Results tagged ‘ Catchers ’
By Tommy Rancel //
Joe Mauer…Brian McCann…Carlos Ruiz? Going into the 2010 season, not many people had Carlos Ruiz pegged as a .345 hitter with a .948 OPS. Yet here we sit in mid-May and Ruiz is exactly that. Welcome to the beauty of early-season sample sizes. However, the hot start raises the question…is there anything to suggest that Ruiz’s hot start is anything more than just that?
In terms of being a .345 hitter, no. Ruiz is a career .253 hitter. Expecting him to maintain an average nearly 100 points higher is just silly. The inflated early-season average is a result of a ridiculously high batting average on balls in play (BABIP). We talk about BABIP around here a lot, with good reason.
Throughout his career with the Phillies, Ruiz has a .271 BABIP. The average player is around .300, On the other hand, it is not uncommon to see catchers, who tend to be slow, with lower than normal BABIPs. Ruiz’s BABIP thus far in 2010 is a robust, and unsustainable, .403. It is true that a hitter has slightly more control over his BABIP than a pitcher, but not this much control.
Part of the reason for the high BABIP is an increase in line drives, a factor that a hitter can, in fact, control to some extent. Of the most common ways to put a ball in play – line drives, groundballs and flyballs – liners are the ones that go for hits more often than any other. Ruiz has a relatively normal career line drive rate (LD%) of 18.4%; that’s increased to 24.6% so far in 2010. An LD% more than 20% is sustainable, but only four players in the major leagues had a rate of greater than 24% last season.
One would suspect Ruiz’s LD% to settle toward career norms; this would likely create a batting average chain reaction. His BABIP would likely fall, and in turn, so would his batting average. ZiPs updated in season projections have Ruiz with a projected .285 batting average at season’s end. That would mean a batting average of .267 the rest of the way. Even then, a .285 average is more than 30 points higher than his career number, but a lot more believable than the .345 average he boasts right now.
Outside of batting average, the biggest change for Ruiz has come in terms of strikeouts and walks. Since joining the Phillies in 2006, Ruiz has posted favorable rates in terms of walks and strikeouts. His career walk rate (BB%) of 11.6% is decent, and his 12.8% strikeout rate (K%) is more than acceptable. In recent seasons, Ruiz has posted nearly identical K and BB percentages. 2010 has been no different.
What is different is an increase in both numbers. The 31-year-old has increased his BB% to 19.8%, but his strikeouts have also increased to nearly the same level (19.0%). Ruiz is swinging at pitches out of the zone 20.4% of the time, but that is not far off his career number of 17.4%. Pitchers are throwing slightly more fastballs to him, however, nothing that could be considered drastic. More likely, Ruiz has just improved his batting eye in terms of walks, and become more willing to work deep counts, even if it means more strikeouts.
Power-wise, Ruiz has shown decent, not great, pop in his five-year career. His ISO or Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .131 in 2010 is very close to his career number of .133. His home run-to-flyball rate of 9.5 is slightly higher than his career number, although easily sustainable.
If you were able to snag Ruiz as your catcher in the later rounds of your draft, enjoy the early-season success. While the batting average is expected to regress, the increase in walks could give him a very favorable on-base percentage, especially from the catcher position; that could boost his runs scored totals in standard 5×5 leagues. In terms of power, expecting Ruiz to duplicate his nine home runs and 26 doubles from last season is reasonable.
If you’re OK with that production from your catcher, then Ruiz is your man. However, if you have a decent back-up option, you might want to strongly consider selling high on Ruiz and his batting average before the potential BABIP regression sets in. Assuming you can get inflated value for him, of course.
*Carlos Ruiz was diagnosed with a right knee sprain on Wednesday. The injury should not require a DL stint.
For more on Carlos Ruiz and other players with surprising starts, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Tommy Rancel
Going into the 2010 season, Miguel Montero was considered a top-10 fantasy catcher. At Bloomberg Sports, we liked Montero’s chances just as much as anyone else. After belting 16 home runs and driving in 59 runs in just 425 at-bats last season, the expectations of a bigger season seemed attainable.
Unfortunately, Montero’s season is now in limbo, as we learned this weekend that he has a torn meniscus in his right knee. He will undergo further tests to determine if there is any more damage. Currently, there is no timetable for his return, but MLB.com is reporting that he will need surgery. At the very least, he’s on the 15-day disabled list.
