1. Victor Martinez , Tigers: In almost every other list of rankings, Joe Mauer sits atop American League catchers, but I find myself unable to justify passing on Martinez. Over the last seven seasons, he has averaged 18 homeruns and 88 RBIs and his eligibility at first base in some leagues makes him even more valuable.
2. Joe Mauer, Twins: The biggest knock on Mauer is durability. There is no doubt the guy can hit, but batting average is his key contributing stat. Outside from a 28-homer outburst in 2009, he’s never topped 13 in a season. It’s hard to pick him as high as he goes in most drafts and still feel like you got value with your selection.
3. Carlos Santana, Indians: After suffering a gruesome knee injury last year, all reports indicate Santana is ready to go for Opening Day. In just 150 at-bats last year, he knocked six homers and drove in 22 runs. His potential is off the charts, with the only issue being the previous injury and the lack of viable threats in Cleveland’s putrid lineup.
4. Mike Napoli, Rangers: Given 500 plus at-bats, it’s easy to see Napoli hitting 30 homers. The problem is his defense in less than inspiring, but now being in Texas could be a boon to his production. Expected to catch, play first and even DH a bit, Napoli could pile up more at-bats. At any rate, it is almost a certainty that he will hit at least 20 homers and that is not to be undervalued.
5. Matt Wieters, Orioles: Being a Baltimore native, I’ve had plenty of chances to see Wieters play and his swing is impressive. His issue seems to be sustaining consistency. While he previously looked like a monster power source behind the dish, it seems to me that 20 homers is his max right now. If the new-look Orioles lineup stays healthy, the pressure will be off Wieters and perhaps we will finally see him live up to the hype.
6. Jorge Posada, Yankees: He may be on the wrong side of his career, but the switch-hitter can still put up useful stats. Since 2000, he has averaged 21 homers and 80 RBI a season and has hit 40 homers over the last two years combined. With the strain of catching no longer affecting him, Posada could reach 25 homers if he stays healthy and reaches 450-500 at-bats. Don’t let the age fool you as Posada offers great value in the later rounds this year.
7. Kurt Suzuki, Athletics: I wanted to put him higher but the workload scares me a bit. He has averaged 14 homers and 80 RBI the last two seasons, but has also tallied over 1,000 at-bats. Remember what happened to Russell Martin’s numbers after Joe Torre ran him into the ground over the course of a few seasons. But with David DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Josh Willingham in the A’s lineup, Suzuki could be a sneaky pick for 80 or more RBI.
8. Miguel Olivo, Mariners: He has been a surprising cheap power source, averaging 16 homers over the past five years, but playing at Safeco Field is never good for power. Olivo will probably approach 15 homers, but temper your expectations for much more.
9. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays: After launching 30 homers in Triple A last year, the Blue Jays have seemingly finally given him a chance to be the full-time catcher. Expect plenty of hot and cold streaks, but when all is said and done, he could hit close to 20 homers with 400 at-bats.
10. Russell Martin, Yankees: The million dollar question is whether Martin’s hip injury played a role in his decline or just general overuse. If healthy, he could hit .270 and offer 8-10 homers, but health is a big question. With Jesus Montero waiting behind him a slow start could doom Martin for the season.
11. John Jaso, Rays: He knows how to get on base and he won’t kill you in the average department. That being said he doesn’t offer much power or RBI potential and is probably better off left on the waiver wire and used as an injury fill-in.
12. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: It will be interesting to see if Boston is really committed to letting him play as their starting catcher. Seemingly over his throwing roles, it is now time to see if he can live up to the hype with the bat in his hands. A fast start will be key because Boston can’t afford to waste at-bats if they are contending.
13. Jeff Mathis, Angels: He has a little bit of gap power and seems to be Mike Sciosca’s favorite catcher. Hank Conger is coming up, but his questionable defense won’t afford him many opportunities right away. Mathis will probably hit around .250 and won’t offer much.
14. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox: Not much to see here for the declining veteran. About the only thing he is doing is blocking prospect Tyler Flowers from gaining meaningful big league at-bats. The only positive is he will get consistent at-bats.
15. Alex Avila, Tigers: Victor Martinez hasn’t always been the picture of perfect health and if needed Avila could provide some upside. With a little bit of power and good contact, he could be a decent fill-in for short periods of time.
16. Jason Kendall, Royals: If he’s your starting catcher, you might want to start thinking about football season.