Catcher Hot Starts Appreciation Day

With just about 10 games into the season and no one amassing more than 40 plate appearances, the Small Sample Size Police are in full force right now.  Hot starts, cold starts, nothing matters to these brazen fantasy owners who dismiss such meaningless statistics at this time of year.  But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t have a little fun and appreciate the good fortune bestowed upon us by the fantasy gods as our catchers come flying out of the gate, white-hot, and throw us some always helpful power stats.  I mean, would you rather be sitting there lamenting Russell Martin’s ice cold start and wonder if his batting average will actually be worse than 2011’s .237 mark or give in to your child-like giddiness over the fact that Alex Avila has picked right up where he left off last season?  Yeah, that’s what I thought…

Yadier Molina, STL — .353-9-3-10-1

Molina, often a catcher drafted solely for his help in the batting average category, did something incredible last year and doubled his ISO and hit a career high 14 home runs — all at the age of 29 and in his eighth year as a professional.  Late bloomer?  Perhaps.  We’ve seen a good amount of those recently.

Things will obviously start to level off for him once that .360 BABIP comes back to earth, his walk rate subsides, and some of those line drives turn into ground balls, but if we’re talking about regressing to the norm, then his strikeout rate should also drop and his contact rate should go up as well.  If all of that falls into place, then there’s no reason not to expect numbers similar to his 2011 totals.

Jonathan Lucroy, MIL — .364-3-2-6-0

The similarities between Lucroy’s start this year and last year are eerily similar in a lot of ways.  His totals in the counting stats are close and his average is virtually the same.  His walk rate and strikeout rate are both pretty comparable as well.  However, where the numbers do deviate and what makes me think that the dropoff might not come as hard as it did last year is found in his batted ball data, particularly in his ground ball rates.

Last season, in the months of March and April, Lucroy had a 58.8% ground ball rate with a 2.22 GB/FB.  This season, his LD% is slightly higher, but his GB% is down to 47.4% with a 1.29 GB/FB.  To me, that says that he saw a lot more ground balls find their way through the infield in order to produce the average and BABIP he had.  A little more lucky if you will.  This year, there seems to be a bit more substance behind his totals.  It’s obviously not enough for him to continue at this torrid pace, but there’s enough to believe that the June swoon that he endured last season might not be as harsh this year.

Chris Iannetta, LAA — .348-6-2-7-0

OK, so this is one that I feel like I have to acknowledge but I’m not quite ready to put a ruling on it.  I’m not a big fan of Iannetta and over the last few seasons I’ve panned him quite a bit.  But the fact remains that Iannetta hasn’t gotten off to a start this strong since 2008, his most productive season to date.

If I’m comparing the two starts, this year we’re seeing a slightly higher walk rate, a much better strikeout rate, and improved batted ball data all around.  But is this enough to convince me, or anyone for that matter, that he will indeed put up numbers comparable to his career highs?  I don’t know.  I’m still trying to figure out if it’s just my blatant dislike for him as a fantasy catcher that blindly forbids me from endorsing him or if it’s because the three years between then and now were just so darn bad.

Honorable MentionMatt Wieters, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz

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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 rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

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Rico
Guest
Rico

Drop Martin for Iannetta?

shibboleth
Guest
shibboleth

I’d say Iannetta has the higher upside.

Feeding the Abscess
Guest
Feeding the Abscess

Iannetta clearly has more power upside. If you can use steals, go with Martin. At this point, I’d go with Iannetta in OBP leagues.

Pat
Guest
Pat

Don’t forget that Martin has been walking like crazy this year and his OBP is actually higher than Ianetta.