The calendar has finally flipped over to March. Spring Training games are beginning and fantasy drafts are finally taking place. Earlier this offseason I took a look at value over replacement player (VORP) and catchers. This time, I focusing on Yahoo rankings and adding a little bit of information to VORP to put these rankings in some perspective. Sometimes, we can use some information to our advantage. Some players might be overrated while others underrated. Sometimes, the rankings put too much emphasis on the last season. Sometimes, the VORP rankings may not account for a player improving or slipping. The players are listed in the order that Yahoo has ranked them.
The Most Underrated
Miguel Montero— Chicago Cubs (+10)
The first rule in all statistics is that statistics really don’t lie. They all tell a story and the key is not to blindly follow them, but to figure out what story they are telling. Montero is rated 18th amongst catchers in Yahoo for a reason. In particular, his 2012 season is still anchoring him as an above average catcher. The likelihood of him seeing a 41.5 again is almost nil. So, if we look at the last two seasons as more of a guide we see a 12.3 average. That’s good enough for a -4.5 or a 24th ranking amongst VORP. So, actually 18th sounds a bit optimistic.
Jason Castro— Houston Astros (+6)
Castro is hard to figure at this point. He has had four full-time seasons and three of them have been significantly below average. So, 19th sounds just about right on that front. Still, his 2013 season produces enough hope to think he might be better than that. Even if you go by VORP standards, he would be the first catcher off the bench in standard twelve player leagues. I think that’s just about right. Given that he’ll go undrafted in most leagues, it is probably okay to leave him alone and then add him on the waiver wire after the draft.
Yadier Molina— St. Louis Cardinals (+5)
I love this time of year. Every team has their precious few players that are “in the best shape of their lives.” It’s a lot like surgery on any athlete. They always declare the surgery successful immediately after. Just once, I’d like to hear someone say, “it really didn’t work, he’ll likely never play again.” Well, maybe no one wants to hear that. Molina is supposedly in the best shape of his life, so it might lead some to think he’ll rediscover the 2012 and 2013 magic. I’m guessing those days will never return again, but I’m a cockeyed pessimist. I think the 2014 numbers are likely closer to reality.
The Most Overrated
Stephen Vogt— Oakland Athletics (-14)
Value over replacement player is a terrific tool, but it isn’t perfect. It measures quality, but only up to a certain extent. Vogt has been a part-time player for most of his life, but now the catcher’s job is his to lose. The one caveat is that Billy Beane (and thus Bob Melvin) like to use platoons to limit a player’s exposure to matchups that would give him trouble. That works well when looking at percentage statistics like average and on base percentage, but most of fantasy baseball is built on the counting numbers. Vogt isn’t likely to rack those up.
Devin Mesoraco— Cincinnati Reds (-13)
I like to split the difference on guys like Mesoraco. His ranking is obviously built on a terrific 2014 campaign. I’m willing to bet he’s turned some kind of corner, but that doesn’t mean he will be the third best catcher in fantasy again. Even when you look at VORP alone you see he ranked fourth last season. He’s definitely top ten material, but somewhere around seventh or eighth is a lot safer a bet.
Travis d’Arnauld— New York Mets (-11)
His 2014 total is definitely closer to where he will likely end up and that puts him slightly above average amongst the 35 catchers ranked. Based on 2014 alone we would put him somewhere in the neighborhood of 15th. Funny, that’s exactly where Yahoo ranked him. So, there is a method to their madness. I’d actually be willing to bet he will end up somewhere north of there this season. Sometimes winning fantasy baseball is about taking risks. I might take him as my first backstop when others are taking their backups and plug him in as my regular. If you go that route, make sure you have a good backup on your bench to accompany him.