Here's a look at this year's Catcher position. We have an interesting field of the fantasy elite, some intriguing young talent and the same old non-performers. With the way some mock fantasy drafts are going this year, its a good time to wait until the late rounds and take a chance on a young stud! So let's get right to it, shall we.... as the Fantasy Man ranks them......
The Best of the Elite:
1. Vic Martinez, Cle - The obvious choice for an elite catcher. Martinez will be off the board by the 3rd round. He turns 27 and is just about to hit his prime, he has great protection in a fantastic line up and he is a switch-hitter. Expect 20+ hr, 100+ rbi, and a .290 - .305 avg.
2. Joe Mauer, Min - Just 22 years old, Mauer is expected to have a huge season. He will post increased numbers this season and is a good bet to steal atleast 15 bases which makes him the number 2 catcher in this years draft. He does however have a surgically repaired knee but seems to be recoverd fully. Expect a solid year batting .300+, 15 hr, 80 rbi, 15 sb.
3. Javy Lopez, Balt - After being injured most of last year, Lopez came on strong in the final 2 months. There is good news and bad news though. The bad news is Baltimore is now carrying 2 elite catchers with the signing of Ramon Hernandez. The Good news is, Lopez will be the DH which hopefully means a healthier Lopez which hopefully means a nice season with a good average and great power numbers for a catcher. I'd say .300, 20+, 90+ is within reach.
4. Jason Varitek, Bos - He's getting older but very consistent and durable and sometimes hits a wall late in the season. Expect 20 +, 80 rbi, .280 avg.
5. Ivan Rodriquez, Det - Should get 500+ ab's but not quite the elite hitter he once was. However, he is still better than most catchers and I certainly couldn't rank I-Rod lower than this. Expect 15 hr, 80 rbi, and a .300 avg with a SB or two.
6. Jorge Posada, NYY - He is getting older but the guy can still hit. His numbers have dipped 2 years in a row and he definitely on the decline. However, he stillputs up better fantasy numbers than most catchers so if he is available in the middle to late rounds, grab him!
7. A.J. Pierzynski, CWS - Wasn't much of a clutch hitter in the regular season but his post season perfomance puts him in the top 10 this season. He has found the power stroke so now lets hope he can getthat average up and increase those RBI's. Hitting behind Thome and Konerko should help as well.
8. Benjie Molina - Still without a home but a nice option after the top 7 are gone. Rumor has it the Blue Jays have inquired about him. if he makes it to Toronto, he could have some nice value there.
9. Ramon Hernandez, Balt - People seem to be high on Hernandez but I just dont see it. He hit for an increased average last year and maybe that means better things to come. But a full season of 500 ab's in Camden Yards might give this guy a boost into the elite this year. Still a decent option in Mixed leagues. He is quite consistent though.
10. Kenji Johijima, Sea - The new guy in town and people are raving! Can possibly hit 20 hr's and eventually a .300 avg. I am expecting 15 hr's and a .275 avg. Since he has already been a star in Japan, he should step right in and produce but remember, he'll need that adjustment period. Is he an Ichiro or a Hideki??? Or, is he an Kaz or a Chan Ho Park??? We'll see. The risk is high but so can be the reward.
11. Michael Barrett, CHC - A decent mixed league option who can still produce an increase in numbers this year. Did you know he had 16 homeruns in just 424 ab's. Give him another 100 or so atbats and he can hit close to 20. He is in his prime but a strong workout regimen this offseason could turn out to be the best thing for Barrett. A cheap late round option if your strategy is to wait on catchers...like mine is.
12. Paul Lo Duca, NYM - Showing signs of slowing down but hitting a top of the Met lineup could be just what the doctor ordered. Don't expect his stats to change much from last season but with 500+ abs, he should score plenty of runs and hit for a decnt average.
The Best of the Young Studs:
13. Yadier Molina, Stl - He wasn't expected to hit as well as he did last year. Look for his numbers to increase in all areas and a decent late pick at the catcher position if you want to wait. Not a lot of power but with 500+ ab's you might expect 15+ hr and 70 rbi in the potent lineup that is St. Louis.
14. Ryan Doumit, Pitt - Great power potential at age 24. He will start everyday and should be considered a nice sleeper. Once all the top catchers are picked, you should be satisfied with Doumit!
