Robinson Chirinos and Not Being the Worst Possible Catcher

Christian Petersen

One Rangers catcher is a full win better than the other so far this year, despite being worth only 0.5 WAR. That's how bad J.P. Arencibia has been.

J.P. Arencibia went 2-4 with a home run and a walk on Sunday. That game raised his OPS on the season 150 points.

To .421.

As a Rangers fan, I was not excited about adding Arencibia in the offseason. There was moderate power there, sure, but it came with a career .258 on-base percentage, which is usable only when you pitch like Jose Fernandez. Geovany Soto was good enough, I thought, and Arencibia wasn't a good enough hitter, fielder, or clubhouse guy to bother with as a backup; surely there was a more palatable option. George Kottaras, maybe. Teams always want to get rid of him.

And then Soto got hurt, and Arencibia became the de facto starter. He started the first game of the season, three of the first four, five of the first seven. He was hitting .125/.176/.188 at that point. He bottomed out at .067/.125/.100 on April 20. And he was losing playing time, even though, originally, Soto and Arencibia were basically all the Rangers had.

It turns out, the Rangers also have Robinson Chirinos.

Now, I want to say this before I go too far: If you're using Robinson Chirinos in fantasy, you're in a deep league (or you're Mrs. Chirinos). But, you might not be in as deep a league as you might think - Chirinos is owned in 0 percent of Yahoo! leagues, the same percentage as ... well, heck, the same percentage as Gary Carter.

Chirinos is 30, and he enters this season with a 59 career OPS+, with one career home run. Heck, he'd only played 33 career games entering this season. But so far this year, he's hitting .238/.304/.365 with two homers. He's been worth a 0.5 WAR in limited time, which is 83 percent of his career total. Dude hit sixth in the lineup for the freaking Texas Rangers on Monday.

I've driven this point into the ground (here and here and here, and probably other places), but when you are in super-deep leagues, the Jason Giambi type who might only get three at bats in a week just can't accumulate enough on a regular basis to help you. Yes, if you're starting a lineup, you'd take most team's best pinch hitter over a Chirinos-level catcher. But in fantasy, you don't get to start a lineup; you have to use what's available.

As long as Arencibia is the Rangers' only other viable catcher - "viable" being a fungible word, as he's already back below a .390 OPS, but "as long as" also up in the air, with Soto back in a month or two; basically, this is "for now" advice only - Chirinos will get his share of plate appearances. (And before you go all "small sample size" on me about Arencibia's year-to-date line, again, dude has a .256 career on-base percentage. He is who he is.)

No, Robinson Chirinos shouldn't be owned in a 10-team, one-catcher league. But in some leagues like my deeper ones - 20-team, 30-man rosters, or 15-team, single-league - Chirinos is nigh-on invisible, and that's not exactly fair. He's not a special player, but he's better than his team's other options, he's in a lineup that should produce baserunners (please?), and he's way freaking better than J.P. Arencibia. Sometimes, that's enough for a look.

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