Catchers: First Half Surprises by Howard Bender July 10, 2012 As we settle in here for the mid-summer classic, it’s a good time to take a look back at some of the biggest surprises of the first half with respect to the catching position and what you might expect moving forward. Carlos Ruiz, PHI — Based on his 332 ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, Chooch was probably an early season waiver pick-up unless you were in a really deep two-catcher league. His .265/.357/.393 batting line wasn’t anything special and at no time in his five years of playing did he ever hit more than nine home runs or plate more than 54 RBI in a season. This year, however, Ruiz came out like a house of fire batting .313 with three home runs and 10 RBI for the month of April and then started to turn it up. He is currently posting a slash line of .350/.412/.584 with a career-best 13 home runs and is just nine RBI from breaking that career-high as well. Breaking that RBI total doesn’t seem to be too far off either as the Phillies continue to hit in the middle of their order. Obviously there should be some slight concerns moving forward as catchers tend to slow down in the latter part of the season dud to the wear and tear in the summer heat, but also because his .362 BABIP and 18.3% HR/FB are going to be real tough to sustain. But if he can maintain some of his batted ball numbers and other peripherals while improving his walk rate, there’s no reason to think that he can’t continue to hit for a decent average. The power totals may drop, but he’ll still remain a productive option. A.J. Ellis, LAD — Another guy who, more than likely, was plucked from your waiver wire in early May after a solid month of April and torrid start in the second month. In fact, save for Ruiz, Ellis was probably one of the most productive catchers over in May after batting .333 with four home runs, 16 RBI and scoring 14 runs for the month. His value was at an all-time high and he was on his way to breaking career-highs across the board, offensively. But while he had traditionally hit with a high BABIP throughout his time in the minors, two straight months of a BABIP north of .375 was being questioned. And rightfully so , as Ellis tanked it in June and hit .222 with just one home run and a 29.1% strikeout rate. We’re probably not going to see a whole heck of a lot from Ellis moving forward as his BB/K continues to drop and his GB/FB continues to climb. It was great while it lasted though and if you were able to sell high on him then you’ve already won, but all in all, it looks like we wasted the good surprise on him back in May. A.J. Pierzynski, CHW — Well now where in the world did this come from? While he’s consistently hit for a decent average and maintained his always reliable walk and strikeout rates, Pierzynski’s power has been on a steady decline for six straight seasons. But suddenly this season, all those doubles have turned into home runs and Pierzynski has 16 at the break, just two shy of his career-high for a full season, and is sporting an all-time high .242 ISO. Moving forward though, based on his career splits, you should expect an overall decline in the power though. A .242 ISO is pretty unsustainable here and his career splits indicate the decline beginning in August and getting worse in September. Still though, what a first half. Name recognition probably got him drafted in more leagues than he should have been to start, but congrats to those that did for at least having a possibly suspect draft decision pan out for you. Honorable Mentions: Jarrod Saltalamcchia, BOS — Another super-low ADP guy done good in the power department. Seventeen home runs is already a career high and we’ve still got three months to go. Carlos Santana, CLE — Talk about wasting the good surprise…SURPRISE!! This is not #1 catcher production here. Blame the concussion and other dings and dents if you , but unless he does in the second half this year what he did last year, he’ll be further proof that taking a backstop that high in your draft (3rd or 4th round) can be a grave mistake.