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2014 Draft Prep: Catcher profiles

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Al's profiles: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | SSs | 3Bs | OFs | Ps

The art and science of making projections isn't so hard sometimes. We can feel confident in knowing Joe Mauer will hit well over .300, Clayton Kershaw will get between 230 and 250 strikeouts and Brandon Phillips will hit 18 home runs for the fifth year in a row. (Actually, I have Phillips projected to hit only 16 this year.) Most players aren't quite that consistent, though, which makes projecting a far more interesting, and occasionally, far more aggravating task.

Over the coming weeks, I'll be using this space to explain the rationale behind some of those more gut-wrenching projections. Each column will focus on a different position, and I'll dig into the projections for six players who are hard to pin down, have had surprising trends (either good or bad) or are simply the targets of many of your Twitter and e-mail questions.

We'll start with catchers, laying out their projected slash line, 5x5 stat line and overall value. For Rotisserie value, I'm using their projected Standings Gain Points, a measure introduced decades ago by Alex Patton. It estimates how many cumulative places in the standings across the five hitting or pitching categories the player will lift your team, based on his projected stats in those categories. For Head-to-Head value, I am citing the projected number of Fantasy points the player will earn this season, based on a standard scoring system.

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And now on to our half-dozen catchers, who have helped to change the way I am viewing the position in advance of Draft Day. Rising elites like Jonathan Lucroy have me thinking that my early-round catching options aren't just limited to the big three of Mauer, Buster Posey and Carlos Santana. Evan Gattis and Yan Gomes are not quite in the same class, but they're emerging talents who have strengthened the corps of No. 1 catchers, making it plausible to wait on filling that slot -- not because the position is weak -- but because there are now several more enticing options to fall back on.

Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers

2014 projections: .291/.344/.476, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 65 Runs, 6 SB in 525 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 11.6 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 3rd among catchers; 412 Fantasy Points, 4th among catchers

Going into last season, a discussion of elite catchers was essentially a discussion of the aforementioned Big Three. Though Lucroy didn't put up astounding numbers in 2013, he has nonetheless earned admission into the catching elite. His 18 home runs didn't draw much attention, but for the second straight season, he showed above-average power for a catcher. He also posted his second straight season of striking out in fewer than 14 percent of his at-bats. Lucroy was likely cheated on last year's .280 batting average, as he hit just .196 on grounders after exceeding .250 in his three previous campaigns. My projection of a .291 average may even be a little conservative. Even if he falls a little short of his projected 20 home runs, Lucroy could make up for it with a .300- plus average.

Evan Gattis, Braves

2014 projections: .253/.296/.486, 27 HR, 89 RBI, 68 Runs, 0 SB in 490 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 11.1 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 6th among catchers; 371 Fantasy Points, 6th among catchers

Because Gattis has just 105 major league games and a limited minor league track record under his belt, he's not the easiest player to project. At least he has consistent power production in his favor, so it doesn't feel like a stretch to project him for six more homers than he hit last year, especially since he's the Braves' No. 1 catcher now and he can also play first base and outfield. If he can improve his batting average and on-base percentage, and in turn, score more runs, he goes from being a second-tier catcher to the top echelon. In order to accomplish that, Gattis needs to reduce his strikeout and popup rates, and his minors stats suggest that he has at least a chance to do it. Until he actually demonstrates a greater ability to hit for average, I'm projecting Gattis for only a mild improvement from last year's .243 average and targeting him as a second-tier catcher.

Yan Gomes, Indians

2014 projections: .257/.296/.430, 17 HR, 60 RBI, 63 Runs, 1 SB in 460 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 8.3 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 11th among catchers; 291 Fantasy Points, 12th among catchers

Gomes snuck into a regular role last season by riding a second-half hot streak to a .294 batting average. Having played in only 88 games, Gomes' 11 home runs, 38 RBI and 45 runs represent some impressive power and run production, and he will have a chance to build on that by opening this season as the Indians' primary catcher. Gomes' power was no fluke. Though he did play parts of his minor league career in hitter-friendly venues (most notably Las Vegas' Cashman Field), he was also capable of hitting home runs while playing in tougher venues like New Hampshire. Gomes should have little problem hitting 15 to 20 home runs, but don't look for him to come close to last season's batting average. He is a subpar contact hitter, and as someone who doesn't hit many line drives and lacks speed, he probably won't make up for strikeouts with a high rate of hits on balls in play like he did last year (.349 BABIP). This is why there is a good chance he won't hit .260 or exceed 65 RBI or runs.

