For most of baseballs illustrious past the middle infield positions (Catcher, 2nd base & shortstop) had been secured by defensive minded specialists. Good hitting was considered more of a luxury then a requirement. Slowly but surely things changed. Lands once reserved for golden gloved slap hitters were sacked and looted by young brawny sluggers. The Louis Castillo’s of the world rendered obsolete as the Dan Uggla’s took over. Offense is what’s sexy now. Must I remind you that chicks do indeed love the long ball? Position by position these offensive aggressors seized control until only one defensive stronghold remained, the catcher. And it is here, today, at this position, that the final battle between offense and defense begins.
Poetics aside, the catcher position is being infused with young top of the line offensive talent. If this new batch of backstops pan out, catcher may lose it’s permanent “position scarcity” status it has maintained for years in fantasy circles. With that said, about half of the MLB still starts catchers that wouldn’t get past Double A ball if they were forced to play any other position. Combine this with fact that no position is more injury prone and you still have reasons to worry.
So with no further ado, the catcher rankings:
Potential busts: picks that will likely be draft earlier or cost more then their actual fantasy value.
Potential sleepers: picks that you may be able to get later or cheaper in cost relative to potential value.
1) Joe Mauer (MIN)- Mauer didn’t quite have the season many hoped for in 2010. Especially disappointing was his home run totals which fell to single digits.. Still he keeps his status as the top fantasy catcher. A batting average around .330 with 90 plus RBI’s & runs are not unreasonable projections. Although expecting more then 15 hrs may be pushing it. Keep an eye on his knee as he has been getting injections in it this spring. The twins are saying it’s a non-issue.
2) Buster Posey (SF)- I am typically not high on hyped up rookies or sophomores, but everything points to Posey being legitimate. He’ll be sitting in the heart of the Giants line-up, so big RBI & runs totals seem likely. Most likely the average will hold up too. The only question is where the home run totals come in. Is he a legit 30 hr hitter like his rookie season suggests? I think he may be, but I won’t be expecting it this season.
3) Brian McCann(ATL)- The super consistent McCann had a slight dip last year. But at the prime age of 27 and with Dan Uggla in the line-up to protect him a rebound seems likely.
4) Victor Martinez(DET)- V-Mart has been one of the best hitting catchers in the league for years. But a couple of things do seem worrisome. His batting average was 60 points lower on the road then at Fenway Park. His slugging % split was even worse, down 136 points on the road. This is particularly concerning being that he’s moved from somewhat cozy Fenway to the expansive Comerica Park when signing with the Tigers. On the bright side his use at 1st base and DH in Detroit will likely help him stay healthy. History says he is too consistent to bet against. Expect his 2011 numbers to fall somewhere in between his 09’ & 2010 totals.
5) Giovany Soto (CUBS)- Soto’s great rookie season set-up a perfectly disappointing sophomore campaign. The second year disappointment helped make his year 3 rebound a pleasant surprise. I suspect year 3 was when the true Soto stood up.
6) Carlos Santana (CLEVE)- His minor league stats and brief major league appearance scream “Superstar”. His lack of track record makes me weary. Is he this years Posey….or this years Matt Weiters? I suspect he is indeed more Posey but I wouldn’t want to pay close to that asking price. Keep an eye on his knee as he is coming off an injury that shortened his 2010 season.
7) Miguel Montero (ARI)- Last year was supposed to be his breakout season. Injuries instead broke him. Is this his year? Maybe. But his 2009 numbers look most reasonable to me, maybe downgrading the batting average a bit.
8) Kurt Suzuki (OAK)- He was a disappointment in the first half of 2010, and a disaster in the 2nd half. So there is a legit reason to be nervous drafting him. Still at age 27 a rebound seems likely.
