorry for the title. Let’s move on. At the start of this season, I recommended J.T. Realmuto as someone deep-league managers should target for his speed and his price. At the time, Realmuto was coming off a season in which he led his position in stolen bases during a year in which steals were at a 20 year low. He was also going 17th overall at catcher in public leagues, despite being picked 10th in NFBC drafts. Given that Realmuto popped 10 homers while lacking the typical red flags of a regression candidate, he seemed criminally overlooked during drafts and possibly primed for a breakout. So how’d he do?

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The Change: Catchers, Who Needs Them?

Well, it wouldn’t be much fun if the ball just rolled to the wall every time the pitcher threw it, so obviously the game needs a catcher, even if robot umps take over. But my impression of trying to draft stud catchers from year to year is that it’s folly.

Maybe because the position is so demanding defensively, my impression of their ability to hit is somewhere between ‘American League pitcher’ and ‘Defensive Replacement’. The numbers say that catchers debut later, but even that finding is muddied by late-career backup catcher debuts. Aging for catchers seems about the same, and finding value in a catcher is easy even if they hit 13% worse than league average as a group this year, worse than any other position players — you still need to fill the position, so even an okay batter should be valuable.

Still… am I crazy? It seems that catchers are more volatile, year to year, and I just want to shop in the bargain bin for the most part. Let’s jump in and see if I am loony tunes.

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