h2h Corner ~ 2010 Catcher Rankings

Catchers are just so blech. Unless you are trotting Joe Mauer out there, they can be the millstone around a fantasy team’s neck. They get injured, they miss games; in deep leagues, you typically just want someone who doesn’t kill your batting average. That said, thanks for stopping by to check out my catcher evaluation. For full rankings, check here.

As noted, Joe Mauer is the consensus number one catcher. The question, however, is where he should be drafted. To me, Mauer is the 19th best hitter; to others, who plan to take him in the first round, this is blasphemy. What’s not to like in a 94 run, 28 HR, 96 RBI and .365 AVE season, you ask? Well, let me give you another number: 131. That’s the number of games Mauer has averaged over the last three seasons. In the first few rounds you should be getting someone who consistently plays 160-game seasons. Missing thirty games is a lot – it’s more than an entire month’s production.

I’m also not banking on Mauer to hit 30 HRs this year. Could it happen? Sure, he clearly has the physical tools and he’s just now entering his prime. Still, he has averaged only 13 HRs per full season in his career and never showed a ton of pop in the minors (just nine HRs in 1,073 ABs). All of that is not to say that he isn’t great and likely one of the best players in the game. Personally, I’d prefer my first two picks to play a full season and dominate in HRs or SBs at least – not just average.

The next best catcher is Pablo Sandoval (while/if he retains eligibility). If Panda is a catcher in your league, you better play him at that spot. Sandoval can push Mauer for average and will possibly out-homer him. It will be harder for him to match Mauer in runs though, given his lineup, ballpark and fast food tendencies. That is why Mauer gets the nod over him.

Once these two guys are off the board, I’d advise you to wait and grab a catcher later in drafts. For example, someone like Miguel Montero could outperform his draft position, which I’m guessing is somewhere in the 17th – 22nd round. Montero hit .294 last year with 16 HRs, while posting a .355 OBP. He did most of his damage in the second half (.316 AVE, .366 OBP and 11 HRs), which suggests one of two things: he finally matured as a ballplayer at age 25, or he had a flukey second half in the warm desert. Though his numbers from last season provide a small sample size, he does have 1,889 minor league at bats to parse. In those at bats, Montero posted a .291/.360 AVE/OBP and swatted 62 HRs. I’m not saying Montero is the bee’s knees or anything, but he’ll be a serviceable backstop that you can wait on. As a point of comparison, I think his numbers should be comparable to Brian McCann (.281 AVE, .349 OBP and 21 HRs last season). Not bad value that late in the draft.

There is also Geovany Soto, who some blame the World Baseball Classic for screwing up his timing/swing/their fantasy season. Until 2007, Soto’s minor league numbers never suggested that he would have much of a bat in the majors. In 2007, however, Soto hit .353, posted a .424 OBP and swatted 26 HRs in 110 minor league games. He followed that with his great 2008 season in the show. Nevertheless, his bat and health were horrible last year, leading to his production being essentially halved across the board while his average dropped to .218. Still, it is hard to ignore the success he experienced from 2007 – 2008. He is definitely worth a flier in the later rounds. He could be a very productive player – and if not, it’s no big deal, just grab one of the Molinas.

Ryan Doumit was a top ranked catcher going into last year, though the people making those rankings apparently forgot about his injury history (he has never played more than 116 games in a season). Still, at 29 he remains in his peak. If you are looking for a late round flier for your backstop, you could do worse. When he is healthy, he will hit HRs, as his 162-game average since 2008 (22 HRs) clearly shows. Before you get the urge to draft a Bengie Molina take a chance on Ryan Doumit.

SLEEPER CANDIDATE

People love sleepers; they love grabbing the guy late who outperforms everyone. To help you look smart to all your friends, I’m highlighting at least on sleeper candidate per position.

I know I’m cheating by saying Matt Wieters. That’s okay. Wieters will be a phenom and I think this year will be his foundation. Here are some known facts: Wieters was 23 last year, he hit nine HRs, he batted .288, he posted a .340 OBP, and he is super neat. Here are some soon-to-be known facts: in 2010, he will hit 20 HRs, score 70+ runs, knock in 90 and bat .300, while posting a .350 OBP.

In the second half of 2009, Wieters found his stroke. He hit .301, posted a .351 OBP, and hit six HRs. In 578 minor league at bats, Wieters hit .343, posted a .438 OBP and hit 32 HRs. I think 2010 will be a decent-sized break-out year for Wieters. Then watch-out for 2011. If you can take him around the 17th round, that’s a great upside pick – even more so if you are in a keeper league.

Still, you probably want a true sleeper, am I right? How about Chris Iannetta? I like numbers, so I’ll throw some at you: .264 AVE, .390 OBP and 18 HRs in 104 games/333 ABs vs. .303 AVE and .409 OBP in 979 ABs. The first set of stats is Iannetta’s 2008 season and the second set is his minor league numbers. If you look at his average alone, Iannetta had a pretty bad season last year (.228). However his OBP (.344), while lower than normal (career: .361), wasn’t criminal for a catcher. Furthermore, he managed to hit 16 HRs. His average and OBP should be higher next year, which should lead to more runs, HRs, and RBIs. It wouldn’t be a shock if Iannetta (who turns 27 in April) approaches 20 HRs. For someone who will likely be an afterthought in some drafts, that’s not bad upside. Don’t be worried about Miguel Olivo, he really isn’t any good.

If you want other columns, please let me know. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner)/Facebook pages.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Big Mike on February 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Albert, do 3B next. It’s pretty shallow out there and I’m looking for bargains (specifically, does Chipper has a rebound left in his swan song season?)

    Reply

  2. Posted by Albert Lang on February 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

    I was going to do shortstops, but i can hold off the Derek Jeter love for one more day.

    Quick preview on Chipper: i have him as the 12th best third basemen for the upcoming year. He’ll provide a decent average, but for that to be important he has to play a significant number of games, which might not happen. He’s great depth, but i wouldnt be comfortable starting him.

    I also dont see why third base is all that shallow. Sandoval, Reynolds, Figgins, Zimmerman Aramis Ramirez all provide good depth. For info on those guys: http://www.fantasybaseball101.com/2010/02/12/h2h-corner-2010-hitter-rankings/

    thanks for reading Big Mike!

    Reply

  3. Posted by Albert Lang on February 16, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Hey Mike- third basemen ranks are up as the top story!

    Reply

  4. […] who the best prospect entering the season is never a slam dunk. Look at 2009, when Matt Wieters and David Price contended for that honor before Opening Day. This year is no different; the debate […]

    Reply

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