Fantasy Baseball 2011: Why Joe Mauer Is the Most Overvalued Player in the Game

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2011

Joe Mauer is the type of player I'd love to build my major league team around. He's likeable, team-oriented and leads by example. But when it comes to fantasy baseball, factoring in where Mauer is being drafted, he's vastly over-valued.
Joe Mauer is the type of player I'd love to build my major league team around. He's likeable, team-oriented and leads by example. But when it comes to fantasy baseball, factoring in where Mauer is being drafted, he's vastly over-valued.Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Yesterday, I did a double-take in the dog food aisle.

Between bags of Proplan and Pedigree were small 11.5-pound bags of Chef Michael’s “filet mignon” flavored dog food. As if that wasn’t enough, the food had potato and green bean “garnishes.”

All for $22, or $2 a pound. I wouldn’t spend $2 a pound for real filet mignon for my family. I’m cheap that way. But for a dog? You could make a roadkill possum flavored dog food and it would get just as much interest from Fido as anything Chef Michael could whip up.

And the vegetables? Dogs are carnivores. You don’t see wild dogs digging up their own carrots or growing a grove of broccoli. Get a grip!

And yet people buy this stuff thinking they’re providing the best for their dog. Sort of like certain people who are quick to jump on a name-brand player at a premium price in their fantasy draft, thinking they are providing the best for their team. But in Joe Mauer’s case, they’re not.

Mauer is the filet mignon dog food of the catcher pool. A nice roadkill possum like Mike Napoli may not be as appealing, but will get the job done at a much cheaper price.

First, let me start by saying I like Joe Mauer the person and player. He’s the kind of guy you want to build an MLB franchise around.

Mauer is easy going, likeable and efficient at the plate. He’s content playing for a smaller-market team despite the big lights and other temptations that a big city franchise would offer.

But from a fantasy standpoint, all the qualities that make him such a great MLB centerpiece also helps make him a household name. The likeability turns into hype, and the hype drives fantasy draft value through the roof.

This whole story idea was planted earlier this week when posting the top 20 composite catchers. A reader noticed a comment I made about Victor Martinez being my top fantasy catcher for this season.

His official comment: “You have Victor Martinez over Joe Mauer…lose a little respect there. Martinez is my No. 3, but I can understand having him No. 2. I don’t see him in Mauer’s area code.”

I would disagree by a good margin.

First, let’s look at what Joe Mauer is: He’s an elite option in the batting average category. The .327 last season may have been down in terms of his .365 in 2009, but 99 percent of all major league players would kill for a .327 average over the course of a season.

And those batting averages are no fluke. He’s made a career of hitting for average, at a near-historic pace when comparing him to others who are currently still playing.

What Mauer definitely is not is a speed threat. He did have one season with double-digit steals (13 in 2005), but hasn’t been able to accumulate even half of that over the past three seasons combined.

But what about power, you ask? He did hit 28 homers in 2009. You’d be correct.

Except, that was the only year he was an elite home run hitter. His next biggest number was 13 in 2006.

He hasn’t hit double-digit homers in any of the other five seasons he’s been in the majors thus far, including last season when he smacked nine.

In fact, 13 other catchers hit more homers than him last season. That’s only catchers, not overall hitters.

To look at it another way, I recently did an article on home run efficiency, looking at players and how many at-bats they average between homers in a season. The elite power guys hit in the teens (around 15 to 18 at-bats per home run). Average power guys hit in the low 20s to (at worst) mid-20s.

Mauer’s home run efficiency? A 38.2. And that’s not just last season, but his whole major league career, including the 28-dinger 2009 campaign.

In his six full MLB seasons, Mauer has averaged 497.5 at-bats. At that many at-bats, factoring in his 38.2 career average, he’ll hit a generous 13 homers in 2011.

And, like I said, that factors in the 28 long balls he hit in 2009...which I probably should point out was a contract season. Just saying.

Last year, even if he had hit the 13 homers, there still would have been 10 catchers who fared better in round-trippers. All of them, I should add, you can get later (some much later) in fantasy drafts this spring.

Mauer did finish the 2010 season with 75 RBI, making him the third best catcher in that category behind Victor Martinez and Brian McCann, and just a handful ahead of guys like Kurt Suzuki, Mike Napoli, Buster Posey and John Buck.

It should be noted, however, that all four of them produced their RBI total with fewer at-bats in 2010...Posey and Buck with more than 100 at-bats less than Mauer, in fact.

So, it is very much conceivable that Mauer may fall out of the top 5 among catchers in 2011 if the others are able to stay healthy.

Runs scored, however, is a category that Mauer does well in each season. Last year, he scored 88 runs…the next highest was Victor Martinez with 64.

So, out of five categories, Mauer will give you an advantage over other catchers in two (average and runs scored). Not exactly a feat for which I’d want to pay top dollar.

In fact, ESPN has him ranked 30th among all players, meaning he’d be taken in the late third, early fourth round at that position.

His ADP is even more asinine. At last check, it was right around 20th, meaning a late second round, early third.

Meanwhile, Victor Martinez, who has hit better than .300 the past two seasons himself and who gives you significantly more homers and RBI, can be had a good round (if not more) later.

Other catchers, such as Mike Napoli, who had three times as many homers as Mauer in 2010 and four times as many steals during that time in 50 fewer at-bats, fall much later than Mauer.

Billy Butler, who was so adeptly compared Mauer to in a different post, is being picked in the seventh round. Butler hits more than .300, had nearly double the home runs that Mauer did in 2010, and easily had more RBI.

And Martin Prado, who also hits better than .300, hits more homers than Mauer and easily had more runs scored and steals than Mauer in 2010, is going, on average, in the sixth round.

Position scarcity, you scream? I could make a case that third base is more shallow than catcher this year in fantasy terms, and Prado was eligible at third base the last time I looked.

Again, I’m not trying to knock Mauer the player or Mauer the person. I’m just suggesting that Mauer the fantasy commodity is very much overpriced this year, and you’d be wise to pass over him unless he somehow fell several rounds later at best.

Oh, and did I mention he is coming off offseason knee surgery? He hasn’t had any setbacks of note, but you should still keep that in the back of your mind.

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Want to read more chinstrapninja fantasy baseball content? We just updated our 2011 fantasy baseball index.

My early rankings include: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

My positional sleepers/value players are: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

And don't miss our newest features, including everything you'll ever need to know about BABIP, a discussion on home run efficiency and how it can help you find sleepers and busts, a dozen prospects you need to watch this season and recent player updates.