With young catching popping up across some teams, and aging catchers running others, it is logical to look at who could be the next big thing.
Catching is already a thin position that has historically been top heavy. This season, we saw that again. The likes of Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, Russell Martin, and Victor Martinez came off the board quickly, but then a dry spell ensued.
Now, there is some moderate stability within the younger ranks that will produce for the next few years. Matt Wieters is now sitting pretty up in Baltimore. Pablo Sandoval has eaten his gear and is likely a corner guy going forward. In Texas, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden have taken over primary and backup duties for the Rangers.
Add to that, Geovany Soto and Jeff Clement are or will be backstops that their respective teams will rely on for some time.
The other end of the spectrum yields older catchers that organizations are starting to pipeline replacements for. Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada are chief among the catchers in baseball that are being pushed by young prospects. Additionally, Bengie Molina is not exactly young.
With many of these catchers being productive for fantasy owners, riding the next wave will be important for owners.
Among those, Buster Posey is one of the best. The Giants organization star worked through three cities of baseball last season, and hit well in all of them. For 2008, Posey hit .328 in 34 games. To start 2009, he was in advanced-A ball in the California League. He has hit .326 there in 80 games and posted a .428 OBP. Posey has shown some moderate power, hitting 13 home runs.
His success has earned him a promotion to AAA Fresno for the Giants. Posey is on the fast track to the majors, and should be there next season. The question only comes as to if he will be a starter out of the gate. The guess is no, but expect him to be around for a long time.
Posey has a solid offensive game that should produce double-digit home runs in the majors and a .315 average on an annual basis. Posey still has some to learn on the defensive side, but his promotion to AAA will help him adjust to better pitching quickly.
In Boston, Mark Wagner has earned some time at AAA. Wagner largely is recognized for his defensive ability, but certainly has the gap power necessary to succeed at Fenway. Brendan McGair, who covers the Pawtucket Red Sox for the Pawtucket Times, noted that Wagner has a quick bat that does not generate home runs well, but does bring around extra-base hits.
While many scouts agree and say that Wagner has no dominant offensive tools, he is above average in most areas. McGair went on to talk about Wagner’s quick release and adept defensive ability.
The Toronto Blue Jays have their own succession plan in place for Rod Barajas. J.P. Arencibia certainly has some pop, but he has struggled in AAA thus far this season. The Blue Jays could look to him to start in 2010, but he likely waits some time to see how he progresses both in spring training and in the early months of the 2010 season.
Arencibia progressed well after initially struggling in low-A ball in the New York-Penn League. He was promoted to AA ball, after leading the Dunedin Blue Jays in many offensive categories at the A-ball All-Star break. In 2009, he has struggled again. Arencibia has hit only .236 in 68 games for Las Vegas, and his power has not been there either.
Still, all indications are that he is likely the future of catching in Toronto. He is offensive minded with passable defensive skills that are improving. For 2010, he is likely an AL-only player, but one that should be watched as he progresses through the summer.
Cleveland has options of their own. Guitar-hero Carlos Santana is a power-hitting, middle of the order catcher that is being blocked by both Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach. Santana struggled in the Dodgers organization in 2007 before breaking out in 2008 with some legitimate power numbers.
Cleveland acquired him in the Casey Blake trade, and the numbers have stuck. Cleveland looked to him once already this season when injuries decimated the lineup. For 2008, Santana smacked a career-high 14 homers, 96 RBI, 34 doubles, and posted a .323 average in the California League.
With the Indians exploring trade options for Martinez, and having health problems with Travis Hafner, a bat like Santana’s is something the organization will use as a backstop. Look for him to be around come next season, in one way or another.