If a team brings in, say, Denard Span, you can feel free to downgrade the team's preceding center fielder. Sorry, Roger Bernadina, but Span, while not a super-stud, is a perfectly worthwhile fantasy (and real) option.
If a team brings in Kurt Suzuki, though, let's tap the brakes. There are game-changers, and there are Kurt Suzukis.
As part of the Nationals' push to be the best team in baseball, they added Suzuki (in August) and Span (in the offseason). For Bernadina, that means even less playing time, as his real 2012 benefit to the Nationals was the fact that he was the team's only true center fielder, meaning he got a fair number of starts and defensive fill-in time. Span, though, largely negates Bernadina's value.
On the other hand, the Nationals traded Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos in 2010. At the time, Ramos was considered a big ol' honkin' prospect, only he was blocked by Joe Mauer. He was 42nd in ESPN's Keith Law's prospect rankings in 2009 and 95th in 2010. He had a 113 OPS+ in 2011, was ESPN Fantasy's 10th-ranked catcher entering last season, and Fake Teams' own Ray Guilfoyle wondered whether Ramos was set for a huge 2012.
Suzuki is... well, he seems like a nice guy.
In my Bold Predictions piece a couple weeks ago, my first call was that Ramos seizes the full-time Washington gig and is a top-ten catcher the rest of the way. While some of my predictions were pretty out there and/or unlikely, the reason I led the piece off with that one is that I feel very strongly about. Sure, he tore his ACL last year, but that's pretty much the only strike against him at this point.
While Suzuki was once a high-end defensive catcher, his dWAR has fallen steadily over the past few years. I wouldn't claim Ramos is anything special behind the plate either - he's only a mediocre glove man. He does have a heck of an arm, though, and will throw out basestealers at a high clip. None of that helps Ramos in fantasy per se, but it does give him pros toward actually getting the playing time.
Meanwhile, Suzuki's offensive numbers have been falling off as well. His OBP in 2012 was a career-low .276, a number that even Jeff Francouer looks at derisively. Ramos' career OBP is about 60 points higher.
Ramos has a better eye. A better arm. More power (career .163 ISO to Suzuki's .126). Suzuki's reputation as a better glove man makes up for some of the difference, but, considering those skills appear to be sliding, not enough of it.
Davey Johnson said he would start the year letting the guys split time. Through three games, that seems like his approach, as they've alternated starts with no other corresponding platoon factors. If he sticks with that, well then phooey on me. Then again, when Drew Storen got hurt last year, Johnson said he'd use the same strategy with Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, and that lasted... not very long. And eventually Tyler Clippard emerged as the team's closer, because he was, you know, the best reliever on the Nationals.
Wilson Ramos is the best catcher on the Nationals.
Back to my original premise - I told you ESPN ranked Ramos 10th among catchers going into last season. This year, they had him at 25th. It's possible I'm wrong about him being a top-ten guy, but he's definitely worthy of more ownership than 0.2 percent, which is where he's sitting on ESPN right now. Sure, downgrade him some because he missed most of a season to an ACL tear if you want. Don't downgrade him, though, for Kurt Suzuki.
But the heck with Roger Bernadina, though. Screw that guy. (Not really. He's probably nice.)
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