15. Brian McCann, Atl - Hit solidly last year when Estrada went down with a bad back and proved he can handle the everyday job. Should have a fine season as a solid hitter. Great for Keeper leagues and mixed leagues. This is a guy you can buy low at catcher with or pick up in a late round and save your good picks or money for other positions.
16. Jeff Mathis, LAA - Currntly getting the shot to start everyday since the departure of Benji Molina. He was a solid hitter in AAA, we'll see if he can continue it in Anaheim.
17. Javier Valentin, Cin - Could eventually take Jason LaRue's slot if he keeps up the strong hitting.
18. Josh Willingham, Fla - Will fight for the starting job in Florida with Miguel Olivo. However, Josh has a great bat and some outfield experience. I have a feeling the Marlins will somehow try to squeeze both players in there everyday. Willingham is currently the starter on the depth charts.
19. Dioner Navarro, LAD - A rookie originally from the Yankee Farm system will get a full time shot this year. He's still young but his bat brings some major upside. Expect some growing pains but great for a keeper league.
20. John Buck, Kan - Did not live up to last years potential, but still has some power and upside. He's good for AL Only leagues and deep mixed leagues. His down year could make him a sleeper this year.
The Best of the Rest:
21. Mike Piazza, SD - The Mets were finally able to move Piazza.... to a pitchers park! However, San Diego is generous to right handed hitters and may be just the place to get Piazza back on track. He wont catch more that 120 games but could still hit 20+ hr's..... you could do worse!
22. Johnny Estrada, Ari - Estrada is one of my secret "Sleepers". He has a bad back but there is a chance that a nice change of scenery to a hitter's park might just be the cure. A great NL only pick but could be a possible sleeper in mixed leagues.
23. Jason Kendall, Oak - Not the threat he once was. He will score runs, hit for a decent average and probably hit at the top of the lineup in Oakland. He doesn't have any more power but could steal 6 - 10 bases.
24. Rod Barajas, Tex - Could put up some decent numbers in Arlington. He's in the middle of his prime but can post similar numbers to last year and maybe more...... 20+ hr, 80 rbi is possible.
25. Mike Lieberthal, Phi - Always an injury risk and not much better than a Damian Miller, Toby Hall or Brian Schneider, but he's still Mike Lieberthal.
26. Miguel Olivo, Fla - He has been slow to develop as he was once projected to be the next Ivan Rodriquez. Just turning 27 and actually does have upside but his trade to Florida puts him behind rookie Josh Willingham. These two will battle for the starting job but don't be totally surprised if Olivo shows some promise. He is a deep sleeper in Mixed leagues. Also, Willingham is capable of playing in the outfield so that could help Olivo's chances. Its really the bat that the Marlins like about Willingham.
27. Toby Hall, TB - Never lived up to the hype but can hit around .280. He'll hit at the bottom of the lineup everyday and may even sneak in a few extra RBI's this season with the nice young hitters in front of him in Tampa.
28. Jose Molina, LAA - Could be a nice sleeper if Rookie Jeff Mathis doesn't pan out. Keep an eye on Molina.
29. Brian Schneider, WAS - Plays everyday but doesn't have much upside. Maybe in NL leagues he will be a decent late round pick.
30. Yorvit Torrealba, Col - 3 catchers in the heat for the starting job including Danny Ardoin and JD Closser. Whoever gets the nod has some decent value hitting at Coors. Torrealba is currently listed as the starter but the position is up for grabs!
31. Gregg Zaun, Tor - Decent enough to fill the hole but the Jays have a catcher of the future in Guillermo Quiroz who is quite the injury magnet.
32. Jason LaRue, Cin - He has Javier Valentin breathing down his neck. Valentin is a better hitter so stay away from LaRue if possible.
33. Damian Miller, Mil - Not worth your time or space.
34. Mike Matheny, SF - Same but could snag you a few homeruns here or there.
35. Doug Mirabelli, SD - You never know...If Piazza doesn't last, Mirabelli will spell him but I still would not expect any kind of serious fantasy numbers.
36. Brad Ausmus, Hou - Will play everyday and maybe good for an NL- Only team but I won't waste a pick in mixed leagues.