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Baseball Analysis  Bart Ewing / The Fantasy Insider

February 2003


By Bart Ewing

Every year it becomes clear what trends are on the minds of simulation baseball players. The themes of the early emails to me have been clear. I arrived at the decision to write about this subject a week ago. It was cinched when John Hunt wrote a column in Baseball Weekly about I Rod's impact on NL leagues. Except Hunt missed the bigger impact question, it wasn’t NL leagues but AL leagues that are panicking. I’ve received several questions centered on implications about catcher’s values post Rodriguez’s signing with Florida. As of right now here’s my AL rankings at catcher.

1. Jorge Posada - NYY
2. Toby Hall - Tam
3. Jason Varitek - Bos
4. AJ Pierzynski - Min
5. Ramon Hernandez - Oak
6. Einar Diaz - Tex
7. Benji Molina - Ana
8. Dan Wilson - Sea
9. Ben Davis - Sea
10. Tom Wilson - Tor
11. Josh Bard - Cle
12. White Sox catcher - Josh Paul or Sandy Alomar
13. Geronimo Gil - Bal
14. Brent Mayne - Kan
15. Brandon Inge - Det

This is where panic sets in. Who do you spend your money on when the number 2 man on the list was a rookie hyped bust with a .258 average and a measly 6 taters? I’m getting a lot of questions about Posada the clear winner in the post Ivan best catcher contest. The theory of position scarcity says that if a position has few good players then you should spend more to get the best ones. How many of these catchers will earn $20 or more this year? None. Posada earned $17 last year and has never earned $20 in his career. Yet, the early market is prepared to bid large on Posada as the only "Sure thing" in this year’s draft. I believe that a players worth is a players worth and how many others at that position is irrelevant in the big picture. If I pay Posada $25 and he earns 16 it doesn’t matter if he has the best catcher’s stats. He’s costing me 9 bucks I can’t spend somewhere else. The guy that pays a buck for Tom Wilson who may earn $5 wins as he can go higher in the outfield or 1b to make up the needed offensive value. Posada is 31 and catchers age faster than other position players. I’m concerned about his batting average vs. right-handers (.247 last season). Posada will face far more right handers than left. Don’t get me wrong he’s clearly the best catch of the day but he’s not a guy to over indulge your budget on. Last years disappointment; Hall easily could out perform him. Hall was a disappointment last year, which is why you are likely to get him under valued this year. Hall after a return to the minor’s hit .300 + in 2nd half. At 27 years of age his power eventually will show up as well. He will earn close to Posada this year.

My approach to AL catchers is to not worry at all. I would seriously look at 2 $1 specials with a good chance to earn a profit. There is no catcher I would pay $20 for or even $15. Posada and maybe Hall will earn 15 but not where I want to take my risk. I would pay 10 for both and maybe Varitek. Varitek has always been more promise/hype than delivery and he’s often injured thus seeing 400 at bats isn’t a given. He’s never given the power you want from the position. After these 3 we get to the $5 list where you can put Pierzynski. That’s it. Everyone else gets a buck from me. Many of the rest will perform better than that which is what we want, but which ones is up in the air. I like Hernandez and Diaz to rebound. I like whoever emerges in Seattle winning the playing time battle to put up useful numbers. Right now I bet on Ben Davis. If Davis wins the pt battle I’d go 3-5. I’ve been burying Dan Wilson though for at least 3 years and every year he shuts me up. Watch spring training closely with teams. like Seattle, Chicago and Cleveland. With the $1 crowd your looking for players with a skill such as power and a batting average that won’t drag your team down with that nasty combination of at bats and bad numbers. Thus if Paul wins he’s dangerous, as he has no power and could easily hit under .250 with 300+ at bats. Look for the young guys. Bard in Cleveland, Wilson in Toronto are promising additions. Bard is more known for defense, but can put the bat on the ball. He doesn’t have much power but can hit over .270 and thus not hurt you. Wilson has nice power and despite his rookie status last year, he’s 32 years old. That’s good news as catchers often discover power later in their careers and he provides Toronto a cheap option until their other prospects (Cash) are ready. He has 20-homerun power if he gets 400-500 at bats and should hit over .250. Don’t bid on those numbers. You bid an end game buck (maybe 2) and minimize the risk. You ultimately want to have more value than you paid for in the auction, that’s how you win. The key to this is not paying for 2 one dollar catchers but for 2 $1 catchers who earn at least $10 combined.

Rookies to keep on the mind. There are some decent prospects at C in the American League, most of that are not quite ready to put on your roster. Olivio in Chicago could get some attention but his strength right now is defense. The guy to watch is Victor Martinez in Cleveland. He will be the best catcher in the league in next 2-3 years. The Tribe is in no rush and may start him in AAA and he’ll get a call up during the season. If he blows them away in Spring Training then he’ll play regularly since they don’t want him sitting. He’s 24 and played AA ball last year. His major league equivalencies from last year are .314 with 20 homeruns in about 450 at bats. I’d like to see some AAA experience but if he’s got the green light in Cleveland, I would be comfortable going $5-7. Remember Toby Hall and growing pains though. Guys like this may take half a season to adjust.

Look for back ups as well such as Todd Greene in Texas. It doesn’t matter the guy is a joke as a catcher, can he hit? He may catch 2 games a month and DH more often but as long as he is at C for you- great. He could give you double digit power in 200 at bats, more if Diaz goes 2002 again. Josh Phelps sadly had no games at C last year, but keep an eye on the fluke game as the year progresses. Move him to catcher sign a DH. Jayson Werth is another candidate who was a former catcher who may slip a game in sometime during the year.

Review: Don’t worry about the lack of talent in AL at C. Don’t over pay for Posada. Don’t be afraid to go cheap but get value at the position. Save your money for more reliable performances at more plentiful positions.

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