By Leelee Kryvoruchko. Send Leelee an e-mail here: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Joe Mauer, Twins
Joe Mauer disappointed many after his legendary 2009 season, but he remains the unanimous best option at catcher. His guaranteed .310+ BA and .400+ OBP puts Mauer in a league of his own. The only question is how early do you take him overall. There is minor concern of a repeat of last season since Mauer had knee surgery in the past month. Will Mauer return to his 28 HR pace in '09? I wouldn't bet on that level of power at Target Field, but Mauer is a solid option in the second round of your draft.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .329/.412/.502, 14 HR, 84 RBI, 80 Runs, 3 SB.
Victor Martinez, Tigers
Victor Martinez steps into an optimal position as the projected DH in the Tigers' already strong lineup. Martinez was among the best options as a slugging catcher, and this should put him over the top with the increased at-bats. Also, he projects to be in the middle of lineup unlike last season, so he should rack up RBIs driving Miggy and Magglio in. With less wear and tear, there should not be worry of Martinez repeating his dreadful 2008 performance.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .298/.369/.488, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 76 Runs, 1 SB.
Brian McCann, Braves
Brian McCann is a proven slugging stalwart at catcher. Since 2006, he is a guaranteed 20 HR, 80 RBI man. However, I have some concerns which place him below Martinez. McCann's strikeouts have significantly increased, and his backup David Ross has been too effective with the Braves to not receive more playing time. McCann's max is 140 games and Atlanta can survive without him. He also projects to lose his cleanup spot to the newly signed Dan Uggla.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .271/.371/.469, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 64 Runs, 4 SB.
Buster Posey, Giants
Buster Posey is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year on the World Champions, and his value is sky high. I do have some worry with Posey's lack of plate discipline; he walked only 30 times last season and that can lead to dreaded "sophomore slumps." He is also going to be an integral part of the Giants offense now, so expectations will be high. The main issue with Posey is the level of hype. It's likely that someone in your league is going to reach for him, so be prepared to take Posey in the first 3-4 rounds.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .284/.345/.470, 20 HR, 73 RBI, 62 Runs, 0 SB.
Carlos Santana, Indians
Carlos Santana impressed in his meager 46 games last season, with 6 HR and a .401 OBP, before a severe knee injury sidelined the youngster. Reports are that he has recovered fully, and I take that as an opportunity to draft a potentially elite slugging catcher at a great value. Santana is projected to be the cleanup hitter behind Shin-Soo Choo, so RBI opportunities should be plentiful. He also should give the rare, occasional steal at the catcher position. The only question is if you are prepared to gamble on this unproven, injury-prone Indian.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .270/.378/.484, 23 HR, 90 RBI, 84 Runs, 11 SB.
Mike Napoli, Rangers
Mike Napoli finally garnered full-time duty at catcher last season and did not disappoint fantasy-wise with his 26 HR. He earned a one-year deal with the Rangers where he should thrive in the friendly hitting confines in Arlington. There is always risk with Napoli, though. He doesn't hit for average, rarely walks and is very streaky. Also, Mike Scioscia specifically ran him out of Anaheim due to his poor defense. Assuming Napoli gets the vast majority of ABs over Yorvit Torrealba, he's the guy you may want in the middle rounds if you need home runs.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .252/.338/.484, 28 HR, 70 RBI, 60 Runs, 5 SB.
Geovany Soto, Cubs
Geovany Soto shocked the fantasy world in 2008 with his breakout season, disappointed all in 2009, and came back strong in 2010 before finally getting surgery on a shoulder that hampered him for years. It goes without saying, taking Soto is a risky roll of the die. Shoulder surgeries are bad news for catchers, and that is why I am more leery taking Geovany than most. Also, Soto has always been near the bottom of the lineup, and that does not appear to change under Mike Quade.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .274/.368/.474, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 53 Runs, 0 SB.
