Let’s open this right up by discussing the term bust. In my most simple explanation, I am not calling any player a total waste of a pick; merely that I don’t believe they will return the expected outcome at where they are being drafted. Any or all of the players listed could produce at some level, but based on what else is around their ADP, I would suggest going in another direction. If you did not get a chance to read my catching sleepers article, here is the link. A better plan would be to pass on these three potential catching busts and look for a better return on your draft investment.
Because we’re talking catchers, I focused on three being drafted inside the top-15 at the position. The ADPs are listed and slightly different from the number of catchers needed to fill out a roster. Drafters beware!
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2021 Catcher Busts
Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves
NFBC ADP: 134.00 (C #6) Fantrax ADP: 170.32 (C #6)
Something doesn’t feel right about Travis d’Arnaud’s 2021 season. You take a look at his statcast page and see 90th percentile or better in exit velocity, xBA, and hard hit%, then think how on Earth could he be a bust? After looking through his profile, I have concluded that d’Arnaud outperformed his peripherals.
First, let’s take a look at the rolling graph of his batted ball profile. A big red flag that jumps out is the massive increase in GB% and drop in LD% and FB% halfway through the season. Line drives, especially ones hit with a high exit velocity, will do great things-but LD% is not very sustainable over a long stretch. I fully believe that regression is coming for him, and it is only a matter of time.
In 2020, d’Arnaud had a BABIP of .411, which is well above his .280 career BABIP. It takes about 800 plate appearances for BABIP to stabilize, which would explain why a nine-year veteran hit 60 points higher than his high watermark for batting average(.268). Again, regression was coming if the season was longer.
Durability plays a small role in this evaluation as well. Every projection system has d’Arnaud with well over 400 plate appearances. The reason this is a slight concern is he hasn’t eclipsed 400 plate appearances since 2014. At the start of his 2021 campaign, he will be 32 years old with a laundry list of previous injuries.
My overall fear is at this point in the draft; there is plenty of safer options. Grab more pitching, grab a hitter. Catcher is a volatile position that comes with risks.
Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
NFBC ADP: 195.37 (C #13) Fantrax ADP: 272.62 (C #13)
The best way to put this is Mitch Garver outperformed his metrics in 2019, and that season is still misleading drafters to taking him this early in drafts. I believe many people remember his 31 home run season and think he can do it again. What was appetizing about Garver in 2019 was the 88.0% Z-Contact and 15% barrel rate. Well, in 2020, his Z-Contact dipped down to0 76.5% and 8.3% barrel rate. While the barrel rate is still nice to see, his profile’s overall contact continues to tumble each of the previous four seasons. Another area of worry is the complete loss of the strike zone. Garver’s strikeout rate skyrocketed to 45.7%, and he experiences a .167 batting average.
Another issue putting him on my catching busts radar is that playing time might swing from Garver to his backstop mate, Ryan Jeffers. Catcher is a grueling position, and we have seen a quick decline in skills for Garver. His sprint speed percentiles drop lower each year(2017-55th percentile, 2018-38th percentile, 2019-38th percentile, and 2020-19th percentile). We weren’t drafting Garver for his stolen bases, but it is an indicator of not so great things to come.
Let’s touch real quickly about Garver’s defense or lack thereof. His framing skills are in the 24th percentile of all qualified MLB catchers in 2020. However, Ryan Jeffers ranked in the 90th percentile of all qualified MLB catchers. While the Twins may lean heavier at the beginning of 2021 on Garver, there is quite a bit of concern that leads me to believe they switch to Jeffers at some point and never look back.
Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins
NFBC ADP: 252.00 (C #15) Fantrax ADP: 513.00 (C #15)
Take a look at the chart below. Alfaro has a 44% or better hard-hit rate in each of the previous three seasons; in 2020, he has a 49.1% hart hit rate. So, where are the home runs? Why the lack of extra-base hits? The answer is simple, Jorge Alfaro hits too many groundballs. In his career, Alfaro averages nearly two groundballs to every one flyball. If he continues to wear out the infield, there is not much of a chance of him getting back to the 18 HR form we saw in 2019.
Another problem with Alfaro is the gaudy strikeout rate. 2020 was really no different than any other year from Alfaro’s career. He carried a 36.0% strikeout rate, which is going to continue to cap his batting average. While the MLB average chase rate is 28.2%, Alfaro sits near the top of the leaderboards, around 44.5%-yuck! Overall, he has some massive changes that need to be made, and there are better options in the draft after him.
Enjoy Dave’s catching busts for 2021? For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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