Say Goodbye to J.P. Arencibia, Relevant Fantasy Catcher

Title: Say Goodbye to J.P. Arencibia, Relevant Fantasy Catcher
Date: October 15, 2013
Original Source: Rotographs
Synopsis: Home run totals can make an otherwise mediocre player fantasy relevant. This article lamented the end of J.P. Arencibia as someone who was even fantasy relevant, considering his real-world performance had gotten too bad to expect anything from moving forward.

It can be tough to look at a tasty home run total and not what-if yourself into picking the player who owns it up.

In the case of J.P. Arencibia, it’s time to give it up. He finished the year owned in 18 percent of ESPN leagues and 38 percent of Yahoo leagues. Hopefully that accounts for 20-teamers, AL-only and two-catcher leagues, because the idea of him as a starting fantasy catcher should have long since been buried. In deeper leagues, sure, because he was still a top-20 guy, but he won’t be again.

Despite placing third among all catchers in home runs with 21, Arencibia finished just 19th in fantasy value. He provided a home run boost, sure, but he provided no other counting stats and hit below the Mendoza line.

In 2012, he hit 18 home runs in 102 games and his value was roughly the same.

In 2011, he hit 23 home runs (with 79 RBI) and finished 10th among catchers in value. And that season, in which he hit just .219 but was still a top-10 play, is probably why some hang on to hope that he can do it again. After all, it’s a thin position and 20 home runs is nice and if this is a worst case scenario and if he sees a few more pitches and if ifs were fifths, we’d all be drunk.

Not to pile on, but things aren’t going in the right direction, and 2011 really looks like it’s going to be a career year when all is said and done.

Here’s something worth noting before diving in to his 2013 numbers: Prior to this year, Arencibia already looked like he was in trouble based on historical comparables. That study showed that he may still be productive compared to a replacement in the long run but he was incredibly unlikely to post an average on-base percentage and fairly unlikely to last as a starter.

And then, his 2013.

Stat 2013 League Rank 2011-13 Value 2011-13 Rank
BB% 3.6 200 5.3 249
K% 29.8 8 28.7 10
Swing% 53.8 21 52.7 18
O-Swing% 39.9 13 37.9 23
SwStr% 15.1 8 13.8 14
Contact% 71.4 189 73 252
*min 400PA *min 800PA
*204 qual *278 qual

Not only is he near the worst in the league in most plate discipline categories, he also trended in the wrong direction this season across the board. In his third full year, such a glaring weakness should not be getting worse.

This adds up to give him what would have been the second worst OBP of all time (.227), except he curiously missed the qualification threshold by five plate appearances.

Many leagues don’t count OBP, so perhaps you’re banking on an average uptick. Well, a career 46.6 percent fly ball rate and a clear goal of putting the ball in the air isn’t going to help the BABIP (.250 career). There’s also the high strikeout total limiting the chances for balls to fall in and the fact that his low-walk rate gives him more at bats with which to hurt you.

Maybe, though, Arencibia can put it together in year four:

“Every great player, every great person gets punched in the face and it’s about how many times they get up. You’re going to get knocked down in life, in sports, in whatever you do, you’re going to get knocked down. The greater ones are the ones that get back up and keep fighting. Take every low time as a set-up for a great time. That’s kind of the way I’ve looked at it.” – JPA to the Toronto Star, Sept. 26

Well, it just seems unfathomable that he’ll even get the chance.

Could the Toronto Blue Jays possibly enter 2014 as a supposed contender with Arencibia as the starter, he of the completely replacement level production over three seasons?

“We need to upgrade the production.”
“Obviously (Arencibia) is in a prolonged funk. I think the numbers speak for themselves.”
General manager Alex Anthopoulos to The Toronto Star, Sept. 25

Of course, he said the production needed to be upgraded and has never specifically said they’ll have a new catcher for 2014.

But over the past three years only 13 catchers have received more playing time but 47 have produced more in terms of wins above replacement. There’s no way they’ll try and sell the team as a contender once again, coming off a very disappointing season, without upgrading a historically bad position.

So to recap: Arencibia hasn’t provided great value despite the homer totals, his rate stats are unlikely to ever be useful and his playing time is likely to decrease.

The argument for Arencibia in fantasy is this: he was historically bad and still finished 18th in value. The former is unlikely to happen again, so the latter should improve.

But if he enters 2014 with a full-time role, he’s probably still only getting ranked around 15 to 20. And that’s not happening.

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