Catchers of the world, unite! Your time is now! The fantasy baseball community is officially warned – the catcher position is no longer an afterthought. Grab your bid dollars, hoard those early round draft picks and get yourself a quality backstop! They have arrived.
OK, so maybe that’s blowing it out of proportion just a bit, but you can’t deny that, overall, we’re seeing some fine ol’ production out of a position most fantasy baseball owners tend to dismiss. While the top five catchers tend to come off the board between rounds three and five, the next five get left until somewhere around the eighth or ninth round, while anyone beyond that can be had somewhere around rounds 18 or 19. This is, of course, according to the ADP data accrued throughout the 2012 draft season. They are, to me, the Rodney Dangerfields of the fantasy world – no respect.
But it seems as though plenty of catchers are standing up for themselves and forcing fantasy owners to take notice. Did you see Monday’s game between the Orioles and the White Sox? From the catching position alone – Matt Wieters and A.J. Pierzynski – there were three home runs, three runs scored and six RBI. Not to mention they went a combined 6-for-7 on the night. Both players this season, and yes, I’m very well aware of the whole “sample size” argument, are absolutely crushing the ball right now. Wieters is batting .344 with four home runs and nine RBI while Pierzynski is at .370 with three home runs and nine RBI as well. Yes, it’s early, but would you rather be celebrating this or lamenting over the fact that Alex Gordon is batting .128 with little or no production to offer at the moment?
Even better, right now, is the return value you are getting to start the season. Going back to that ADP, if you landed Wieters in a 12-team league, chances are, you were able to grab him somewhere around the late seventh/early eighth and you’re already receiving top-tier production. Sure, maybe in some leagues you needed to reach a little for him, but even if you did, your return value is then right where it ought to be. Not to mention that he is already out-producing any of the catchers taken ahead of him.
And Pierzynski?? Fuhgeddaboudit!! With an ADP rank of 272.13, he was left on the scrap heap to be taken in the 22nd or 23rd round at best. Sure, his production has dwindled with age over the last few seasons, but he’s still good for a decent batting average and a low strikeout rate. The fact that he’s throwing in some early-season power is just a nice, tasty bonus.
But I certainly don’t want to slight the backstops that went in drafts before these guys, because the fact of the matter is that many of them are producing as well. Alex Avila has picked up right where he left off last season, Yadier Molina is showing that last year’s power surge was no fluke, Brian McCann has turned a recent corner, and even Joe Mauer is starting to heat up. And before you know it, Carlos Santana and Buster Posey will be shooting up the leaderboards as well.
Almost everywhere you look, the catchers are putting up quality stats and fantasy owners are starting to pay a lot more attention, as they should. Yes, it’s early, but in this game, you take what you can get. This may be an obvious statement, but it’s always better to get off on the right foot then to start out in a hole.
Let’s check in on some other fantasy deliciousness from Monday…
|Matt Wieters, C BAL||3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB|
Well, duh! You didn’t think I was going to go on some pro-catcher diatribe and not throw the top honors over to Matt Wieters, did you? And I didn’t even mention the pair of walks and his current .462 OBP up there, did I? Everything we have been waiting for from him over the last few years has ::knocks wood:: finally arrived.
And as for the rest of the highlights…
|Kendrys Morales, 1B LAA||3-4, R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI|
|Chris Young, OF ARI||3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI|
|Chris Johnson, 3B HOU||3-4, 3 RBI, SB|
|Nolan Reimold, OF BAL||2-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI|
|James Shields, SP TB||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 5 K|
With the signing of Albert Pujols and the glut of players clogging up the 1B/DH/corner outfield spots, Kendrys Morales slipped pretty far down in most drafts. We’re talking like 16th or 17th round slipping. Between playing time concerns and how his ankle would affect his power this year, he was bypassed by many other, much safer options. But those that took the chance, those that waited patiently through the first nine games, their benefits finally arrived. Morales belted his first home run since that ill-fated day on May 29, 2010 when Morales hit that game-winning home run, jumped down onto home plate amidst the congratulatory back slaps from his teammates, and shattered his ankle. Hopefully this is just the beginning, sort of a turning point for him, but for now, let’s just chalk it up to a great moment for him in his career.
Well hello, Chris Young. What are the chances that your batting average won’t fall into the toilet this year? If it does, then we’re looking at a pretty steep drop. Young’s average is currently sitting at .401 through the first 10 games, but as a career .240 hitter, the potential slump, if/when it does arrive, is going to be nasty. Real nasty. Like 0-for-40 nasty, or something atrocious like that. Still, the guy has been a 20-20 player the last two years and was even 30-20 back in 2007. You’ll get the counting stats you need, but just be prepared for that average to plummet.
