By Scott Barzilla

Editor’s Note: The fantasy rankings utilize the new total run index results for 2012 and seasons prior. To find out more about what TRI is, check out the introductory article

Fantasy baseball and real baseball aren’t always the same, so using a sabermetric model to predict fantasy results is a bit challenging. Total run index is meant to create a park neutral picture of a player while fantasy baseball takes the numbers produced regardless of home ballparks. So, the rankings you will see will include the performance over the past several seasons along with an adjustment for home ballparks. The number expressed corresponds to runs over average. It might not mean anything for the time being, but when we look at all of the positions together it will provide us with a workable draft ranking.

1. Joe Mauer– +31.3 runs

I know most people would put Buster Posey here, but this is where track records come into play. Mauer has been this good in every season of his career except 2011. The downside would be that one should not expect much better than this whereas Posey is capable of doing much more. Let’s just say that all picks are made for entertainment purposes only.

2. Buster Posey– +21.2 runs

Posey has four seasons to his credit and two of them have been great and two of them have been lackluster. Sure, injuries have been the primary problem in those other two seasons, but injuries are a part of baseball and planning for injury is a part of what someone has to do when planning their fantasy draft. That is the only reason why Posey isn’t number one because otherwise he is clearly the top choice.

3. Mike Napoli– +18.3 runs

We are assuming he is going to Boston and assuming he is spending most of his time at first base. If he does that then he will get 500 or more plate appearances for only the second time in his career. It is clear that when he gets full time at bats he hits for plenty of power. When you get 25 or more home runs out of your catcher you are ahead of the game.

4. Carlos Ruiz–+14.6 runs

TRI doesn’t necessarily account for the 50 game suspension he must serve. Ruiz will likely be a lower round pick on draft day, but he is still worth a draft pick for someone. Having him on your bench would be like a steroids shot to your team in late May. He won’t wow you with numbers, but he will pad your OBP.

5. Carlos Santana– +14.1 runs

Carlos Santana is my sleeper pick for 2013. In the past two seasons he has managed to be fairly productive with low batting averages on balls in play. The standard BABIP is .300 while he has been hovering at or below .250. Add 50 points to his batting average and suddenly you are talking about a top three fantasy catcher.

6. Victor Martinez– +10.7 runs

Remember him? The good news is that he doesn’t have to play in the field, so the ACL tear is not that big of a deal. Furthermore, the Tigers added more offense when they added Torii Hunter to the mix. That means more run scoring and RBI opportunities for everyone in the lineup and that includes Martinez.

7. Yasmani Grandal– +10.4 runs

Again, the TRI results don’t account for the 50 games he will have to miss. These results do account for the home field disadvantage that he has. He is another guy you can draft late and stash on your bench until he comes off of suspension. It would allow you to load up at some other positions.

8. Brian McCann– +10.2 runs

McCann had an uncharacteristically bad season last year and it was blamed on injuries. He should bounce back to be a fairly solid fantasy catcher. The big surprise was that he was solid defensively last season and David Ross went onto the Red Sox, so McCann will likely continue to get his 120 to 130 starts regardless of how things are going.

9. Miguel Monter0– +8.3 runs

When we get to this point on the list you begin to look at value differently. At some positions, it is better to get players that produce good percentage statistics than counting ones. Accumulating home runs, runs, and RBIs is good but when it comes at the expense of average, OBP, and slugging percentage it negates the advantage. Montero will keep you afloat across the board.

10. Yadier Molina– +8.2 runs

On a long enough timeline the survival rate drops to zero. Don’t get fooled by last year’s career campaign. Molina is a solid offensive catcher, but he isn’t a superstar. Furthermore, he tends to be the accumulator type. That will work if you are covered at your other positions, but if you want to keep your average and OBP up then he probably isn’t your guy.

11. John Jaso– +7.9 runs

Most leagues vacillate between ten and twelve teams, so we are into the backups in some leagues. Jaso is the perfect guy to take a flyer on in a ten player league. Last year he was a top five fantasy catcher, but in most seasons he doesn’t even register. He will get the opportunity to repeat what he did, but I wouldn’t waste a starting slot on it.

12. Alex Avila–+6.2 runs

Avila is the exact mirror image of John Jaso. In 2011 he was the second best fantasy catcher in baseball. Last year he didn’t register on the map for whatever reason. So, wait until you got your top guy and then slip Avila on your bench and wait and see if he can rediscover the magic. It just might happen.

13. Wilin Rosario–+5.1 runs

This ranking seems a bit counter intuitive given his performance late in the season. Given the volatile nature of the guys above him, you might take him as a starter if you are strong at other positions. He will give you tons of power, but he has holes in his game, so you will have to accept the low batting average.

14. Salvador Perez–+4.3 runs

Do you feel like gambling? He has never turned in a complete season, but he is able to he might rank somewhere between fifth and seventh overall as a fantasy catcher. If you want to wait until the middle rounds to find your catcher he could end up being a bargain.

15. Rob Brantly–+3.9 runs

This represented about two months of action and there is nothing else to go on. That being said, the Marlins aren’t going anywhere next season, so he should get plenty of action. He might be one of those backup types you pick up just to see if you can capture lightening in a bottle. My guess is that he regresses once he goes around the league for a second time.

16. A.J. Ellis– +3.3 runs

This is proof positive is that there is plenty of value later on in the draft. You can do a lot of damage by letting the other guys in your league chase the Poseys and Mauers. Ellis will keep your average and OBP afloat while you focus your draft on other positions.

17. Ryan Doumit– +3.3 runs

Doumit has settled in as a DH in Minnesota and produced very good numbers last season. He even played some outfield last year in an experiment to find some place to put him. The Twins are motivated to play him because they don’t have enough quality hitters. If he gets 400 or more plate appearances he is well worth a roster spot.

18. Chris Iannetta–+2.5 runs

I wish we could count on Iannetta to play regularly because he has always produced when healthy. When you add the fact that the Angels lineup is loaded then you could see that he would be the perfect low round flyer. Right now, he is not reliable enough to be a fantasy regular, but he is a decent bet to break out.

19. Ryan Hanigan– +2.0 runs

Hanigan is a different sort of backup option. Devin Mesoraco may or may not start eating into his playing time, but even if Hanigan gets 500 plate appearances he shouldn’t be an everyday option. What he is is a consistent performer who can hold down the fort for your team while your regular catcher spends two or three weeks on the shelf.

20. Jason Castro– +0.5 runs

There are sleepers and then there are hibernators. Castro quietly got his OPS over .700 last season. He won’t hit home runs, but he will keep your average afloat and he will draw enough walks to have a very respectable OBP. His overall power numbers also improved to the point of being mediocre.

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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Readers Comments (2)

  1. Yoakland A's

    Um Posey has been in the bigs for 3 years (besides an ’09 September call up) he won ROYin 2010 with a WS ring, hurt in 2011, and MVP with a WS ring in ’12. What other year was he held back by injury?

     Reply
    • Scott Barzilla

      Yes, that is correct. I misspoke when I said he was injured twice. The projection was made only on his last three seasons, but I was working on the knowledge that he had limited playing time in two of the four seasons, but mistakenly attributed 2009 to injury.

       Reply