My Picks (Catcher): Wilin Rosario
My catcher rankings didn’t deviate too much from the consensus ranking, but I am clearly more bullish on Wilin Rosario than the majority of writers.
My rank: 2/Consensus rank: 5
Last year Rosario finished as the second most valuable catcher according to my valuation method and he did it in just 466 plate appearances. He was the most valuable catcher on a per 500 plate appearance scale by more than a full roto point over the next catcher with at least 300 PAs. Of course you don’t win leagues by paying for last year’s stats, but there is plenty to like about Wilin heading into 2014.
*I will only elaborate on areas where explanation is required. If a player’s peripheral statistics are stable in a certain area and there is no reason to expect a strong deviation from that player’s recent norm, then analysis is probably superfluous.
Plate appearances: According to manager Walt Weiss, the Rockies are going to play Rosario at first base more this year to keep his bat in the lineup. Rosario has only played four games at first in his career, so this decision could easily put Rosario over the 500 plate appearance threshold. An extra 15-20 games in the lineup could cause his value soar. My projection: 530 plate appearances.
BB%: Rosario has never had good plate discipline and his O-Swing% and Swing% were career highs last season. This type of plate discipline profile doesn’t project to age well, but at 25 years old, we shouldn’t be overly concerned just yet. My projection: 4%.
K%: Stable strike out rate, stable SwStr%. My projection: 23.7%.
LD%/GB%/FB%: Reasonably stable batted ball rates. My projection: 20.6%/42.4%/37%.
IFFB%/IFH% (Pop up rate and infield hit rate): 8.7%/8.8%.
HR/FB%: Rosario’s HR/FB% dropped from 25.5% in 2012 to 17.1% in 2013. Unfortunately his average fly ball distance also fell, from 307.03 feet (5th in all of baseball) to 285.29 feet. When a player loses 15+ feet in average fly ball distance from one year to the next, they typically rebound by 35% in year three. Thus it seems reasonable to expect Rosario’s average fly ball distance to bounce back to the low 290’s. This doesn’t mean that I expect Rosario to gain 35% of his HR/FB% because his rate in 2012 was really high (tied for 4th in baseball among players with 400+ PAs). I do think a small bounce back could be in the cards, however, and I don’t think his HR/FB floor for 2014 is much lower than his 2013 output. My projection: 18.3%
BABIP: Given my projected batted ball rates, Rosario’s xBABIP* is .308. However, Coors field is spacious and inflates BABIP by 5.5%, giving Rosario a park adjusted xBABIP of .325. I don’t know if I trust Rosario (career .315 BABIP) to produce a BABIP that much higher than league average, so I shied away from being too aggressive. My projection: .311.
*I will probably write about how I calculate xBABIP sometime in the near(ish) future.
SB: My projection: 4.
R/RBI: Rosario is projected to hit 6th for the Rockies, but will probably hit 5th a good amount against lefties and when he starts at first base. This shouldn’t change his R and RBI production all that much from previous seasons. More projected plate appearances will yield a higher projection here, though and over the past two seasons, Rosario’s per 530 plate appearance R and RBI rates are 77.2 runs and 89.1 RBI. I don’t think I want to push his projection quite that far, but…My projection: 71/84.
Putting everything together results in the following 5×5 projection: 505 AB, 71/ 26/84/4/.271*
*HR and AVG are calculated using my projections for FB%, BABIP, K% and HR/FB%.
This projection puts Rosario’s value just behind Buster Posey’s and on a per plate appearance scale, Rosario is easily my number one catcher. If you play in a league with deep benches and have the ability to roster a second catcher to play when Rosario sits, then Rosario becomes my top catcher this year. Posey is currently being drafted 47th across all major platforms while Rosario is going at 89.6. I don’t typically look to draft a catcher that early, but I like Rosario enough this year to make an exception.