In truth, I’m trying to contain my enthusiasm over Chris Johnson’s start this season. As a long-time fantasy player, I’ve been known throughout my leagues as a sucker for young, third basemen with power. I’ve hit with several, missed with a few, and have, unfortunately, been a CJ owner the past two seasons. I do have him in one league as a reserve, but nothing more than that, and will probably drop him once reality sets in. With 10 games having gone by, Johnson still has a strikeout rate over 20.0%, hasn’t drawn a single walk, and is definitely benefitting from a colossal .416 BABIP. Once that comes back down to earth, so will Johnson’s average and stats. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Own Chris Johnson a third year and you’re just a blind fool.
Orioles OF/DH Nolan Reimold was just on top of his game on Monday, he’s been on top of his game almost all year. After going 0-for-4 in his first game of the season, Reimold has put together a 7-game hit streak and has now homered in each of his last three starts. In fact, in his last three games, Reimold is 7-for-13 with six runs scored and five RBI in addition to those three dingers. He’s always had the power potential. It’s been the lack of consistent at-bats over the last few seasons. That appears to have changed this season and a full year’s worth of playing time should pay great dividends all season.
After a nightmarish first start against the Yankees, “Big Game” James Shields is back to his old self. I still think we’ll have a regression from last year’s numbers back to something closer to the norm for him, but for now, you ride that wave for as long as you can. After Monday’s performance, Shields has now posted back-to-back quality starts and has given up just two runs in his last 16.1 innings with a sub-1.00 WHIP and 10 strikeouts. He’ll get Minnesota his next time out, so continue to roll with him.
And while they didn’t make the top five leaderboard from Monday, let’s give a nice Rounding the Bases shout-out to two of my favorites….two guys I own in multiple leagues….Adam Jones and Derek Jeter. Both are playing some outrageous ball and are lighting it up on the fantasy leaderboards at their positions.
Just as they did back in 2009, Jeter’s critics were all jazzed up about his apparent demise. His power was subsiding and while his average still remained over .300, it had dropped for three straight seasons. “He’s done,” they all proclaimed. And what did Jeter do? He stuck it to them all with a .334-18-66 batting line with 107 runs scored and 30 stolen bases. Well, this year, atleast during the offseason, we’ve heard the same things out of his critics again. And just like 2009, Jeter has come out strong and silenced everyone. I mean, he’s never going to bang 20-plus home runs again, but that’s never been his game anyway. He’ll continue to hit for a high average, tally up boatloads of runs scored, and he’ll steal some bases here and there, hopefully somewhere in the 20-25 range. I’ll take that from a shortstop I picked up in the 11th round.
And as for Adam Jones, well, what can I say? If you’ve read me around the interwebs, then you know I’ve been clamoring about Jones all winter long. He’s grown as a player so much in the past few seasons and is just entering the prime years of his career. He’s only 26 years old and still has developing power and speed. He hit .280 last year with 25 home runs and 12 stolen bases. I made the bold claim of him going 30-30 this season and while maybe 30 stolen bases is shooting for the moon, the 30 home runs are well within his reach. And as it stands right now, he’s already on pace to do just that.
|J.D. Martinez, OF, HOU||0-4, BB, 4 K|
|Adam Dunn, 1B CHW||0-5, 3 K|
|Alex Gordon, OF KC||1-5, R, 2B, 3 K|
|Hector Santiago, RP CHW||BS, 18.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 2 K|
|Kyle Wieland, SP HOU||L, 9.53 ERA, 2.47 WHIP, 2 K|
At some point, I’ll push aside the “small sample size” argument and crack on these guys a little more, but for now, it’s still early. I won’t give up on Alex Gordon because he’s off to a slow start and, let’s face it, J.D. Martinez was bound to turn in a stinker sooner or later. And I’m sure he’ll have plenty more. But for now, both are quality outfielders and are more than capable of being used on a daily basis in all leagues.
Now Adam Dunn, on the other hand, he’s making me a little nervous here. I was, and still am a firm believer in his comeback. But another 0-for-everything with multiple strikeouts and I get that nervous tick that develops when a player of mine is about to go bust. Now sure, he’s hit safely in three of his last five games, but between the recent return of heavy Ks and the fact that he hasn’t gone deep since April 6, a span of eight games, I’m sitting on the edge of my seat , chewing my nails down to the cuticle. Hopefully, this feeling doesn’t last.
And finally, before we hit some of the key injuries, I’d just like to tell all you Hector Santiago owners that if you want someone to blame for his blown save on Monday, you can tune in to either the Tuesday night Fantasy Alarm podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com or the Fantasy Alarm Radio Show this weekend on SiriusXM Radio and blame our own Jeff Mans. He’s gone on multiple rants regarding lefty closers and Santiago is drawing plenty of his ire.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B BOS – groin (questionable)
Brandon Phillips, 2B CIN – hamstring (questionable)
Carlos Gonzalez, OF COL – illness (questionable)
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS KC – ankle (questionable)
Nick Blackburn, SP MIN – shoulder (out)
Glen Perkins, RP MIN – forearm (out)
Tommy Milone, SP OAK – illness (questionable for April 19 start)
Mitch Moreland, 1B TEX – tooth (questionable)
Tyler Clippard, RP WAS – shoulder (questionable)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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