Now that ESPN has released some of their early rankings for the 2014 season, we can begin to take a look at which players are overrated or underrated going in to draft season. This will tell you where you can find value, and where you should just back away slowly. Today, my focus will be on the catchers, and more specifically those catchers I find to be overvalued by the expert community for the 2014 season.
Steamer Projection: 635 PA, .304/.383/.490, 21 HR, 90 RBI, 81 R, 2 SB ESPN Rank: 40 (4th round) Where I'd Rank Him: 55-60 (6th round) The question isn't whether or not Buster Posey is the best catcher in the majors going into 2014 - he is (although long time RotoBaller Ryan Rufe might quibble with that in his 2014 Catcher Rankings) . Posey's got the youth, pedigree, history and projections to make him the clear #1 in the catching market in my opinion. The question, rather, is whether can you justify burning a fourth-round pick on him. To put what a fourth-round pick means into perspective, Shin-Soo Choo is going late in the fourth round. David Price is going late in the fourth round, as is Chris Sale. A couple of picks after Posey, David Ortiz will go off the board. That is the opportunity cost of a late-fourth-round pick on Buster Posey, and it's a steep one. What this all means is that if you draft Posey, you essentially need him to put up that exact Steamer projection line in order to break even. He can't slump-- he can't have a bad month, and he definitely can't get injured. I'm always nervous about drafting a guy with as little wiggle room as that. Catching is an incredibly demanding position, and it can wear a player down over time. We saw that last year with Posey, who batted .325/.395 /.536 in the first half, but an anemic .244/.333/.310 in the second half, with his line drive rate dropping by an incredible 7%. None of this analysis even addresses the questions of injury and the lineup surrounding him. Aside from the horrific leg injury he suffered in 2011, Posey's been relatively healthy through his short career, but projecting health for a catcher is dangerous business, especially one who's had a pretty significant injury just recently. Likewise, projecting a 90-RBI, 81-R season for Posey seems a bit excessive to me, especially considering that he'll be hitting in a lineup that features a lot of question marks. If Pagan gets hurt again and Marco Scutaro, age 38, begins to show his age, 90 RBI won't be happening. If Hunter Pence regresses after a career season and Michael Morse fails to hit for power in SF's ballpark, Posey might well fail to score 81 runs. There are just too many questions surrounding Posey for me to take him that high in a draft. The talent is certainly there, but talent alone won't win you a fantasy championship.
Steamer Projection: 449 PA, .293/.346/.439, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 49 R, 4 SB ESPN Rank: 50 (5th round) Where I'd Rank Him: 65-70 (7th round) Much of what I said about Posey also holds true for Yadier Molina. As with Posey, he's an immensely talented player, and he even has a clear advantage in the quality of the lineup surrounding him, a fact which will buttress his RBI and R numbers. That said, he's also four years older than Posey, has less power and a much more extensive injury history. In each of the last four seasons, Molina has played fewer than 140 games, and at age 31, I expect that number to decline, not improve. I'd feel much better about my draft if I walked away with Brian McCann in the 12th round and Josh Donaldson, David Ortiz or Madison Bumgarner in the fifth, rather than putting all my chips in with Yadier Molina.
Steamer Projection: 516 PA, .249/.319/.425, 18 HR, 64 RBI, 59 R, 2 SB ESPN Rank: 140 (15th round) Where I'd Rank Him: 231-250 (24th-25th rounds) Every season, someone drafts Matt Wieters hoping that this will be the season he breaks out, and every year he disappoints. We've seen four full seasons from him now, we've seen his age-26 and age-27 seasons-- the supposed peak years-- and we've seen a lot of plate appearances. Here's what we haven't seen: a good player. He's got power, having hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last three seasons, but he also offers nothing in batting average, and that's just in the seasons he doesn't actively hurt you. I don't like his chances to do overperform with his counting stats either, and on that point, Steamer seems to agree with me. If you're going to take a bottom-tier catcher, there's no reason to waste a 15th-round pick on him. If you play in a standard league, I'm willing to bet Jason Castro (Steamer: 601 PA, .250/.332/.413, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 68 R, 3 SB) will still be there in the 20th, as will Miguel Montero (Steamer: 600 PA, .257/.345/.409, 16 HR, 71 RBI, 66 R, 1 SB) in the 24th. Given the difference in cost, I'd be hapy with either over Wieters at this point in his career.