Fantasy: Three Undervalued Catchers

These three catchers are being woefully under-drafted in 2015 fantasy leagues:

Brian McCann

McCann was a trendy fantasy pick in 2014 as fantasy owners were feasting on his HR potential with the short right field porch of Yankee Stadium in play. He didn’t have a horrible season, finishing 7th among catchers in 5×5 fantasy leagues but he did underperform his draft position as many were expecting more from him.

As many players often do when switching leagues, McCann got off to a slow start, hitting just .239 with 10 HRs in 330 PAs. However, despite dealing with a foot injury that restricted him to 55 games in the second half of the season, McCann began to show off the power in his new venue. He reeled off 13 HRs in only 208 PAs the rest of the way.

Despite hitting for a lower average in the 2nd half, the underlying peripherals all look strong.

Split PAs SwStr% ISO HRs
1st Half 330 6.3% 0.138 10
2nd Half 208 5.1% 0.232 13

He’s being drafted as the 5th catcher off the board with an overall ADP of 108 in the highly competitive, high-stakes NFBC leagues. These are leagues that require two catchers so position scarcity is an important factor.

On the per-600-PA Steamer Projections, McCann is rated 2nd best catcher, and 69th best 5×5 hitter overall with a .251, 24 HR, 62 R, 70 RBI, 1 SB projection well ahead of the four catchers getting drafted in front of him Jonathan Lucroy (91st Steamer-600 5×5 hitter), Devin Mesoraco (112th), and Yan Gomes (117th).

The opportunity to use McCann as designated hitter – he got 13 starts at DH last year – helps ensure extra plate appearances over his NL counterparts. If he’s hitting, Girardi will keep his bat in the lineup anyway he can. He even managed to grab 11 starts at first base last year.

As the hype on McCann has cooled this year, it might be the right time to move in and take him.

Russell Martin

Martin has hit double digit home runs in 7 out of his 9 seasons in the big leagues and has also been a decent bet for a surprise half-dozen stolen bases. His move back to the American League also opens up some designated hitter opportunities.

His 2015 Steamer line of .242, 16 HR, 61 R, 59 RBI, 6 SB doesn’t quite stand to McCann’s projections, but based on where he’s getting drafted, Martin could end up providing more net value. The noise around him has been quiet as he’s the 11th catcher being taken, an absurd 171 ADP. Martin projects better 5×5 production than several guys being taken higher; Lucroy, Mesoraco, and Gomes just to name a few.

A key factor in his value this year will be a change in venue. Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is graded as the worst in the league for right-handed power. He will flip to the other end of the curve as Toronto’s Rogers Centre rates as the 4th best for right-handers to hit home runs in.

Fly ball distance has remained an impressive 292 feet for Martin over the last two seasons and at 31 he’s in the prime years for major league catchers. There is a lot to like here and Martin has a good chance at being a top-5 catcher this year.

Carlos Ruiz

Seeing a theme here? The old, boring catchers continue to slide down draft boards in favor of young upstarts who haven’t proven much yet.

Ruiz is being drafted as the 25th catcher, 341 ADP overall but he probably deserves consideration in the 15-20 range. In a two catcher league you could do a lot worse than adding this reliable veteran. Steamer expects him to out-produce Miguel Montero (15th C/207 Overall ADP), Derek Norris (17th/231), Dioner Navarro (19th/282), Tyler Flowers (20th/299), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (21st/302), John Jaso (22nd/309), and Kurt Suzuki (24th/328)

The key to Ruiz value is that he will churn out valuable batting average that few bottom-tier catchers can. Reliable plate appearances to accumulate the counting stats are also very important. At that point in the draft it’s often difficult to find catchers who can give you PA’s and a healthy batting average but Ruiz should do that this year. Over his 8 year career as a full-time catcher, Ruiz has average 411 PAs per season and showed no signs of slowing down last year with 445.

The key to Ruiz getting PAs is that the Phillies really have no youngsters to push him for playing time. As long as they are paying him, they are going to be playing him. The only interesting prospect you might want to handcuff him to is Tommy Joseph, who the Phillies acquired in the Hunter Pence trade a few years ago. However, Joseph is probably a late-season proposition at best.

A trade to another team is always a possibility, but Ruiz is still a good enough player that nobody is going to trade assets and pay his $8.5 million for him to sit on the bench.



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Josh Barnes is founder of Top500Prospects.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jb82mets and @top500prospects

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