Today we look at how to approach drafting catchers in the NFBC second half leagues.
There is a philosophy I’ve developed when it comes to drafting catchers. Wait. Just wait. Don’t get sucked into reaching for the elite backstops. The opportunity cost is too great and even if they technically perform up to the draft spot you selected them in, the holes created elsewhere on your roster usually outweigh whatever ‘profit’ you’ve gained from taking a catcher early in the draft. Kneeling for nine innings behind the dish takes a serious toll on the body. All position players are subject to injury, but none so much as those who don the tools of ignorance. Sometimes it leads to time on the disabled list, but quite often they just play through their physical ailments and as a result performance suffers. Looking merely at ADP’s top five catchers back on draft day in March, Carlos Santana is hitting .229, Brian McCann .240, and Matt Wieters .245. All of their slugging percentages are down and their overall production has not met the expectation of owners that likely had to burn a top five pick in order to secure their services.
If I had to take on the risk of an elite catcher early, Mike Napoli is the one that might tempt me to take that path. After the all star break in 2011 Napoli posted numbers you just don’t see from a catcher (.383/.466/.706). He hit 18 bombs in only 61 games. Also consider that Ron Washington was allergic to giving the former Angel regular at-bats until the very end of last year’s campaign. In the first two months of the 2011 season, Mike could only talk his way into 108 AB’s. This year “The Chef” has 147 April-May AB’s. Now a regular fixture in the Ranger lineup that features Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz, the stage is set for an offensive explosion later this summer down south in the Texas heat at the Ballpark in Arlington.
You will no longer be able to get Yadier Molina (.337/.390/.528) in the tenth round. I have a suspicion that few will believe Carlos Ruiz (.349/.399/.562), A.J. Pierzynski (.288/.335/.508), or Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273/.317/.567) can sustain their success and thus they might still be relatively inexpensive plays. The one I’ve really had my eye on for quite some time is Wilin Rosario. I first saw him play in the Arizona Fall League back in 2009 when he smacked two homers and stood out as at least the second most intriguing slugger in the AFL field, which included the likes of Ike Davis, Buster Posey, Mike Moustakas, and Starlin Castro. Davis also went yard, displaying light tower power, but his swing looked long. In contrast, Rosario had a short stroke and a quick bat that made a different sound when he made contact. He always hit it right on the screws. The knock on him was that he might have trouble handling breaking balls once he faced better pitchers in the bigs. It has been an adjustment but Wilin is improving. Rosario is crushing left-handed pitchers (.297/.333/.811) but has struggled against right-handers (.215/.247/.418). I’m going all in on the upside here. Worst case is I’ll get the power but have to manage a poor batting average. The price is cheap and if he improves against RHP… boom goes the dynamite!
Jesus Montero deserves a look if you can get him late enough. Montero struggles as a designated hitter (.207/.248/.310) but he mashes when he gets to call the game behind the plate (.337/.375/.562). This shows the upside built into his package if he can figure out away to adjust to the DH role or if Eric Wedge lets him catch more often. Salvador Perez (39 games in 2011: .331/21/3/20) is currently in the midst of a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Omaha. He’s worth a look in the later rounds. Russell Martin’s first half has been a disaster (.208/.345/.389) but this creates a buying opportunity you won’t usually have for a catcher with pop in the Yankee lineup. Nick Hundley (.172/.231/.280) is someone you can probably get in the final rounds. Who wants someone batting below the Mendoza line? Don’t forget that Hundley hit very well after the all star break last year (.367/.404/.656). If you miss out on your earlier targets Hundley is a flier to consider. Victor Martinez is also a stash and hold possibility as he might make a return later in the second half if his MRI exam later this month goes well.