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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
Athletics RF Josh Reddick (back) doubtful for Monday's game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:44 am ET) Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick is doubtful for Monday's game against the Orioles, according to CSN Bay Area.

“Maybe doubtful tomorrow, but I don’t think it’s enough to where we have to worry about long term,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Reddick left Sunday's game due to lower back tightness. He believed he injured his back while making a play on a foul ball.

“It’s a lot better than when it initially happened,” Reddick said. “My back locked up and started spasming out. After the play I went back and watched it. From what I gathered, it looked like it happened from me avoiding the ballboy, who didn’t move one bit. … Nothing serious. Hopefully it’s something that’s just day to day. I’m sure with Bob (being cautious), I probably won’t start tomorrow. I’ll get some more treatment done so I’ll be ready to go Tuesday.”


Mariners RP Vidal Nuno to make spot start on Tuesday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:40 am ET) Mariners relief pitcher Vidal Nuno will start for his team against the Rockies on Tuesday, according to the Seattle Times.

Nuno last started a game on July 5, but it was for Triple-A Tacoma during a brief demotion.

“It’s just another day,” he said. “Now I just have to go 80 to 100 pitches and set the tone of the game.”

The Mariners are confident Nuno can provide the rotation some much needed rest.

“He can go five easily if we need him to,” McClendon said. “He’s very durable and he’s rested.”


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson strikes out three in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:26 am ET) Diamondbacks starting pitcher Chase Anderson tossed four innings during a Rookie League rehab game on Sunday.

Anderson allowed four hits and struck out three batters, but did not allow any runs in what was a solid performance.

Anderson is on the 15-day disabled list with a triceps injury.


Cubs C Miguel Montero goes 1 for 3 in rehab game Sunday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:24 am ET) Cubs catcher Miguel Montero went 1 for 3 in a Double-A rehab game on Sunday.

Montero is out of commission with a thumb injury.


Phillies 2B Chase Utley gets two hits in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:21 am ET) Phillies second baseman Chase Utley went 2 for 3 with a walk and two singles in a Triple-A rehab game on Sunday.

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Nationals SP Jordan Zimmermann gives up five runs in loss
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was not sharp during his start against the Mets on Sunday.

Zimmermann gave up five runs on six hits in six innings of work. He struggled at times with his location, as he allowed a season-high three home runs. Zimmermann did manage to strike out seven batters, but the damage from the home runs he allowed proved too costly.

With the loss, Zimmermann dropped to 8-7 this season with a 3.57 ERA.


Mets closer Tyler Clippard notches 18th save of the season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Mets closer Tyler Clippard closed out the ninth inning of his team's win over the Nationals on Sunday with ease.

Clippard gave up one hit, but then put away Washington to pick up his 18th save of the season. He has a 2.55 ERA in 42 1/3 innings of relief.


Mets SP Noah Syndergaard strikes out nine in win over Nats
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard was dominant during his start against the Nationals on Sunday.

Syndergaard allowed just two runs on seven hits over eight innings of work. He struck out nine batters and didn't allow a single a walk. Syndergaard made a pair of mistakes on two solo home runs, but was simply masterful besides that.

With the win, Syndergaard improved to 6-5 on the season with an impressive 2.66 ERA.


Cubs' Dan Haren considering retirement after this season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/2/2015) Cubs pitcher Dan Haren is planning to retire after this season, he said on Sunday, per MLB.com.

"I would say right now the chances are this will probably be it," he said. 

He wasn't willing to commit to the plan, 100 percent, however. "I don't want to say this is it and pull a Brett Favre," he said


Brewers not sure of Kyle Lohse's rotation spot
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/2/2015) Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse is in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, manager Craig Counsell said on Sunday. 

Lohse is 5-13 with a 6.31 ERA after Sunday's loss.

"He was in a lot of trouble all day," Counsell said, per MLB.com. "There was trouble pretty much every inning and it was big trouble. He struggled today and we need better from him."

"We have to discuss that in the next few days," Counsell said of Lohse's status in the rotation.


 
 
 
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