Before I go gushing over all that crazy, delicious power, allow me to qualify the title statement and tell you that I’m strictly talking about drafting him as the second catcher in a two-catcher league. The position is extremely deep once again, so using him in a 12-to-14-team league as your primary backstop is not the way to go. I would consider him as my primary in a deep AL-only league, but for the sake of this discussion, I am speaking in terms of complementary help in most mixed leagues that require you to start two backstops.
Now let’s gush!
When Geovany Soto was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and word broke that he would be out for 10-to-12 weeks, I immediately bumped J.P. Arencibia up my draft boards. With that power in that ballpark? It seemed like a no-brainer for someone who, while averaging just 421 at-bats over his first three seasons, averaged just over 20 home runs and 63 RBI per year. Now with a bigger role in Texas and in a more productive lineup, that power is indeed, as David Wiers put it in Tuesday’s Roto Riteup, borderline tantalizing.
While the catcher position has grown deeper for fantasy purposes, the power at the position has failed to see any real increase. Of all those who qualified at the catcher position last year, only six hit 20 or more home runs which was slightly down from the eight who achieved that mark the year before. Arencibia, in these last three years has been in the top three in home runs twice and the the one year he wasn’t, he was still in the top-10. His power is no joke.
In looking at the numbers off the ESPN Home Run Tracker from last season, JPA’s average true home run distance (and standard distance, for that matter) was 406 feet. For all of MLB, the average true distance was 396.6 feet while the average for standard distance was just 394. Of his 21 home runs, 12 were categorized as “plenty”, four were considered “no-doubters” and five were listed as “just enough.” However, when you look at the distance numbers of those “just enoughs,” only two went for fewer than 400 feet and four of the five went into the deepest part of their respective ballparks out in center field. When the guy gets a hold of one, he tears it up and some of the towering moon shots he provides are simply incredible.
But obviously JPA comes with his drawbacks. That batting average, for one, is downright atrocious. His career slash line of .212/.258/.408 is miserable and when you look at his 28.7-percent career strikeout rate alongside that average, you don’t even need to dig deeper and look at things like his contact or swing rates. His walk rates are awful and even his defense is suspect. There is actually very little to like about his game. But with Soto out and a light-hitting Robinson Chirinos as the only other catcher worth rostering for Texas, the limited Arencibia is still going to see ample opportunities for at least the first three months of the season.
Bemoaning the guy’s average is easy to do, but given the number of at-bats he’ll accrue, on a standard 23-man active fantasy roster, the impact is not going to be all that severe. He’s like a poor-man’s Adam Dunn (circa 2008) but at a position where there is not much power to be had. You can easily counter his 450 at-bats of dismal batting average with just one or two guys who hit .280 or higher and see 550 at-bats in a season. After all, how high does your cumulative batting average have to be to stay in the top five of the category in a standard roto league? .270? You can work around that, can’t you? The counting stats, though, you can’t get anywhere else. At least not without paying a premium.
And that’s where JPA’s real value lies — his 356.62 ADP. Sure, that number may climb a bit now that Soto is out, but we’re sitting here in the final week of spring training so people who have yet to draft are targeting other players. Heck, they weren’t even really targeting Soto given that his ADP was less than 10 picks better. You can focus on every other position and then grab Arencibia as your second catcher in one of the final two rounds and you’re absolutely stealing that power. Any other catcher who can provide you with that type of power is going to cost you a 12th round pick or higher and two of those guys (let’s call them Evan Gattis and Matt Wieters) are going to give you batting average fits as well. They make JPA look even more enticing, in my opinion.
The bottom line is this: He costs nothing, his batting average is manageable on your roster and he hits 20-plus bombs a year. We’re not talking hard math here. We’re barely talking math here. What we’re talking is common sense and to use Arencibia as your second catcher just makes good sense.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org