Draft Day Decision: Five Catchers To Avoid In 2012

There are a lot of reasons that people may suggest not drafting a player.  It could be based on injuries (both a high risk for one or the recovery of a previous one), potential loss of playing time, diminishing performance or various things in between.  Let’s take a look at five catchers I likely won’t be drafting in 2012:

Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins
This one seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?  Forget about the fact that he has become a significant injury risk (he played just 82 games in ’11), but his name value is a lot greater than he performance justifies.  We all knew that his 2009 power outburst (28 HR) was likely an aberration, but can he continue to hit close to .300?

Catching has put a lot of wear and tear on his body, so it is not a stretch to think that his days of posting a .340 BABIP are behind him.  Last season he posted a .319 BABIP, leading to a .287 average.  Is there value thanks to a good average and a spot in the lineup that will likely lead to a fair amount of RBI/R?  Absolutely, but with a current ADP of 81.05 (according to Mock Draft Central) he is being drafted way too early.  That’s before Ben Zobrist, Kevin Youkils and Jimmy Rollins, just to name a few.  The cost is just way too high, especially with the negatives associated with him.

Mike Napoli – Texas Rangers
He had a monster 2011 (.320, 30 HR) and with Victor Martinez out he will enter the year as the #2 catcher on my draft board (click here to view my Top 15 catchers for 2012).  Then why would I not select him?  There is far too much risk involved in selecting him at his current ADP (45.41).

He’s not going to repeat his average from last year, given his .344 BABIP and the risk that his strikeout rate increases significantly (19.7% in ’11 vs. 24.5% for his career).  While you would anticipate more playing time (369 AB in ’11), it also is hard to imagine him replicating his 25.4% HR/FB.

That means a drop in average and a likely drop in power (you could try to argue extra playing time will allow him to remain consistent, but I’m not sure I buy it).  Plus, what if the Rangers don’t find him more AB?  What if they want to keep him at around 400 AB and no more? 

J.P. Arencibia – Toronto Blue Jays
He showed his power potential last season, hitting 23 HR in just 443 AB.  Of course, that came at a major cost as he hit just .219 thanks to a consistent inability to make contact (27.4% strikeout rate).  While he may be able to reduce that number, it’s not going to be enough to make him a force in the average department.

If the drain on your batting average wasn’t enough, the presence of Travis d’Arnaud in the minor leagues could ultimately lead to Arencibia losing his job.  Do the Blue Jays, who have plenty of power up-and-down their lineup, really want to continue going with an all or nothing option?  As it is they didn’t seem to fully commit to him last season, despite only Jose Molina behind him.  With Jeff Mathis on Opening Day and potentially d’Arnaud later, the chances are too high that he doesn’t last the season in a starting role.

Russell Martin – New York Yankees
He was a nice story in his first year with the Yankees, hitting 18 HR.  Of course, he hadn’t hit that many since 2007 and it wasn’t just Yankee Stadium (he hit 10 HR on the road).  Can we really expect him to be able to replicate that type of success?  Throw in the fact that the Yankees are stocked with young catchers (even after the trade of Jesus Montero) and the fact that he’s hit .250 or worse in each of the past three seasons and there is way too much risk involved in trusting him.

Geovany Soto – Chicago Cubs
Since bursting onto the scene in 2008 (.285, 23 HR, 86 RBI), all Soto has done is consistently disappoint.  Over the past three years he has:

  • Hit under .230 twice
  • Failed to hit more than 17 HR
  • Failed to score more than 47 runs
  • Failed to drive in more than 54 runs

What makes us think that anything is going to suddenly change?  Yes, there is the potential that he can post a usable average (he needs to reduce his 26.2% strikeout rate and improve on his .280 BABIP).  Sure, 17 HR isn’t too shabby.  However, in a weak lineup can we really expect much in the RBI/R departments?  There’s just not enough upside to excite me at this point.

What are your thoughts on these five catchers?  Are you targeting any of them?  Why or why not?

***** Order the Rotoprofessor 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, complete with updates from January through the start of the season, for just $6! As an added bonus, if you purchase by 3/15 you will be entered to win a Michael Pineda autographed baseball! To place your order click here. *****

Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings:

Bullpen Banter: Who Is The True Reliever To Own On The Dodgers?
Applying A Handicapping System To Identify Breakout Candidates – Part 2

14 comments

  1. Brad B says:

    I think it all depends on how far in the draft they fall. I wouldn’t mind having any one of them if they fell to me in the 12th round of a 12 team league.

    • TY says:

      ha well they’re not going to fall to the 12th, at least not mauer, napoli and probly not soto…. i agree tho if mauer went late enough i’d gamble, 8th round? OK, anytime before I have to think there’s something better available to help my team elsewhere, especially considering the risks.

