The catcher position is generally perceived as one of the weakest positions in fantasy baseball. If you missed out on the elite catching prospects in your draft (Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, etc), you more than likely waited to find bargains at the catcher position. Thankfully, some catchers have gotten out to hot starts this season, making your life easier if you are playing the waiver wire. Ryan Hanigan and Alex Avila fit the mold perfectly, as both have low ownership rates despite their strong starts. It’s only been one week, but let’s take a look at how these players should perform going forward.
The main issue surrounded Ryan Hanigan (8% owned in Yahoo leagues) heading into the season was playing time. With Ramon Hernandez in town, no one was really sure how much Hanigan would play. Despite Hernandez’s Opening Day heroics, Hanigan has actually started five games this season (to Hernandez’s three). If this is a trend that continues, Hanigan could turn in a really solid performance at a dirt-cheap price.
In his limited major league appearances, Hanigan has shown some promise at the catching position. A look at Hanigan’s career line gives a great view at what type of player he can become if given the majority of playing time. Over his career, Hanigan has shown a willingness to take a walk, while also limiting his strikeouts. That type of skill set makes Hanigan’s .300/.405/.429 line from last season seem pretty repeatable. His average might be a little lower this year, and he might not hit for as much power as last season, but he’s certainly a player worth watching in all leagues. In NL only leagues, Hanigan should probably already be owned. If he continues to receive the majority of playing time, however, he becomes a legitimate starting option in mixed leagues as well.
Alex Avila (10% owned in Yahoo leagues) is another catcher off to a hot start. Unlike Hanigan, however, Aliva’s playing time is not an issue. In a full-time role, Avila should shatter his previous career-highs in nearly every stat category. He has a few more warts than Hanigan, but Avila’s playing time makes him a safer pickup (albeit with less upside).
Like Hanigan, Avila should also post a strong walk rate. However, Avila strikes out at a much higher rate (23.8% over his career). So, while we should expect his on-base percentage to be solid, Avila might post a low average due to the strikeouts. Neither player has posted high slugging percentages over their careers, but Avila seems more likely to post better power numbers this season. Over his career, Avila has clubbed 14 home runs in 429 plate appearances. At the catcher position, those are valuable numbers. Avila should at least be on the radar of owners in all leagues. He’s a starter in AL only leagues, but could warrant a starting nod in mixed leagues if he can continue his hot start.
While Hanigan and Avila were the focus of this piece, it’s important to note that there are even more catchers off to hot starts. Nick Hundley (10% owned in Yahoo leagues) deserves a mention. While Wilson Ramos is grabbing more playing time than most people expected. Avila and Hanigan probably have more upside for this season, but it’s nice to have some options at one of the weaker fantasy positions.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.