Experience is a valuable part of baseball in countless ways, but when it comes to offensive production from the catching spot, the kids are all right. The Top 15 backstops on the Yahoo! staff fantasy rankings are 30 or younger. It's too early for most of them to land shaving commercials.
Today we look at two of the biggest names in the 20-something crowd, San Francisco's Buster Posey and Baltimore's Matt Wieters. When push comes to shove and you need some catching love, who rocks your world for 2012? As usual, the Yahoo! crew has a difference of opinion. Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski are here to sort it all out; please break the tie in the comments.
Behrens to Open: Just so we're clear from the start, I like Matt Wieters. He's a solid fantasy backstop, an outstanding real-life catcher, and, entering his age-26 season, he's a player coming into his prime years. Wieters delivered a useful stat line last season, and there's no reason to expect less from him in 2012. This kid has "Orioles' lone all-star representative" written all over him.
But here's the key fact in this debate: At the big league level, Buster Posey has simply been a better hitter than Wieters. Fantasy is a numbers game, and all the stats favor Posey. He's hit .294/.353/.452 over 160 games with San Francisco; Wieters has hit .265/.328/.415 in 365 games for Baltimore. Buster gets the clear edge in batting average, on-base skills and pop. He's also stolen three bags for the Giants, while Wieters has swiped one for the O's &mash; that's obviously not a significant difference, but at this point I'm just piling on. Posey, in a nutshell, has an advantage in every trait that should matter to fantasy owners. He's a year younger than Wieters, too.
If my colleague wants to argue that Posey enters the season with injury baggage, I'll concede the point. But we should also note that basically every spring note on Buster's ankle has been positive. He caught two innings last Friday and another four on Sunday, then said, "I was really happy with the way I felt." This is pretty clearly not a Kendrys Morales-level injury, so don't let scare-tactics steer you toward the lesser player. Posey is on track for opening day, and he has the skill set to finish the season as the top-ranked catcher in our game.
Pianow to Close: I'm not going to negatively campaign against Posey, either. I love all the Poseys: James, Parker, Buster, you name it. And yes, fantasy baseball is a numbers racket. But the way I'm looking at the stats, Wieters comes out ahead.
First and foremost, let's not miss the fact that Wieters was a better fantasy player last year. And I don't simply mean by the cumulative stats (Posey only played in 45 games, after all), but also on a per-game basis. Wieters was the No. 8 backstop in per-game value last season (according to Baseball Monster), while Posey was buried at No. 16. Posey's .389 slugging percentage deserves a red flag for sure; he only hit four homers in 162 at-bats.
Wieters really had things cooking in the second half, when he clouted 14 homers in 61 games and rocked a .504 slugging and .840 OPS. Buck Showalter finally got on board with Wieters, giving him the fifth spot in the lineup. No one seems to remember this, but Wieters was buried in the No. 8 slot back in April. (Uncle Buck, you're driving us crazy). It's taken a while for Wieters to emerge in the majors, but he's here now. Entertain him.
When in doubt, it's nice to get invested in an American League offense. The Orioles were better at the dish than many realized last year, scoring 708 runs, 14th in the majors. They outscored the Rays and Angels, among other clubs, and were only five runs behind the Phillies. Offense rarely shows in San Francisco, where the Giants had 570 runs in 2011 (29th in baseball, only ahead of Seattle). Even the championship Giants from 2010 were middle-of-the-pack in runs scored.
San Francisco is handling Posey with kid gloves this spring: he finally caught his first game of camp last weekend. I'd feel a lot better about his 2012 prospects if I knew for sure his health won't be an issue. Wieters is healthy as a horse. Meet me by the Baltimore harbor.