Kurt Suzuki, Athletics
Kurt Suzuki is coming off a disappointed 2010 campaign where he batted only .242. However, this may be deceiving. His BABIP was a lowly .245 which suggests he had terrible luck. I expect Suzuki to return to near .270 with his usual low-teen power and the rare stolen base. Don't expect an earth-shattering performance, but Suzuki is a solid late-round option in your draft that will likely be undervalued in your league.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .269/.330/.390, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 57 Runs, 6 SB.
Jorge Posada, Yankees
Jorge Posada is nearing 40 and showing no signs of wanting to quit. The question is if the Yankees feel the same after signing Russell Martin. Currently, it appears Posada is the projected DH and occasional catcher replacement for the Yankees, but that is hardly a stable position with the endless hitting options the Yankees have. Even after a significant decline last season, Posada is a fine option as a fantasy catcher assuming he plays. He's very risk/reward however, and I would prepare to take a solid backup option if you choose to select Posada.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .265/.362/.470, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 44 Runs, 0 SB.
Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
Miguel Montero has been oft injured, but when he plays he is a solid, poor man's slugging option at catcher compared to most of the elite, aforementioned names. If Montero can get through an entire season, he'll mindlessly hack up there and give you a HR every 10 games. He has zero plate discipline and will probably drive you batty. That being said, after Montero the pickings get very slim. So, if you want power from your catcher spot, you might have to reach a bit in the later rounds.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .269/.339/.444, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 49 Runs, 0 SB.
Matt Wieters, Orioles
Wieters was hyped to the moon after getting drafted in 2007 and tearing up the minors. After being promoted to the majors in 2009, he has yet to deliver. This did not surprise me whatsoever as Wieters had an extremely high BABIP in the minors over .370. If you're drafting Wieters, it is based purely on potential that I do not feel is warranted. You'll also need to take him far earlier than you should. Projections are all over for Wieters, and I'm near the bottom of them. Stay away...
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .261/.329/.403, 13 HR, 59 RBI, 47 Runs, 0 SB.
Chris Iannetta, Rockies
With the departure of Miguel Olivo, it appears Chris Iannetta has finally earned starting catching duties in Denver. Iannetta was hyped in fantasy circles after surpassing .400 OBP in the minors from 2004-2007, but due to a lack of playing time and poor performance, he has fallen out of favor to most pundits. We need to look at this closer, however. Iannetta's BABIP has been a remarkably low .245 and .212 in the last two seasons. The Major League BABIP average in 2010 was .297. This is an incredible run of bad luck. He is a professional hitter noted for great plate discipline and hitting to the open field. In many standard leagues, he may not even be drafted. I highly suggest drafting Iannetta while his value is so low.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .258/.359/.460, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 64 Runs, 0 SB.
Russell Martin, Yankees
Russell Martin's days of being an all-around fantasy stud who had 20/20 potential at the catcher position are likely over due to debilitating knee injuries, but getting most of the catching duties in New York may be enough to return him to fantasy glory. Just being in the Yankee lineup adds significant worth, and expect more home runs now that Martin is away from the cavernous NL West ballparks. As with all Yankee catchers this year, I'd suggest drafting a capable backup because their situation is very unstable at the position.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .264/.368/.403, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 50 Runs, 5 SB.
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox
A.J. Pierzynski may not be a sexy pick. He's never put up gaudy stats, and he's been slowly declining in recent years. However, there is value in having a catcher who will not drag the rest of your lineup down, and Pierzynski is a fine example of that. He has hit well for batting average throughout his season, even surpassing .300 a handful of times. He'll play 130 games like he does every year. If you're in a batting average league, Pierzynski is excellent value near the end of your draft.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .272/.306/.388, 10 HR, 54 RBI, 52 Runs, 1 SB.
Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Yadier Molina is a similar good value to have as your backup catcher. He won't kill you in average, and is worthy of a starting job in most OBP leagues. A caveat this year, however, is that the Cardinals signed Gerald Laird as their backup. Laird should steal some games against lefty starters, which damages Molina's greatest value - he plays a lot. Molina's counting stats have never been great, and now they go down even more, which is why I'm a bit lower on him than most.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .275/.340/.365, 6 HR, 50 RBI, 42 Runs, 4 SB.