With Montero on the shelf, the Diamondbacks will turn to former starter Chris Snyder to handle the workload behind the plate.
Snyder went into 2009 as Arizona’s primary backstop; however he suffered a back injury and was never able to regain his spot thanks to Montero’s breakout. The Diamondbacks tried shipping him to Toronto this off-season – a deal they are now lucky they didn’t make. It’s unlikely that Snyder will be able to permanently pry the position back from Montero’s grip. But for now, Snyder is definitely in play as a fantasy option, especially in a deeper mixed league.
From 2006 to 2008, Snyder racked up nearly 1,000 plate appearances for the D-Backs. Over the three-year span he averaged .251/.346/.438 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 12 home runs a season. An OPS of .785 with double-digit home runs represent solid numbers for a catcher. Of the 29 catchers with at least 300 PAs last season, only six had an OPS greater than .785.
Due to the injury, and subsequent decrease in playing time, Snyder had a down season in 2009. He appeared in just 61 games, hitting .200/.333/.358. Those numbers are ugly in raw form; however, consider these stats as well.
Despite the Mendoza level-like batting average of .200, Snyder still reached base one-third of the time. Thanks to a career walk rate of 12%, he doesn’t need to hit .300 to get on base at a decent rate. Another thing to consider is his batting average on balls in play (BABIP). His 2010 BABIP of .237 represents a 37-point drop from his career .274 mark. With some regression, his batting average could see a significant rebound.
If you own Montero, especially in a mixed league of 12 teams or more, or an NL-only league, Snyder is a must-get. He should be available on the waiver wire in most leagues, but act quickly if you haven’t already snagged him. For non-Montero owners, Snyder is still worth a flier, especially since Montero needs surgery and the position is so physically demanding. At a thin position, Snyder provides a decent bat with a proven track record. If nothing else, grab him before the Montero owner in your league does, setting up a potential trade.
For more on Chris Snyder and other potential waiver wire catchers check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits
By Eriq Gardner
Last season, Joe Mauer took home the AL MVP after slugging 28 HR, 96 RBI, and a .365 AVG. It’s nearly indisputable that Mauer had one of the finest seasons ever by a catcher. Yet hardly any fantasy baseball idea is more controversial than the prospect of taking a catcher in the first round.
Some people who blanch at Mauer as a high pick might be nervous about the inherent risks of investing in a catcher, the one position on the diamond (other than pitcher) where no player can every day, and where injuries and wear are big concerns. Others point to Mauer’s HR-to-flyball leap (from 6.5% in 2008 to 20.4% in 2009), seeing it as a clear sign that “Mauer power” is illusory.
However, the best case for Mauer as a solid first-round pick has nothing to do with faith he’ll keep up the HRs. Nor does it have anything to do with batting average, his most famous advantage over other players. It comes down to another category in which he’s so spectacular, he holds the potential of helping a team go a long way toward winning it.
That category is runs — probably the least-considered one in fantasy baseball. It’s also the category that’s been shown repeatedly as most correlative with a fantasy team’s hitting success.
Competitors tend to dismiss the runs category, perhaps because they see it as outside of their control. A player crosses the plate, after all, not just based on his ability, but also due to other players’ ability to drive him in.
However, it follows that getting on base is a skill, and that those who do it well score more runs. Over the last three years, only three batters with more than 600 at-bats (Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, and Todd Helton) have gotten on-base more than Joe Mauer.
The result is that Mauer crosses the plate a lot. Over the last three seasons, he’s averaged 85 runs scored. He scored 94 in 2009. In 2010, he’s projected to score 92 times.
How valuable is that? Let’s put it in perspective.
Among catchers, he’s a beast. Last year, he scored 30 more runs than the average Top-10 catcher. He did this despite missing the first month of the season. Here’s a graphical look at Mauer’s performance last year. Note, too, those 112 AB as a DH:
Going into 2010, Bloomberg projects Mauer to have a 25-run advantage on the top-10 leading run scorers at catcher. Is that a lot? Let’s look at how other players in the first round stack up in the runs category compared to the top-10 projected run scorers at their respective positions.
As you’ll see above, Mauer (+25) holds a bigger advantage compared to his peers than Pujols (+12), Chase Utley (+12), Alex Rodriguez (+12), and Ryan Braun (+1).
Perhaps it’s time we began to look at things differently. Maybe Joe Mauer is to runs as players like Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury are to steals. This may sound controversial, but after going through several drafts already this year, and then projecting the seasons out, I’ve typically found that the team in my league that drafts Mauer is usually the one projected to win the runs category — and give himself a huge leg up on a league title.
For more information on Joe Mauer and hundreds of other players, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy tools.
By Tommy Rancel
Catcher is arguably the most difficult position to draft in the major leagues; real world or fantasy. In fantasy, there are three tiers of catchers: Joe Mauer is alone at the top. Brian McCann and Victor Martinez make up tier two; the rest fall in line after that
Bloomberg’s Demand vs. Scarcity chart does a great job of illustrating this.
If you are not fortunate enough to land one of the elite backstops, selecting a catcher can be a difficult process. With that in mind, keep an eye on these names when selecting your 2010 fantasy catcher.
Position Rank: 5
When Diamondbacks’ starting catcher Chris Snyder went down with a back injury last summer, Miguel Montero made the most of his Wally Pipp opportunity. For the first time in his four-year career, Montero was given more 400 at-bats. He responded by hitting .294/.355/.478 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 16 home runs and 59 RBI. His .327 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was above the expected norm (around.300), but Montero has sustained a BABIP over .320 in each of the past two seasons.
Even if his batting average regresses to the .275 area, his power numbers pass the test. Montero’s .184 ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) was within his career average of .178 and his 12.7% home run-to-fly ball ratio (HR/FB) wasn’t far from his career number, 11.3%.
Montero goes into 2010 as the clear-cut starter for the Diamondbacks and could top 500 at-bats if Arizona can find a trade partner for Snyder. Another season with 15 to 20 home runs is well within reach.
Position Rank: 8
Like Montero, Chris Iannetta enters 2010 as his team’s clear number-one catcher, after being mired in a time-share for several seasons. The Rockies did sign Miguel Olivo to replace Yorvit Torrealba, but Iannetta received a three-year extension from Colorado, showing that he is the team’s first choice.
Iannetta hit just .228 last season. That was actually an improvement over his .218 mark in 2008, though still a huge drag on his fantasy value. Iannetta’s batting average on balls was just .245 in ’09 though, well below his .283 career mark and the league-wide of just over .300.
Despite the low batting average, his selective batting eye led to a healthy .344 OBP. Unlike his new teammate Olivo, Iannetta will take a walk. He walked 12.3% of the time last season, while Olivo took a free pass just 4.6% of the time.
In addition to getting on base, Iannetta has shown excellent power from the catcher position, his ISO topping .230 in each of the past two seasons. In 2009, his HR/FB of 14.0% matched his career number. Playing his home games in Coors field is an added bonus, but Iannetta’s home/road power splits show some balance: His home slugging percentage sits at .466, vs. .427 on the road.
The low batting average and BABIP make Iannetta a bounceback candidate in 2010. His impressive power from the catcher position makes him a good buy-low candidate in the late rounds of a mixed-league draft.
Position Rank: 10
Matt Wieters is no stranger to hype. That hype fizzled a bit when he got off to a slow start in 2009, though. During the first half of the season, he hit just .259/.316/.407 in 117 plate appearances. As his playing time increased during the second half, so did his production. Over the final 65 games of the season he hit .301/.351/.415 in 268 PA. This included a monster final month of the season, where he crushed the ball at a .333/.395/.486 clip.
Wieters’ .356 BABIP last season is likely to regress toward the .300 level. But the Orioles catcher can make up for it in other areas: He walked just 7.3% of the time while striking out 24.3% last season, numbers that are likely to improve given his superior minor league walk rate (14.7%) and strikeout rate (18.3%).
Wieters is not a true “sleeper” with an ADP of 96.5; however, that is 49 spots later than McCann, 72 spots later than Martinez, and 85 spots behind Mauer. Not yet in that upper echelon of backstops, Wieters’ late-season charge could portend a big season, turning the top catching trio into a fantastic four.
For more info on major league catchers including: player cards, position rankings, average draft positions, and more, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.