Buy or Sell: Catchers

I’ve been thinking about doing some re-rankings, but instead I want to try something different. I’ll go position-by-position and try to pinpoint who to buy and who to sell, starting with the catchers.

Sell

Alex Avila – Avila had a monstrous April, hitting .311 with three home runs and 18 RBI. However, his .377 BABIP in April dropped to .286 in May and his strikeout rate jumped to 33 percent. While Avila definitely has power, now is a good time to try and sell his .280 overall AVG.

Russell Martin – Well, it might be a little tough to sell Martin after a .200/.333/.347 line in May. Perhaps using the nine home runs and six stolen bases will do the trick. Martin had regressed for three straight seasons coming into 2011 and his health had been an issue as well. It looked as though the large amounts of innings spent behind the dish were catching up to his body. I’m not convinced those troubles are completely behind him yet.

Yadier Molina – As much as I like Yadier as a solid middle-of-the-road fantasy catcher, it’s hard not to try and sell a little high on his .321 AVG. His current .341 BABIP will likely regress, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits around .290-.300 when all is said and done.

Ramon Hernandez – I look at three main factors: Hernandez is 35, his ground ball rate was 53 percent in May, yet his HR/FB rate was 36 percent. I could see only a slight regression in AVG in the second half, but a sizable regression with regard to power.

Jonathan Lucroy – I like Lucroy as a low-end option in deeper leagues. However, his current .291 AVG is being fueled by a .352 BABIP and his HR/FB rate (17.6 percent) is a bit high for his skill-set. Lucroy is more of a line-drive/ground-ball hitter than a power bat and his plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired. He has the talent to settle in as a .260-.270 hitting catcher with 10-15 home runs per year, but he’s playing a bit above that right now.

Miguel Olivo – All of a sudden, Olivo is fantasy relevant again. That’s what four home runs in 11 games will do for ya. If you managed to add him to your roster recently, you might have a small window to sell high on his power. His whiff rate and strikeout rate are way too high to expect him to hit for much AVG, so if he doesn’t hit around 20 home runs, he won’t have much impact outside of deep leagues.

Chris Snyder – This one applies to deep leagues only, but someone in desperate need of catching might be enticed by Snyder’s .260-plus AVG and flashes of power. Given his back problems and .231 career AVG, it’s only a matter or time before one or both of those issues brings his numbers down.

Ronny Paulino – If you picked up Paulino in a deep league, your chance to sell him for anything might be short lived. He’s hitting .305 with a .360 BABIP, which won’t last, and he’s a career .247 hitter against right-handed pitching.

Jeff Mathis – I don’t mean in a fantasy baseball sense; I mean in a real-world sense. As in sell him to the highest bidder. My guest is that a stick of chewing gum would do the trick.

Buy

Chris Iannetta – While the strikeout rate remains above 30 percent, it’s trending downward. Iannetta’s strikeout rate was 40-percent in April, but dropped to 26 percent in May. His infield pop-up rate went from 13-percent in April to zero-percent in May. Trending upward is his line-drive rate, which went from 12 percent in April to 21 percent in May. The AVG may never be great, but it should be good enough due to his power output.

Matt Wieters – I know, this is starting to be a cliche for me. However, Wieters continues to take steps in the right direction offensively, maintaining a great BB/K rate and improving his power little-by-little. I think he has a chance to raise his AVG a bit as we move along and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more four-to-five home run months.

Carlos Santana – Santana has a 40/39 BB/K ratio, but some think his selectiveness is keeping him from acting on hittable pitches. I think the issue is more about his extreme ground-ball rate (51 percent) and a very high 19 percent infield fly-ball rate. Once he gets in a groove and starts driving the ball like he did in 192 plate appearances last season (.207 ISO), he should reward those who bought low.

Kurt Suzuki – I’m quite surprised by Suzuki’s lack of production to this point in the season. His BABIP is .261, yet he is hitting plenty of line drives (20.7 percent) and not striking out much at all. Suzuki has always been an above-average contact hitter (87 percent career contact rate) and he doesn’t chase too many bad pitches. If he keeps hitting line drives, his AVG has to rise, right? Just don’t block the plate, Kurt.

Victor Martinez – Where’s the power V-Mart? It’s on the way. After battling some groin issues in April, V-Mart slugged .547 in May with three homers. Only twice in his career has he hit under 20 home runs as a full time major leaguer and he was basically out for most of the 2008 season with an injury. All of his peripherals look solid as usual.

Geovany Soto – After an ice-cold April, Soto missed time with a groin injury in May, but still managed to hit five doubles and one home run in 29 at-bats that month. He’s still hitting a good number of line-drives overall and his infield fly rate (16.2 percent) and HR/FB rate (eight percent) should both improve as he gets back into the groove of things. Don’t go crazy in buying low, but if the price is right, Soto is worth looking into.

