Under-the-Radar Option: Could Chris Iannetta Emerge As A Viable Fantasy Option?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

In one-catcher formats there is enough depth to find a usable option.  However, what happens when you push it to a two-catcher format?  Suddenly if you miss out on the Top 10-12 names owners are left scrambling to find some type of suitable plugin.  There’s hope that someone like Peter O’Brien in Arizona could ultimately emerge, giving owners another choice, but there could be a veteran sleeper that everyone is overlooking.

In year’s past Chris Iannetta has never been given a chance to play every day, thanks to the presence of Hank Conger.  However Conger was sent to Houston this offseason, leaving very little behind Iannetta on the Angels’ depth chart.  In late February manage Mike Scioscia told Alden Gonzalez of mlb.com (click here for the article):

“Anywhere from 100 to 115” starts behind the plate is ideal, Scioscia said of Iannetta, who started 92 games last season and has a career high of 105.

“His bat came alive; he had a terrific season for us, did a lot of good things,” Scioscia added. “As far as catching behind the plate, I think we’re in that range still. I think he’s at his peak when you can see him in that range.”

That doesn’t seem like a big increase in playing time, but with Josh Hamilton’s status in question it also is possible that Iannetta earns AB at DH.  Would seeing him get into the 425-450 AB range really be such a stretch, with names like Drew Butera behind him?

Iannetta has shown pop before, and despite only putting up 7 HR a year ago he added 22 doubles showing a little bit more potential.  With additional AB he should be able to get into the 12-15 HR range, with more possible, the question is going to be if the average is going to be there.

While he’s a career .236 hitter, he was at .252 a year ago and that actually is not an unreasonable mark.  He owns a career 22.8% strikeout rate and was at 24.4% last season.  While it’s not an ideal mark, considering the gaudy numbers around the game it also isn’t a crippling one.

Maybe his .329 BABIP is slightly elevated, but we can also argue that his .283 career mark is not what he’s capable of.  Last season he posted a reasonable 20.5% line drive rate, kept his fly balls in check at 41.4% and also significantly reduced his popup rate (8.8%).  Couple those numbers with some power and .250 is extremely unrealistic.

Last season there were only 9 catchers to hit at least 15 HR and only five who paired it with at least a .250 average (Jonathan Lucroy & Wilin Rosario were the next closest, hitting 13 HR):

  1. Devin Mesoraco
  2. Buster Posey
  3. Evan Gattis
  4. Yan Gomes
  5. Salvador Perez

Given that type of upside and his current ADP of 376.3 (28th catcher being selected), there’s a lot to like.  If you find yourself in need of a flier in two-catcher formats, he’s well worth the gamble.

Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports, Fantasy Pros

Make sure to check out all of our 2015 rankings:

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  1. jmax says:

    So this recent interview puts a different spin on the draft guide’s thoughts, yes?

    • jmax says:

      I’m drafting in a deep daily roto league and I’m currently rolling with Jaso and looking at Dioner Navarro as a backup. Who would you role the dice with, Navarro or Ianetta?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      In the next update Iannetta will move up right behind Navarro. Navarro is the clear better option, if he gets dealt somewhere that he will get regular AB. If not, it’s really a tossup unfortunately.

      • jmax says:

        Speaking of the next update, I didn’t see Jace Peterson in the current version and from what I’ve read he’s going to beat out Callaspo

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