9) Mike Napoli (TX)- Traded twice in the summer he finally ended up in Texas. But he is still in a bit of limbo. Right now he is expected to play dh, but the problem is a cornerstone of The Texas Rangers named Michael Young is still on that team, without a position to play. If Young gets dealt and Napoli gets the full-time dh duty he can easily slip into the realm of the top five fantasy catchers. If the situation turns into a log jam the slippage goes the other way. What is for sure, given the at bats he homers and strikes out with the best of them.
10) Matt Weiters(BALT)- Coming into the 09’ season his buzz was comparable to Buster Poesy & Carlos Santana rolled up into one. 2 years later he looks like he will never be a star. With that said some progress in year 3 seems reasonable.
11) Yadier Molina(STL)- Molina is not going to surprise you much. He is more valuable in real life because of his superb defense but fantasy players could do worse at the position. His batting average should step back up a little, everything else stays as is. He may even steal a handful of bases for you.
12) Jorge Posada(NYY)- Typically DH’n will help a catcher, not so much here. To many Yankee vets will have to “rest’ at the DH spot to expect him to get an increase of at bats assuming the front office keeps their word on keeping Jorge from behind the plate. Batting average seemed abnormally low last year but at 39 it’s hard to expect much of a bounce back.
13) Carlos Ruiz(PHI)- I have a hard time believing he will repeat that 300 average. Still .275 is solid for a catcher.
14) John Buck(KC)- His career year brought him a big deal. I smell slippage.
15) A.J. Pierzynski(CHI-A)- Looks like a slow fade, so expect less of the same.
17) Chris Ianetta(COL)- Ianetta has huge home run and RBI potential but his B.A. and k’s are killers.
18) J.P. Arencibia(TOR)- You CAN NOT let him be your #1 catcher, but his 32 minor league Hrs puts his upside in orbit.
19) Miguel Olivo(SEA)- His second half of the season was alarming, his move to Safeco silences my interest.
20) Yorvit Torrealba (TX)- Move to TX could mean a spike in stats, but a spike in those numbers may not mean much. His name looking so close to “terrible” to me may be a sign.
21) Ryan Doumit(PIT)- Playing time? 400+ at bats probably means a possible .260-15-50 and muti-position eligibility.
22) John Jaso(TB)- Batting average is likely to be respectable. If he stays high in the line-up he has a chance to produce decent numbers minus power.
23) Nick Hundley(SD)- Likely the primary catcher in san Diego a 12HR & 55 RBI seems plausible.
24) Rod Barajas(LA)- No mysteries here
25) Josh Thole (NYM)- The chance of him hitting .300 is legitimate. Unfortunately his lack of other stats is likely legit too.
26) Hernadez/Hanigan(CIN)- Time share limits both, but Hanigan is the one with the upside.
27) Alex Aviles(DET)- even with V-mart there, he’ll get his AB’s. Quality AB’s is another question.
28) Chris Snyder- He will pop some homers, but likely less than last year moving to a worse ballpark. His starter status despite his near .200 Batting average is a testament to his glove work, and an indictment on Doumit. (Did I really say Doumit had top 10 potential???)
29) Jason Castro(HOU)- COME ON SON!!!
30) I-Rod/Ramos/Flores(WASH)- psst hey Washington deal someone. Ramos is the upside pick here.
31) Jarrod Saltalamacchia(BOS)- Maybe his numbers lie and he isn’t terrible. Oh wait fantasy is ONLY about the numbers.
32) Lecroy/Kotteras(MIL)- Platoon. Kotteras has the upside and he hit .203 last season.
Jesus Montero(NYY)- Everything says future offensive star but I’m not convinced it’ll be this year with the impatient Bombers. If things (named Russell Martin) break right he could make a big impact this season.
Hank Conger(ANA)- Everything says future offensive star but I am convinced it won’t be this year with the very patient Halos. He’s most likely a year away.
Taylor Flowers(CHI-A)- the fact that his hype is slowing before he even has a major league job is a bad sign.
“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.” Casey Stengel
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Written by Mo Johnson