Jason Castro, Astros

2014 projections: .254/.335/.427, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 61 Runs, 1 SB in 445 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 7.4 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 14th among catchers; 296 Fantasy Points, 11th among catchers

Castro is a line drive hitter who had shown some decent contact skills in the minors, so it didn't come as a complete surprise that he broke the .270 and 30-doubles barriers last season. His 18 home runs in 120 games, on the other hand, came out of nowhere. The only time Castro had shown more than a modicum of home run clout was in the California League, and his home park in Lancaster is especially power-crazy. Because Castro outstripped even his Cal League homer pace in 2013, I was suspicious of a repeat. And when I get suspicious of home run power, one of my first moves is to go to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, and the site confirmed my suspicions. Half of his homers were in the "just enough" distance category, whereas a typical hitter might hit only about a third of his homers for short distance. I expect Castro to lose some doubles power, too. Though he's good at hitting liners, he's not likely to repeat a 29 percent line drive rate that was the eighth-highest in the majors last season (min. 400 at-bats). The loss of homers and doubles should help to knock Castro's projected batting average into the .250s, especially since he's not been the contact hitter he was as a prospect. Projected for 30 doubles and 15 home runs, Castro now appears to be a borderline No. 1 catcher at best.

Travis d'Arnaud, Mets

2014 projections: .264/.319/.443, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 48 Runs, 2 SB in 420 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 7.4 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 15th among catchers; 273 Fantasy Points, 14th among catchers

Last season was not what d'Arnaud's owners were hoping for, as he missed more than three months with a broken foot and then failed to produce during his first exposure to major league pitching. Maybe the best thing to do is give d'Arnaud a do-over on his injury-tarnished season, but deep within his .202/.286/.263 slash line with the Mets, there were some good signs. In 112 plate appearances, he struck out 21 times -- not a horrible rate -- and walked 12 times. His 33 percent flyball rate was only a little lower than his minors rates, though you'd like to see him show more power when he does loft the ball. Given that he didn't become a slap hitter even when returning from his foot injury, his good power numbers in the upper minors and a home park (Citi Field) that has become one of the better home run parks in the National League, a projection of 16 home runs could be conservative. Don't look for d'Arnaud to repeat the high BABIP-driven batting averages of his recent minor league career, but with better line drive and flyball power, he should muster an average in the .260s.

Dioner Navarro, Blue Jays

2014 projections: .262/.326/.403, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 49 Runs, 0 SB in 370 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 6.9 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 16th among catchers; 260 Fantasy Points, 21st among catchers

Navarro not only resurrected his career as a backup for the Cubs last season, but with 13 home runs, he registered his first double-digit homer season. Now for the first time since 2009, Navarro is being entrusted as a primary starting catcher, as the Blue Jays signed him to take over for J.P. Arencibia. Having played the bulk of his career with the Dodgers and Rays, Navarro never had much of an opportunity to take advantage of a good hitter's park, and his .336/.414/.595 slash line at Wrigley Field showed that he enjoyed the Friendly Confines. Rogers Centre, Navarro's new home venue, has been even more amenable to extra-base hits. Not to give too much weight to Navarro's 2013 breakout, I have projected him for another 13-homer season, but with 130 more at-bats. Still, that gives Navarro a .141 Isolated Power, which would be his second-highest mark for a season with at least 100 at-bats. He's also due for a correction in batting average, as his .261 mark on ground balls last season doesn't square up with a career .193 batting average on grounders. A lack of doubles power makes Navarro irrelevant in standard mixed Head-to-Head leagues, but a combination of decent batting average (buoyed by a low strikeout rate), power and run production allow him to be a solid No. 2 catcher in Rotisserie.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Angels' Roberto Baldoquin could join club this weekend
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:21 pm ET) Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that Roberto Baldoquin could be with team as early as this weekend, according to the Orange County Register. Baldoquin, who has been dealing with visa issues, agreed to an $8 million bonus in November and is expected to work with the minor-league squad before starting the season in Class A.

Orioles' J.P. Arencibia making strides working with bench coach
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:16 pm ET) Orioles catcher J.P. Arencibia has made a favorable impression on manager Buck Showalter, per MASNsports.com. Arencibia, who is in camp on a minor-league deal, has been working with bench coach and catching instructor John Russell on improving his defense.

"He and John are working on a couple of things," Showalter said. "I've seen John do some things with guys that I didn't think was possible. I keep a real open mind about anything with a catcher here. I think John very quietly is one of the best I've ever been around, but he doesn't make everybody do it exactly the same. We'll see how it plays out.

"He's very engaged. He knows what the job description requires and he's trying to bring it. I think we all know offensively he's capable of better, but his damage has always good."


