2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Players — Catchers

mesoraco land
Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America

For most fantasy baseball players, the season is winding down. It is one of the few peculiarities in fantasy sports. The season still has a couple of months to go, but most fantasy leagues have a playoff system that lasts the full month of September. So, we are down to the last three and a half weeks of the regular season. For many of us, the season is already over. While there is a lot of time left in the season for the real players, for us there is only about three weeks to go.

All that being said, when your season is circling the drain it is never too early to take a look back at what may have gone wrong. What we discover is that most of the important decisions that went right or wrong happened after the draft and not during the draft. Unlike the real offensive value series, we are going to take a look the basic fantasy numbers for the top six players at each position. You will be amazed at how many were undrafted.

We choose the top six players because most people play in twelve man leagues. Six players represent the top half of each position. We are taking the top six players based on runs created at each position and comparing it with their pre-draft rating according to Yahoo. If most standard leagues have twelve players and 24 rounds then only 288 players get drafted. As we go through the series, notice how many guys fall below 288.

PRE

AVG

HR

Runs

RBI

RP

RC

Jonathan Lucroy

166

.305

12

54

53

95

73

Buster Posey

50

.281

12

40

54

82

52

Devin Mesoraco

333

.289

18

36

52

70

51

Yan Gomes

235

.281

14

47

46

79

49

Derek Norris

414

.303

9

32

40

63

47

Miguel Montero

264

.254

11

35

59

83

47

For those of you that didn’t follow the real offensive value series, runs produced (RP) might be new to you. It is really very simple. You take runs and RBI and subtract home runs. We compared that with runs created in the last series as well. The juxtaposition between the two demonstrates the difference between what a player actually produces and the standard fantasy production we see.

Catcher might be a unique position in fantasy circles, but we see two of the top six players largely went undrafted. Furthermore, Miguel Montero was largely an afterthought as well. So, half of the top six were undrafted in many leagues. You could have acquired one of the best catchers in baseball on the waiver wire. Here we have three candidates for the breakout catcher of the year award.

Devin Mesoraco– Cincinnati Reds

The Devin Mesoraco story is a lot more common than what you might think. It actually is virtually the same as the Derek Norris story we’ll see in a minute. Catchers take longer to develop than players at any other position. Offense often takes a backseat to handling the pitching staff and being the quarterback on the field. Knowing when to set a catcher free is five parts art and one part science.

The Reds traded Ryan Hanigan in the offseason in large part to turn the keys over to Mesoraco. It is one of the few things that has gone right for the Reds this season. Looking back, we shouldn’t be so surprised. He hit 16 and 15 home runs in his last two full minor league seasons, so really it was only a matter of time before he produced. Mesoraco proves that sometimes you just have to wait and see what will happen. Last season it was Jason Castro and he returned to obscurity just as soon as he seemed to break out.

Derek Norris– Oakland Athletics

The Athletics treatment of Norris is far different from Mesoraco and it seems to have worked out for him. At this point, he is likely to only have around 400 plate appearances at the end of the season, but they are quality plate appearances. wRC+ calculates the number of runs created a player would produce if they all had an equal number of plate appearances. Mesoraco has 163 while Derek Norris has 145. Yet, when you look at the raw numbers it looks like Mesoraco produces much more.

Norris represents the dilemma all fantasy players face at catcher. You can pick a player that produces a number of counting numbers (runs and RBI) or you can pick a player that produces better percentage numbers (AVG and OBP). It is difficult to find the combination of the two. Yet, the fact that we could find these two guys among the undrafted demonstrates that not everything happens on draft day.

Miguel Montero– Arizona Diamondbacks

Miguel Montero’s story is a story of redemption. In three out of the last four seasons, Montero has been one of the most consistent offensive producers at catcher. 2013 happened to be a down year. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know the arc of a player’s career while he is still playing. For many, 2013 looked like the beginning of the end for Montero. Who knows, it might still be the beginning of the end. Sometimes, players have one brief renaissance before the ship finally goes under.

At any rate, his season seems to be in line with with his performance in 2011 and 2012. So, at this point it looks like 2013 may be the aberration. If you follow the progression this season, he will end up with around 15 home runs and maybe around 80 RBIs. That will be the same as his 2011 and 2012 campaigns. This for a player that went undrafted in a number of leagues.

Breakout of the Year

A part of picking the breakout player of the year is forecasting what will happen moving forward. That is difficult under normal circumstances, but at catcher it is becoming increasingly difficult. However, the career path of Devin Mesoraco is fairly predictable looking back and gratifying for the Reds and Walt Jocketty. After all, they not only traded Ryan Hanigan but also Yasmani Grandal to open up the door for Mesoraco.

The performance of both of those players proves that the Reds made the best decision for their franchise. He appears to be on pace to hit 25 home runs this season. That might be a little more than most people projected for him, but his .924 OPS seems in line with what he had done at the minor league level. Who knows what the future holds for Mesoraco, but he will definitely be on people’s big board on draft day next season.

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