2017 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher PECOTA Projections A-M
We’ve already done our catcher rankings based on past numbers. Baseball Prospectus recently released their PECOTA projections. They tend to be the most accurate projections in the industry, but even then it’s often a crapshoot. However, the projections do give us an opportunity to revisit each position and rethink our assumptions for the upcoming draft season. Instead of ranking players, we will look at them and compare them with the positional aggregate.
Ranking players often is done by doing a composite ranking in each of the five major categories and combining those in a crude way. Others may use a more scientific approach and use a single statistical formula. What we are doing here is taking each of the five statistical categories and coming up with a median among the top 24 players at the position. Then, each player will come above or below that. Numbers above will be represented in green. Numbers below will be represented in red. To my knowledge, this will be the first time we’ve done this here. Ideally, a player will be above in all five, but save that you prefer players to be close.
Median: .251/16 HR/55 Runs/56 RBI/2 SB
Welington Castillo— Baltimore Orioles
PECOTA: .256/15/48/54/1 (+1)
3 Year: .246/15.3/37/57/0.7
We include the three year numbers as a frame of reference, but everything is based on the player. At first glance, it would appear that Castillo should be avoided on draft day and that would make sense, but he should be a primary backup. Yes, he only meets the median once, but he is without shouting distance in every category. The key is maintaining something close to average.
Jason Castro— Minnesota Twins
PECOTA: .239/15/53/55/2 (+2)
3 Year: .214/12.7/40.7/39.7/1
I’m an English teacher by trade. Any reasoning behind how PECOTA works would be an educated guess at best, so when you see a disparity between history and the projections you have to take it as a matter of faith. You don’t get fantasy value for pitch framing, but Castro does offer some on base ability in addition to the five basic numbers. He isn’t as close to the median in all of the categories as Castillo, so he probably should rank lower.
Francisco Cervelli— Pittsburgh Pirates
PECOTA: .259/6/54/46/4 (+2)
3 Year: .287/3.3/38.7/29.7/2.7
Cervelli is one run scored (projected) away from being the median catcher. So, we could call him median or better in three of the five offensive categories. The only category where he truly lags is power, so he might make a pretty good fantasy starter as long as these numbers represent where he will be. Again, we see a discrepancy between the projections and the three year average.
Willson Contreras— Chicago Cubs
PECOTA: .268/17/59/65/3 (+5)
3 Year: N/A
Contreras did not play a full season last year, so the three year averages are not appropriate. He hit .282 with 12 home runs in approximately half a season of action. We can expect a little less batted ball luck and the pitchers will get time to watch video and adjust. The end result is better numbers overall because he will have a full season’s worth of plate appearances. While he is superior to the median in every category (making him a likely top five catcher selection) he is not significantly better than the median in any of the categories.
Travis d’Arnaud— New York Mets
PECOTA: .249/13/47/49/0 (+0)
3 Year: .245/9.7/35.3/32.3/0.3
Sometimes a little bit of perspective is important. d’arnaud has always been long on talent, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. PECOTA is assuming health from the get go and there are no lingering effects from previous injuries. Even though he is not above the median in any category, he is close in every category, so he represents a pretty good fall back option should you choose to punt catcher on draft day.
Yan Gomes— Cleveland Indians
PECOTA: .253/14/41/47/0 (+0)
3 Year: .223/14/40/51/0
Gomes usually is pretty durable, so there’s that. However, if you combine his below average performance across the board with a horrible walk rate and you get a recipe for fantasy disaster. Fortunately, he’s coming off of a terrible season where he had deplorable batted ball luck. So, his performance should rise, but to what level is the question.
Yasmani Grandal— Los Angeles Dodgers
PECOTA: .239/21/65/70/2 (+4)
3 Year: .229/19.3/46.3/56/1.3
Grandal is projected to have more than walks than every catcher except for Kyle Schwarber and he is only a catcher in the most academic of senses. So, that low average will hurt you technically, but really he is going to get on base more often than most catchers. So, most will take him after they take Contreras, but in reality he might be more valuable.
Austin Hedges— San Diego Padres
PECOTA: .232/16/47/54/0 (+1)
3 Year: N/A
If we’ve noticed a pattern, we’ve noticed that most of these players do not stray far one way or the other from the median. That probably gives us a hint in terms of draft strategy. Batting average is the only major weakness Hedges has. Unlike Grandal, he is not projected to add a lot of walks, so he is definitely a backup, but in leagues with larger benches he is a pretty good sleeper candidate.
Jonathan Lucroy— Texas Rangers
PECOTA: .281/16/66/72/5 (+5)
3 Year: .286/14.7/63.7/64.3/3.3
Here, we see the second catcher on the board to be above the median in all five statistical categories. Batting average is the only statistic where he is significantly better than the median. The fact that he will playing in the best hitting ballpark in the American League probably explains why PECOTA thinks he will outproduce his three year average. He will be between two and four on most people’s boards depending on whether Kyle Schwarber is eligible as a catcher.
Russell Martin— Toronto Blue Jays
PECOTA: .236/19/65/68/4 (+4)
3 Year: .254/18/61/72.7/3.3
Martin and Grandal are very similar players. I’m personally a little bearish on Martin because he is entering his age 33 season and that tends to be when we start seeing a major drop off in performance for catchers. That being said, his patience at the plate (projected for 65 walks) will keep him from falling through the fantasy floor. He should be a fantasy regular in standard 12 player leagues.
Brian McCann— Houston Astros
PECOTA: .232/24/67/77/1 (+3)
3 Year: .235/23/60.3/75.7/0.3
How much is one stolen base really worth? The trouble when evaluating players is that you can’t afford to ignore any category, but you have to have a little perspective. The distance between the slowest catcher and fastest catcher is much less than at any other position. McCann is significantly above the median in three categories. That is probably more valuable than being barely above the median in four or five categories.
James McCann— Detroit Tigers
PECOTA: .246/12/48/51/2 (+1)
3 Year: .243/9.5/31.5/44.5/0
PECOTA is projecting a step forward for McCann and that would seem to make sense in his third full season as the regular catcher. The Tigers brought Alex Avila back, so it will be interesting to see how the playing time is distributed. If he is the predominant catcher then picking him up would make some sense. He will get some basic counting numbers just by the sheer volume of plate appearances. He is probably somewhere between Welington Castillo and Jason Castro.