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  • Dave Swan

Growth In Numbers: Catcher


Time to shift focus to the most painful position to draft, catcher. In NFBC you are forced to start two catchers and that is where things get dicey. While there may be 30 starting catchers in the MLB; unless you pay the premium on draft day it's relatively a weaker position. 2019 had a big breakout with plenty of found money players; IE Christian Vasquez, Mitch Garver, and Roberto Perez. So I will be giving you three names to target and a couple of dart throws for deeper leagues.


THE STRATEGY


I will start by saying I mainly write in the context of 12-15 team leagues with mandatory two catchers starting. If you are in a league with one you can look at it very differently. After researching the position there are so many hitting flaws relative to other positions and with that, I am drafting a catcher early. In every league, I will be drafting J.T. Realmuto, Gary Sanchez or Yasmani Grandal. I know, bold strategy Cotton, you are taking the top players at the position but it will be worth it when the draft is over. This also allows you to draft the second catcher when you spot value in the position. Eventually, the other teams can get desperate to fill team needs and reach leaving added value available.


THE PROCESS


The position has batters with many deficiencies in their approach. I wanted to look for players that are correcting a batted ball profile and making positive strides to improve plate discipline. As far as Statcast data, the focus is still on the improvement of hitting the ball harder and I added in the pull rate. Increasing the pull rate and hitting the ball harder will usually lead to more home runs.


LD% - Line Drives / Balls in Play (MLB average 21%)

GB% - Ground Balls / Balls in Play (MLB average 44%)

FB% - Fly Ball / Balls in Play (MLB average 35%)

HH% - Hard Hit % (MLB average 35.3%)

Z-Contact % - Contact % made in the zone

O-Swing % -Swing % on pitches outside the zone

THE TARGETS


Carson Kelly - ADP 219 (169 min / 258 max)


Smaller sample size from 2018 in MLB so I combined numbers from the minors. Carson Kelly wasn't elevating the ball leading to a void of power. Solid adjustment in 2019 with a Ground Ball % dropping. Line drives dipped a ton but increased the Fly Ball %. At only 25 years old its good to see his power growth coming along and the Hard Hit % increasing his HR total to 18. The plate discipline shows him being more aggressive in 2019. Swing % went up while Contact % dropped slightly. This is a concern but he was more selective as the Hard Hit % went up and Pull % increased. I would love to see Z-Contact % continue to get better. He is showing an increase in chasing balls as well. Still, a very young player that is going to see over 400 plate appearances. Lots of room to grow and drafting him even as your first catcher isn't a bad strategy as I can see him having another year of improvements. Behind him is Stephen Vogt which is a good veteran to give Kelly a day off from time to time. I would feel comfortable with Carson Kelly as my catcher 1 if the top 3 go before it gets back to me.


2019 .245 / 46 Runs / 18 HR / 47 RBI / 0 SB

2020 .249 / 45 Runs / 15 HR / 48 RBI / 1 SB

Projection is based on STEAMER & Depth Charts combined

Tom Murphy - ADP 261 (222 min / 311 max)


A move from Colorado to Seattle helped Tom Murphy gain some needed plate appearances. A previous career-high of 96 in '18 made him an unknown commodity. In 2019, Murphy was able to showcase the power for 18 HRs in only 281 plate appearances. GB% down, FB% up is great but that huge dip in LD% is making me believe his .273 batting average is a mirage. He struck out at a 31% clip but that is down from 45% so there are some holes in this profile. Hard Hit % went over the MLB average and he pulled about half of his total batted balls. Murphy swung less during each plate appearance while making more contact. The chasing of pitches out of the zone decreased and made significantly more contact in the zone. Overall, the power seems legit and a repeat is very likely but it's going to come with a pretty low batting average. There is nearly no competition at the moment on playing time and Murphy is penciled in at the four spot. Seattle is more than likely going to be a weaker offense but I expect plenty of counting stats with all the opportunity. I would suggest taking Tom Murphy if you have built a decent batting average cushion and need some sneaky power. Murphy would have to be my second catcher as that profile comes with a very low floor possibility.


2019 .273 / 32 Runs / 18 HR / 40 RBI / 2 SB

2020 .217 / 51 Runs / 20 HR / 61 RBI / 2 SB

Projection is based on STEAMER & Depth Charts combined

Chance Sisco - ADP 431 (376min / 479 max)

Chance Sisco will be the strong side platoon in Baltimore this season. In 2019 he only had 198 plate appearances so if you do draft him I would grab Pedro Severino. Left-handed pitching has been a problem for Sisco and it keeps him from being a full-time starter. Park factors will help him as Orioles Park is a top 5 park in home runs. While he is another smaller sample size guy, his profile got better with an increased LD% and FB%. He was hitting way too many ground balls for the park he was in so cutting back by 9% is nice to see. His contact went up nicely and he hit the ball much harder. O-Swing % stayed about the same so he saw better pitches and hit those instead. Again, a ton of holes in the profiles at catcher and Sisco is trending the right way. Its a total upside play so continue to grab later catchers and piece together your catcher two spot.


2019 .210 / 34 Runs / 8 HR / 35 RBI / 0 SB

2020 .238 / 34 Runs / 10 HR / 35 RBI / 1 SB

Projection is based on STEAMER & Depth Charts combined


Dart Throws


This position gets dreadful fast so here are a few "in case of emergency" guys. I nearly hope you never have to start them.


Tyler Flowers - Aging vet that walks and hits right-handed pitching while batting from the right side. He will not start against a lefty so he only plays in right-hand pitching dominated weeks.


Alex Avila - I am not a big believer in Mitch Garver and the Twins are in it to win this year. He could be a serviceable catcher if Garver bottoms out.


Cam Gallagher - Profile isn't much but he makes a lot of contact and is behind Salvador Perez, who is coming off a full injured season. Plus there are talks of Perez sliding to first base at times.

The Conclusion


The position is as volatile as it comes. Invest in that top tier and grab the value later. Last year featured a few out of nowhere players that really boosted a team. There is always a chance that history repeats itself but it will be too unpredictable. This is the position to get your guys you feel comfortable with regardless of relative ADP.


Twitter - @davithius

*All ADP as of 1/15

*Statistical credits: Fangraphs, BaseballSavant


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