Yorvit Torrealba – BABIP can do crazy things with a small sample size and it has done just that with Torrealba. Despite most of his rate stats (aside from BB/K) looking similar to his overall numbers the last couple of years, Torrealba is hitting only .217. You can at least partially blame a .233 BABIP for that. If he can maintain a line drive rate of 20-percent or better as he has for the last three seasons — his current line-drive rate is 24 percent — then the AVG should rise to go along with an occasional home run.

Ryan Hanigan – I really, really, like Hanigan (for deep leagues). Over his last 376 regular season plate appearances, he has held a 22.5 percent line-drive rate, 92.5 percent contact rate and terrific 50/34 BB/K ratio. Despite great plate discipline and very good line-drive skills, Hanigan is only hitting .254 this season, but that is largely due to a .276 BABIP and small sample size of 114 at-bats. He’s a great guy to target in deep two-catcher leagues.

John Jaso – Despite not walking as much as he did last season, Jaso has done other things quite well. He still makes great contact and hits plenty of line drives when he does, but his .238 BABIP certainly doesn’t reflect it. I think his plate discipline numbers will improve as the season moves along and the AVG will follow. He could end up being a nice buy as a low-end catcher in deep leagues.

Josh Thole – For those deeeeep leaguers that could use any sort of upside in the AVG department, Thole might be a decent, albeit small, buy right now. Given his high contact/line-drive/ground-ball approach, Thole might see a rise in BABIP, which could raise his AVG to the .260 range when all is said and done. That being said, he’ll have to get going soon and earn back the playing time he’s losing to Ronny Paulino right now.

Hold

Brian McCann – Mr. Consistent is still…consistent.

Miguel Montero – I had Montero projected at .273/.338/.450 with 14 home runs. He has upped his walk rate to this point, but everything else seems in line, though he might hit a few more than 14 homers.

Mike Napoli – He is who we thought he was. Napoli is taking advantage of his hitter-friendly home park, slugging .672 at home and .403 on the road. His strikeout numbers are actually down a bit, but he still has too many fly-outs and swings and misses to hope for much in the AVG category. At least 20-25 home runs looks like a lock, even if he doesn’t play everyday.
J.P. Arencibia – You can pretty much put Arencibia in the same boat as Mike Napoli — Though Napoli has better plate discipline and Arencibia has fewer whiffs to his game. Now that Arencibia is getting more playing time, he should continue to do what he’s been doing. I had him projected for 20 home runs in 477 at-bats. He’s ahead of that pace and could even exceed those projected at bats. 

Wilson Ramos – After putting up huge numbers in April (.358/.426/.527), Ramos quickly came crashing back down to earth, hitting .167/.263/.288 in May. Ramos is certainly more talented than that, but I wouldn’t be making him my first pick if I were starting a new MLB franchise tomorrow. Maybe you can buy low on Ramos in a deeper league based on his May stats, but he’s far from a guarantee.

Carlos Ruiz – While I love Ruiz as a real-life catcher, his 2010 season will probably end up being his career year. So far this season, Ruiz is back around his career .259/.353/.393 slash line. I could see the AVG coming up a bit, but a drastic change is unlikely. His current .261 BABIP is also in line with his career .279 BABIP.

John Buck – I ignored Buck on draft day 2011 and to this point he has definitely been the disappointment that I thought he would be. Buck has made better contact and shown better plate discipline than he did last season, but it has come at the expense of him hitting the ball hard. Buck is a career .241/.301/.417 hitter, so his .281/.314/.489 line from last season seems way out of place. The move from hitter-friendly Toronto to his spacious surroundings in Florida have clearly affected his power numbers. I could see a little up-tick in power, so if you’re stuck with him in an NL-only league, just hope for the best.

A.J. Pierzynski – He’s doing what he does, which is nothing more than OK at this point in his career. I’m expecting numbers similar to last season.

Rod Barajas – Low AVG and some decent pop? Yeah, that’s what we were expecting and likely what you were expecting too.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia – While Salty has shown flashes of power potential, he continues to show very poor plate discipline, whiff too often and hit weak fly-balls too often.

Hank Conger – Free Hank Conger! How can anyone expect a 23-year-old rookie to produce at a high level when he only starts every third or fourth day? Oh yeah, I forgot; Jeff Mathis and his -0.3 WAR is getting the job done.

Matt Trenor/Bryan Pena – I congratulate you on being in a league where these guys are relevant. Then again, they both have a higher WAR than Jeff Mathis.

J.R. Towles – Remember the good ole days when people thought he’d be something? His WAR is still higher than that of Jeff Mathis

Injured

Joe Mauer – There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of positive news regarding Mauer’s recovery. The Twins need to move him out from behind the dish, but fantasy GMs can’t do much at this point except hope he DHs much more often when he does return.

Buster Posey – Done for the year. Maybe he’ll grow a beard and train like Rocky. Wait, can he grow a beard?

Nick Hundley – I said sell on him when he was hot in April. When healthy, I’d expect a .250-ish AVG and only medium pop.

Ryan Doumit – Ankle injuries and catchers do not go well together. He was only really relevant in deep leagues anyway.

Humberto Quintero – See above, without the deep league relevance.