Mastersball

Say no to Mauer
AL or Nothing
Written by Jason Mastrodonato   
Thursday, 17 February 2011 03:16

Oh, the dreaded catcher position.

If you play in a 12-team AL-only format, someone in your league is going to end up with Jason Varitek, Ramon Castro, Jeff Mathis, or Lou Marson as one of their starting catchers.

Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

I mean honestly, what the heck are you supposed to do with this position?

If you take a look at all the catchers in the American League, sort them from top to bottom, I have to get to the 12th or 13th guy before I find someone I feel comfortable taking given their expected draft position/auction value.

Let’s break it down a little.

There are those in the industry who love Joe Mauer. But I can’t justify taking a catcher with a history of knee problems (and had surgery in December), who, in his “healthy years”, averages just over 500 at-bats in a season.

Now, I know that’s pretty good compared to his peers. But when you talk about guys who are supposed to help you out in batting average, those at-bat totals are extremely important. Ichiro hitting .331 in 680 at-bats is a lot different than Mauer hitting .327 in 510 at-bats.

Add in that Mauer has hit 9 or less home runs in three of the past four seasons, and I really wouldn’t want to waste a first-, or even second-round pick on him. Those are supposed to be the picks who you build your team around. A guy or two who you can count on do a few things really well for you, and stay on the field.

To me, Mauer just doesn’t seem to fit that bill.

Then you take a look at some of the other guys on the list: Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli, Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, Carlos Santana

No thanks.

V-Mart will likely become more of a designated hitter in Detroit, since he’s awful defensively, and pitchers really don’t like throwing to him – just ask the Red Sox staff – and I’m not sure how he’s going to handle that role.

Posada has had three straight years of less than 400 at-bats, though I will admit, he can still hit. But he is yet another player moving to a DH role.

Napoli, Martin, Santana – all those guys just scream over-rated to me.

I actually don’t mind Matt Wieters this year, but I highlighted that in more detail in this space before.

So I decided to take what I call the “Theo Epstein Approach to Catching” this year.

Draft two guys who, together, will probably pile together 600-700 at-bats. But in those at-bats, two guys who can hit the ball decently well. (And I know, Epstein has one guy who can hit decently well, and another who has hit .212 the past three seasons, but the idea still works.)

I’d much rather put together a catching team of guys like Jesus Montero and Jarrod Saltalamacchia than try to chase at-bats from those who will likely do more harm than good anyway.

I actually really like Salty this year. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 25 years old, and has a ton of experience for a guy that young.

He was a first-round draft pick by the Braves out of high school and does have decent power, he spent all winter working out with Gary Tuck and Jason Varitek, and the pitching staff has already had nothing but great things to say about the new backstop.

What does his defense have to do with fantasy? Well, it means that Saltalamacchia is going to be in the lineup a lot. With Varitek his only competition, and likely only getting one or two starts a week when tough lefties are on the mound, Salty will finally have a starting job all to himself. And hitting anywhere in the Boston order is no bad place to be.

By waiting until the late rounds to take guys like Salty, Alex Avila, John Jaso, or even Brayan Pena, you can spend your earlier picks on much more productive hitters. The difference between someone like Saltalamacchia and Carlos Santana probably won’t be a whole lot, but they’re being drafted 260 spots apart. Actually, I’d be willing to place a bet that Salty ends the season with more runs and RBIs than the Indians’ hot prospect.

Then you consider the difference between hitters in another position taken in the same two rounds, and that’s like trading in Fred Lewis for Nick Swisher, or Clint Barmes for Brian Roberts, or Nate McLouth for Nick Markakis, or… well, you get the point.

To me, it just makes sense to wait on catching this year, at least in the American League.

 

 

 

More Articles by Jason Mastrodonato

Comments  

 
# 50 Desert Eagles 2011-02-17 13:35
I have been debating on V-mart for a keeper this season in my 20 team mixed league, its either him or Jeter or Soria. I keep seeing more and more bad vibes on V-mart. In this league three other teams are keeping Catchers though in Mauer-Santana-McCann. I have never kept a Catcher, but it's a tough call in my mind.
 
 
# jason 2011-02-17 16:50
Well, if it's VMart, Soria, or Jeter, I might actually keep VMart.

He is still valuable, and with potentially .300 average and 20 homers from the catcher position, you really can't complain.

I have no problem with him, I just wouldn't pay his draft day price to get his services.

Depends on your keeper format. If you'd be paying the same price for those three guys, I'd probably keep VMart.


Though I have been all over Soria this year, and I think he's the only top closer left who doesn't have at least some question mark.
 
 
# 50 Desert Eagles 2011-02-17 17:02
My only reason for dreaming of keeping Soria is I am going to deploy the get solid rp's/mr's with solid era/whip/k's and go with avg sp's, in a deep 20 team 7x7 league, so svs/hlds/era/whip/k's all would be good with this method. My other keepers are Teix-Pedoria-Soria...then I have to choose from Jeter-vmart. SS is so lame this season, so still weight pros/cons....no inflation or anything on keepers. I actually have an advantage of extra draft picks in the first 4 rounds after the 80 keepers are off the board, so I plan on loading up on hitters first, while weaving another solid RP, then MR in the middle and pull up with a few SP's middle-later.
 
