by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Whenever you do rankings there are going to be players that you like more than others and players you like less. We’ll be taking a look at some of them from each position, but let’s kick things off by looking at three catchers I like more than most heading into 2014:
1) Jonathan Lucroy – Milwaukee Brewers
He’s likely a unanimous Top 10 catcher entering the season (at least he should be), and you will likely find him in the 6-8 range on most rankings. However, I have him slotted fourth on my rankings. Why?
For one, I like the fact that the Brewers started playing him at 1B to keep his bat in the lineup. Even if the team makes an acquisition, at this point it’s hard to imagine them acquiring someone that has to play every day (take Ike Davis, for instance). That should mean extra AB compared to other options.
Secondly, the makeup for strong production is there. While his power regressed a bit in the second half (6.7% HR/FB), he makes contact (strikeout rates of 12.7% and 11.9% the past two seasons) and hits the ball hard (22.1% career line drive rate). That’s a formula for success and with consistent power (HR/FB over 10% each of the past three seasons) and a spot in the middle of the order, there’s a lot to like.
As long as he stays healthy he should produce like a Top 5 option.
2) Alex Avila – Detroit Tigers
We are going to go into a lot more detail in him soon, so let’s do this in summary form. The fact is that injuries and bad luck completely stifled him in 2013.
Over the past four seasons he’s posted a line drive rate over 21%, including a 28.0% mark in 2013. However, last season he still “struggled” with a .305 BABIP. In other words, there’s room for improvement.
Yes, his strikeouts rose (29.6%) and that is never going to be his forte (24.6%), but with his ability to hit the ball hard you still have to think he can hit .250-.260, if not more.
As for the power, he simply hasn’t been putting the ball in the air the past two seasons (fly ball rates of 29.8%). Maybe it’s the injuries, but if healthy he should be able to approach the 18 HR he hit in 2011.
Power and the potential for a solid average? He’s got as good a chance as anyone to post a solid campaign.
3) Mike Zunino – Seattle Mariners
After a disappointing rookie campaign (.214 with 5 Hr), many have him outside their Top 20 entering the season. However, things should be fixable:
- Luck – .267 BABIP; while his 18.1% line drive rate was hardly elite, it was actually 21.2% prior to get injured
- Popups – 14.6%; over his minor league career he posted a 7.4% mark
There’s power potential and he should vastly improve his average. If you are going to gamble on a younger catcher (like Travid d’Arnaud), Zunino would be my pick.
Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Central
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: