Normally, the catcher position is one of the weaker spots in your fantasy lineup. Outside of the top tier of talent, there is not much to be had behind the plate from a roto perspective. Catchers are not exactly lighting up in 2011; however, the position is out producing several other spots. In fact, catchers have combined for a higher OPS than several positions including the historically more powerful third base. Catchers have also combined to hit 141 home runs this year. That is more than second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, and center fielders.
For a few years, the position has been dominated by names like Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, and Victor Martinez. This season, more catchers are getting in on the action. Coming in to Monday night’s games, nine catchers with 90 or more plate appearances have an OPS of .800 or above. There are three more over .790. Even more surprising, none of the players on the list are named Mauer, McCann, or Posey.
In place of the common names we’ve see at the top of the catching leaderboard are names like Russell Martin, Alex Avila, Yadier Molina, and Jonathan Lucroy. Each of them owns an OPS greater than .860. But there is one name that has topped them all. With a slash line of .333/.380/.581, Cincinnati Reds’ catcher Ramon Hernandez is leading the way of offensive catchers.
Hernandez has been a productive fantasy player in the past. Since 2001, he has hit 15 or more home runs in five seasons – including two seasons with more than 20 bombs. In 97 games for the Reds last season, he hit .297/.364/.428. Of course when a player like Hernandez gets off to a hot start, the term fluke is tossed around.
The case of Hernandez is a rather interesting one. On one hand, his home run-to-flyball rate of nearly 25% is highly unlike to continue long-term. His .333 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) may seem high for a 35-year-old catcher with no speed. On the other hand, he posted a .332 BABIP in 352 plate appearances as at age 34 last season. Looking at his batted ball data (line drives, groundballs, flyballs) not much has changed except a few less grounders and a few more flyballs.
Despite the hot start, Hernandez is available in a large number of leagues. You may have one of the other productive catchers on your roster, but at his rate, he is becoming worthy of starting in a utility role. If you are able to grab Hernandez and team him a Jonathan Lucroy – a beneficiary of a lot of early season luck – you could double up on the catcher production and then perhaps trade one (in this scenario I would say Lucroy) while his value is high.
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