Two fantasy baseball catchers ready to break through in 2014

      December 27, 2013 @ 11:12:47 PDT


Cincinnati Reds C Devin Mesoraco
Mesoraco less messy

The fantasy catcher pool offers some of the best sleepers. The innately abbreviated workload for 90 percent of the position alleviates the monetary commitment, notably for those in the middle and lower tiers, which in turn lowers the replacement value if your lotto ticket doesn't hit.

The right draft flow will justify a more prudent payment for the likely final season of Joe Mauer's eligibility, Carlos Santana's potential extra ABs from the hot corner, and other big names. Yet for the most part, you should cautiously invest in midrange options while building up your needs elsewhere.

My two favorites in 2014 have endured delays in their breakthroughs because of injuries, MLB lineup road blocks and the typical rough growth curve for young backstops.

Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

I was among the many who questioned his power while he emerged as a Twins tot. He hit a lot of ground balls -- still does. This, on the surface, says the 16 instances in which he cleared the fences last year amounted to a fluke.

But the 26-year-old will hit more of them this season, his first full campaign removed from knee surgery in 2012. In limited MLB work, to complement his worthy plate discipline, he's sustained a high HR/FB, peaking at a ridiculous 27.6 percent last year. His two previous partial MLB seasons, totaling 472 at-bats, saw him register 23.1 in 2012 and 13.4 in 2011.

Ergo, while he'll slip back a bit toward the mean, he's likelier to sit in this eye-popping realm than most other bargain catchers. Thanks to Baseball Heat Maps, you'll see that in 287 at-bats last year, Ramos placed fourth on the average distance of his fly balls last year (287 at-bats).

With improved health and specifically leg drive, he's apt to take another step forward in the tater column, making him one of the most attractive speculations and profit magnets for mixed leagues. His potential will be costlier in NL-only games, taking away some of his luster.

Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds

I've run with Mesoraco a bit longer than I have with Ramos, but the former had disappointed, to say the least, until he showed fleeting signs last year when given the chance to start. The Reds' trade of Ryan Hanigan and the departure of the often veteran-centric Dusty Baker clear a path for the 25-year-old.

Mesoraco's offensive potential is more latent, but the post-hype asset is in a prime home environment to take a step forward. Showing any sort of improvement versus southpaws would hasten his trek toward showing more of his bat.

New skipper Bryan Price hinted that Mesoraco may hit in the middle of the order. The boost in line-drive rate he showed in his most extensive action says his dangerous lumber is making squarer connections, even though his BABIP (.234) let him down.

Mesoraco's steady farm progress to his standout 2011 season at Triple-A Louisville mirrors his time in the big leagues. He's on the cusp of putting it all together, and you should get on board beforehand. Luckily, you can do so with him as a reasonably priced NL No. 1 or a mixed No. 2.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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