This year, there are four catchers widely accepted as top-50 players: Joe Mauer (ADP 20.59), Brian McCann (29.93), Victor Martinez (29.95) and Buster Posey (45.46). Yet despite this general belief, it’s highly unlikely that any catcher will finish the season as a top-50 player.
Andy Behrens recently dug up some mind-boggling numbers that explain this theory. To paraphrase, only two catchers in the past decade (Javy Lopez in 2003, Joe Mauer in 2009) have finished inside the top-50 overall according to Baseball Monster rankings. In five seasons since 2001, one or zero backstops have finished in the top-100 overall.
So why do we continue to draft catchers so high?
Two reasons: position scarcity and ignorance.
Some knucklehead in your draft will undoubtedly spend his second-round pick on Mauer, sparking others to draft Martinez, McCann, Posey and Santana ahead of their value. The truth is, waiting until the mid rounds to snag the likes of Geovany Soto (ADP 98.89), Mike Napoli (117.79), or even Jorge Posada (153.34) could pay huge dividends.
Consider me a believer in the six through 11 group this year. I must admit, however, owning Joe Mauer gives your team a gigantic advantage over the competition, even if he only hits 10-15 HRs.
The 16-20 group (not included) consists of limited power and mediocre batting average types such as Yadier Molina, A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Ruiz. In a 12 or 14-team league, these guys will likely be waiver wire-ready all season long. If you miss out on the first, second and third tiers, I suggest snatching a low-risk, high-upside player such as Russell Martin and Chris Iannetta.
Click on a player’s name for more in-depth analysis and projections.
1. Joe Mauer (C – Min): Doesn’t need 25 HRs to be the top catcher; his three-year batting average (.340) is 42 points higher than any player at his position.
2. Victor Martinez (C – Det): Only catcher to post 100-RBI season since 2004, and he’s done it three times. Leads backstops in HRs over the last seven seasons (129), and now bats in the same lineup as Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez.
3. Brian McCann (C – Atl): One of two catchers to have hit 20 HRs in each of the last three seasons. Entering his age-27 season in a stacked Braves lineup could lead to first career 100 RBI season.
4. Carlos Santana (C—Cle): Plus-power from both sides (23.8 AB/HR in six minor league season) with the ability to hit for average (.290 in minors) and draw plenty of walks (19.3 percent with Cleveland in 2010) give him an upside higher than that of Buster Posey.
5. Buster Posey (C—SF): Scouts have always noted that power isn’t his best tool. Poor home splits in 2010(.258/.304/.419) are a reflection of AT&T Park, but his 31.8% FB rate and 10.7% HR/FB rate at home are more realistic than the .351/.406/.587, 34.4% FB, 19.7% HR/FB he posted on the road. He will hit for average, not 20-plus power.
6. Geovany Soto (C—ChC): Bounced back from disappointing 2009 despite two DL stints late last season. Exceptional walk rate (16.0 percent) in 2010, in addition to ISO power (.217) and batting average (.280) nearly identical to ’08 breakout campaign solidifies his legitimacy as a top-10 catcher.
7. Mike Napoli (C/1B/DH—Tex): Declining walk/contact rates, high strikeout totals and a slight drop in BABIP yielded a career-low .238 average last season. Trade to Texas can only help, however, allowing him at-bats at three positions. Batting averages in the .270s in both ’08 and ’09 yield hope, while he should flirt with 30 HRs.
8. Matt Wieters (C—Bal): Decrease in average (.288 to .249) from ’09 to ’10 will scare some away, but significant improvement in his walk, strikeout and contact rates signal progress. His above-average, switch-hitting bat and above-average power didn’t suddenly disappear. In his age-25 season, a line of 15 HRs, 75 RBI, .280 average is very realistic.
9. Jorge Posada (C/DH—NYY): Unusually low .287 BABIP in 2010 (career .318), resulted in his lowest batting average (.248) since 1999. A return to .260-.270 range is likely, in addition to nearly 20 HRs and 70 RBI in the seven hole. The 39-year-old DH has hit no less than 18 HRs in 10 of the last 11 seasons.
10. Miguel Montero (C—Ari): Knee surgery sidelined him for two-and-a-half months last season, but he returned in June to finish with nine HRs, 43 RBI, .266 average in 297 at-bats. He’ll have to return his strikeout and contact rates to ’09 form to reach 15 HRs, 60 RBI, .270 average in 2011.
11. Kurt Suzuki (C—Oak): Excellent strikeout and contact rates set him apart. His .245 BABIP last season yielded a career-low .242 batting average, so a return to the .260-.270 range in 2011 is likely. Team additions such as DeJesus, Willingham and Matsui will take pressure off his bat; 15 HRs and 65 RBI should ensue.
12. John Buck (C—Fla): Elevated BABIP (.335) and a few “just enough” home runs aided his 20-HR, .281-average 2010 season. Fifteen HRs is possible with the Marlins in 2011, but he hadn’t topped a .247 average in six seasons before ’10. Embarrassing strikeout, walk and contacts rates will limit his .250 average.
13. John Jaso (C—TB): Superb strikeout (11.5%), walk (14.6%) and contact (88.4%) rates suggest him as a likely “second-leadoff” type batting ninth in the Rays’ lineup with Zobrist, Damon and Longoria to follow. Double-digit power is unlikely, but 60 runs and RBI should come with .270 average.
14. Russell Martin (C—NYY): Similarities in walk, contact and line-drive rates from ’07 and ’08 to last season suggest a return to fantasy relevance isn’t far fetched. While 20/20 line is no longer likely, 10 HRs, 10 steals, and a .270 average are realistic given his lineup protection and home park.
15. Chris Iannetta (C—Col): Soon-to-be 28-year-old has been handed starting gig, but decline in ISO power and batting average as part-timer in recent seasons is concerning. Outside shot at 20 HRs, .250 average given 400 at-bats this season.
Image courtesy of: Michael G. Baron
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Tags: Brian McCann, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Chris Iannetta, Geovany Soto, Joe Mauer, John Buck, John Jaso, Jorge Posada, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Wieters, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Russell Martin, Victor Martinez