Let’s take a look at this week’s Rotoprofessor Roundtable, where I posted the following question to the writers:
“Which catcher are you planning on targeting on draft day and why?”
It was an intentionally vague question, so let’s see what everyone had to say:
Eric Stashin aka The Rotoprofessor (Jonathan Lucroy):
The common theme today is going to be not reaching for a catcher, and that’s a statement I want to echo as well. However if Lucroy falls (which is not impossible) I wouldn’t hesitate to grab him. I have an article set to run in the next few weeks on him, but those doubting his 2013 success would be sorely mistaken.
He has average potential, given his strike zone knowledge (strikeout rates of 12.7% and 11.9% the past two seasons) and consistently elevated line drive rate (22.1% for his career). He has shown consistent power, with HR/FB over 10% the past three seasons. He also hits in the middle of the Brewers lineup, giving him potential for both RBI and runs.
There’s no reason to reach for him because all catchers carry risk with them. That said, I’ll be keeping a close eye on him. He’s a Top 5 catcher, so if he falls on draft day I wouldn’t be afraid to shy away from him.
Will Overton (Salvador Perez):
When it comes to catcher this season there is Buster Posey, Carlos Santana and then everyone else. If I am not getting one of those top two, which I’m probably not, than I also won’t likely be the third, fourth or fifth guy to take a catcher since I think the eighth, ninth or tenth guy has just as good of a chance at being the next best.
So who am I targeting in particular, right now, is Salvador Perez. Most of the rankings I look at have him at the end of the top ten at catcher and if I can nab him as the eighth or ninth catcher off the board, I’m doing it with a smile. To me Perez has just as good a chance as anyone at finishing number three among catchers, and I can’t stop thinking about that high potential. Perez is just 23 years old and he’s only getting better, especially in terms of power. He is a .290 – .300 hitter with 20 HR potential and he hits in the middle of the Royals improving lineup. I think he has the highest upside of the second tier catchers and I’d love to have him.
Ray Kuhn (Wilson Ramos/Yan Gomes):
Catcher is the most volatile position. Between playing time issues and health concerns, it is hard to trust and expect a catcher to make through even 140 games. There are risks associated with drafting a catcher high and the top option, Buster Posey, comes with risks and his production only stands out due to the position he plays. Personally, it is not worth drafting him where he will go. Regardless of the format, I would prefer to minimize my risk while going with some upside. For that reason, Wilson Ramos is the guy I’m targeting this year.
Currently the 12th ranked catcher in the RotoProfessor draft guide, Ramos provides everything I’m looking for out of my backstop. He has power (although I think repeating last year’s 16 home runs in 78 games is out of the question), youth, some upside and he will hit for a pretty good average (.272 last season). While he might not have the same name recognition as other options, I’ll take Ramos all day.
Looking at the projections for 2014 in the aforementioned draft guide, the average home runs for the top 12 catchers is 20 and for RBI it is 77. For the price, Ramos’ 18 home runs and 60 RBI provides a nice value.
In deeper leagues, I’d take a look at Yan Gomes. It looks like Carlos Santana is heading to third base which opens up playing time for Gomes. I think a conservative forecast of .260, 15 HR, 60 RBI is very possible.
It is possible you can get both options for a combined $6 at most, which puts you in very good position to build the rest of your squad.
David De Witt (Whoever falls to the later rounds):
On draft day, I will be targeting one of the last catchers drafted. I don’t really care if it’s Miguel Montero, Jason Castro, Wilson Ramos or anyone in that range. At least one of the bottom tier catchers will still be on the board in the 15th round and beyond or will be available for $1 in auction leagues.
In one-catcher leagues, I prefer to fill the catcher position with someone cheap, keeping an eye on the waiver wire in case there is an unexpected breakout. Last year, four of the top twelve catchers had an average draft position that was in the 14th round or later. Obviously this strategy goes out the window in two-catcher leagues, but for one-catcher leagues patience is a very important virtue.
Steven Grindstaff (Jason Castro):
I personally like to hold off and not target the top catchers because I’d rather use my pick on a position that contributes more often. The catcher position is just too volatile and they don’t accumulate enough ABs to warrant spending a top pick on. There is actually a bit more depth this year at catcher which may tempt me to hold out just a little bit longer on draft day.
As the season approaches, I have 4 catchers who I will be targeting. But atop my list will be Jason Castro of the Houston Astros. He enjoyed quite the power surge in 2013, hitting 18 homeruns in 435 AB. Many are going to look at his HR/FB% and shout terms such as fluke and unsustainable. But is it really? His batted ball distance increased from 271 feet in 2012 to 291 feet in 2013. The power seems legit and I can see him surpassing his total from 2013.
In addition, Castro has posted very solid LD rates throughout his career so he will help in the batting average category. The Astros lineup was atrocious last season, but Castro appears to be a lock for the 3rd spot in the order where he will have new leadoff man Dexter Fowler and Jose Altuve hitting ahead of him. Fowler’s .369 OBP last season will help Castro in the RBI department.
He’s always offered above average contact rates until last season when his strikeout rate jumped to 26%. A result of his approach at the plate may explain this, seeing as his power has increased he may be swinging for the fences more often. I’d expect his contact rates to normalize, he’s just too good of a hitter.
Most projections have him ranked around the 8-12 spot overall at catcher. I can envision him moving closer to Top 5 by the end of the season. Many will overlook him because of the high HR/FB rate, but don’t make that mistake. The power is legit and he will be a nice addition to your lineup after the top catchers have been selected.
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: