1. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves (.281 average, 21 homers, 94 RBI, 63 runs)
This is my favorite catcher because he brings consistency. In three of the last four seasons McCann has hit at least 20 home runs and driven in 90 runs. In two of those seasons he has also hit over .300. He has played at least 130 games in four straight seasons, so he is also durable, and doesn’t strikeout too many times. It is hard to say anything bad about McCann. He turns 26 years old in February, so he is just entering his prime and could get better. At 6’3” and 230 pounds, he is just a big old country boy who is built to hit the ball out of the park.
You will likely have to take McCann somewhere between the fourth and sixth round, and if you do, you will likely have an advantage over your league mates who won’t be getting this kind of production out of their catcher. You can pretty much write him in for .280/20/85 every year, and he should be the first catcher off the board in my opinion.
2. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (.365 average, 28 homers, 96 RBI, 94 runs, 4 steals)
Oh my God! He doesn’t have Mauer number one??? Has he totally lost his mind? Perhaps, but hear me out on this one. I like to focus on consistency. Now Mauer has been a great player his entire career, but if you look at his numbers, they have varied pretty far through the years. Here are my issues with Mauer:
First, he gets hurt every year. And not just injuries, bad catcher injuries. He has had problems with his knees and his back, both of which are horrible for catchers.
Second, he nearly hit as many home runs last year (28) as he did the previous three seasons combined (29).
Third, you are going to have to draft him somewhere in the first 15 picks to get him on your team, and I just think that is too early. Mauer is a great player, there is no denying that and he will help you greatly in the batting average department. But I just think that there are too many question marks to take him where he is going to be drafted. You may send the hate emails now to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to.
3. Victor Martinez, Boston Red Sox (.303 average, 23 homers, 108 RBI, 88 Runs)
After a year where he didn’t hit a home run for the first two months of the season, Martinez bounced back in a big way in 2009 and got right back to where he was for most of the rest of his career. He has hit at least 20 home runs four different times, driven in 100 runs in three seasons and hit at least .300 four times.
He is one of the more consistent producers in recent years and in the middle of a strong Boston lineup, he should be great again in 2010. Martinez is definitely one of the elite catchers and should be drafted in one of the first six or seven rounds. He hits for a good average and is one of the better power hitters at the position. He is 31 years old and should have at least three or four good years left in him.
4. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles (.288 average, 9 homers, 43 RBI, 35 runs; 96 games)
OK, so he wasn’t the second coming like we all hoped in his rookie season. However, he did hit .362 with 14 RBI in the month of September. Wieters put us all on notice that he might have disappointed in 2009, but he is not a bust. There is absolutely no doubt about his ability, and if you miss out on one of these top three guys, Wieters is one who you can take a few rounds later and possibly get the same production. Look for a big sophomore season from Wieters.
5. Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants (.265 average, 20 homers, 80 RBI, 52 runs)
It might seem like he is older than dirt, but Molina was able to post a career high in home runs last season when he cracked the 20 dinger barrier for the first time. Molina is 35 years old, and outside of his drop in batting average last season, has been incredibly consistent. He remains in San Francisco this year which pretty much infuriated fantasy players who were hoping to see Buster Posey in 2010. You can expect Molina to hit 16-18 homers and drive in at least 80 runs. He is one step down from the elite, but a very solid guy for you to have at the catcher position.
6. Kurt Suzuki, Oakland Athletics (.274 average, 15 homers, 88 RBI, 74 runs, 8 steals)
Suzuki was certainly one of the better surprises in fantasy last year as he more than doubled his career high in home runs and RBI. Looking at the rest of his career, you might think he will have a hard time getting quite back to that power number again, but the batting average should stay around the same and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the RBI stay at least above 70. Suzuki definitely put himself on the fantasy map and at just 25 years of age, should be there for quite a while. In a weak hitting lineup in Oakland, Suzuki will be counted upon to put up similar statistics.
7. Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks (.294 average, 16 homers, 59 RBI, 61 runs)
Stuck second on the depth chart throughout his major league career, Montero took full advantage of his first real shot at earning a starting job. Through the first two months of the season you would have never wanted him on your team, but something clicked around the middle of June and he went on a tear that lasted the rest of the season. If you look at Montero’s minor league stats, you would believe that the numbers he put up in 2009 have a very good chance of being legitimate. I think that he has a very good chance to duplicate those numbers or perhaps even do slightly better in the home run and RBI totals, but I also think that his average will dip 15-20 points. Don’t stretch too far for Montero, but he has definitely earned himself a spot among starting fantasy catchers in all leagues.
8. Mike Napoli, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (.272 average, 20 homers, 56 RBI, 60 runs; 114 games)
I know the Angels like Jeff Mathis’ defense, but how Napoli continues to get fewer than 400 at bats to me is a crime. The guy has hit over .270 and hit 20 home runs the past two seasons, yet he continues to be sat on a regular basis. He did get way more playing time in 2009 than he did in 2008 (227 ABs in ’08 to 382 ABs in ’09), so perhaps the Angels are finally coming to their senses. If Napoli can get up to 450+ at bats, he should climb even higher up this list, perhaps to the top four or five. There is some risk involved in making him your starter, but he is just 28 years old and seems like he is legitimate. Now we just have to get the Angels to realize that.
9. Jorge Posada, New York Yankees (.285 average, 22 homers, 81 RBI, 55 runs)
It seems that age doesn’t really effect Posada, as even though he played in just 111 games, he was still able to pop 22 homers and drive in 81 runs while hitting .285. That is now 20+ home runs in eight of the last nine seasons in which he has played at least 100 games. He will turn 39 in August so Father Time HAS to catch up with Posada eventually, so you have to be concerned that his production could drop off at any time. He has suffered shoulder and hamstring injuries over the past couple of years, so that adds to the concern. However, he just keeps piling up the statistics, so if you can’t get one of the big three, Posada is still a very viable starting catcher in fantasy for 2010.
10. Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs (.218 average, 11 homers, 47 RBI, 27 runs; 102 games)
After winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2008, fantasy owners (including myself) flocked to Soto like college freshman to All You Can Drink nights. And like the girl you take home from those festivities, those who drafted Soto were left feeling embarrassed and disappointed. 2010 will be THE telling year for Soto. There is some concern about Soto in that he really only had one solid season in the minors after toiling there for seven seasons. So, was that rookie year a fluke or was 2009 just a bump in the road? I still think that Soto will be a good fantasy catcher this season, but he shouldn’t be drafted nearly where he was last year.
11. Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers (.259 average, 7 homers, 53 RBI, 63 runs)
Sometimes in fantasy players are able to live for a couple of years later from a single good performance, and Martin certainly fits the bill on this one. In 2007, Martin clubbed 19 homers and drove in 87 runs while stealing 21 bases and fantasy owners were touched by Cupid’s arrow. 2008 saw a fairly significant decline as Martin was down to 13 homers and 69 ribbies, but that was still acceptable. Last season we saw another similar decline as he fell to just nine round trippers, 53 RBI, steals were down to 11, and his batting average dropped 40 points in two seasons to .250.
This is no longer good enough. Martin can no longer be considered one of the top catchers, and shouldn’t be drafted that way. I don’t know if it the wear and tear of the number of games that he plays behind the plate (he plays more than most), or if that one season was a bit of a fluke, but I would expect him to be more towards his 2008 numbers than bounce back to his career highs. He still belongs as a starting catcher in fantasy leagues, but he is teetering towards the edge of that category. 2010 will go a long way to decide what kind of fantasy player Martin will be going forward.
12. Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Steelers (.250 average, 10 homers, 38 RBI, 31 runs; 75 games)
Whether it be a wrist injury, a thumb injury, I think there was a concussion in there somewhere, something always keeps Doumit off the field and out of fantasy lineups and that ultimately is his downfall. The guy just can’t seem to stay healthy. Even with that, he is one home run away from having three straight years with double digit homers, despite never playing more than 110 games. He can hit for decent average, he has good pop for his position, and he even runs ok for a big guy. I like Doumit and wouldn’t mind picking him, but be sure that you have a backup plan in place, just in case the usual thing happens and he is injured yet again.
