Like an active squirrel storing away acorns for winter, I was scurrying around my secluded mountainside homestead preparing for a small snow storm headed in our direction. Somewhere between refurbishing our trusty snowblower and splitting logs for our woodstove, I found myself daydreaming of spring.
Warmer weather. Green grass. Baseball. Fantasy baseball.
I realized my own internal clock was telling me something. That it was time to jump head-first into everything fantasy baseball for 2011. And since we fantasy junkies seem to crave rankings like junk food junkies savor Twinkies, my first official fantasy baseball piece of 2011 will involve rankings. My fantasy catcher rankings, to be specific.
The catcher position has typically been a shallow one to fantasy owners.
Last year, however, we were spoiled with some nice late-round sleepers and a few breakout rookies to deepen the pot. Heading into 2011, we again have a fairly top-heavy group of fantasy catchers, but more than ever, the middle and even a few late value picks are gaining ground. Yes, the fantasy catcher no longer spends all his time in the kiddie pool. Finally, the position finds itself wading into deeper waters.
1. Victor Martinez, DET. I’m sure to take some flack on this pick, but hear me out. Out of the big three fantasy catchers, V-Mart was the only one not to see a dramatic backslide in one of the major five statistical categories. Joe Mauer saw his homer total dry up from 28 in 2009 to nine in 2010. Brian McCann had his third consecutive season of more than 20 homers, but saw his batting average drop considerably for the second straight season (from .301 in 2008 to .281 in 2009 to .269 last year).
Meanwhile, Martinez registered his second consecutive season with 20 or more homers and a .300-plus batting average. The RBIs were down, but he also missed nearly 100 at-bats from the season before due to injuries. While Martinez’s move from Boston to Detroit may affect his numbers to a degree, he still has plenty of protection in the lineup and has agreed to play primarily as the team’s designated hitter this year, increasing the likelihood that he stays healthy throughout the 2011 campaign.
2. Joe Mauer, MIN. Sort of a push between him and McCann, depending on what statistical category you prefer best. I’ll take Mauer’s wicked-good batting average any day of the week. There’s a better chance that he’ll improve his longball numbers than McCann has of improving his steadily declining batting average.
Mauer’s plate discipline allows you to take a few more risks at other positions with players who struggle with batting average, but provide some nice pop.
3. Brian McCann, ATL. Seriously considered bumping McCann below Buster Posey at one point. That’s how much I worry about McCann’s batting average drop-off. Then I came to my senses…for now.
Few at the position have matched McCann’s consistency in hitting homers the past five seasons. McCann has more experience and arguably a better lineup around him. Just don’t expect yours truly to take him too early in drafts this spring.
4. Buster Posey, SF. What’s not to love about the 2010 National League rookie of the year? He hit .305 in 406 at-bats while crushing 18 homers and driving in 67 batters.
What will he do for an encore?
The only reason Posey doesn’t move up on this list is that he’s still raw. He needs to produce at an elite level for a full 162 games and anyone who doesn’t think he’ll have some growing pains in 2011 is fooling themselves. Still, he very well could produce top fantasy catcher statistics, yet will be had at a much better value than the others on this list so far.
5. Miguel Montero, ARI. After registering a .294 batting average and 16 homers in 2009, Montero’s 2010 campaign was a large disappointment. The question is whether last season’s injury-riddled year was the aberration, or was it his 2009 breakout?
Considering he came on strong late in the 2010 season, I’m expecting him to be more of a fantasy factor than others in your league likely will. I’m just not ready to pay too much on that gamble just yet.
For the rest of my early 2011 fantasy catcher rankings, go here.
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