2015 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2016 Fantasy Baseball: Generation Next — Catchers

The chalk has barely cleared on the 2015 regular season, but the enterprising fantasy baseball player starts making preparations for next year. Of course, there is seemingly an eternity between now and February/March when most drafts take place. The beauty is that we can begin to analyze the game in a deeper and more meaningful way than what we did before. We will begin the offseason work by looking at the players that made their debuts this season behind the dish.

We will profile four such players that could make a more meaningful impact this next season. Some may have had a cup of coffee prior to 2015, but they made their presence known this year. We will evaluate them as players, but we will also look at their situations moving forward. Some have a clear path to start behind the dish next season and others may not.

Kyle Schwarber— Chicago Cubs

Key Numbers: .246/.355/.487, 16 HR, 52 Runs, 43 RBI, 36 BB

Overview

Schwarber is a throwback to a bygone era when everyone on the diamond could rake. He came up as a catcher, but he is nominally a catcher. With 21 games behind the dish in 2015, he should qualify as a catcher in most leagues. However, he is a catcher in the same sense that Houston’s Evan Gattis was a catcher. He spent most of his time in Chicago in left field. That .842 OPS in less than 300 plate appearances gives the Cubs a lot of hope in the future.

Barriers to Launch

He is the best example of a player playing in the wrong league. He would immediately become the first designated hitter if the National League adopted the DH. The problem is that he has no clear position and teams are expecting more and more out of their catchers. He officially was only slightly below average defensively, but I can’t see using him in left field as any long-term option. Unfortunately, he might end up being trade bait before it is all said and done.

Blake Swihart— Boston Red Sox

Key Numbers: .274/.319/.392, 5 HR, 47 Runs, 31 RBI, 18 BB

Overview

You could call Swihart a Kyle Schwarber without the power, but he is probably more closely comparable to Jonathan Lucroy. When Lucroy began his career he was a light hitting catcher that struggled some behind the dish. He transformed himself into a solid hitter and solid receiver. It took some time. It will take some time for Swihart as well on both counts. However, there was enough to see here that I’m sure the Red Sox will be intrigued.

Barriers to Launch

The Red Sox torrid finish is probably Swihart’s worst enemy. He played well down the stretch and certainly was a significant part of that comeback, but the Red Sox have been in win now mode for over a decade. The question is whether they will be patient enough to allow Swihart to develop at his own pace. If he were superior as a hitter or fielder that would be easy enough, but he is developing on both counts. Baseball-reference.com had him as -9 runs defensively. That coupled with a .700-ish OPS bat may not be enough.

James McCann— Detroit Tigers

Key Numbers: .264/.297/.387, 7 HR, 32 Runs, 41 RBI, 16 BB

Overview

Alex Avila is in an unusual situation. He has been the regular catcher in Detroit for the last several years and his father is the general manager. He stopped playing regularly this year because he severely under-performed. McCann came in when he was on the disabled list and never relinquished the job. Mind you, a .684 OPS isn’t going to blow anyone’s skirt up, but he is neutral defender and has a former catcher as a manager that can help him with the finer points behind the dish.

Barriers to Launch

Al Avila has a dilemma. Is he a father first or a general manager first? As a father, he probably wants to give his son another chance to stick. Sure, he would never dictate that Ausmus play him, but simply bringing him back to camp gives the younger Avila the chance to earn his job back. I would suspect that he may trade him or release him to avoid the temptation. In that case, there are no barriers to launch.

Cameron Rupp— Philadelphia Phillies

Key Numbers: .233/.301/.374, 9 HR, 24 Runs, 28 RBI, 24 BB

Overview

The Philadelphia Phillies did something this year that was begging to be done for half a decade: they embraced the suck. No, you don’t purposely lose games, but you move on from veteran players that are past their prime. Carlos Ruiz was one of those players. I’ve been a Ruiz fan, but he’s 36 and not getting any younger. He also took a step back in terms of performance. Rupp has some good points and bad points. He doesn’t hit for average or get on base like Ruiz, but he has some pop.

Barriers to Launch

The Phillies are in that uncomfortable part of the rebuild. The first wave of prospects often fail and that is where Rupp is at. Fortunately, they brought in some additional talent through trades. Jorge Alfaro is clearly a more highly regarded by the organization and could possibly see his debut by the middle of next season. Rupp will have a short amount of time to nail down the job. Alfaro has advanced as far as AA, so it is likely that the Phillies will want to see him succeed in AAA first.

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2 Comments

  1. steve burkett
    October 9, 2015 at 7:02 pm — Reply

    sometimes you have to watch a guy play and not just look at stats.James McCann is already a team leader .He’s not afraid to get on guys like Iglesius that are dogging it and he threw out 41 % of base stealers. Avila senior has already said in print that his son might be happier someplace else where he could be the lh platoon catcher .He is not gonna start over McCann and you can bet the house on that

  2. October 12, 2015 at 5:51 am — Reply

    We agree in substance on McCann Steve. While he did throw out a hefty percentage of base stealers, a majority of catcher defensive value is now tied up in pitch framing and blocking bad pitches in the dirt. He will improve on those aspects as Ausmus was one of the best pitch framers in the game when he played. I also agree that Avila is likely on his way out. I never go 100 percent all in on things like that because you never know with complete certainty, but I think your assessment is easily the most likely to happen.

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