Fantasy Baseball 2011: 5 Young Catchers To Target On Draft Day
The catcher position in fantasy baseball is typically thought of as a weak link, primarily due to the fact that most catchers are slow and lack power, thus limiting the ability to provide help at two of the five main statistical categories.
Although catchers may not help much with stolen bases and home runs, they are a vital part of a successful team.
Joe Mauer, Brian McCann and Victor Martinez are the top three fantasy catchers this year, with Buster Posey nipping at their heels as a possible stud in waiting.
If you are not fortunate enough to grab one of the top catchers, here is a list of five possible breakout catchers who can be found late in drafts.
Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians)
.260, 23 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 3 SB
As a top-10 prospect in Baseball America’s 2010 rankings, Carlos Santana was a sought-after free agent acquisition when he made his debut last June.
He had a nice rookie season, batting .260 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in just 150 at bats.
His season was cut short due to a knee injury sustained while blocking the plate. Team doctors have cleared Santana to practice this spring and believe that he will be ready for the season opener in April.
The injury is a cause for concern due to the amount of strain catchers put on their knees on a daily basis, however he is young and will hopefully not have any lingering effects.
Look for Santana to raise his average closer to .300 this season, as he was a career .290 hitter in the minors.
Don’t expect too much power from the youngster however, as he failed to hit more than 25 home runs in a single season while in the minors.
J.P. Arencibia (Toronto Blue Jays)
.301, 76 R, 32 HR, 85 RBI, 0 SB (AAA)
The departure of John Buck has opened the door for J.P Arencibia to become the Blue Jay’s starting catcher.
Drafted 21st overall in the 2007 amateur draft, Arencibia immediately showed his promise by hitting a two-run home run off of Tampa Bay’s James Shields in his first major league at-bat.
Although his next 34 at bats only produced three hits with 11 strikeouts, he has firmly cemented his role as the team’s starting backstop.
Arencibia has the most power of the five catchers listed in this article, and will most likely hit at least 20 home runs this season. He plays in a hitter's ballpark and is surrounded by a lineup that produced the most home runs in 2010.
Don’t expect any stolen bases from the youngster, as he did not swipe a single bag in his four-year minor league career.
Matt Wieters (Baltimore Orioles)
.249, 35 R, 11 HR, 55 RBI, 0 SB
Aside from Buster Posey, no other young catcher received as much hype over the last three years as Matt Wieters.
A talented catcher for Georgia Tech, Wieters was a two-time first team All-American and was named the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2005.
Wieters has all the tools to become a star catcher in the majors, including a 6’5" frame and the unique skill of being a switch-hitting catcher.
Despite all the makings of a star, Wieters has yet to blossom into viable fantasy catcher.
With a poor career on-base percentage of .328 and a less than impressive .266 batting average, Wieters has not shown the plate discipline that made him a star in college.
The Orioles have been busy this offseason, adding Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee and Vlad Guererro to help give some pop to one of the league's worst offenses.
Perhaps the new supporting cast will give Wieters some confidence and lineup protection he has lacked in the past.
The media attention will likely be focused on the new additions to the roster, giving Wieters a chance to focus on his craft while not having to be the focus of the press.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Boston Red Sox)
.158, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB
As the 36th overall pick of the 2003 amateur draft taken by the Atlanta Braves, Saltalamacchia was a highly touted switch-hitting prospect that ranked as high as 18th on Baseball America’s prospect list.
After it became clear that Brian McCann would be the Braves’ franchise catcher for years to come, the club traded “Salty” and a handful of prospects (including Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus) to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira.
Injuries plagued Salty for most of his time with the Rangers, and the team finally gave up on him at the end of 2010 by trading him to the Red Sox for a few minor-league players.
Saltalamacchia was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on August 11 when Kevin Cash was placed on the disabled list.
Salty is currently listed as the team’s top catcher on the official depth chart, now that Victor Martinez signed a free-agent deal with Detroit.
He is blessed to be surrounded by arguably the best line-up in all of baseball, and will have the benefit of learning the position from veteran Jason Varitek.
All of the pieces are now in place for Salty to finally deliver a solid major league campaign, making him an excellent late-round sleeper pick in all formats.
I do recommend having a solid backup catcher, as Salty has shown a propensity to be hurt.
Chris Iannetta (Colorado Rockies)
.197, 20 R, 9 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB
Manager Jim Tracy has stated this offseason that Chris Iannetta will be the Rockies' catcher at the start of the season, despite the fact that Iannetta is coming off a terrible 2010 campaign in which he hit below the Mendoza line.
From a fantasy perspective, Iannetta is a nice sleeper candidate because he plays on one of the most potent offenses in the National League, and will play 81 games in one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball.
2008 was his best season to date with the club, as Iannetta hit .263 with 18 home runs and 65 RBI in only 333 at-bats.
With a full year as a starter in 2011, it's not out of the question to expect at least 20 home runs and 75 RBIs from the Rockies’ catcher.
At 27 years-old, Iannetta is the oldest of the five catchers listed in this article, yet he has played in only 346 major league games during his five-year career.
Look for him to break out this season as the Rockies have all the necessary pieces in place to win the NL West and make a playoff run in October.
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