The big story of the week at the major league level was the wiping out of Buster Posey at home plate by Scott Cousins. Posey now joins Joe Mauer on the disabled list meaning $50 worth of players taken in the Mixed Tout Wars draft are of no use to the owners and that duo represented 17 percent of the money spent at the position in the draft.
I am the unfortunate owner of Mauer in AL Tout Wars as I went against my traditional spending habits in the draft for the first time ever and invested money into a position I consider to be a very risky position to invest in for a variety of reasons. The Posey play highlights my biggest concern, but the fact most catchers take a bit longer to develop than other prospects as their bat is affected by their defensive responsibilities and catching prospects tend to have a less clear path to the major leagues typically makes me tend to discount the position both in the regular phase of the draft as well as the reserve part of the draft.
52 catchers have been taken in the first round of the June amateur draft since the 1990 season starting with the recently retired Mike Lieberthal and ending with Michael Kvasnicka as the Astros as the Astros spent a first-round pick on a catcher for a third time in five seasons (insert Ed Wade joke here). From 1990 to 2008, just 30 of the 45 catchers drafted in the first round even made it to the major league level giving the position a 33 percent failure rate in producing prospects that have any kind of impact on fantasy teams. Eric Christopherson, Paul Ellis, Jimmy Gonzalez, Nick Trzesniak, Scott Heard, and Max Sapp were all first-round picks that never stepped on a major league field.
Only 24 of the catching prospects prospects produced positive value in terms of Wins Above Replacement with Joe Mauer slightly edging out Jason Kendall for the lead in that regard at 38.6 WAR to 38.1 WAR. In all, the first-round catchers drafted over the past 20 seasons have produced 249.6 WAR which is less than what Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez's combined measures. The other issue beyond the injuries, slow development, and overall lack of success at the position is the fact that some drafted catchers do not stick at the position. Paul Konerko was drafted as a catcher in 1994 but has played the corners as a major league player while producing 23.1 WAR. Jayson Werth was drafted as a catcher in 1997 but was moved to the outfield where he has produced 19.7 WAR as were Daric Barton (6.5 WAR), Neil Walker (2.6 WAR), and Brandon Snyder (0.1 WAR). Even Joey Votto was originally drafted as a catcher before the Reds had other ideas for him.
On the Top 100 prospect update list earlier this month, I listed seven catchers which spoke more to the lack of talent at the major league level than anything else. In looking at the team production rankings for the catching position, Cleveland's tandem of Carlos Santana and Lou Marson are considered league average and that pair has combined to produce a slash line of .213/.332/.367. Yes, a sub .700 OPS is league average in this offensively-suppressed season of 2011. Here is an update on how each of them is doing so far in 2011.
Jesus Montero (NYY): .302/.339/.408 in 180 PA. 12 XBH, 9 BB, 42 K (Triple-A)
Wilin Rosario (COL): .273/.311/.503 in 151 PA. 15 XBH, 8 BB, 29 K (Double-A)
Devin Mesoraco (CIN): .295/.380/.481 in 179 PA. 19 XBH, 20 BB, 33 K (Triple-A)
Derek Norris(WAS): .231/.383/.484 in 115 PA. 11 XBH, 21 BB, 32 K (Double-A)
Yasmani Grandal(CIN): .284/.411/.503 in 192 PA. 18 XBH, 34 BB, 41 K (High-A)
Gary Sanchez(NYY): .238/.312/.402 in 138 PA. 12 XBH, 14 BB, 37 K (Low-A)
Tony Sanchez(PIT): .271/.378/.368 in 157 PA. 8 XBH, 19 BB, 18 K (Double-A)
Note how two pairs of those players play in the same organization meaning if one does very well, the other's ascension to the major leagues will be blocked. Cincinnati could have another Votto/Alonso situation on their hands if Mesoraco does well with Grandal having to wait behind him as teams often prefer to give top talent everyday playing time rather than put players into a platoon.
Many of you likely play in dynasty leagues that have midseason drafts after the June amateur draft and are quickly looking to find help for your future rosters. I would strongly advise you to forgo the catcher spot. Andrew Susac, Austin Hedges, Tyler Marlette, and Blake Swihart are just a few of the names that have shown up in mock drafts for the first round of next week's draft, but given the track record of this position from a return-on-investment standpoint, you are better off letting your leaguemates waste the roster spot while you chase more proven commodities that are already in the minor leagues.
Other minor league updates:
- Dayan Viciedo (CHA) has had a very hot month of May as he has a .343/.407/.590 slash line with 16 extra base hits, 25 RBI.
- Russ Canzler (TB) has hit .326/.458/.558 in May with 14 extra-base hits, 20 walks, and 28 strikeouts in 86 at bats. He has 32 walks and 40 strikeouts on the season in 159 at bats, but the Rays are still in need of a right-handed hitting first baseman to platoon with Casey Kotchman and may look Canzler's way if he continues his hot hitting.
- Yonder Alonso (CIN) A .327/.395/.518 slash line in May with 14 extra-base hits, 12 walks and 12 strikeouts while he waits for the Reds to trade him somewhere so he can play at the major league level.
- Jason Kipnis (CLE) A .321/.368/.509 slash line in May with 12 extra-base hits and five stolen bases. If you have watched any Indians baseball this month, you have seen just how laughable Orlando Cabrera's range is these days at second base. Kipnis would be an immediate upgrade to the position in that regard and I would think he could match Cabrera's current .258/.287/.331 slash line.
- Desmond Jennings (TB) His .286/.369/.551 slash line in May is doing nothing to quiet the screams by fantasy owners for the Rays to promote him. However, note he is just 2-for-2 in steals this month after going 7-for-7 in April.
- Brett Lawrie (TOR) .349/.420/.746 in May with 11 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and six steals. Meanwhile, the collection of stiffs playing third base in Toronto just ended an 0-for-42 skid. This is what is wrong with the entire Super Two situation in MLB; teams with small budgets are forced to play inferior talent at a position until an arbitrary dates passes so they can promote the superior talent. Lawrie should be leaving Las Vegas within the next two weeks.
- Clint Robinson (KC) .354/.461/552 in May with more walks than strikeouts as well as 11 extra-base hits. He is a DH/1B that is blocked by Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler and like Alonso earlier, is someone I believe needs to be traded to be given a fair shake at a major league job.
- Neil Ramirez (TEX) After a very hot April, May was not so kind to Ramirez as he struck out 23 but walked 11 in 22 innings pitched while allowing 27 hits and 16 runs. Some of that is the residual effect of pitching in the PCL but he was also chased out of a game a few nights ago after needing 96 pitches to get through just four frames against the Reno Aces in Round Rock, TX.
- Alex Cobb (TB) He was promoted late last night to replace Andy Sonnanstine in the rotation who was filling in for Jeff Niemann. Cobb has dominated in Durham all season with a five to one strikeout to walk rate, less hits than innings pitched, and has allowed just two home runs in 47 innings of work.