In fantasy football, in which everybody plays once a week, it's not all that hard to be up-to-date with a list of "going forward" rankings that takes into account any new injuries suffered by players at the skills positions. However, in fantasy baseball, it's a nearly impossible task to adjust the top-300 list after every bump, bruise, tweaked hamstring or any other malady that leads to the dreaded "day-to-day" designation.
Obviously, in the case of Shohei Ohtani, we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop on a potential Tommy John surgery, which would necessitate a complete removal of his name from the rankings ledger. However, in most cases, the uncertainty regarding a player's status is probably best ignored in the short-term.
For example, knowing that Noah Syndergaard (strained finger) was about to be activated from the 10-day DL to start yesterday's game, I went ahead and gave him a big boost in my latest rankings. Of course, then the news came down that he was still suffering from a little swelling and discomfort, so he was scratched in favor of Seth Lugo. Still, with reports that he could very well be back this coming weekend, I'm not inclined to move him back down the ladder. With pitchers, once they're given the ball, comparing their results to that of their peers is a rather simple task.
There is, however, a more interesting variable when it comes to ranking hitters, which tends to come to the fore in particular when I'm asked, for example, "Which one of these three catchers do you like best going forward?" It's not as simple an answer as to simply point you to my rankings.
One of the key metrics I use to rank my top 300 players correlates to how many stats are in the current MLB universe. Through June 10, there have been 2,204 home runs hit and 959 stolen bases swiped. Because of this, when it comes to figuring out fantasy value for category-based leagues, part of my calculations will include a weight where, due to scarcity and the fact that each statistical category is weighted equally in the overall standings, stolen bases will be approximately 2.3 times more valuable than round-trippers.
That weighting system will be slightly different in points leagues, but it does play a part in the overall calculations, which most recently ended up with the following catchers in my top 10: Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey, Willson Contreras, J.T. Realmuto, Evan Gattis, Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Salvador Perez, Yadier Molina and Mike Zunino.
Here's where the conundrum comes into play. That list is based on where these players rank in relation to the player universe as a whole, where every hitter's stats count the same toward a fantasy team's final total -- and I stand by them. But if you were simply looking to compare Catcher A to Catcher B in a vacuum, where only catcher stats counted, the same numbers are bound to tell a slightly different story.
In a catcher-only universe, so far in 2018, there have been 223 HRs and 21 SBs. That makes stolen bases 10.6 times more valuable than home runs. Of course, that doesn't matter a ton when the steals leaderboard for catchers is led by a four-way tie with just 2 SBs.
Additionally, whereas the league as a whole is hitting .246, when it comes to catchers, a .230 BA would be considered the norm. So Grandal's .243 is a negative toward his placement in my top 300, but in a catcher-exclusive world, it's actually a slight positive.
In this way, when comparing just the catching apples to other apples, we get a revised top-10 list that reads as follows: Sanchez, Gattis, Grandal, Perez, Zunino, Ramos, Contreras, Brian McCann, Realmuto and Posey.
So what's the takeaway of this alternative look at the fantasy catching world? It's a bit of a paradox, but I would argue that the second list is the better way to decide which of two players to start in your lineup, even as it may directly contradict the top-10 catcher list in terms of where their potential future value lies in the overall player universe. The reason for this contradiction is, in part, because in narrowing down the player pool to only catchers, we're using a smaller sample size -- which means hot/cold streaks will have a bigger impact in the comparison than they would in the overall player universe.
In other words, I'm not planning on trading away Posey for Gattis, because Posey is far more likely to get me more fantasy value for the rest of the season. However, if I have two of this trio on my roster, and all else being equal (for example in terms of matchups and playing time), Gattis might get the call in the short-term because of where the two sit on that more focused check-in.