It's that time again. Opening day is around the corner and fantasy drafts are imminent. Here are my fantasy catcher rankings for 2009.
1. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves: While not quite as sexy a fantasy player as Soto or Martin, McCann earns the top spot on this list because of his consistency.
McCann will remain in the heart of the Braves lineup and will be asked to be a major run producer for them in 2009.
Picking McCann includes very little risk, as he is a virtual lock to go .300/25/100 next season. Look for him to lead a Braves offense that looks poor on paper into national relevance.
2. Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs: Soto exploded onto the scene in 2008 with 23 homers in less than 500 at-bats in his rookie campaign.
Fears of a sophomore slump are justified, but his potential is worth taking him this high.
Soto has huge raw power and should lead all catchers in home runs. He will be a major thumper in a powerful Cubs lineup, and should approach 30 home runs.
3. Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates: In 2008, Doumit proved that he can produce at an elite level. However he was unable to answer questions about his durability.
When on the field, Doumit excelled, but he missed significant chunks of time due to nagging injuries.
With 15 home runs in only 431 at-bats, Doumit’s power should continue to improve. While not quite as safe as Martin and Mauer, his upside warrants his spot on this list.
Take him early and reap the benefits.
4. Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers: Martin is an interesting player as he provides some serious speed at the catcher position.
Martin has proven that he can contribute in every category, however he fails to excel in any.
Unfortunately, Martin is stuck in a weak, currently Manny-less Dodgers lineup.
While his RBIs and runs should be unimpressive, look for him to hit 20 home runs and swipe 20 bases.
5. Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians: Anyone who drafted Martinez last year has probably sworn never to draft him again.
Don’t buy into this, Martinez is healthy and driven entering 2009. Despite a disastrous 2008 campaign, Martinez will still remain a focal point in a potent Indians lineup.
Look for the power that he displayed in 2006 and 2007 to return in 2009.
6. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: Behind McCann, Mauer is the safest player on this list. However, his upside is minimal.
Mauer will hit for average and score runs in a strong Twins lineup, but he lacks any semblance of power or speed.
The nine home runs and solitary stolen base that Mauer had last season is par for the course with him.
Mauer is an important player on this list as he represents the last elite fantasy catcher. Don’t be stuck without one of these top six guys.
7. Chris Iannetta, Colorado Rockies: Iannetta is the best in the second-tier of fantasy catchers on this list.
Coors is still very conducive to huge offensive numbers, and Iannetta should fit well in a Rockies offense that, despite losing Matt Holliday, is still very strong.
Iannetta posted 18 home runs last season in only 333 at bats. Look for both numbers to drastically increase as he holds down the catching job for an entire season in 2009.
8. Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants: Molina will continue to bat cleanup for the power starved Giants in 2009, a spot that yielded him 95 RBIs last season.
As he will be turning 35 midseason, don’t look for Molina to surpass last year's numbers, but he is certainly a solid pick if you missed out on the top six guys, and are looking for some consistency from the catcher position.
9. Jorge Posada, New York Yankees: Posada has certainly proven that he is a top-five fantasy catcher when healthy.
However, due to shoulder surgery in 2008, Posada’s health is still very much up in the air.
If you are looking to potentially take a risk, then Posada could be a great choice, but if you want a safe pick you should stay away.
10. Mike Napoli, Los Angeles Angels: Napoli demonstrated his ability to be a huge power threat for the Angels last season.
Despite only having 227 at bats, Napoli still blasted 20 home runs. If Napoli is healthy for an entire season, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t reach the 30-35 range.
While he will never hit for average, Napoli could definitely provide some big power in a generally low power position.
11. Ramon Hernandez, Cincinnati Reds: Hernandez joins this list as one of the premier sleepers for 2009.
Having fallen into relative obscurity with the Wieters-crazed Orioles, Hernandez was given a new opportunity with the Reds this offseason.
Despite posting underwhelming numbers, Hernandez has the starting job on lockdown and should be a solid producer in RBIs and home runs.
Hernandez is definitely worth taking before young question marks like Jeff Clement and Taylor Teagarden.
12. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles: If Wieters were guaranteed the starting catching job in Baltimore on opening day, then he would certainly shoot up this list.
But the Orioles signed Greg Zaun in the offseason, resigning Wieters to the minors for at least a few more months.
If everything goes well, Wieters should get a midseason call up in May.
While waiting until May is not favorable, Wieters is in a rare class of players that are actually worth it.
13. Taylor Teagarden, Texas Rangers: Teagarden took advantage of his short time in the majors last season, and enters 2009 as the front-runner for backstop out of a crowded Texas group.
Sure this is a risky pick, but if your still looking for a catcher at this point, then you should reach for upside instead of drafting dead weight.
Teagarden hit six home runs in 47 at bats, and I expect him to earn the starting role by the beginning of May.
Don’t settle for also-rans like Miguel Olivo and A.J. Pierzynski, take a chance on Teagarden.
14. A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox: Not much to say about this one, Pierzynski should really only be drafted in a really deep league.
Might hit .280 if he has a good year. He won’t help you anywhere else.
15. Dioner Navarro, Tampa Bay Rays: Navarro proved that he was a legitimate major league catcher in 2008, but there are still many doubts about his ability to produce in the fantasy game.
Navarro is a slow singles hitter, but could still be valuable in deep leagues due to his good average and presence in a good Rays lineup.
16. Kurt Suzuki, Oakland Athletics: While Suzuki should probably be below guys like Molina and Laird, he ranks here because he possesses upside, however minimal, while the other two do not.
17. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals: Previously considered an offensive liability, Molina exceeded expectations and hit .304 in 2008.
Don’t expect this to continue, Molina is not ownable in most leagues. Also, look for the entire Cardinals lineup to be disappointing this year, not just Molina.
18. Chris Snyder, Arizona Diamondbacks: Snyder proved last season that he could hit the long ball, but little else after that.
With Miguel Montero taking away some of his time, Snyder will struggle to reach 350 at-bats. Snyder hit a lowly .237 last season, more than overshadowing the 16 home runs he hit in limited time.
19. Brian Schneider, New York Mets – Schneider will benefit from a dominant Mets lineup but provide little impact on his own. The big thing with Schneider is whether he can stay healthy, because the job is his if he does.
20. Jeff Clement, Seattle Mariners – On talent, Clement belongs in the top half of this list. Unfortunately, Seattle management thought it was a good idea to give a Kenji Johjima an extension and to sign Russell Branyan.
Clement falls this far because there is no guarantee about how much he will play in 2009. If you are desperate late in a draft, Clement is a perfect late-round sleeper.
Ranking the rest:
21. Miguel Olivo, Kansas City Royals
22. John Baker, Florida Marlins
23. Kelly Shoppach, Cleveland Indians
24. Gerald Laird, Detroit Tigers
25. Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
26. Jesus Flores, Washington Nationals
27. Rod Barajas, Toronto Blue Jays
28. Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox
29. Greg Zaun, Baltimore Orioles
30. Jason Kendall, Milwaukee Brewers