Last season, Miguel Montero was the sixth ranked catcher at season’s end.
Who saw that coming?
From down seasons (Russell Martin) to injury woes (Ryan Doumit) to a combination of both (Geovany Soto), there were a lot of surprises at the catcher position last season. As a result, the 2010 preseason catcher rankings are a clutter of question marks outside the top three. The good news is you can use this to your advantage.
I’m not going to try to pull the wool over your eyes and come up with reasons why Montero will become the next Joe Mauer. It won’t happen. What I am going to do is help clear up the position and sort through the debris from 2009 to give you an accurate portrayal of what catcher looks like in 2010.
Joe Mauer (MIN), Victor Martinez (BOS), Brian McCann (ATL)
If the three players in tier one have a motto, it would be “Been there, done that.” Joe Mauer has already won three batting titles, three Silver Sluggers, and an MVP.
Victor Martinez has batted over .300 in his last four full seasons (discounting his injury-plagued 2008 season), and was fantastic after he arrived in Boston, posting a line of 32/.336/8/41/1 in only 56 games. Because of Boston’s infield rotation, Martinez will play in more games than any other catcher.
Brian McCann is the most erratic of the bunch with batting averages of .333, .270, .301, .281 in the last four years, but he’s also hit 20+ HR and driven in 90+ runs in three of those four seasons.
Matt Wieters (BAL), Jorge Posada (NYY), Geovany Soto (CHC), Miguel Montero (ARI), Kurt Suzuki (OAK)
Matt Wieters is the perfect player to sit atop tier two because he’s ready to break through and become a legitimate star at the position. He ended 2009 on a tear, batting .333/4/17 with an .882 OPS in 29 September/October games.
Jorge Posada used to call tier one home, but injury concerns have cost him his elite status. Playing in one of the most hitter-friendly parks and in baseball’s best lineup, Posada will produce. Just don’t be surprised when he hits the DL.
If you have been an avid follower of our site, you’ll know our very own George Fitopoulos wrote an article about Soto’s 2009 season. Don’t be fooled by the down numbers; Soto battled injuries last year and will rebound this season.
Miguel Montero stole the show in Arizona, and the Diamondbacks have relegated Chris Snyder to backup duty. Montero hit in the minors and showed HR power in his first two seasons of part-time play. Now that he’s hit .294, he’s shown he’s the real deal.
Sentiment among most fantasy managers (and ESPN) is that Kurt Suzuki isn’t a reliable starter, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. His 2009 production was on par with his per-game production in 2007, and he hits in the middle of a lineup that actually scored a good amount of runs last season.
Bengie Molina (SF), Ryan Doumit (PIT), Russell Martin (LAD), Mike Napoli (LAA), Chris Iannetta (COL)
Bengie Molina shocked and disappointed fantasy owners everywhere when he resigned with the Giants, delaying the anticipated arrival of Buster Posey . Molina might be as slow as molasses, but he’s still one of the best power threats at catcher, and a 20 HR, 80 RBI season seems like a good estimate.
Doumit might have seen his playing time and batting average plummet due to injury last season, but he still muscled 10 HR in only 75 games. He showed what he can do when healthy in 2008, but his lineup isn’t doing him any favors.
Martin gained notoriety for his ability to combine power and speed. After hitting 19 HR with 21 SB in 2007, he has seen his totals in those categories fall each season (along with his batting average, RBI, and OPS) to levels you’d see from someone on tier five.
Mike Napoli has always been one of the best hitters at catcher, but he can’t field the position at all. That doesn’t hurt a fantasy team until it starts cutting into a guy’s playing time. With defensive wizard Jeff Mathis sharing the duties, it’s tough to imagine Napoli putting up elite numbers.
Colorado insured Chris Iannetta by signing Miguel Olivo. You might get some HR out of Iannetta, but he’s never hit for average and will be splitting time.
Carlos Santana (CLE), Yadier Molina (STL), A.J. Pierzynski (CHW), John Baker (FLA), Ramon Hernandez (CIN), Kelly Shoppach (TB), Buster Posey (SF), Carlos Ruiz (PHI)
Tier four is an eclectic group that features stable, yet unimpressive veterans and unproven talent. Carlos Santana has a small herd of sub-par players blocking him, and it’s only a matter of time until Cleveland’s catching gig is his, Posey would have been higher if it weren’t for Molina re-signing, and John Baker still splits time with Ronny Paulino even though Baker has the higher ceiling.
Yadier Molina and A.J. Pierzynski hit for good average but don’t have a ton of pop, and Kelly Shoppach is the opposite. Carlos Ruiz can’t really do either, but he plays in a good ballpark with an even better lineup.
Ramon Hernandez might be over the hill, but he might also have another 15 HR season in him. Either way, none of these guys are anyone you want as your Opening Day starter.
Dioner Navarro (TB), Rod Barajas (NYM), Ivan Rodriguez (WAS), Miguel Olivo (COL)
Dioner Navarro is the only one in the this group who didn’t switch teams. It might have been better if he had; Shoppach is the better offensive threat.
Rod Barajas actually hit 19 HR with 71 RBI last season. Of course, that came with a .226 AVG. In all likelihood he will be the Mets’ Opening Day starter, but the team has already announced he needs to win the job from Omir Santos and Josh Thole. Not exactly a tall order.
Ivan Rodriguez has played for four teams in the last two years, and now let’s make that five. It’s tough to be consistent with that kind of movement, but there are worse options if your starting catcher goes down for a week or two.
Splitting time with Iannetta will definitely cut into Miguel Olivo ’s stats, but his 23 HR from ‘09 count for something.