Angels' Garrett Richards begins light fielding drills
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) Along with completing his sixth bullpen session of the spring, Angels starting pitcher Garrett Richards began light fielding drills on Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Richards is roughly six months removed from left knee surgery, and is not expected to be ready for opening day.

Indians' Kluber (illness) could have Cactus League debut pushed back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:12 pm ET) Indians pitcher Corey Kluber is dealing with flu-like symptoms, and manager Terry Francona is unsure if he'll have his Cactus League debut pushed back, per the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Kluber, who is coming off his AL Cy Young campaign in 2014, is penciled in for Saturday.

Report: Jace Peterson may have outside shot to win 2B job
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:04 pm ET) Because of he reported to camp in exceptional condition and Alberto Callaspo did not, Jace Peterson may have an outside shot at the Braves' second base job, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Wednesday.

Callaspo signed with the Braves as a free agent in December was penciled in as the starter while top prospect Jose Peraza works his way through the minors. However, if Callaspo doesn't play his way into game shape over the next month, Peterson, along with Phil Gosselin could have a crack at the position.

Peterson was traded to the Braves from the Padres in a deal that involved Justin Upton in late December. Last week, manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed to reporters that the second base gig is "wide open."


Cubs taking wait-and-see approach on Welington Castillo's future
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:49 pm ET) Although Cubs catcher Welington Castillo is on the trade block and could be dealt before opening day, manager Joe Maddon told reporters that he's going to let the Castillo rumors play out before he decides whether he'll break camp with three catchers, per Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

"Let's just play it (out)," Maddon said. "Let's get him ready. He's really good. I really mean it. I like Castillo a lot. He's really opened up also in talking to guys and among the group, which is really nice to hear. There's a lot of good stuff going on there."


David Wright apologizes for scolding prospect in front of media
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:46 pm ET) Mets third baseman David Wright apologized to prospect Noah Syndergaard on Wednesday for scolding him Tuesday "within earshot" of the press, according to the New York Daily News.

However, Wright was not apologetic about the message he delivered to the highly touted pitching prosect.

"I talked to Noah yesterday, that's the thing I apologized to him for not realizing that obviously I choose to do it, so it's not the media's fault by any means, but I didn't notice the media was within earshot. So that's what I apologized to Noah for," Wright said.

"Now he has to answer questions, I have to answer questions, (Mets manager) Terry (Collins) has to answer questions, that's not the way that I like to handle things. I wasn't aware of my surroundings. As far as the content of it, I think that's something that I think Noah did an excellent job understanding the situation, he was very remorseful of the situation."

On Tuesday, Wright and reliever Bobby Parnell were upset Syndergaard went into the clubhouse to eat lunch while the Mets were in the middle of an intrasquad game. Wright told Syndergaard he needed to be on the bench during the game, but Parnell went one step further by throwing out the plate of food Syndergaard was eating.

Syndergaard, who added staying in the clubhouse was "straight up" ignorance on his part, said Wright has spoken to him twice since the incident.

"He wanted to make sure I knew that Bobby (Parnell) and he were not picking on me," Syndergaard said Wednesday. "He just wanted to make it clear, they care about me, they want me to be a part of the team, they think I can contribute in the future."

McClendon on Mariners' Marte: 'He's a very talented individual'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:43 pm ET) While Chris Taylor and Brad Miller will be competing for the starting shortstop job this spring for the Mariners, manager Lloyd McClendon said prospect Ketel Marte will also see time at shortstop this spring, per MLB.com.

“He’s a very talented individual,” McClendon said. “He’s come quite a long way in a short period of time and I can see why. He’s got a lot of talent and is pretty poised for a kid who is 20 years old.”

Marte hit .304 with a .335 on-base percentage, .411 slugging percentage and .746 OPS in 128 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. He also had four home runs, six triples, 32 doubles, 55 RBI, 79 runs and 29 stolen bases.


Mets' Jonathon Niese impressed by velocity after first intrasquad outing
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:40 pm ET) Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters he's impressed with Jonathon Niese's effort and health in Tuesday's intrasquad scrimmage, per the New York Post.

"His arm angle is much better, more velocity with his arm speed," Collins said. "He spent all winter making sure he was healthy because he doesn't want to go through those shoulder issues, and it has really paid off."

He tossed two shutout innings in his first outing of the spring. Niese, who had two MRI exams on his left arm in spring training last year, was impressed with his velocity this time around.

"My intrasquad last year, I don't think I threw over 80 mph," Niese said. "My shoulder and elbow felt great and my body feels good."


Tigers OF Steven Moya (back) cleared to play Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:33 pm ET) Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said outfielder Steven Moya will be available off the bench for Wednesday's spring game against the Orioles after sitting out Tuesday due to back spasms.

 
 
 
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