Innovations long needed in fantasy baseball; ranking top catchers
Wednesday would have been Bill Veeck's 97th birthday. Veeck, of course, is remembered as one of Major League Baseball's most innovative owners. The ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley Field. Larry Doby. Eddie Gaedel. The exploding scoreboard. Disco Demolition Night. All ideas hatched by Veeck.
He wasn't just a showman, though. He went against the rest of his fellow owners in supporting Curt Flood's case against the reserve clause, following the strength of his convictions. But perhaps the most telling fact about the man who grew up as the son of the Chicago Cubs owner and went on to own the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox is this: I was born in 1984. Veeck was out of baseball in 1981 and died five years later, yet I knew all those facts about him off the top of my head. Veeck was a man ahead of his time, and I like to think if he were around today, he would have embraced fantasy baseball long before the rest of the owners and league officials finally did.
In honor of Veeck, here are a few innovations for the fantasy game that are long overdue.
So why don't we do the same thing in fantasy baseball? Six out of 12 teams make the playoffs? The degree of luck in fantasy baseball is pretty slim. If you've finished outside the top four, odds are you're not worthy of being in the playoffs. But anyone can get hot for a week, and before you know it, a six seed is in the championship.
Let's cut the playoffs to the top four teams, and make both the semifinals and the championship two weeks long.
To me, the top of the catcher draft board comes down to Joe Mauer and Buster Posey. I realize I'm heaping a lot of expectations on a guy who will be spending his first April in the majors this season, but I think Posey is the way to go.
Posey tore through the minors until the Giants could no longer ignore him, posting a .325/.416/.531 slash with 18 homers in 422 at-bats between High-A and Triple-A in 2009. He was hitting .349/.442/.552 with six homers in 172 at-bats in '10 before the Giants finally showed the Pacific Coast League pitchers some mercy and called him up to the majors.
Remarkably, Posey got better when he made it to the show. His .305/.357/.505 line with 18 homers, 23 doubles and 67 RBI is comically good for a rookie catcher. And he did it all in just 406 at-bats. His .315 BABIP likely is sustainable as long as he keeps his strikeout rate down near the 13.5 percent level it was at last year. His walk rate was just 6.8 percent, but in four minor league stops he never had a walk rate lower than 11.3 percent, so that's likely to raise with time.
Take his sustainable BABIP, throw in a low strikeout rate, a walk rate that will likely improve, the pedigree of a top prospect and confidence bred by individual and team success in his rookie year, and I think last year's stats are the floor for Posey in '11. It wouldn't be unquestionable to see him go for 25 homers and 85 RBI this season.
On the other side, Mauer fell off the power grid last season, due in large part to Target Field, which sapped the entire Twins offense of its power last season. The good news is that his .327/.402/.469 slash line was considered a disappointment. Also, with a healthy Justin Morneau hitting behind him, teams will have to come after Mauer more this season.
The reason I prefer Posey is because I believe in his '10 power production a lot more than I do in Mauer's '09 numbers. That 28-homer year came from out of nowhere. In his five other full major-league seasons, Mauer has 47 homers combined. Last year may have been a plateau, but don't expect the heights of '09. I'm projecting 16 homers for Mauer this season. By the way, that would be the second highest single-season total of his career.
Here are the rest of my catcher rankings: