2011 Projection Review: Catchers

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What follows is a review of some of my 2011 projections for Rotoworld.com. I’m highlighting my preseason top five for each position and them some other notables, starting today with the catchers.

Catchers

Preseason Top 5

Joe Mauer – Twins – $28 – #1
Projection: .323/.411/.483, 14 HR, 91 R, 82 RBI, 3 SB in 520 AB
2011 stats: .287/.360/.368, 3 HR, 38 R, 30 RBI, 0 SB in 296 AB

It was essentially a lost season for the 2009 AL MVP, but Mauer did hit a solid .314/.393/.416 in 185 second-half at-bats before getting shut down with pneumonia. I’ll project him to hit .310-.320 next year, but the slugging percentage will come down. He has one homer in 396 at-bats at Target Field since the ballpark opened last year.

Buster Posey – Giants – $28 – #2
Projection: .312/.388/.507, 21 HR, 76 R, 85 RBI, 2 SB in 507 AB
2011 stats: .284/.368/.389, 4 HR, 17 R, 21 RBI, 3 SB in 162 AB

Victor Martinez – Tigers – $24 – #3
Projection: .297/.367/.463, 19 HR, 73 R, 95 RBI, 0 SB in 559 AB
2011 stats: .330/.380/.470, 12 HR, 76 R, 103 RBI, 1 SB in 540 AB

Martinez’s 2011 was even more of an outlier than his 2006. That season, he finished with a .316 average and 16 homers. In his other five full seasons, he has never hit better than .305 or finished with fewer than 20 homers.

Carlos Santana – Indians – $20 – #4
Projection: .271/.384/.475, 20 HR, 77 R, 76 RBI, 4 SB in 480 AB
2011 stats: .239/.351/.457, 27 HR, 84 R, 79 RBI, 5 SB in 552 AB

I still believe that Santana is going to hit for decent averages in the majors, but even at .240, he was one of the game’s best offensive catchers this season.

Brian McCann – Braves – $21 – #5
Projection: .274/.352/.472, 21 HR, 62 R, 80 RBI, 3 SB in 468 AB
2011 stats: .270/.351/.466, 24 HR, 51 R, 71 RBI, 3 SB in 466 AB

It’s pretty incredible that McCann hit third and fourth and still got driven in just 27 times all year. After McCann came off the DL in mid-August, he had a 21-game stretch in which the only runs he scored came on his five homers. 21 games!

Others

J.P. Arencibia – Blue Jays – $5 – #27
Projection: .228/.280/.417, 15 HR, 41 R, 47 RBI, 0 SB in 355 AB
2011 stats: .219/.282/.438, 23 HR, 47 R, 78 RBI, 1 SB in 443 AB

Arencibia proved to be quite a bit more valuable in fantasy leagues than expected, but my slash line was awfully close to reality. As a subpar defensive catcher with a .275 OBP after 478 major league at-bats, his future as a regular should be in serious doubt.

Alex Avila – Tigers – $5 – #23
Projection: .257/.338/.405, 11 HR, 41 R, 43 RBI, 2 SB in 358 AB
2011 stats: .295/.389/.506, 19 HR, 63 R, 82 RBI, 3 SB in 464 AB

2011’s breakout catcher. I projected Avila to add about 90 points of OPS from his disappointing .228/.316/.340 season in 2010, but I never believed he had this kind of upside.

Chris Iannetta – Rockies – $11 – #12
Projection: .243/.358/.444, 17 HR, 52 R, 61 RBI, 1 SB in 374 AB
2011 stats: .238/.370/.414, 14 HR, 51 R, 55 RBI, 6 SB in 345 AB

I think the Rockies would be foolish to move on from Iannetta. I’d really like to see what he could do if he weren’t stuck hitting ahead of the pitcher 90 percent of the time.

Russell Martin – Yankees – $9 – #13
Projection: .266/.360/.376, 9 HR, 53 R, 46 RBI, 7 SB in 391 AB
2011 stats: .237/.324/.408, 18 HR, 57 R, 65 RBI, 8 SB in 417 AB

Miguel Montero – Diamondbacks – $13 – #11
Projection: .260/.329/.443, 17 HR, 54 R, 62 RBI, 1 SB in 431 AB
2011 stats: .282/.351/.469, 18 HR, 65 R, 86 RBI, 1 SB in 493 AB

Maybe Iannetta could even put together a season something like Montero just did. Consider that Montero is a lifetime .256 hitter with 35 RBI in 91 games hitting eighth. He’s hit .274 with 211 RBI in 422 games the rest of the time.

Mike Napoli – Rangers – $12 – #10
Projection: .251/.338/.475, 20 HR, 54 R, 57 RBI, 3 SB in 362 AB
2011 stats: .320/.414/.631, 30 HR, 72 R, 75 RBI, 4 SB in 369 AB

Matt Wieters – Orioles – $13 – #8
Projection: .272/.348/.449, 18 HR, 56 R, 62 RBI, 1 SB in 448 AB
2011 stats: .262/.328/.450, 22 HR, 72 R, 68 RBI, 1 SB in 500 AB

Wieters didn’t reach superstardom in year No. 3, but considering that he’s developed into a Gold Glove-caliber catcher, he does appear on his way to becoming one of the AL’s better players. A .280-25 HR season is in reach for 2012. He fanned a modest 84 times in 500 at-bats this season, so there’s no reason he can’t hit for a significantly better average soon.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.