Today I'd like to take a closer look at the Catcher position in the National League Only leagues. For mixed league rankings, check out The Fantasy Man's 2011 fantasy baseball mixed league catchers rankings. I would like to break down the NL catchers by tiers and tried to give the best advice depending on your potential strategy.
Right now the only sure fire guys I would call elite fantasy catchers in the NL are Brian McCann and Buster Posey. I call them elite fantasy NL catchers but they are not elite fantasy hitters when you look at their stats. Keep this in mind when bidding on McCann or Posey in an auction draft or where to draft them in a snake draft.
Brian McCann - Atl - Turns 27 in Spring Training, and in five full seasons McCann has 107 HR. The lowest of any season was 18 and the other four seasons he hit between 21 - 24 HR. Last years RBI total of 77 was the lowest in his five years as a starter with the other four years between 87 - 94. McCann has scored in the low 60's in runs four of his first five years as a starter and is a lifetime .289 hitter and usually throws in five steals a year. Other than a fact a catcher takes a lot of pounding really no red flags with McCann. He is a very consistent and solid fantasy hitter at a bleak position. Figure on McCann for 2011 continuing to put up his usual numbers.
Buster Posey - SF - Turns 24 in Spring Training, had sensational rookie year across the board minus stolen bases of course. The thing to watch for with Posey is the old "Sophomore Slump" which has effected many talented young baseball players in their career. The league will adjust to Posey, as well a lot of times a talented player puts way too much pressure on himself for his second season and often times gets off to a slow start. Also talented young players when they get in their first real big slump they have a hard time handling it and usually takes them longer to get out of it. Having said all that, I expect Posey to be a solid plus hitter for 2011 but expecting Posey to continue at the 2010 pace is a bit aggressive in my eyes and remember plays in a very big ball park.
Potential to Break Out:
Geovany Soto - Cubs - Will be 28 right before Spring Training, rebounded from his horrific 2009 last year. When you consider Soto had 17HR and 53 RBI's in just 322 AB's you have to be impressed. If Soto can stay healthy and get 400 AB's no reason why he cannot hit 20HR's and drive in 70 Runs and hit .280 again (2 of the last 3 years hit between .280 and .285). Soto is very capable of putting up numbers very similar to McCann but yet go a few dollars less on draft day.
Miguel Montero - Arz - Turns 28 at the all-star break, Montero who had a lot of people predicted would break out last year didn't because of missing nearly two and half months due to a freak knee injury first week
of the season. Montero knee has responded well and plays in Arizona where the ball flies and the guy can flat out hit. As The Fantasy Man pointed out in his Catcher rankings podcast, I am really recommending Montero come draft day because I think as long as he stays healthy, Montero has an excellent chance to break through this year. Based on the fact his 2010 numbers were just okay in most NL only drafts, you will get a really good price on Montero come draft day. I believe it's very possible Montero can put up McCann numbers this year, if Montero goes less than $15 in your draft pounce on it and make him your #1 catcher.
Solid But Don't Over Spend:
These guys can give you good numbers and can be good players for you but don't spend more than the average salary of $11 on these guys.
John Buck - Fla - Don't expect another 20HR and 66 RBI season from Buck especially going to the Marlins. Still can give you a 12HR and 50RBI and hitting in the .260's.
Ryan Doumit - Pitt - Always winds up on the DL for a good stint but this year will get the majority of his AB's playing in the OF or maybe even1B so that could help.
Carlos Ruiz - Don't expect another .300 avg but can hit in the .260's and give you decent numbers for a catcher in HR, R and RBI.
Stay Away - These players will kill your batting average:
While these guys can give you some pop they will murder your batting average and hurt you in the standings.
Rod Barajas - 36HR last 2 years but hit .240 in 2010 and .226 in 2009
Jason Castro - I don't care if he is a starter, will hit low in the lineup and kill your average
Nick Hundley - Last 2 years has hit .249 (livable) but hit .238 in 2009
Chris Ianetta - I know he has power but career .234 hitter and hit .197 last year
George Kottaras - Has pop but looks like a low average hitter
Chris Snyder - Had 15HR last year while hitting .207
These guys will go just a few dollars or in some cases just a couple of dollars on draft day and while they don't put up sexy numbers, they will make a contribution at a very low cost and allow you to spend your draft dollars else where. This work-man like bunch includes...
Wilin Ramos - Was - Prior to 2010 season Baseball America had Ramos ranked as the #58 overall prospect on the spring training top 100 list. Can be a solid hitter but don't expect him to become a stud right away. Washington gave up Matt Capps to get Ramos and they have Derek Norris in their system so it tells you the Nats must be high on him.
Dionar Navarro - LAD - With Rod Barajas being the starter and Navarro hitting .194 and .218 for the Rays the last two years, in most drafts Navarro will probably be picked after the main draft in the reserves portion. If you can get Navarro in this part of the draft and stash him on your reserves / taxi squad that would be a really good play. I think you can tell from above I am not the biggest Barajas guy and remember Navarro in 08 for the Rays had a real solid year and hit .295.
Down on the Farm:
Wilin Rosario - Col - Keep an eye on him during the spring, even if he starts the year in AAA, the Rockies could get tired of Ianetta quickly if he continues to hit poorly. Rosario hit .285 in AA last year with 19HR and 52RBI's in just 270 AB's.
NL King - C.Lizza