A Bleak Season for Catchers by Steven Shumansky September 23, 2015 With few exceptions, this has been a very poor year for fantasy production from the catcher spot. As always, injuries had a major role to play as Devin Mesoraco, Matt Wieters, Travis d’Arnaud, and Jonathan Lucroy fell victim to injury and experienced what amounted to lost seasons. But other catching stalwarts or expected rising stars also disappointed. Let’s take a look at this epidemic of missing stats. Player Pre-Season CBS Catcher Rank Current CBS Catcher Rank Current 2015 Player Slash Line 2015 CBS Projected Slash Buster Posey 1 1 .327/.390/.488 .303/.367/480 Evan Gattis 2 3 .249/.281/.452 .257/.296/.507 Devin Mesoraco 3 injured injured .255/.324/.502 Jonathan Lucroy 4 injured injured .291/.358/.454 Salvador Perez 5 7 .256/.277/.423 .288/.315/.445 Travis d’Arnaud 6 injured injured .263/.319/.465 Matt Wieters 7 injured injured .272/.319/.463 Carlos Santana 8 4th .236/.362/.389 .249/.367/.464 Miguel Montero 9 14th .246/.346/.418 .258/.336/.412 Wiln Rosario* 10 35th .263/.285/.404 .262/.302/.453 * Only 222 PA this season While Miguel Montero was close, Buster Posey was the only catcher projected to be in the top 10 in 2015 that met or exceeded all of their pre-season stats projections. Below are the current overall CBS Player rankings for the top 10 catchers compared to their pre-season expected rankings. Player CBS Pre-Season Overall Player Rank Current CBS Overall Player Rank Buster Posey 20 38 Evan Gattis 21 108 Devin Mesoraco 25 N/A Jonathan Lucroy 53 339 Salvador Perez 54 170 Travis d’Arnaud 71 343 Matt Wieters 96 605 Carlos Santana 101 119 Miguel Montero 104 306 Evan Gattis, Carlos Santana, and Wiln Rosario were 3 players who qualified at Catcher, were ranked in the Pre-Season top 10 at the position, and actually played their games in 2015 at other positions. They all have disappointed this season. This performance hurts fantasy owners even more because they were probably drafted higher than they normally would because of the expected advantage in counting stats over catchers who normally miss a game or two a week. Wiln Rosario continued to demonstrate very troubling splits in 2015 that resulted in the significant loss of PAs and he has only logged 222 PAs this season. Here’s more on the other two…. Evan Gattis: After a 2014 season with the Braves where Gattis batted .263 and produced 22 HRs and drove in 52 in just 108 games, great things were expected with a move to the AL and the more friendly confines of the Astro’s Ballpark. Many had predicted that with increased PAs and forgoing the wear and tear of catching duties Gattis would easily top the 30 HR mark this season. While his PAs increased significantly to 565, his ISO receded from .230 to .209 and he has clubbed 26 HR to date. What has stayed consistent is his BA which at .243 is closer to his career .249 mark. His .249/.281/.452 slash line is well off the .257/.296/.507 numbers that were projected by CBS Sports. The biggest culprit seems to be a change in approach at the plate where he is pulling the ball far less and making less authoritative contact. He also seems to have developed some issues driving the fastball and the cutter now completely confounds him. His batted ball distance on HRs is down 20 feet and he has lost 3 mph on his bat speed. Even though 26 HRs in a catcher eligible position is nothing to sneeze at, according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, almost 50% of those HRs have been of the JE or “Just Enough” variety which does not portend well for his power numbers next season. Considerng the fact that he has also lost 100 points of average against lefty pitching this season and you have more than enough reasons for missing projections. New league, new batting approach, and new ballpark are three very impactful changes, so hopefully Gattis will recapture his mojo next season but his catching eligibility is gone. Carlos Santana: Carlos Santana erupted for 27 HRs in 2014 which tied for his career high. Since he played 11 games at catcher in 2014, he came into the 2015 season eligible at that positions in many leagues. Last season he appeared in 152 games and had 660 PA’s so the expectations for his counting stats was very high. He was projected to be the kind of player who would yield a significant advantage to those who could slot him in at catcher. Right now, he is projected to reach the 660 PA plateau again this season but he most likely will fall short of hitting even 20 HRs. Santana’s 11 SBs this season is an unexpected gift, but his .236/.362/.380 slash line is below expectations. Santana’s .153 ISO is the lowest of his career. While he has maintained his excellent plate discipline, his hard hit % is down 6% to a career-low 29.5% and he is undercutting the ball to the tune of a 20.3% IFFB rate. Last season only 7 of his 27 HR’s were of the ESPN Home Run Tracker JE or “Just Enough” designation while 6 of his 16 are this season. Santana is just not hitting the ball with the same authority as he did last year and his power stats have suffered. Like Gattis, his eligibility at catcher will be gone in 2016. Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Stephen Vogt, Derek Norris, Rick Hundley, Welington Castillo, Yasmani Grandal, and Kyle Schwarber provided some solace for fantasy owners who invested wisely and did not overpay for catcher production. But even among this group, only one of these catchers, Stephen Vogt, is batting over .249. There is some hope for 2016. If the injured contingent of Mesoraco, Lucroy, and Wieters are able to return to health, and quality youngsters like D’Arnaud, Schwarber, Swihart, and Realmuto continue to develop, led by the super talented Buster Posey and some of the performers above, we could have an altogether different picture next season. And Baseball Prospectus lauds the catching depth in the Minors as “potentially historic”, so the future could be very bright at the catcher position for years to come and help erase the stench of the 2015 season.