What is your favorite fantasy baseball format to play?
Most of the content surrounding fantasy baseball is around category leagues. However, if we polled the entire population, points leagues would likely come out on top as the most popular format. After all, it’s a very fun format to play in!
Rather than worry about having a balanced team in certain categories, you can simply target the players who will score the most points, similar to football. Meanwhile, since other factors are rewarded, such as walks, it may better correlate with “real-life” offensive value as well.
With that in mind, it’s time to analyze how players are going to produce from a points league perspective. Usually, to do this, we would rank players based on our intuition and confidence in each player. However, there’s another way to go about this. Personally, my mind works better when working with specific numbers, rather than just looking at one whole big picture.
What do I mean by this? Essentially, there might be less margin for error if we focus more on how a player is going to contribute to each main category, as opposed to what their overall value is there. To help with that, I have created my own projections to help list players in order of expected production. By no means is this an objective projection system, but that is sort of point. Being able to incorporate the context that goes into rankings allows the projection to take into account several important factors, but the overall rating is objectively created based on the value they provide in each category.
In simple terms, these are manual projections that combine a subjective touch with some needed objectiveness. Rather than predict their straight-up production in these categories, I projected how they would rate in peripheral categories to come up with the final result. For instance, instead of home runs, projecting fly-ball rate and home run/fly ball rate.
Projecting playing time, meanwhile, is the impossible task that we, as fantasy baseball managers, need to do. Personally, I took into account previous durability, current status with their team (lineup spot, team success), as well as Fangraphs’ roster resource playing time projections, to come with an accurate plate appearance number. Since we don’t know how many games are going to be played this year, this projection is under the assumption that there is going to be a 162-game season, even if that possibility is highly unlikely.
Without further ado, let us get to the projections! Today, we’ll be focusing on the catcher position. This is not a position filled with offensive superstars. Assuming you’re playing in a one-catcher league, you could either attack the top tier of the position, hoping to gain advantage, or you could wait it out. Honestly, the optimal strategy just comes down to what you prefer!
So, which catchers should be targeting or avoiding? Which catchers get a boost or drop-off in points leagues as compared to category leagues. Let us dive into it!
Stats via Fangraphs and Baseball Savant
Category League Projections & Tiers HERE
2022 Points League Catcher Projections & Tiers
|6||Keibert Ruiz||ARI||C, OF||302.4|
|8||Tyler Stephenson||CIN||C, 1B||265.4|
|27||Eric Haase||DET||C, OF||143.5|
|39||Tom Murphy||SD||C, OF||103.0|
Who Gets a Boost In Points Leagues?
|Player||Team||Roto Rnk||Pts. Rnk||Change|
As you would expect, the catchers with the strong plate discipline and contact numbers get a boost in points leagues:
- Speaking of strong plate skills, no catcher stands out in that regard like Alejandro Kirk. In 189 plate appearances last season, he posted a 10.1% walk rate and 11.6% strikeout rate. Meanwhile, these numbers are backed up by strong plate discipline (24% chase), as well as strong contact skills (8% swinging-strike rate). Add in the power (11% barrel) he showed as well as his minor-league track record, and there’s a lot to be excited about. The playing time is uncertain, but his production per plate appearance is going to be quite strong.
- In points leagues, players with solidified playing time tend to move up. Last season, Jacob Stallings was a viable streaming option in points leagues, and that’s likely what he’ll be this year now as a member of the Marlins. His plate skills (11.5% BB, 19.9% K) give him a boost in this format, even with limited power. He’s not a game-changer that you should even necessarily draft, but someone to keep tabs on via the waiver wire if your starting catcher misses time due to injury.
- Quietly, the Diamondbacks have been leading off catcher Carson Kelly against lefties in spring training thus far. In category leagues, his lack of elite power, in addition to runs and RBI playing for a poor Diamondbacks team, hurt him. At the same time, he’s another example of having strong plate skills (12.3% BB, 20.6% K) to go along with competent power (8.5% barrel). Plus, I believe projections may be too low on his playing time, based on where it was at last year when he came back from injury last season. He’s a quality second catcher that you may consider drafting, depending on how deep your benches are.
- After a breakout 2020 season, Austin Nola was drafted as a fringe-starting catcher last season. As he dealt with injuries, his power (0.6% barrel) was non-existent, but he made as much contact (9.8% K) as there can be. It’s likely he strikes out more, yet that likely will come with more power. If he secures more playing time than expected, he could return starting value potentially.
- Yasmani Grandal and Tyler Stephenson, who each have very strong plate discipline, see their value boosted further as quality starting catchers for this season. Stephenson, specifically, is quite interesting if he can match his raw power with a swing change; the plate skills give him a strong foundation, however.
Whose Value Decreases In Points Leagues?
|Player||Team||Roto Rnk||Pts. Rnk||Change|
On the contrary, power-first catchers who either don’t make a lot of contact or struggle to get on base take a hit in points leagues:
- In category leagues, the power Mike Zunino can provide makes him a potentially interesting mid-tier catcher. That being said, we’re talking about someone who had a 35.2% strikeout rate last season. With every strikeout hurting your point total, that’s not going to void well in this format.
