Sleepers & Busts: Catcher
Beginning the search for the ever-elusive fantasy baseball gold and kryptonite, we begin a series on sleepers and busts at the catcher position.
Besides identifying who we feel is being under- or overrated in drafts, we are going beyond our own projection system and rankings to find a favorite and least favorite to tweak their stat prediction.
SLEEPER: TRAVIS D’ARNAUD
The catcher we zeroed in on to move his projection up is Mets 26-year-old d’Arnaud. The former top prospect struggled in the first half (.217, 6 HR, 18 R, 19 RBIs, 210 PA) so badly that he was sent back to Triple-A, where he rediscovered his stroke and didn’t cool off once back in New York in the second half (.265, 7 HR, 30 R, 22 RBIs, 211 PA). We believe he will keep those gains and continue to break out, so we perked up his projection to .264, 62 runs, 18 homers, 65 RBIs and 1 steal. His average draft position (we’ll be using fantasypros.com this year) is the No. 13 catcher off the board, but we have him ranked No. 8. This smells a lot like Devin Mesoraco’s breakout last year, with a post-hype sleeper flourishing when finally healthy and starting for a full season. It doesn’t hurt that the Mets are moving in the outfield fences again at Citi Field – there’s even 25-homer upside if everything clicks.
BUST: JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA
Looking for a catcher with declining skills and a young prospect breathing down his neck, we focused on Saltalamacchia. Salty did not fare well moving from Boston to Miami last season, seeing his OPS slip from .804 in 2013 to .682 last year. With one of the latest waves in sabermetrics identifying Salty as the worst pitch framer in the game and his strikeout rate soaring to 32.9% last year, it may not be long before the Marlins turn to their No. 2 prospect, J.T. Realmuto, who has superior defensive skills, athleticism and a decent bat to boot. We dropped Salty’s projection down to .222, 37 runs, 11 homers, 41 RBIs, 0 steals in 397 plate appearances. Don’t bother drafting Salty even in two-catcher deep-mixed leagues and instead keep an eye on Realmuto in keeper leagues.
Jason Castro: We have the Astros backstop bouncing back from a terrible 2014, ranking him No. 17 while his ADP is 21st.
Carlos Ruiz: The Phillies catcher should get plenty of volume, good enough to rank him No. 20 while his ADP is 26th.
Josmil Pinto: The defensively-challenged Twins youngster sure can hit better than starter Kurt Suzuki, but his vast upside is being overlooked as we have him ranked No. 21 while his ADP is 32nd.
Nick Hundley: If Hundley could hit .288 with nine homers in 2011 and .233 with 13 homers in 2013 playing half his games in San Diego, he could be a sneaky breakout since signing with Colorado in the off-season. First he’ll have to win the majority of the catcher ABs from Michael McKenry (who’s also underrated) and passed-ball machine Wilin Rosario, but he could become a starter in two-catcher leagues – we have him ranked No. 29 while ADP has him 35th.
Peter O’Brien: The D-backs have stubbornly refused to acquire a veteran catcher to take the job from light-hitting Tuffy Gosewisch, instead signaling that they’re open to letting power-hitting prospect Peter O’Brien get a shot at the job sooner than later. O’Brien hit a combined 39 homers over four stops in the minors last year, so although he strikes out a ton, there is potential for a breakout in the bandbox of Chase Field. We have O’Brien ranked No. 31 with the chance to break the top 20 while his ADP is off the fantasypros.com chart that runs 41 deep.
Yan Gomes: It’s hard to call the Indians’ backstop a bust when we have him projected to hit .272 with 18 homers, but it seems the hype has gotten carried away as his ADP is No. 4 at the position. One main reason for pessimism is that he doesn’t have the plate discipline (projected 5.2 BB% and 22.2 K%) to support a bigger breakout, so we have him No. 7.
Kurt Suzuki: The Twins were fooled into giving the veteran a two-year, $12 million extension by his All-Star first half that was fueled mostly by a high BABIP (.328 BABIP led to .309 average in first half, .279 BABIP led to .253 average after the break). His defense should keep him involved, but his tepid bat should see him lose playing time to Pinto, so we have him ranked No. 26 while his ADP is 19th.
Dioner Navarro: The Blue Jays signed Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million deal, so Navarro is left to fight for DH at-bats with Justin Smoak, who could play first base and push Edwin Encarnacion to DH. Unless Navarro gets traded, he’s vastly overrated at No. 18 in ADP while we have him 30th.