So the saying goes that people living in glass houses should not throw stones. Let me clear my conscience then before getting into the latest bust projection. I have a fantasy bias against catchers and starting pitchers. Sure, there is a need to draft both to fill out a roster. I just tend to find myself waiting, sometimes far too long, in selecting these spots. That said, there is still a time and a place for drafting positions. With catchers, finding production can be a challenge but it is deeper this year than in years past. It is what makes the push on Joe Mauer still perplexing and what has me thinking Mauer should be on bust watch.
This one hits a sore spot with many. After all, Mauer is only a few years removed from an MVP season that saw him hit 28 home runs and drive in 96 for Minnesota. With health, many are assuming that he will be able to be on the rebound. Like many of you, I trust Paul Greco implicitly. Some might call it a character flaw, but take a look at a few comparisons of catcher projections he has helped put together on this site and see if it raises an eyebrow:
Player A: 475 ABs, 16 HR, 71 runs, 74 RBI, 1SB, .280 AVG, 101 ADP
Player B: 440 ABs, 18 HR, 64 runs, 64 RBI, 0 SB, .257 AVG, 234 ADP
Player C: 464 ABs, 9 HR, 73 runs, 73 RBI, 1 SB, .317 AVG, 81 ADP
Player D: 464 ABs, 17 HR, 71 runs, 73 RBI, 4 SB, .269 AVG, 111 ADP
One more line should be added in here. Take a look at what the average catcher will produce in 2012 according to FantasyPros911 projections:
Average Catcher: 443 ABs, 15 HR, 61 runs, 64 RBI, 2 SB, .269 AVG
When you look at this, Player A is Miguel Montero, Player B is Geovany Soto, Player C is Mauer, and Player D is Alex Avila. Sure, Mauer is the only catcher that is expected to produce a .300 average over the full season, but 26 catchers are projected to produce more home runs and 18 will have more stolen bases. Only four will have more runs and only seven with more RBI, but 11 catchers will be within 10 runs or RBI of Mauerâ€™s marks. Most will do it without the same implicit health risks. Quite simply he does not differentiate himself in a big enough way in any category other than average. That being the case, disappointment and bust is certainly likely to be in the vocabulary of owners that grab him this early in drafts.
The numbers suggest that even an average catcher will give the Minnesota backstop a run for his money. The historical data puts in perspective that his 2009 season was the anomaly and every other shows far closer to reality. Very little suggests a return of much power. His HR/FB rate has been relatively constant. While his ISO and OBP may ramp up with his average, it is not likely to come with more balls over the fence. The projections in this post are decidedly in line with most sites. Expecting more could be foolish, yet at this ADP he may be called upon to provide that.
Mauer has had just the one year where he hit double-digit home runs. He has found ways to reach 75 runs and RBI in the past, so there is precedent for that. The issue remains a level of expectations. Thinking that he will be able to go back and suddenly hit 20-plus home runs is unlikely. When a player produces less than many players at his position, especially those being taken many rounds later, it is worth calling them a bust at their current draft slot. Mauer will deliver, but he needs to show more than one category to justify a selection this high.