IS IT WORTH IT TO TAKE AN EARLY CATCHER?

If you spend a high pick on a catcher like JT Realmuto or Gary Sanchez, you are getting a player with worse statistics than other players going at that time. That’s obvious. Realmuto’s z-score based on ATC projections is barely positive (0.54) and Sanchez has “negative” value (-1.76). I decided to match Realmuto, Sanchez, and Jorge Alfaro (who represents “replacement value”) up against players being drafted right next to them to see what you are missing out on at other positions.

Here is JT Realmuto compared to other players around his draft position:

NamePositionADPZ-score
JT RealmutoC49.40.54
Ketel MarteMI45.22.94
Clayton KershawSP48.22.98
George SpringerOF49.94.55
Kris BryantCI58.72.79
Josh HaderRP56.83.44

I tried to pick guys who ATC was not too positive or negative on. For example, I almost went with Lucas Giolito instead of Kershaw, but ATC has him for an ERA over 4. What stands out from this chart is that Springer seems to be a value around the 50th pick. Like most Astros this year, he is getting pushed down. This may be due to people A) disliking cheaters, B) thinking performance will decrease due to not being able to cheat, and/or C) thinking Astros players are injury risks from getting plunked too many times. It’s not just Springer who represents value from the outfield position at this point in the draft; Charlie Blackmon (ADP: 46.0, z-score: 3.76) and Eloy Jimenez (ADP: 58.4, z-score: 3.05) deserve your attention as well. It should be noted Marte and Bryant also have outfield eligibility.

Now who is going around Sanchez?

NamePositionADPZ-scoreDifference to Previous Tier
Gary SanchezC80.8-1.76-2.30
Max MuncyMI75.81.32-1.64
Jose BerriosSP81.1-0.28-3.26
Ramon LaureanoOF77.91.06-3.49
Jose AbreuCI77.72.58-0.21
Roberto OsunaRP81.61.43-2.01

There is seemingly the biggest drop-off at starting pitcher and outfield from pick 50 to pick 80. From this, I see the importance of getting a starting pitcher before the large tier drop-off. If you grabbed Kershaw instead of Realmuto, you could then be in a position to grab Sanchez. The most parity is at corner infield; the difference between Bryant and Abreu is only -0.21 in z-score, but of course you could just draft both!

Here is the “replacement value” level for catchers, as Jorge Alfaro is the 12th catcher off the board according to ADP:

NamePositionADPZ-scoreDifference to Previous TierDifference to Top Tier
Jorge AlfaroC212.6-5.71-2.95-6.25
Didi GregoriusMI210.7-0.74-2.06-3.68
Marcus StromanSP210.2-2.14-1.86-5.12
Adam EatonOF208.8-0.20-1.26-4.75
Christian WalkerCI203.2-2.34-4.92-5.13
Mark MelanconRP199.7-2.46-3.89-5.90

It is worth noting there is no bigger drop-off from the first tier to this tier than Realmuto to Alfaro. So taking Realmuto does make sense. That said, I have no problem waiting to take a catcher. Other catchers being drafted in this range include Omar Narvaez, Carson Kelly, Christian Vazquez (who was the 3rd best catcher in fantasy in 2019), Sean Murphy, and Francisco Mejia. Everyone will probably have personal favorites from that list. If I invest in a catcher slightly earlier, I like Willson Contreras, Mitch Garver, and Wilson Ramos. 

Want another takeaway from this? While 2B is a shallow position, this is yet another example showing shortstop is not. Gregorius only has a slightly negative z-score (-0.74). Paul DeJong, who I talked about in my value picks article (https://udownwithobp.com/2020-value-hitters-on-yahoo-fantasy-baseball/), goes around pick 200 and has a positive z-score (0.67)! Jean Segura and Kevin Newman are two other serviceable shortstops. Newman has 2B eligibility (the shallower position), and Segura will pick up 3B and maybe even 2B eligibility this year.

How about another takeaway? I like the idea of drafting outfielders early and/or super late. Some of the best players in baseball are in the OF as evidenced by the first five picks of most drafts being outfielders. And even all the way down to Springer, Blackmon, Jimenez, etc., you are getting great statistical output. But it is also a deep position. While you certainly can, there is not a huge need to address the position in the middle rounds. Adam Eaton is not a sexy name but he will contribute close to a neutral z-score if healthy and give you late stolen bases. Khris Davis, Byron Buxton, JD Davis, Andrew McCutchen, Alex Verdugo, Justin Upton. I could go on. All these guys go around or after pick 200.

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