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Tiered Catcher Rankings Analysis

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Brian Creagh digs deeper into the projections to find the implied tiers in the catcher rankings

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Rankings are the single most important piece of prep work for your fantasy draft. Know who you’re going to take and the order of preference in which you’d take him. And at FakeTeams, we have you covered on rankings! Just look at our Consensus Catcher Rankings, Top 300 Rankings, even a Top 500 Rankings with projections. But rankings also require context. It’s not enough to say you like Evan Gattis over Yadier Molina (and I do!), but how long can you wait until you select Gattis before you possibly miss out on both? That’s what we are going to answer in this article today. This tiered rankings analysis, which we’ll do for each position, gives the context necessary to understand the implied tiers within each position.

This is not necessarily another rankings exercise. The rankings in this article are strictly a Value Above Replacement order using Steamer projections and not my personal opinion. If you aren’t familiar with Zach Sanders’ wonderful, wonderful piece on Fantasy Value Above Replacement, I strongly suggest you give it a read for additional context because I borrow some of those techniques here. This exercise is meant to take an objective 5x5 projection for all players, and understand where production clusters and how that compares to where the market is currently valuing them (ADP value provided by FanGraphs). This serves as a sanity check for your own rankings. You may like Salvador Perez more than Steamer, but you have to like him almost 40 picks more before he approaches the same value as Buster Posey. These results will give you a much better idea of where you should be looking to take a player, and where the current value is in the draft board.

For each position, we will only rank as many players as are typically owned in your standard 5x5, 12-man league. For catchers, this means approximately 16 players since your 17th and 18th catcher are likely going undrafted in this format. So without further ado, here are the Catcher tiers:

Now a few explanations - zSUM is the sum of all a player’s z-scores for each of the 5 categories. A zSUM of 1 means that the player is 1 standard deviation better than the average player at this position. It is not the be-all and end-all definition of a player’s value, because a player’s worth to a team is dependent to the construction of that specific team (i.e. Billy Hamilton doesn’t mean as much to a team that already has Dee Gordon). It is an excellent approximation of a player’s general value compared to the rest of the position and a helpful metric for organizing similar expected output.

Tiers are represented by the solid black line and were generated subjectively by looking at both zSUM and current ADP. The double black line beneath Yadier Molina represents the average production at the position - players above the line are “above-average” and players below the line are “below-average”. It is my goal to leave every draft with an above-average player at each position, so having this break-even point in mind is extremely helpful.

Next we need to compare this zSUM metric to where each player is currently being drafted. If we can wait a round or two and get the same production as an earlier pick, we are setting ourselves up for success. The graph below plots each player’s zSUM vs. their current ADP with a trend line running through the scatter plot. A simple way of interpreting the chart is: players above the line represent good value, players below the line represent poor value at their current ADP.

(click on image to zoom)

Observations

Gary Sanchez is a stud. Head and shoulders above the rest of the position, which you may have already guessed, but he’s actually worth his current ADP of a late 2nd round pick.

I will end up with J.T. Realmuto and Evan Gattis in just about every league. I want above-average production at each position and Realmuto and Gattis are the best value picks sitting above the break-even line.

Salvador Perez is overrated. This isn’t a hot take, but every number I’ve looked at this off-season points to regression in an offense that is losing Lorenzo Cain and maybe Eric Hosmer.

The Austin Barnes love may have gone too far. A darling to many fantasy experts, and for good reason - Barnes is one of the worst values relative to his Steamer projections. However, you could easily look at Barnes’ projections and tell yourself he’s going to top those numbers (and I would say you’re probably right). If you think he’s closer to Yadier Molina’s numbers, you could slide him left on the x-axis to a zSUM of 1 and find that he’s actually still a good value at that production level. Keep in mind an increase in Barnes’ production would require a re-calculation of all other zSUMs but for the sake of the thought experiment we will hold everything else constant.

Christian Vazquez and Russell Martin are my late-round fallback options. I said I want above-average production at each position, but if my draft doesn’t work out that way, I’m waiting all the way until the end to snatch up Vazquez or Martin. They are a tremendous value relative to their projected production and I believe there is some upside in each of their Steamer projections. I would even lump Chirinos into this conversation as well if Juan Centeno remains the Rangers only other option at backstop.

If you have any questions or comments or just want to chat further about your league, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @BrianCreagh or via email bcreagh119@gmail.com.