- Speaking of strikeouts, I’m worried we’ll see a lot of them from Joey Bart this season. With Buster Posey retiring, the former second-overall pick has been seen as the heir to his throne. However, it appears unlikely that happens. As a 24-year-old in Triple-A, he mustered just a 107 weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+) despite having an unsustainable .398 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). The combination of a 29.4% strikeout rate and a .179 isolated power (ISO) isn’t ideal; his production in the minors hasn’t been up to expectations despite being old for each level. Meanwhile, in his first MLB stint (111 plate appearances), he struggled immensely with a 36.9% strikeout rate and a 2.7% walk rate, backed up by poor underlying metrics. Maybe the “breakout” comes this season, but I would not bank on it.
- Due to average plate skills (projected 8.1% BB, 23.4% K), Travis d’Arnuad‘s value slips from starter level in category leagues to more of a high-end “catcher #2”. Meanwhile, I’m a major proponent of Mitch Garver‘s value in roto leagues, based on his immense power upside. However, his projected 28.1% strikeout rate is a concern in points leagues.
- Max Stassi, Eric Haase, and James McCann all see their value slightly diminished due to high strikeout rates. Haase, meanwhile, isn’t a lock to see much playing time, adding extra risk to his profile.
- Since stolen bases are weighed less in points leagues, JT Realmuto sees his value diminished slightly, with Will Smith taking over the #2 spot. Willson Contreras, meanwhile, has some contact issues that could hurt his value in this format, similar to Garver.
Top Target: Keibert Ruiz, Washington Nationals
The theme of this article has been centered around targeting hitters with very strong contact skills. Well, it’s hard to find a catcher that checks that box like Keibert Ruiz does.
For years, Ruiz was seen as a future above-average starting catcher as a Dodgers prospect. However, with Will Smith in the fold, he was clearly blocked, which was likely part of the reason he was included in the package that sent Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to Los Angeles last season. Plus, it’s clear to see why the Nationals were interested in him.
In the upper levels of the minors between 2018 and 2019, Ruiz struck out just 7.2% of the time; there’s a reason some prospect evaluators went as far to give him a 70-hit tool grade. That being said, he lacked the power needed to become a complete offensive player. Luckily, that all changed in 2021.
In an attempt to hit for more power, Ruiz increased his fly-ball rate to over 51%, while he nearly pulled the ball on half of his batted balls. Pulling the ball and hitting fly balls at a high volume is the perfect way to manufacture your power, which is what Ruiz will now look to playing his home games at a hitter-friendly ballpark. Steamer goes as far to project a .204 ISO for him, and while there are disagreements amongst the projections, there should be enough power here.
Since he’s not taking the same net negative that other hitters take in strikeouts, and has at least average power, Ruiz’s profile is much more valuable than you would realize. Projections have him slated for only 413 plate appearances, but considering he comes with tremendous prospect pedigree, is a switch hitter, and there isn’t any other player standing in his way, that seems like an awfully conservative number. In the end, you’ll be getting an ascending everyday catcher on the rise who could easily be drafted in the top five in points leagues for years to comes. Before it’s too late, make sure to target him!
Top Fade: Gary Sanchez, Minnesota Twins
From the time Gary Sanchez posted a .358 ISO and 170 wRC+ in 229 plate appearances in 2016, and then followed that up with 33 home runs and a 131 wRC+ in 2017, he was seen as a future star at the position. After all, at an offensive-barren position, few catchers could match the power he was bringing to the table.
Sanchez had a down year in 2018, but responded well with a 116 wRC+ in 2019. However, even when excluding 2020, it’s hard to get on board with him after his 2021 season. While he did get his whiff rate (29.4%) back in check, it came with his worse barrel rate (13.7%) since 2017. While that’s a strong number, it’s not enough to support his other weaknesses.
Sanchez’s 27.5% strikeout rate is far from the only issue. See, as someone who hits many balls in the air (31.3% fly-ball, 12.2% pop-up), pulls the ball over 50% of the time, and is amongst the slower players in the league, he’s not someone who is going to post a high BABIP. Since 2019, that number is at .225, and there aren’t many indications that it’s going to rise significantly- the projections, sans THE BAT X, tend to agree with him posting a high .230s BABIP.
Since he’s mainly “home run or bust”, Sanchez’s power becomes less valuable in points leagues. The contact skills also remain a clear issue, as is his playing time. After being traded to the Twins, the indication is that he’ll be the designated hitter, as the team prefers a superior defensive catcher in Ryan Jeffers. The problem? Minnesota has other candidates to fill in at designated hitter, while his playing time will wither quickly if there are any offensive struggles; there is no defensive acumen for him to back on, or previous investment from the team like there was in New York.
I truly hope Sanchez simply needed a change of scenery to get back on track. Heck, with his power at a thin position, he could offer some value in category leagues. In points leagues, however, there is too much going against him. As someone currently being drafted as a fringe top-ten catcher at ESPN, he is clearly someone to avoid at a high price, especially with superior alternatives around him. Until we know that “Gary will be scary” again, you might want to be cautious about targeting him in drafts.