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Value Catchers: How Were They Found?

I have a habit of investing heavily in catchers in two-catcher mixed leagues.  Like many of my longstanding tendencies, this needs to be reconsidered.  I could have snagged Dan Haren or Jered Weaver for my rotation instead of Geovany Soto, and a quality closer like Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, or Jose Valverde instead of Mike Napoli

This has been a disappointing year for catchers, with at least five of the first ten drafted looking like busts.  But there have always been fantasy players who ignore position scarcity and just try to find bargain catchers late, and if they hit on this strategy their teams are much stronger for it.  A look at this year's top ten fantasy catchers and how they were acquired in leagues:

  1. Alex Avila, Tigers.  In the RotoAuthority League, the team that has Avila added him as a free agent on March 26th, dropping Ervin Santana.  That team dropped him the same day for Joel Peralta, then added him again on March 30th.  Then the team cut him for Julio Borbon on April 3rd, but added him April 7th for the last time while dropping Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  Avila hit his second home run of the season in his fifth game, and by then the indecisiveness was over and he remained a member of Philly Cheez.  After an ugly 2010 season offensively, Avila was simply a flier that worked out.  Perhaps a savvy player could have targeted Avila after looking him up in the 2010 Baseball America Handbook, where he was projected as a possible .280/15 home run type.
  2. Victor Martinez:, Tigers.  V-Mart profiled as a top five fantasy catcher, and he required a third round investment.  With all kinds of studs on the board at the end of the third round, and Martinez moving to a pitcher's park, this felt fairly risky to me.  But it paid off.
  3. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks.  Montero was a respected catcher, though after an off 2010 that included knee surgery, he was available in the 11th round in many leagues and the 10th in mine.  The team that took him went for A.J. Pierzynski in the 19th round as their second catcher.
  4. Brian McCann, Braves.  McCann was another of the big investment types, as he went first in the fifth round in our league.  In this case the investment looks good, though we've seen plenty of early round catching busts.
  5. Miguel Olivo, Mariners.  Olivo was drafted in the 23rd round in our league.  Solid value, as I had him projected for 17 home runs this year.  His home run power has not held up at Safeco, so he hit seven of his ten on the road.  This is an example of drafting a catcher who has one particular skill.  One thing that might have been anticipated was increased playing time and therefore bigger counting stats for Olivo.
  6. Russell Martin, Yankees.  Martin was drafted in the 21st round in our league, a little earlier than most.  Back in spring there were questions about Martin's surgically-repaired knee, plus he hadn't shown double digit power since '08.  This pickup might only look good because Martin had a big April.  It remains to be seen if he can hold value all year.
  7. Yadier Molina, Cardinals.  He was a 20th round pick in our league, from the same team that took Olivo in the 23rd.  As a high contact guy Molina can hit .300 in certain years, and that's what's making him valuable right now.  In that regard, guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz, Ramon Hernandez, and Ryan Hanigan might reward you in batting average if you're lucky.
  8. Matt Wieters, Orioles.  Wieters was a tenth round pick in our league, as everyone still kind of anticipates a breakout.  He hasn't done anything amazing, but he doesn't hurt you either.  Really, you expect more than .275-6-31-23-0 from a tenth round pick, though that looks great to the guy who made a huge reach for Soto in the sixth round.  Yes, that's why I'm in last place.  Then again, if Soto repeated his '08 or '10 season over 425 ABs this year the pick would look just fine.
  9. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays.  Arencibia went in the 20th round.  He's doing exactly what was expected - showing 20 home run power and hitting in the .230s.  Pretty much a young fantasy Olivo, but with more upside and a better ballpark.
  10. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers.  Lucroy was picked up in our league on April 21st by a team that dropped Hanigan.  He's basically matched Wieters.  His work in the high minors didn't hint at double digit power.

Only two examples of waiver bait here, so picking your catchers on draft day is important.  A good strategy might be to grab one of the 10-11th round younger upside types, pairing him with a 20th round veteran or Arencibia-type flier.

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