OBP leagues: Hanigan, Barton valuable 

March, 14, 2011
Those in standard fantasy baseball leagues probably don't think much of Cincinnati Reds backup catcher Ryan Hanigan, and for good reason. This isn't a player with much power upside, he's not starting regularly, and the organization has a few top prospects, led by Devin Mesoraco, slated to emerge at the position in the next year or so. In leagues that start just one catcher per team, Hanigan doesn't enter the conversation.

However, I'm well aware that many of you play in deeper formats (as I do), or with different statistical categories other than the standard 5x5 setups, and Hanigan, who was rewarded Sunday with a three-year contract, certainly does matter in many of those leagues. Why? Because he knows the value of taking a walk. Judging by the feedback I get, many of you are interested in walks, on-base percentage or OPS as opposed to, in some cases, batting average. Hanigan, 30, has a .279 career batting average and has drawn more walks than strikeouts, meaning his value goes up in OBP formats, and he's also not a bad dollar backup option for multi-catcher mixed leagues. He's safe.

I'm often asked which players benefit most in a fantasy league with walks and OBP as standalone categories just like home runs and stolen bases, and when considering catcher, Hanigan is one of those options. Carlos Ruiz, John Jaso and new New York Mets starter Josh Thole are better choices because they should play more, and they possess terrific plate discipline. Jaso is expected to lead off for the Tampa Bay Rays against right-handed pitching. I see Chris Iannetta, J.P. Arencibia and John Buck being chosen in many leagues, each with enticing power potential, which is wonderful until one (or more) of them hits .215. I'm not even exaggerating with that batting average. I don't want those guys. I'd rather play it safe with Hanigan or Thole, who can be had much later. They could each hit .300, and if it's an OBP league, it's a slam-dunk decision.