Overvalued and Undervalued: Catcher Edition

Overvalued and Undervalued: Catcher Edition

Twins Utility Man Willians Astudillo (Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

Twins Utility Man Willians Astudillo (Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

Each week of draft season I’ll take a look at some players that I think are overvalued and undervalued based on their current NFBC ADP. The projections next to the player names are an average of THE BAT, ATC, Steamer, and ZIPS projection systems found on Fangraphs. NFBC ADP data is from the date range 1/01/2019-02/03/2019. First up, the beautiful cesspool that is catcher!

 Salvador Perez, KC (ADP 110): 491 PA, 54 R, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 1 SB, .254/.293/.468/.761

It’s not that I don’t like Perez, I just think he’s OVERVALUED at his current ADP of 110. My biggest issue with taking Perez to lead off the second tier of catchers is that I don’t find any one of them very distinguishable from the next. He’s going to play more than anyone but Yadier Molina, so he’s a low maintenance option at a position where that’s tough to find. However, I’m happy to take Buster Posey at pick 143 if I’m shopping for my catcher in this tier (I’m not).

Yasmani Grandal, MIL (ADP 135): 479 PA, 59 R, 23 HR, 64 RBI, 2 SB, .238/.340/.456/.797

See what I mean when I say these second-tier catchers are indistinguishable? Except for batting average and OBP, Grandal’s numbers are nearly identical to Perez’. And if you’re in an OBP league then Grandal is far more valuable. I’m a sucker for players who get on base and hit for power, especially when they’re in great parks and dangerous lineups. I rarely take catchers with a top 15 round pick, but he’s perfect for Miller Park and will be hitting towards the middle of a deep line up. Take Grandal at his current ADP, as he’s UNDERVALUED based on a low batting average projection.

Yan Gomes, WSH (ADP 231): 299 PA, 23 R, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB, .240/.294/.415/.709

This is one that I just don’t get. Gomes had a good year last year posting a .266/.313/.449/.762 slash line with 16 homeruns, but this is more about the playing time I estimate he’ll receive in Washington in 2019. Projection systems have him in an equal timeshare with the next catcher on this list, but the two players are going over 100 picks apart. That’s the textbook definition of OVERVALUED. His 2018 BABIP of .336 is bound to regress toward his career mark of .298. He also struck out more and walked less in 2018 than in 2017. These are not signs of a player on the rise. Now, the Nationals made a trade for Gomes so it’s likely he’s the preferred catcher to start the season. I’m just not sure it stays that way all summer.

Kurt Suzuki, WSH (ADP 334): 298 PA, 34 R, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 1 SB, .268/.326/.440/.766

 *WillSmithThinking.gif* Looks like we have a player projected for better numbers going 100 picks later than his teammate. Think Suzuki might be UNDERVALUED? Yeah, me too. He’s my favorite catcher target in fantasy baseball this season. The last two seasons have been the best of his 12-year Major League career and while he’s 35 years old, he caught 105 games last year and shows no signs of slowing down. As I mentioned above, Gomes may be the preferred option entering the season, but Suzuki is the better player. I always bet on skills when playing time is projected to be neutral.

Now, stay with me for a second while I present a wacky idea for owners in leagues with deep benches and daily lineup changes. If Gomes’ ADP comes down a couple rounds like I suspect, snatch him up and handcuff him with Kurt Suzuki. The two players together are projected for the following line:

597 PA, 57 R, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 2 SB, .254/.310/.428/.738

That, my friends, is a top 10 catcher for essentially no cost. Again, this only works in leagues where you can burn a bench spot on a second catcher, but I think it’s an UNDERVALUED strategy in those formats.

 Willians Astudillo, MIN (ADP 238): 189 PA, 21 R, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB, .286/.320/.435/.755

Look, I love everyone’s favorite large adult son as much as the next person. And if you haven’t seen the GIF of him rounding third base and heading home, you need to close out of this article, Google it, re-watch it 100 times, and then come back to this article so I get an extra click. Astudillo is fun in a sport that so often lacks it. But I’m just not sure there is a place for him in the Minnesota lineup in 2019. He’s not a strong defender at any of the positions he’s been used at (C, 3B, 2B, LF, and yes, even CF for an inning) so it’s going to be hard to get his bat in the lineup. I get that he’s such an interesting and unique player (2.1% BB!, 3.1% K!!!) but he’s just OVERVALUED at his current ADP. This is certainly one draft season prediction I hope I’m wrong about because baseball needs more Willians.

Chris Iannetta, COL (ADP 393): 317 PA, 37 R, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB, .244/.346/.432/.778

Iannetta had a disappointing season in his return to Colorado in 2018. After a 2017 that saw him post a .254/.354/.511/.865 slash line with 17 homers in just 89 games in Arizona, I wasn’t alone in expecting big things from him in Coors Field. He flopped however, posting just a .224/.345/.385/.730 slash line with 11 homeruns. His price going in to 2019 seems to be reflective of last season, which is fair. I’m just not forgetting what he was able to do in 2017. Sure, he’s 35, but he gets on base and you never know what can happen in Coors Field, so I have Iannetta UNDERVALUED at ADP 393. At the very least, he should be on owners’ watch lists as the season begins. If he starts off hot and gets playing time, I’d scoop him off the wire and let it ride.

My general strategy when it comes to catchers is to wait, wait, wait…. and wait some more. They’re unreliable due to the physical demands of donning the “tools of ignorance” and often aren’t good draft day investments. I really think you can get by with someone from the list of undervalued catchers and just play the waiver wire game as the season goes on.

Since it’s catcher week at KMill Sports Insights, I have plenty more catching content ready as the week rolls on. Next up, Dumpster Dives and Dynasty Finds. I’ll be digging deep to find some catchers who could return value for owners in deep leagues while also taking a look at catching prospects.

Dumpster Dives and Dynasty Finds: Catchers

Dumpster Dives and Dynasty Finds: Catchers