If you polled 100 fantasy baseball owners a month ago and asked who would be the number one catcher through the first 10 games of the season, how many of them do you think would have said John Buck? One? Two? No way. Not even close. Not even if you limited your polling strictly to people in Flushing, Queens wearing a Mets jersey would you get that many. The guy was barely an afterthought heading into this season and anyone who actually drafted him, no doubt in the very last round of a very deep league, probably had already drafted Travis d’Arnaud a few rounds prior. But while his preseason value was the equivalent of a piece of gum on the bottom of your shoe, you’ve got to love what he’s done so far and you should be standing on the top of a mountain, singing his praises to the world.
Currently, Buck is batting .375 and is leading all major league catchers with five home runs and 15 RBI. He’s rocking a .500 ISO and has an uber-tasty 1.246 OPS right now. Small sample size, you say? Of course. Pointing that out will earn you a Captain Obvious cape and zero praise from the fantasy community. But rather than scoff and dismiss the veteran backstop’s hot start, you should embrace it, be thankful, and ride this wave until the ocean is flat and glassy.
Those who are using Buck in their lineup right now are likely in one of two different situations. Either they drafted him as a placeholder until d’Arnaud (or maybe even Mike Zunino) arrives in the majors or they picked him up off the waiver wire to use while they wait for their primary, much-better-for-the-long-haul catcher to heat up. Whichever the case may be, Buck cost them absolutely nothing and has already given them a fat-ass return on their investment just 10 games into the year. Will it last? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. Of his nine previous seasons, he’s had three with above-average production and only once in those three years did he post an average above .230 or have an OBP higher than a .315 mark. Expecting his current rate of production to continue would just be silly.
Realistically though, you’re not looking for much more from Buck. Obviously you’d love to have him maintain this pace all season, but really, all you’re looking for from him is one good month. That’s all it really takes to turn the most mediocre of seasons into a modest success story. If you figure the average catcher gets 450 at-bats in a year, and he hits .320 for one month and .250 the rest of the way, then he’s hitting .262 for the season which, unless you’re one of the elite catchers in the league, isn’t so bad. Ideal? No. But not bad when you look at batting averages of guys like Matt Wieters, J.P. Arencibia and Mike Napoli, three backstops who cost substantially more than Buck did.
But where the real value comes in is how you are using Buck this year. By the time the month finishes and Buck remembers that he’s…well…John Buck, your regular catcher will have likely found his groove and you’re going to make the switch. Suddenly you’re adding Buck’s one good month to five months of production that will probably be much better than the .250 line used in the above example. If you’re using him in place of a struggling Jonathan Lucroy or Ryan Doumit, you’re coming out much further ahead if they end up producing numbers right around their career averages at the end of the season. And if you’re waiting on d’Arnaud, you have to figure that once we pass May 1st, if Buck isn’t pulling his weight, the Mets will make the in-house change, so again, you should be covered.
The bottom line is that you should be reveling in Buck’s hot start. Who cares if it will never last? Who cares if he is in decline? You were never counting on him in the first place. Everything you are getting from him right now is gravy and before you know it, it will be gone. As a savvy fantasy owner you’re not fooling yourself into thinking that you’ve got some amazing breakout season on your hand. You’re just appreciating what you’ve got while you’ve got it and using it to your advantage while you can. I know I am.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at email@example.com