      • MJ says:

        Agreed. Obviously Mauer and Napoli will be drafted high by someone. But at least in my league no one really ever overspends on catcher…so the other three will be available for sure in the 10th round and maybe later. I usually punt on catchers anyway, but if a decent catcher is still around after the 10th round I may take a shot.

        • TY says:

          yeah i’ve punted catcher the past few years til basically the very end, and before I knew it I had Monterero and Avila off the waiver wire on my teams.

          Catcher is just a position where I dont see anyone who is a lock to put up numbers enough to justify taking them early.

          Napoli will hit no where near last years batting average.

  2. Mike Lombardo says:

    I tend to agree with your analyses, but you’re totally wrong about Mauer and probably wrong about Napoli. Simply put, JM is one of the best hitters of this generation, regardless of position. His health is the question and he claims to be 100% The Twins will do everything they can to keep him that way and he will log time at 1B and DH. His home park will do him no favors, be he isn’t about power anyway. Because of health concerns, I wouldn’t reach for him, but would be thrilled if he were my #1 catch, UNLESS I could have Napoli. In my view, he’s taken his game to a new level, even his defense, something very unusual for a 31 YO. I expect Washington to give him 550 ABs as the premier power hitter on a premier power hitting team and produce a BA between .285 and .305 with an 80/30/90/5 slashline. I would definitely reach for those numbers.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I can’t say that Napoli is definitely going to come in with that average, specifically. He had a monster season, but he is a career .264 hitter and had never hit above .273. To expect him to hit at least .285 would be a bit of a mistake.

      My biggest issue with him is where I would need to select to get him, however (and the same thing with Mauer). There are just too many other players I’d like to take early on to gamble on them.

  3. Chuck says:

    Not sure your Napoli logic is all-appealing with regards to AB’s. I’m certain he will get 450/500 AB’s this year as the platoon at DH/first will easily get Nap picking up 200/250 AB’s to go with the 250/300 at catcher. Remember Moreland at first is a big candidate for the platoon and Michael Young’s playing time is trending down. I can see Napoli’s counting numbers at the same levels, with the averages dropping some, still a good option if he drops to the 5th imo…

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I don’t think he’ll be available in the fifth in most leagues (according to Mock Draft Central his ADP is 45.44). There is just too much value at other positions to go with the risk of Napoli in my opinion.

  4. Marky Mark says:

    I honestly can’t remember the last time I “targeted” any catcher.

    I’ve gone through the entire draft without even picking a single one on many occasions, instead using those picks to grab a solid guy that starts the season on the DL, and then later using that open roster spot to pick up a C on the WW well after the draft, and then streaming the hot bat all season long.

    I just see too much vulnerability and risk in the position as a whole to invest any pick in at least the first 15 rounds on a catcher, especially when there’s such little difference between the #10 and #20 on the rankings.

    I’m sure I’d have to adjust that strategy if I played in 2-catcher leagues, but those settings just strike me as somewhat silly.

    (btw…now that I’ve typed it out, “Streaming The Hot Bat” might just be the name of one of my teams this year.)

  5. Ross says:

    So, my league is little crazy but we actually completed our draft in January. 12 team 6 keeper league and I picked napoli in the 4th round 2nd pick…so like the 122 draft position with keepers. Is that safe or did I still reach?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      No, in the 10th Round I absolutely would agree with selecting him. That’s him falling in your lap and it’s an easy call.

      That’s not the norm, however.

  6. jmax says:

    Pretty crazy the amount of buzz the catching position brings here. However, I guess when it’s so cloudy as who to take/not take thats what happens. Should be one hell of an interesting season

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I think it speaks volumes as to how people view the position. There are many who are willing to use an early pick for a catcher and those who feel the position is just too risky. Plus, there is also a lot more depth at the position now and unknown breakouts seemingly every year (i.e. Alex Avila), which further helps cloud if you should use an early pick on one or not.

  7. Nick Tenaglia says:

    According to Fan Graphs, Wieters and M.Montero have ADPs right around 100. As far as I’m concerned, those guys are just as valuable as Mauer or Napoli, and at a MUCH cheaper price.
    Sure, Napoli will get you 10 more HRs and an extra 5 Runs/RBI than either of those other guys, but if you take a guy like Hunter Pence in the 4th Round instead of Napoli, then you are still getting 25 HRs, you are getting 90 Runs/RBIs, and you get the added 10 SB with a better Avg.

    Drafting is about assessing both the Risk/Reward factors of drafting a certain player, as well as looking at the Opportunity Costs of drafting a player in a specific location in the draft. By drafting Pence over Napoli, I would be “losing” 5 HRs, but gaining 5 Runs/5 RBI/10 SB, with Avg staying the same. 50 Picks later I can then draft my catcher (Montero or Wieters), which will nullify those gains in Run/RBI, but it allowed me to get a better player in the 4th Rd.

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