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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
Padres agree to terms with C David Ross
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:01 pm ET) The Padres have agreed to sign free agent catcher David Ross on Friday, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports. Ross will join fellow catcher Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz on the roster. He hit .184 over 152 at-bats last year with Boston.

Dodgers, Phillies officially announce Jimmy Rollins trade
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:33 am ET) Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has officially been traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers, according to the official website of both clubs on Friday. The Dodgers acquired Rollins and cash considerations from the Phillies for left-hander Tom Windle and right-hander Zach Eflin. Both sides initially agreed to the trade during the winter meetings.

Rollins, 36, has a career .230/.277/.345 slash line over 200 at-bats at Dodger Stadium. He hit .243/.323/.394 over 538 at-bats last season. He's in the final year of his contract, and is set to make $11 million next year.


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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) The Padres have agreed to a deal that would send Former Tampa Bay catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Red Sox in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman confirmed a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.

The deal will take care of one of the corner infield vacancies for the Padres. Middlebrooks has a career .237/.284/.411 slash line with 34 homers and 122 RBI over 830 at-bats through three seasons with the Red Sox. He has never played at Petco Field. Hanigan hit .218 with five home runs and 34 RBI over 225 at-bats last season with the Rays.


Orioles announce the signing of LHP Wesley Wright
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:04 am ET) The Orioles officially announced the signing of free agent left-hander Wesley Wright on Friday, per the team's official website. Wright went 0-3 with a 3.17 ERA over 48 1/3 innings of relief with the Cubs in 2014.

Padres moving Wil Myers to center field?
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) With the addition of Justin Upton, it appears as if the Padres will likely try to shift newly acquired outfielder Wil Myers to center field in order to have Upton and Matt Kemp as corner outfielder, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports.

Myers played 147 of his 175 career games at right field, with only eight career appearances at center field. He also spent two games last season at first base. Last season, he hit .222/.294/.320 with six home runs and 35 RBI over 361 at-bats.


Padres acquire OF Justin Upton from Braves
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:53 am ET) The Padres have acquired outfielder Justin Upton from the Braves via trade, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman on Friday.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the trade between both clubs.

Left-hander Max Fried, shortstop Jace Peterson, third baseman Dustin Peterson, outfielder Mallex Smith will be heading to Atlanta in exchange for the 27-year-old outfielder and a low-level player, per Heyman. Upton spent his first six seasons in the NL West and has a career .291/.359/.541 slash line at Petco Park. He is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.342/.491 with 29 homers and 102 RBI over 566 at-bats with the Braves.

Mets, Rockies still in talks for Troy Tulowitzki
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) The Mets and Rockies have been discussing a potential deal that would sent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to New York this offseason, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports. However, it remains to be seen how likely of a chance New York will have of acquiring Tulowitzki via trade. A source told Heyman the likelihood of a trade to the Mets appear to be "slim" at the moment.

Tulowitzki was hitting a league-best .340 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI before suffering a hip injury in the middle of the year. He has $118 million remaining over the next six seasons.


Braves in 'serious talks' with mystery team regarding Justin Upton
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:15 am ET) The Braves have engaged in "serious talks" with an unknown team regarding a Justin Upton trade, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports Friday. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports first reported that Atlanta is closing in on a deal.

According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com the Braves have had recent talks with the Athletics, Rangers and Mariners this offseason. However, the Padres appear to be the club most likely to land Upton at this point, per Bowman.

Upton is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.342/.491 over 566 at-bats. He slashed 267/.348/.478 through his first two seasons with the Braves. The 27-year-old entering the final year of his contract and is expected to make $14.5 million in 2015 before becoming a free agent.


Giants, right-hander Jake Peavy strike 2-year, $24M deal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:25 am ET) Right-hander Jake Peavy, who went 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA for the Giants after an in-season trade from Boston, agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal by the world champs, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman confirmed early Friday.

Peavy did not duplicate his regular-season success during the postseason, going 1-2, including 0-2 with a 12.79 ERA in the World Series. Before the trade, Peavy was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA for the Red Sox.

For his career, Peavy is 139-111 with a 3.53 ERA and 2,027 strikeouts over 13 seasons.


Report: Padres continue to talk to Braves about Justin Upton
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) The Padres continue to talk to the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton, according to Bleacher Report's Scott Miller.

Despite the fact that the Padres acquired both Matt Kemp and Wil Myers on Thursday, the team may not be done yet. It's unclear where Upton would fit into the team's plans, but he would be a clear upgrade over whoever the club is planning to start in center field. If the team were to acquire Upton, one of that trio would be pushed into action in center. While Kemp has experience at the position, he's not considered a strong defender. 

The 27-year-old Upton is coming off a season in which he hit .270/.342/.491 over 566 at-bats.


 
 
 
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