The Minnesota Twins announced today that they will move All-Star catcher Joe Mauer from behind the plate to first base in 2014. After consultation with doctors from Mayo Clinic and team doctors, and given the inherent risks of future injury at the catcher position, the organization and Joe determined that it would be in the best interest of both him and the Twins for a position change.
So what does this mean for Joe Mauer’s fantasy value? A reader reached out to Nash and I and we gave him two different responses:
— Lance Patrick (@LP_Minn) November 11, 2013
— Steven Olan (@Nash1025) November 11, 2013
— clavejones (@clavejones) November 12, 2013
Despite giving two seemingly contradictory answers, I think that Nash and I both were right on. Hold on to your underpants, because we’re getting ready to participate in some serious logical parkour!
Why Nash is Right
Nash is correct in that this decision was made to get Joe Mauer’s bat into the lineup on a regular basis, giving him a season’s full of at bats. This was confirmed in the press release from the Minnesota Twins. They could’ve still used Mauer at catcher and split his time as a DH, but they obviously felt that the injury risks at catcher were too great. So first base it is.
2013 will be the last year that Joe Mauer retains catcher eligibility in terms of fantasy. Get him into your fantasy lineups while he lasts, folks. This move should be just what the doctor ordered, giving Joe Mauer a full season of injury free at bats. As Nash said, this should be good for his fantasy value.
Why I am (Always) Right
Does a move to first guarantee his health? Can a first baseman get a concussion? [Justin Morneau is alone in the dugout, silently sobbing over a career gone too soon.]
Joe Mauer has always gotten more at bats than a “regular” catcher. His bat is just too good to keep out of the lineup, and he had already joined the long list of catchers with additional fantasy eligibility at first base or DH.
When healthy Joe has always been in the lineup and not riding the pine getting regular rest like a defense only catcher may get. Additionally, he’s always hit in a sweet lineup spot (2nd or 3rd in 2013), which increases his run and RBI totals. Joe Mauer has always been a catcher that poured on the counting stats.
That said, a healthy Joe Mauer with a full season of at bats is an easy top 3 fantasy catcher. As we already noted, he’ll pour on the runs, be a good source of RBI, and he’s one of just a handful of players that can be guaranteed to help your AVG. With batting averages in decline around the league, don’t overlook this benefit.
We won’t ding him in steals. You’d not typically draft a catcher nor a first baseman for their speed. But we do have to give Joe Mauer a failing grade in the homer department. His 29 homers are clearly the outlier, meaning 10 from him is all you can expect.
A first baseman typically hits in the heart of the lineup, so they historically contribute handily in the fantasy categories of runs and RBI. So Mauer’s benefit of of being a solid run scoring catcher is erased as a first baseman, making him simply ho hum there.
Meanwhile, other first basemen are absolutely obliterating him in the power department. While you marvel at Mauer’s line drives and how they lead to hits, you will be left disappointed on your fantasy team when you are trailing in homers.
Joe mauer as a catcher is drafted in the top 3 easily. As a first baseman you have to wonder if #10 is about right. Eric Hosmer or Brandon Belt won’t kill you in AVG, but should net you at least 5-8 more homers, while added a steal or two to boot. Freddie Freeman could perhaps be an upgrade across the board. And it goes without saying that he’s below the top tier first basemen, and even Buster Posey, who will have 1B eligibility as well.
So Joe Mauer’s fantasy value drops on this move to first base, making me right, but as Nash said his value also rises in that he has a better chance at staying healthy, making him right. It’s a confusing world we live in.