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The Market Report: Catchers

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

As I mentioned in my analysis of Round One last week, this week begins our  look at how the market values players at each position. I've opted to use ADP values from Couch Managers, as the mock draft site has more data than Mock Draft Central as of now in the offseason.

As I'll do each week, I've placed players with similar ADPs in tiers to give an idea as to which catchers are considered roughly equal in value in the fantasy marketplace. I'll then identify a few players whom I consider to be undervalued or overvalued. With that out of the way, let's examine the market for catchers entering 2014. ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Buster Posey (38)

2. Carlos Santana (42)

Tier Two

3. Yadier Molina (67)

4. Wilin Rosario (74)

5. Joe Mauer (76)

Tier Three

6. Jonathan Lucroy (90)

7. Brian McCann (98)

8. Salvador Perez (104)

9. Matt Wieters (110)

Tier Four

10. Jason Castro (130)

11. Wilson Ramos (140)

12. Evan Gattis (151)

13. Yan Gomes (155)

Tier Five

14. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (197)

15. A.J. Pierzynski (198)

16. Miguel Montero (207)

Undervalued

Brian McCann (ADP 98)

It feels like McCann has been around forever, but he'll actually be just 30 next season. At a position that has lacked much punch for years now, the new Yankees backstop has been a consistent source of power, hitting at least 20 HR in seven of his eight full seasons. It seems like the fantasy community has given McCann a slight boost in value with the move from a neutral park for left-handed HR to one of the friendliest; however, I don't think fantasy experts fully appreciate the extent to which he'll benefit from his new hitting environment. As a dead pull hitter, McCann and the new Yankee Stdadium are perfect for one another. Sure, he's no spring chicken, but he finished right behind Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in average flyball distance this past season. With Joe Mauer moving to first base, only Yadier Molina hit the ball hard more frequently than did McCann among catchers. While most may no longer view him as a positive contributor in the AVG category, he should back bounce from this past season, given the wide discrepancy between his .261 BABIP and his .296 xBABIP. Finally, given that the Yankees plan to use the DH to rest players, McCann could set a career high in at-bats with the move to the American League. Overall then, while most view McCann as a top-seven catcher, I'd rank him behind only Mauer and Posey.

Wilson Ramos (ADP 140)

It's still early in the offseason, so Ramos may no longer be undervalued come March. After all, other fantasy sites have also noted the potential of the Nationals catcher. Still, the power that Ramos displayed last season was nothing short of phenomenal. Only three players hit the ball farther than Ramos on averageCarlos Gonzalez, Paul Goldschmidt, and Pedro Alvarez. That's it. Two of them are first-round picks, and the other has a good chance to lead the NL in HR. Like McCann, Ramos too was subjected to quite a bit of bad luck in the batted ball department with a .270 BABIP compared to a .304 xBABIP. Indeed, only a handful of players underperformed their expected production more so than Ramos in 2013. The one caveat with Ramos is health, as he's missed significant portions of the past couple seasons with leg injuries. Barring injury, however, few catchers possess the power upside of this Nationals backstop now entering his prime.

Overvalued

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (ADP 197)

Salty enjoyed a breakout campaign last year, finishing as a top-ten catcher for the Red Sox. As a free agent, the backstop then surprised some by signing with the Marlins for three years this offseason. And with that news for me Salty became replacement level at catcher, assuming a two-catcher 12-team mixed league. One of the most underappreciated elements of this game is context. Depending on the circumstances, the same player can be placed in a different environment and witness a drastic change in value. We only have two years of data for Marlins Park at this point, so conclusions can only be drawn with a grain of salt. That being said, in moving from Boston to Miami, Salty enters new surroundings that will severely depress his fantasy value. From a power perspective, the tradeoff may actually not be too bad.

Ignoring park factors, though, let's just focus on the offenses. The Red Sox led all of baseball with 853 runs last year (by a wide margin, no less). On the other hand, the Marlins brought up the rear (again, by a wide margin) with a measly 513 runs. In short, say goodbye to the counting stats. Finally, a key contributor to Salty's value this past season was that he actually helped out fantasy owners with a .273 AVG. Needless to say, this is no True Talent .270 hitter; this is a .250 hitter... at best. As you might expect, luck was on his side in 2013, evident in the stark contrast between his .372 BABIP and .327 xBABIP. When picking your second catcher, you'd like to acquire someone with the potential to perform among the top ten at the position. I just don't see any upside in drafting Saltalamacchia; speculate elsewhere.




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