13. A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox (.300 average, 13 homers, 49 RBI, 57 runs)
Pierzynski is far from a bad option, and you pretty much have an idea of what you are going to get from him. His batting average last year seems to be a bit of an aberration, but he has generally been in the .265-.285 range throughout his career. He is going to give you 12-18 homers and he’s going to drive 55-70 runs in most seasons. He is 34 years old so there is a lot of time spent in a crouch, so his production could start to fall off at any time, but as of now it appears that he should be solid again, and as either a very low end starter, or a great guy to fill in just in case your main guy goes down.
14. Kelly Shoppach, Tampa Bay Rays (.214 average, 12 homers, 40 RBI, 33 runs; 89 games)
A former Red Sox farmhand, Shoppach showed what he was capable of two years ago when he blasted 21 homers filling in for an injured Victor Martinez. He struggled last season hitting regularly, and his average fell nearly 50 points. Throughout his career however, Shoppach has always been able to hit for power, and there will always be a place for you in the major leagues if you can hit the long ball. He was acquired by the Rays in an off-season trade, and he will now battle Dioner Navarro for the starting job for Tampa Bay.
I don’t know if he will win the full time gig right off the bat, but the way Navarro hit last year, I see the Rays giving Shoppach at least five starts out of seven days per week by Memorial Day. He is likely only a choice in AL-only league on draft day, but he has the capabilities to be so much more by season’s end. He will never hit .300 (or likely even .275), but he is a nice source of power at a position where there is a dearth of that skill.
15. Chris Iannetta, Colorado Rockies (.228 average, 16 homers, 52 RBI, 41 runs)
Few players in fantasy disappointed me last season like Chris Iannetta. In all the leagues that I was in last year (and there were ten of them), if I was not able to grab one of my favorite elite catchers I waited in the weeds and went with Iannetta expecting a big breakout from him. That being said, if you take a look at his numbers outside of batting average, they were still fairly comparable to the vast majority of catchers outside of the top four or five.
Iannetta is one player that I will not be giving up on after one disappointing season however. Again in 2010, if I can’t get one of the catchers that I want, he will be a late round selection for me. There is some concern with the Rockies bringing in Miguel Olivo to perhaps take some at bats away from Iannetta, but the guy is just about to turn 27 and showed some major power in the minors, I still think he is legit.
16. John Baker, Florida Marlins (.271 average, 9 homers, 50 RBI, 59 runs; 112 games)
Baker was a popular sleeper heading into 2009, and while he didn’t do bad, he lost some playing time to Ronny Paulino, dealt with some injuries, and didn’t hit for the power that his owners were hoping for. It will be a similar situation this year for Baker, but I expect him to improve his statistics across the board. He should have a shot at his 2004 minor league numbers at .280 average with 15 homers and 80 RBI. I don’t have enough trust in him for him to be a starter in a traditional 12 team league, but definitely someone to keep your eye on.
17. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (.293 average, 6 homers, 54 RBI, 45 runs)
There is nothing that really sets Molina apart from other catchers at this tier, except that he tends to hit for a pretty decent average. Barring injury however, there is no reason for him to be starting or even on a roster really, in a standard 12 team league. He’s never going to offer much pop and if he gets over ten home runs you should consider yourself lucky. That being said, if your number one catcher goes down, Yaddy will at least keep you afloat and won’t completely drag your team down. If for some reason you find yourself considering Molina, just know that he isn’t going to bring too much to the party and you won’t be disappointed.
18. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (.290 average, 23 homers, 97 RBI, 91 runs; Double A)
He’s heard all the jokes about playing guitar before I’m sure, so hold on to those for me, OK? The truth is, Santana should be a stud.
The guy has ripped up the minor leagues, and now that the team has shed Victor Martinez AND Kelly Shoppach from their team, there is no reason for them not to hand the job to Santana. Perhaps the thing that I like about him the most is his strikeout to walk ratio. In a time when striking out is a regular thing for so many young players, Santana walked 288 times and struck out 283 in his minor league career, and that gets me excited (yeah, I know that is sad).
