Drafting a catcher in fantasy baseball is a lot like drafting a kicker in fantasy football. You don’t really want to add them to your roster, but you have to. It’s better to fill a roster slot than not fill a roster slot. Both positions are basically “set and forget” positions. As long as your kicker is healthy and playing, he’s in the lineup. The same goes for a catchers. As long as you have a healthy catcher playing in the majority of games, he should be in the lineup.
Catchers in 2014 are all basically the same guy. Except for a few outliers, your Buster Poseys and Joe Mauers of the world, you could put all the names in the hat, pull one out and get a guy who will probably hit about 15 homers and hit about .260. There is probably a dozen guys with similar profiles on draft boards this year
One of the late round guys with a chance to break out in 2014 is Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes. Gomes played about half a season’s worth of games in 2013 and did enough to make the Indians think they’d be okay at catcher if they moved Carlos Santana to third base. Gomes posted a .826 OPS in 322 PA’s in 2013. It came with a .188 ISO, but it needed a .342 BABIP to maintain. The problem with Gomes is that he posted a 1.12 GB:FB ratio with a 17.8% line drive percentage. That’s unlikely to sustain a .342 BABIP. It is likely to sustain the power production. Fantasy GMs expecting more than a .260 batting average and upper teens homers could be disappointed. Gomes will be productive, but he won’t break out as big as some are expecting.
Sticking with the state of Ohio, the Cincinnati Reds are finally taking off the training wheels and allowing Devin Mesoraco to play. We basically have a full season’s worth of data on Mesoraco and the results aren’t good. He has a brutal platoon split (.199/.257/.324 against righties in his career), but he was stuck getting irregular at bats at the major league level. The job is his to run with now and he has a few things working in his favor.
First of all, his career BABIP is only .248. This is a little odd because he owns a 19.2% line drive rate for his career with a 1.24 GB:FB ratio. He profiles as a guy who should have a higher BABIP than he does. His .321 xBABIP also indicates that he’s due for correction on balls in play. Neither his walk rate (7.5%) or his strikeout rate (17.7%) indicate that he should struggle at the plate the way he has. Mesoraco is better than his numbers and 2014 is his chance to prove it to fantasy GMs.
Derek Norris is another young catcher given a chance at a full time role for the first time in his career. John Jaso is still on the roster, but he’s expected to start transitioning into a backup catcher/part-time DH role in 2014. Jaso’s transition will leave the majority of the work behind the plate for Norris.
It’s easy to give Norris’ numbers a cursory glance and think that he fits a similar profile to Mesoraco. The difference is that Norris walks (10.7% BB%) and strikes out 25.4% K%) more than Mesoraco while also fitting more of a traditional power profile with a 0.90 GB:FB ratio. He does own a career LD percentage over 20.0% for his career, which will help his batting average not dip into ridiculous territory given his three true outcome tendencies.
Platoon split issues is one of the few similarities that Mesoraco and Norris have. Norris owns a career slash line of .173/.271/.270 against right-handed pitching. Until Norris can reach the level of “not embarrassing” against righties, he’ll get a lot fewer at bats than he should, have a much lower batting average than he should and his counting stats will suffer due to missed playing time. He looks like a power upside play as a second catcher in two catcher leagues for now.