 
# Black Sox 2011-02-17 17:41
I've used Todd's advice for the past 3 seasons and it's worked wonders. I play in 2 C leagues and my backstop combo was M.Olivo & M.Napoli. Needless to say I was very happy with the production. I'm also a big Y.Molina fan, in the draft I look for C that won't hurt me. The production you lose by not getting a top C, pales in comparison to the counting stats you gain drafting better talent earlier in the draft.
 
 
# jason 2011-02-17 18:26
50 Desert Eagles: If you're in that deep of a league, keeping Soria might actually be a good idea. And if you can keep VMart as well, go for it.

Ask Todd what he thinks of Jeter this year ;) or read the USA Today mag.

Bottom line, I wouldn't do it.

Black Sox: I've had Olivo on at least one team the past few years and loved him each season. Although on the M's, I am a little concerned. Bad park, terrible offense.

As for going with two strong catchers, that really all depends on how you like to format your team. Personally, I like to spend my earlier round picks on top-hitters at other positions, and I think I can snag a couple bargain backstops later on in the draft.

All personal preference with this situation.
 
 
# 50 Desert Eagles 2011-02-18 07:06
[quote name="jason"]
Ask Todd what he thinks of Jeter this year ;) or read the USA Today mag.

Bottom line, I wouldn't do it.

quote]

I have to keep 2 of 3 in Vmart-Jeter-Soria. Jason, by your comment you mean you would keep Soria and Vmart correct?
 
 
# jason 2011-02-18 10:46
Correct.
 
 
# Mickey4081 2011-02-17 20:35
The thing is with Mauer, you MAY be picking a guy who can win a batting title with 15-20 hr and 90+ rbi. It's pretty much the possible huge upside you're paying for. He could go for ..350 20 90 90, and you wouldn't have to roll the dice on marginal catchers with little or no upside at all.....none who would even come close to Mauer. The bottom line is that Mauer is capable of putting up ridiculous numbers from the super weak catcher's postion....a price that is worth serious consideration.
 
 
# Black Sox 2011-02-18 08:01
Mikey4081,

I belive your missing Todd's point.You just put a BEST case scenerio for Mauer and even then did you get 2nd round production. Other than the .350 AVG you just decribed #'s that my 4/5 OF will put up ( depending on the size of your league) Keep in mind this was best case, you really want to take that kind of risk that early in the draft? In my mind I'll ALWAYS pass on Mauer and have a better built team for it.
 
 
# 50 Desert Eagles 2011-02-18 08:44
There are so many factors with these scenories, such as, league size, rules, how many Catchers you play, etc. I do believe the preaching of Todd and many others though that say KNOW THEY LEAGUE, but also you have to know when a deal is a deal, If Mauer is overlooked and the best stud puppies are gone, jump! I never have taken an SP early in a draft, but if someone passed on say Ubaldo until 9th round(uhhh I am in a 20 team league, so 9th round is player in the 180ish range) I wouldn't think twice, yea I know that was a little extreme there, but I have seen players slip thru and go missed, then after you snage them people say SHIT where was HE hidding in the ADP list....yea been there myself...I am curious where Johan will fall this season in my trade, around pick 250, I might get froggy, sure he is worth more, but I gamble when it's in my fortune, plus I am an avid trader in my leagues, so let someone else sit with an injury then offer some hot talent that won't last.
 
 
# Todd Zola 2011-02-18 09:22
My issue with Mauer is more strategic than anything. And for the record, I'll lump Dustin Pedroia in the same class to better illustrate my point. Both of these guys have too much of their value tied up in batting average for my liking. With my early picks, I want counting stats, counting stats and more counting stats. I know picking up Mauer and/or Pedroia then allows me to comfortable roster low average, high HR 9or SB) types, but what I have done is narrow down the player pool, reduce the inventory from which I get to choose, and that is bad in a draft. I am pretty much forced to target some of these low BA types to make up for low counting stats at the beginning and later, if the BPA happens to contribute average, I have no use for them. My "strategy" is to use my first 3 picks in a manner than the rest of the draft is pretty much BPA. Taking Mauer, as good as he is, hinders that. At least in the formats I play, which are now mostly no trade leagues so balance is paramount.
 
 
# Black Sox 2011-02-18 18:22
Todd,
I think reguardless of whether or not your league allows trading, is shallow or deep etc.. your advice is still spot on. I always want the opportunity to pick BPA and never be locked in to a particular type. Also reguardless of whether or not my league allows trading I always strive for balance when I leave the draft. I always try to avoid leaving the draft "needing" to trade. If I know I need to trade then so does everyone else and it can put me at the mercy of other owners.
 

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