He did have hand surgery in the offseason, so he might not be ready to go right when Spring Training opens, but before too long he should be behind the dish for the Tribe, and at that point you will want him on your team if you are in a keeper/dynasty league.
19. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Texas Rangers (.233 average, 9 homers, 34 RBI, 34 runs; 84 games)
He was once one of the more feared hitting prospects around, but Saltalamacchia certainly is getting pretty close to being labeled a bust, with some already putting him there. He was thought to be the jewel of the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Braves, but between injuries, demotions, and just general bad play, Salty is still trying to find his way in the majors.
He strikes out far too much, and even his defense isn’t top notch. Even though this sounds like a paragraph trashing him, Saltalamacchia won’t turn 25 until May and still has plenty of career ahead of him. Some guys just take a little longer to figure it out, and I believe that he may be one of those guys.
He is coming back from a shoulder injury, so Taylor Teagarden may see plenty of time in Spring Training, but Salty still should be their guy. I wouldn’t want him as my starter, but he could be a late round flier or at worst he should be someone on your watch list.
20. Jesus Flores, Washington Nationals (.301 average, 4 homers, 15 RBI, 13 runs; 29 games)
We all know that catcher is the one position that you can pretty much guarantee that your player will take off generally one day a week, possibly more, especially on the dreaded day game after a night game.
However, to say that Flores misses a lot of time is an understatement. In his three years in the league he has topped out at 90 games due to a variety of injuries, including shoulder surgery which ended his season very early in 2009. The problem is he does have potential to surprise.
I generally don’t put too much stock in Single-A numbers, but Flores did pop 21 homers and drive in 70 runs in 2006. He was off to a fast start last season, and could be a sleeper. He is hurt greatly by the presence of Pudge Rodriguez, but he could also become a better player if Rodriguez mentors him as well. It might be a bit of a long shot, but if Flores can get the at bats and stay healthy, he could be a nice surprise.
21. Miguel Olivo, Colorado Rockies (.249 average, 23 homers, 65 RBI, 51 runs; 114 games)
You might look at his stats and wonder why he is so far down the list. He mashed his career high of 16 homers last season, and now he goes to a team in the Rockies who already has a viable starting catcher. I see the signing of Olivo as a way to try to get Chris Iannetta to realize that he better pick up his game because there is someone behind him who can play. At best I see Olivo in a platoon situation, and with his batting average, I don’t see him getting the majority of the starts. If Iannetta goes down or loses the job, Olivo would be more valuable, but at this point he is not rosterable.
22. John Buck, Toronto Blue Jays (.247 average, 8 homers, 36 RBI, 16 runs; 59 games)
Buck was once a fairly highly thought of prospect for the Royals, or at least he was supposed to hit for some power. The Royals have given up on Buck after he couldn’t hit for anything that resembled a decent batting average. He was able to hit 18 homers in 2007, and has hit double digit home runs in almost every season that he has been healthy.
There is a chance that Buck can surprise and be a good source of home runs if your starter goes down. He isn’t good enough to be one of the top 12 or 16 guys to be a fantasy starter, but certainly worth keeping an eye on. Chances are Buck will be the same guy he has been his first six seasons, lousy average, decent power, marginal player.
23. Omir Santos, New York Mets (.260 average, 7 homers, 40 RBI, 28 runs; 96 games)
The Mets came into the year with Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro, but it was Santos who had the biggest impact of the group. He doesn’t do anything extraordinarily well, but Santos does have a little bit of pop and hits for a decent average. The Mets also have Chris Coste and Henry Blanco on the roster, but it will be young Josh Thole that Santos will have to keep at bay.
As long as Santos can do what he did last season for New York, he should maintain the starting job most of the season. He could hit .270 with 10-13 home runs with about 55 RBI if all goes well. A solid injury replacement, but no one to target on draft day.
24. Ramon Hernandez, Cincinnati Reds (.258 average, 5 homers, 37 RBI, 25 runs; 81 games)
Not too many years ago, Hernandez was one of the better options at the catcher position, but age and injuries have certainly sped up the downside of his career. It was a knee injury that required surgery that ended his year early, but if you look at the numbers, it wasn’t shaping up to be that great of a year anyway.
