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Fantasy baseball: Two potentially explosive catchers that could be big draft day bargains

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Yasmani Grandal and Devin Mesoraco might pay off big time for fantasy owners who are willing to gamble on their health.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Getting production out of the catcher slot is not exactly easy to do for fantasy owners. Catchers, on average, hit 15% worse than the rest of the league in 2015. It's just not a position that features a lot of offense. If a fantasy owner is willing to gamble on health, though, there are two guys that stick out that are coming off injury plagued seasons that have shown flashes of brilliance offensively, and they will likely be around later in drafts.

Yasmani Grandal

Grandal played through a shoulder injury in the second half that ultimately required offseason surgery. The surgery wasn't as bad as feared; Grandal had no labrum damage, which would have made his recovery time last a few months longer had it needed repair. He is expected to be fully healthy by March.

It isn't clear exactly when Grandal's shoulder started bothering him (the first I can recall hearing about it was mid August), but through the All Star break, he hit like one of the best players in the sport regardless of position. Grandal hit .282/.401/.526 with 14 HR in 257 PA. Grandal's ridiculous on base percentage was fueled by a 16% walk rate, and it came with a very modest .305 BABIP.

An OPS over .900 is elite for any position. For a catcher, it's Piazza-esque. Grandal's pre ASB OPS translated to a 159 wRC+ (for reference, league average wRC+ for catcher was 85 in 2015).

Grandal tanked in the second half while trying to play through the shoulder injury, hitting .167/.287/.225 with just 2 HR in 165 PA. Grandal was still walking (14% BB in the second half, compared to 16% in the first), but the power drop was absurd; his ISO fell from .244 to .056.

ASB

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

ISO

Pre

159

.282

.401

.526

.244

Post

49

.162

.280

.218

.056

Of course, the drop in production from his first half may not all be due to the shoulder injury. 250 PA isn't exactly a huge sample, and unless you believe Grandal's true skill set is a .900 OPS player who will keep hitting 22% of his fly balls for home runs, some regression was going to happen. But this drop off was extreme for a talented player, and there was clearly an issue present with his shoulder that was limiting him at the plate. A fixed shoulder in 2016, while no guarantee, gives hope for a return to some degree of a high level of performance as a hitter, a risk worth taking at his current ADP of over 200.

Devin Mesoraco

Mesoraco, like Grandal, has also shown prolonged stretches of dominance when he was healthy. Mesoraco finished 2014 with a .273/.359/.534 slash with 25 HR and a 146 wRC+ in 440 PA. Among catchers with at least 400 PA in a single season, Mesoraco's 2014 wRC+ ranks 43rd best among catchers in baseball history. His .260 ISO ranks 27th, identical to Mike Piazza's 1995 ISO. The increase in production in 2014 over his prior MLB seasons was fueled by a mechanical adjustment at the plate; Jeff Sullivan wrote about the changes Mesoraco made here.

Mesoraco injured his hip in 2015, which limited him to just 51 PA because he couldn't squat down behind the plate. The Reds tried him in the outfield to alleviate this, but Mesoraco ultimately had the surgery done. Mesoraco began squatting in early November, and like Grandal, he is expected to be fully healthy for the start of spring training.

ADP

An early read on ADP from stats.com shows Mesoraco at 171 and Grandal at 211 in NFBC leagues. It's probably too early to tell exactly where their ADPs will be come March, but I expect it to remain outside of the top 150, and possibly the top 200, making each a potential bargain if they can stay healthy. The upside is tremendous, especially in a non standard league that (rightfully!) values OBP and slugging.

Follow Tim on twitter at @TimFinn521