Rather than run through all of the guidelines again, I'll refer my new readers back to the introduction of last year's piece on A.L. catchers. If you're not inclined to click the link, the short summary is 5x5 values, A.L. and N.L.-only player pools, my variation of Patton & Company prices, player positions based on eligibility entering 2010.
When it comes to catchers, the big question is generally the same. Should we spend big bucks on an elite option, grab a reliable every day player and avoid the risk, or simply go with two $1 catchers and hope to get lucky?
Ten Most Expensive A.L. Catchers 2010
These are the 10 most expensive American League catchers in 2010 based on a combination of prices from three expert league auctions: the CBS Sports.com Analysts league, the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR), and Tout Wars. The $ column is my 5x5 A.L.-only formula based on Alex Patton's pricing system, 2009 is what these guys earned last year and PK is Peter Kreuzter's (aka Rotoman) 5x5 bid. The only change from last year is that I've taken Baseball Think Factory's ZIPS projections - frequently featured at Fangraphs and replaced Sports Weekly's projected bids. The dollar values are not theirs but rather how their projected statistics shake out using the Patton $ formula.
The market pushes the Mauer and Martinez way up, is aggressive to varying degrees on everyone from Wieters down to Saltalamacchia, and is downright timid on Avila. Sixteen dollars per catcher is the most paid on average since I've been tracking this. However, a rising tide doesn't lift all boats, and the guys on the bottom get cheated compared to years prior. The tenth most expensive catcher in 2009 cost $9 and in 2008 cost $8.
The odd thing is that - with the exception of Mauer's absurd salary - it seems that the market was correct to push a little harder on the top seven catchers. You don't want to take a loss on any of your hitters, but you do want production at every position on the field and losing a dollar or two on Napoli, Posada and/or Pierzynski might actually have been a good play. It certainly was a better play than getting cute and hoping that Shoppach or Salty was going to pay off with a moderately priced gamble.
Rotoman and ZIPS didn't agree, pricing these catchers an average of $3 below the market price. Rotoman's bids are wrapped in sensible advice (don't pay more at a risky position for what players earned last year, but the result in this market would have been crossing your fingers with a second tier option (if the market pushed another dollar on Martinez). ZIPS' bids would have bought Salty, Avila and a piece of Suzuki in a hypothetical three-way auction with the market, Rotoman and ZIPS, which doesn't seem like the kind of help you want. ZIPS seems to be saying that guys like Salty and Avila are bound to earn something if they're starting; the problem as we all know is that they might not be starting come July.
If you're timid on most expensive hitters at a position, you had better hope that you get lucky and buy someone who isn't paid like a Top 10 player but who performs like one.
Top 10 A.L. Catchers 2010
|9||Jason Kendall ||$8||$2||+7||$1||$7||$6|
This chart is bad news for bottom feeders. Buck, Jaso, and Kendall stand in for Avila, Salty, and Shoppach, but Buck is the only one of these three catchers who really stands out as a big time producer at a small time cost.
Jaso is a freebie: CBS, LABR and Tout all took a pass. In fact, not one owner even bothered putting Jaso on his reserve list. As a result, Jaso's non-salary doesn't get factored into the average salary. This would be like giving the market credit for passing on him.
Adding Buck and Kendall to the mix seems to help out ZIPS. I'm sure the folks who put ZIPS together wouldn't recommend a bid limit of $7 for Buck or Kendall, but their valuation seems to be exercising an extreme version of Stage Three caution. Be wary of V-Mart, but make sure you get a starter behind the dish.
Rotoman is still getting shut out. Do his prices get more aggressive as we head toward the bottom of the heap?
Ten Least Expensive A.L. Catchers 2010
(on A.L. MLB roster Opening Day)
Sort of. In a two-way battle with the market, Rotoman gets Pena, Teagarden, Castro and Mathis outright. And he ties the market on Cervelli and Johnson.
Here in a nutshell is your problem with using ZIPS in this type of evaluation. Since every hitter gets a fairly generous baseline, there isn't going to be a hitter with a $0-3 projected stat line. ZIPS would technically "buy" all of these hitters, but since ZIPS would be stuck with a $260 salary cap just like the rest of us, these dollar values are pretty worthless as bids.
It does appear that Rotoman's general recommendation is to avoid paying too much for catchers and take what you can get in the endgame if it comes down to that. Without looking at all of the other positions, I can't say that this is the wrong approach.
Yes, you want production at every position. However, taking a $5 loss per player on the top catchers is too much. If you find yourself in this position in 2011 you very well might want to take Rotoman's approach and try to grab your offense elsewhere.