We’ll be doing a wrap-up of each position once the regular season comes to an official close, but for now, let’s talk about a few of the backstops who made significant contributions to fantasy teams this year, but are likely to be overvalued next season. Whether their stats regress or whether they come at a significantly higher cost than they should, either draft pick or auction dollars, some of 2012′s fantasy heroes behind the dish just won’t measure up next season. I’m sure most readers of RotoGraphs are wary of the pitfalls, but just in case you’re new to the scene, here are a few to watch out for next season.
A.J. Pierzynski, CHW — Probably the most obvious when looking at the catcher leaderboard for 2012, Pierzynski gave his fantasy owners a dream season that won;t be easy to forget. A late-flier in most leagues and a waiver pick-up in the rest, he’s dazzled with an average that hovered around .280 while mashing 26 home runs and knocking in 74 RBI. Kick in 64 runs scored and he’s about to post career numbers here in his 15th professional season. But while there’s nothing in his batted ball data to suggest that this was some fluke season (save for a supposedly unsustainable 18.6% HR/FB), there’s also nothing to suggest that it wasn’t. However, if you’re a believer in numbers regressing to their means, then you know he’s not duplicating these stats. Far from it, in my opinion. He’s been on the downside of a career with declining numbers over the last six seasons and suddenly he’s better than he ever was before? I doubt it. But without fail, there will be someone in your league next year that will base his draft solely on 2012 totals and end up drafting Pierzynski, somewhere in the top 10, way before where he should actually go. Just don’t be that guy.
Carlos Ruiz, PHI — If Pierzynski wasn’t the most obvious, then that’s because you were probably staring at Chooch’s numbers here. Similarly to Pierzynski, Ruiz’ power numbers spiked at the ripe old age of 33. His batting average, as well. He benefited from a career-best .328 BABIP and a 15.3% HR/FB that hasn’t been this high since he played in just 27 big league games back in 2006. Ruiz’ LD% also jumped from its usual ~20.0% to a career-high of 24.3% this season. Given his levels of production in year’s past, it doesn’t seem likely that he is going to experience some sort of power growth as Yadier Molina did at the age of 28/29. His past numbers just don’t dictate some sort of senior citizen power surge. Not to mention the plantar fasciitis that shelved him for more than a month here in the second half. That’s not some injury that’s going to just go away. It’s like herpes. It’s with you for life and it’s going to hinder performance. But again, someone is going to buy into the hype of 2012 and get suckered into reaching too high for him. Again, don’t let it be you.
Joe Mauer, MIN — And here comes the less obvious and less popular declaration of overpaying. Mauer’s numbers here in 2012 have been rock solid in comparison to what he’s produced over the years. Surprisingly he stayed healthy for the most part and as of today, he ranks in the top five amongst catchers in batting average, runs scored, RBI and stolen bases. His supporters are out in full force, declaring him the best catcher in the majors not named Posey and he will, again, be one of the most highly coveted catchers in fantasy. But where he will be overvalued is not in production expectations, it will be where he is taken in drafts (or how much he’ll cost in auctions for that matter). While I would happily draft Posey and his 20-plus home runs, eventual 100-plus RBI and .300-plus average in the third or fourth round, I cannot say the same for Mauer. He’ll come off the board as the number two catcher next year, but between the injury risk, the lack of power and the potentially questionable lineup the Twins will field next season, I don’t see him even being worth a fifth or a sixth round draft choice. He’s going to go higher than a number of backstops I’d rather have as the return value from them, based on their cost, will likely be higher than what you’ll get from Mauer given his excessive price tag.