Fantasy Baseball Position Preview: Catcher: Who Is John Baker?
NOTE: Every year fantasy experts, enthusiasts and rookies alike trot out their opinions for each position. Explaining that Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes are top shortstops or that Carlos Lee falls somewhere in the top tier of outfielders does is not ground breaking advice.
As I preview each position leading up to the regular season, I will list my rankings and focus on several players that I believe are under or overvalued.
1) Brian McCann (ATL)
2) Russell Martin (LAD)
3) Geovany Soto (CHC)
4) Joe Mauer (MIN)
5) Victor Martinez (CLE)
6) Pablo Sandoval* (SFG)
7) Chris Iannetta (COL)
8) Ryan Doumit (PIT)
9) Matt Wieters (BAL)
10) John Baker (FLA)
11) Ramon Hernandez (CIN)
12) Mike Napoli (LAA)
13) AJ Pierzynski (CHW)
14) Jorge Posada (NYY)
15) Bengie Molina (SFG)
*Pablo Sandoval qualifies as a catcher in some formats
SLEEPER: John Baker (FLA): Known throughout his professional career as a player who could hit for average and get on base, Baker did just that in his 61 game audition last season.
Only Joe Mauer had a higher OBP than Baker's .392 amongst catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. With the starting job all to himself, early reports out of Marlins camp are that Baker will hit second, between Cameron Maybin and Hanley Ramirez, with Dan Uggla sliding down to a more run-producing fifth in the order.
Owned in only 3.8 percent of ESPN leagues, Baker scores 70 runs in 2009 while hitting around .280 with an OBP around .400. If you miss out on your top catching choices and you want Baker, chances are you can get him at the end of draft or off your league's free-agent wire.
Chris Iannetta (COL): Iannetta's 18.5 AB/HR was better than McCann (22.1), Soto (21.4) and Martin (42.5). Several other factors point to an improved 2009 for Iannetta as well. He has demonstrated remarkable patience for a young hitter.
While his 56 walks were less than McCann, Soto, Mauer and Martin, he did it in just 407 plate appearances (compared to an average of 604 for the catching position's Big 4).
Iannetta's .895 OPS was second only to McCann's .896 amongst catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. Finally, Iannetta's Home/Away splits showed remarkable consistency.
He actually had a higher average on the road (.280 vs. .250) while he hit more home runs at home (11 to 7). While other managers spend fifth or sixth-round picks on McCann or Soto, you can grab Curtis Granderson or Carlos Quentin and take Iannetta 100 spots later.
Ramon Hernandez (CIN): Hernandez is the 15th catcher being taken in ESPN public drafts. The arrival of Matt Wieters gave made Hernandez expendable and they shipped him off to Cincinnati. Hernandez is in a contract year, playing in one of baseball's most hitter-friendly environments.
While Hernandez is not going to steal many bases or hit .300, he'll finish somewhere around .260/16/70 - not bad for a catcher going un-drafted in many leagues.
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