What is the least important roster spot on a fantasy baseball team? While I have no definitive proof at hand, my guess is the second catcher in two-catcher leagues.
That is especially the case in single-league formats. With 15 teams now in the American and National Leagues, in a 12-team fantasy league, nine owners on the average would possess only one catcher who starts for his MLB club.
Not willing to pay for two starter-class catchers in National League Tout Wars this year, I chose to buy the two backstops from the same NL team. It wasn’t any club, however. I selected the one with the best record in the NL last season, the Washington Nationals. Of course, the Nats’ catching personnel made my decision clearer.
Washington’s catching situation coming into the season looked somewhat favorable to the possibility of the second catcher being given a decent quantity of at-bats. With Jesus Flores out of the picture after being non-tendered during the off-season, former Twins prospect Wilson Ramos and ex-A’s starting backstop Kurt Suzuki were expected to be the starter and reserve, respectively.
Having started for much of six seasons in Oakland, Suzuki seemed a step above the standard NL catcher reserve. A career average at .260 and three double-digit home run seasons in the past - with Suzuki still just 29 years of age - gave me enough confidence to post a winning bid of $2.
I paired Suzuki with Ramos, whom I had drafted earlier for the premium price of $10. Back in March, I felt Ramos had the potential of becoming a breakthrough player this season. Two Ramos disabled stints later, I am less confident.
After playing in just 14 games, Ramos’ second injury timeout may drag through June. Given the source is his hamstrings, the problem might be back. Last season, he was limited to 25 games due to a knee injury. At age 25, it is too early to label Ramos as injury-prone, yet one has to be concerned about his inability to remain healthy.
Needing a new Tout lineup partner for Suzuki was the starting point for my string of misfortunes.
The first week, I selected Tim Federowicz of the Dodgers, not knowing he was sent down to Triple-A earlier that day. As a result, I received no stats that week.
The following Sunday, I dumped Federowicz and made three $0 bids. First was Jeff Mathis, back from the Marlins’ DL. He hasn’t been much of a hitter in his MLB career, but I thought Mathis might see a few stray at-bats for a terrible Miami club.
I had no competition, getting my first choice. With the benefit of five days of hindsight, I now know that was unfortunate. I should have reversed my priority order.
My mistake was that I did not look into the reserve catchers’ stats in enough detail. If I had, I would have noticed that Navarro had three home runs in just 55 at-bats this season as of last weekend.
Instead, I just threw three names down without enough investigation. As a result, I paid dearly.
On Wednesday, Navarro blasted three home runs, connecting from both sides of the plate for the Cubs against the White Sox. It was his first multiple home run game in his 10 years in the Majors. Further, Navarro drove in a career-high six runs and scored four times.
It isn’t like Navarro has been a desirable commodity this season. Even after the big home run day, he is rostered in just one percent of Yahoo leagues. It has been a long time since the 29-year-old was a highly-touted Yankees prospect.
Despite Navarro’s big day, regular Cubs catcher Welington Castillo need not fear for his job. Chances are pretty good that Navarro experienced his 15 minutes of 2013 fame on Wednesday - and I missed it. At least Navarro had his 15 minutes. Mathis is 0-for-6 this week.
I’ll stop there before I get into Friday’s news. In the same game Stephen Strasburg had to leave, Suzuki was stung when he took a foul ball off his collarbone.
Most every fantasy owner I know obsesses about decisions made that he wishes he could reverse, or in this case, one he should not have made.
Don’t be like me and pay too little attention to even what may be the least important spot on your fantasy roster. On any given day, it could end up being the most significant. If you miss the opportunity, it will be gone forever.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.