by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Which catchers surprised this past season? Who surprisingly struggled? While injuries played a role for some people (Matt Wieters, Yadier Molina, etc.), let’s take a look at some of the biggest booms and busts from the past year and try to determine which are for real and which are more of an aberration:
Yan Gomes – Cleveland Indians
Finally getting regular playing time Gomes delivered by hitting .278 with 21 HR and 74 RBI over 518 PA. He’s always had power potential and there is nothing unbelievable in his 14.4% HR/FB, though he did see a bit of a jump in fly balls in September (52.2%). It’s not a huge concern, because he hadn’t been above 41% in any other month, and he routinely hit the ball hard (24.0%). Maybe he doesn’t replicate the average (23.2% strikeout rate, .326 BABIP is difficult for a catcher to maintain), but there’s more than enough to like as he is going to remain the starter in Cleveland with Carlos Santana getting his AB at other position.
Devin Mesoraco – Cincinnati Reds
We’ve long heard about the hype, but Mesoraco exploded to hit .273 with 25 HR over 384 AB. After routinely pounding the ball into the ground (45.1% in ’13), he increased both his fly ball rate (43.0%) and HR/FB (20.5%) yielding the impressive campaign. Unsurprisingly he saw the latter drop in the second half (23.9% to 16.4%) and there also is the risk that he becomes homer happy (54.8% fly ball rate in September). He also saw a big jump in his strikeout rate from previous seasons, and it was consistent (23.3%/23.6%), throwing another question into the mix. Time will tell if he’s able to follow-up on his impressive breakout season, but there are a few warning signs we’ll have to evaluate as we get closer to the season.
Dioner Navarro – Toronto Blue Jays
It wasn’t a surprise that Navarro didn’t show quite the same power that he did in 2013, but no one is complaining about his line of .274 with 12 HR and 69 RBI. His 8.1% HR/FB is believable and could increase (he hit just 3 HR on the road and saw his HR/FB jump from 6.3% to 10.3% as the season progressed). Considering he was at 10.0% and 18.8%, those are all good signs. He also makes consistent contact (14.6% strikeout rate vs. 13.8% for his career) and hits the ball hard (24.1% line drive rate, his third consecutive season at 24% or better). There’s an awful lot to like from a player that others will easily overlook.
Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins
His advantage was supposed to be a catcher eligible player who hit for a big average and scored a lot of runs, while he wasn’t actually catching. Instead he hit just a solid .277 and scored 60 runs. We all know he has little power (50.8% groundball rate), but he also saw his strikeout rate continue to rise (18.5% vs. career mark of 11.8%) and has now lost his catching eligibility. It certainly appears like his days as a valuable fantasy asset have come and gone.
Wilin Rosario – Colorado Rockies
Could he have played himself out of a starting job in Colorado? Supposed to be a source of power, Rosario managed just 13 HR as his HR/FB dropped for the third consecutive season (25.5% to 17.1% to 13.3%) and he consistently drove the ball into the ground (50.2% groundball rate). Can he turn it around? Time will tell, but he may not get the opportunity to prove it as a member of the Rockies. If he is sent packing his overall outlook will look that much worse.
Jason Castro – Houston Astros
We already took an indepth look at Castro (click here to view), so we are going to make this extremely quick. His strikeouts were up, and have been since midway through 2013, his line drive rate fell and he’s always a risk for injury. There is power, but not enough to offset his abysmal average. Throw in the fact that the lineup is better, meaning he’s not hitting towards the middle, and his outlook doesn’t look promising.