The Reds appear to be content with Hernandez as their starter again in 2010, but he isn’t still under a ridiculous contract, so if he doesn’t do well I could see them going in a different direction. He is no longer a viable starting catching option in my opinion, but if he is healthy and your starter isn’t, he isn’t a bad guy to count on for a stint of two to six weeks if need be. Any more than that and Hernandez is likely to disappoint.
25. Gerald Laird, Detroit Tigers (.225 average, 4 homers, 33 RBI, 49 runs)
Like Ruiz, there is nothing about Laird that tells you that he should be on your fantasy roster. His career high in home runs is nine. RBIs is 47 and he did hit .296 once, but that was in half a season. Laird should not be considered for your roster unless you are in a two catcher league and you are in a lot of trouble.
26. Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (.255 average, 9 homers, 43 RBI, 32 runs)
Nothing about Ruiz makes you think that there is anything fantasy worthy here. Sure he plays on a great offensive team in a ballpark that is conducive to offense, but even with all of that working for him he still fails to put up even respectable fantasy numbers. I really wish that I had more good things to say about the regular catcher for a team that has been to the World Series in two consecutive seasons, but his nine home runs were a career high and the .255 average was close to being the same. You are in serious trouble if Ruiz is in your starting lineup, as he really doesn’t contribute in a positive way to any single category. Try to stay away if at all possible.
27. Ivan Rodriguez, Washington Nationals (.249 average, 10 homers, 47 RBI, 55 runs)
Pudge continues to prove that he still has a little bit left in the tank, although I don’t think it is as a full-time starter anymore. Rodriguez still has the arm to be a good defensive catcher, but his skills at the plate have made him best suited for a platoon. He should start behind Jesus Flores to start the season, but based on Flores’ history of injury, Rodriguez could be in line for a full-time gig before Memorial Day.
Just understand that the days of him hitting well over .300 are long gone, and he will only bring you limited power. As long as Flores is healthy I don’t believe Pudge is worth owning, but if Rodriguez gets the full time job he isn’t horrible if your starting catcher goes down.
28. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (.323 average, 18 homers, 80 RBI, 84 runs; Minor Leagues)
All offseason it appeared that Posey would be handed the keys to the Giants’ catching job, but they resigned Bengie Molina so we might have to wait one more year for one of the better catching prospects in recent years. I don’t see the Giants keeping him around to sit the bench all season long and pinch hit, so expect him to go to AAA at least to start the season.
For those of you in keeper/dynasty leagues, he definitely could be the type of guy that you sit on your bench and wait for him to come up. Posey should hit for a good average right off the bat, but he could be a 15-20 homer guy to start his major league career, but that should increase as his career progresses.
29. Dioner Navarro, Tampa Bay Rays (.218 average, 8 homers, 32 RBI, 38 runs)
A former Yankee farmhand, Navarro is a much better defensive catcher than he is for any fantasy purposes. He did tease us all by hitting .295 in 2008, but if you take a look at the rest of his career, it appears that it was a total fluke. Not only has he hit below .230 in two of the last three seasons, but now the Rays have traded for Kelly Shoppach who isn’t as good of a defensive option but hits for a great deal of power. They are probably looking at a platoon situation to start the season, and when you hit .220 and are in a time sharing situation you are basically fantasy irrelevant.
30. J.R. Towles, Houston Astros (.276 average, 4 homers, 22 RBI, 23 runs; Triple A)
To say that Towles hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far in his MLB career would be quite an understatement. After hitting 11 homers in just over 60 games in AA in 2007, the bar was set pretty high for him as the Astros gave him a chance to take the reins behind the plate. Three years later, he is getting his second chance and everyone in Houston is hoping for better results as he is yet to break the .200 batting average barrier in his pro career.
At this point, Towles isn’t a guy that you can put any stock in to start the season. If you are a risk taker you can take a flier on him at the end of the draft. If you see him get off to a good start he might be worth jumping on board.
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