John Buck, Marlins
John Buck is a lousy defensive catcher that Florida grossly overpaid (3 years, $18M). Buck is an intriguing fantasy option with his impressive slugging ability, however. He average a homer every eight games, or so. The question is, will Buck play more than his usual 115 games in Florida? Other than his power, he is not a good baseball player. This formula doesn't bode well for the spacious Marlins ballpark. Try picking up Buck off the waiver wire while he hits a hot streak. Other than that, stay away.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .248/.296/.422, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 40 Runs, 0 SB.
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
Carlos Ruiz will be a starting catcher in most leagues, but I am not sold on him. Ruiz had a remarkably fortunate 2010 with a .335 BABIP. I will bet my first born that he does not bat .300 again this season. Ruiz does not provide any upside otherwise. He has no power, he's stuck at the end of the Phillies' lineup, and Brian Schneider will get roughly a third of the catching starts. Let someone else draft Ruiz.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .262/.360/.388, 6 HR, 48 RBI, 44 Runs, 0 SB.
Ryan Doumit, Pirates
Ryan Doumit is a wildcard to take at catcher. The Pirates signed Chris Snyder who will likely take over much of the catching duties. Doumit is not a natural catcher, and has been ravaged with injury throughout his career. However, Doumit is a proven fine hitter. When he earned the cleanup spot for most of the 2008-09, he put up some nice stats. The question is how much he will play. I do not suggest drafting Doumit, but he is someone you should keep an eye on in waivers if an opportunity does arise.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: 88 games. .266/.330/.446, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 35 Runs, 2 SB.
John Jaso, Rays
John Jaso earned full-time status at catcher for the Rays in 2010, and was not a liability. Manager Joe Maddon had Jaso bat leadoff often which shows the team has confidence in him as a hitter. Jaso has a good eye at the plate and knows how to take a walk. In OBP leagues, Jaso is borderline starter value. In standard leagues, there's not much upside.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .260/.356/.380, 6 HR, 49 RBI, 58 Runs, 4 SB.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a very streaky hitter who tries to pull everything out of the yard. The only reason he's my 20th rated catcher is because he's the starter on a ridiculously loaded Red Sox lineup. His main weakness is average; Salty will go through terrible slumps and cost you enormously. In OBP leagues, this concern is lessened since he does draw a considerable amount of walks. Salty has good power, and his counting stats could be plentiful as long as he keeps his job.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .284/.345/.470, 20 HR, 73 RBI, 62 Runs, 0 SB.
J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays
J.P. Arencibia is probably most noted for his first career MLB game where he hit two homers and nearly achieved the cycle. He parlayed that into Toronto feeling comfortable letting John Buck and Miguel Olivo go, leaving only Arencibia and lowly defensive-oriented Jose Molina. Arencibia was a masher in minors, averaging 26 HR per season in AAA, at the tiny bandbox stadium in Las Vegas. That's what you're banking on with Arencibia.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .238/.300/.428, 19 HR, 55 RBI, 45 Runs, 0 SB.
Josh Thole, Mets
Josh Thole earned the majority of starts last season, and with Ronny Paulino having issues, that appears likely to continue. Thole has no power and is virtually useless in counting stats, but should provide a decent average.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .270/.345/.369, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 35 Runs, 2 SB.
Miguel Olivo, Mariners
Miguel Olivo is a mindless slugging catcher who will drive you nuts. Last season was an anomaly with his .346 BABIP, so fully expect his average to be pitiful once again. Olivo's value purely was due to his power and occasional stolen bag, and the move from Coors to Safeco is about as bad as it gets. Red flags galore, do not draft Olivo where he will go in most drafts.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .234/.278/.370, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 46 Runs, 6 SB.
Rod Barajas, Dodgers
Rod Barajas received a hefty one-year deal from the Dodgers, and projects to be their main catcher. Barajas is another slugging option who will kill your average.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .232/.279/.390, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 42 Runs, 0 SB.
Ryan Hanigan, Reds
Ryan Hanigan projects to be the Reds' backup catcher behind Ramon Hernandez, but he may well be the better player. Hanigan is definitely the better hitter; his walk rate is very good for a catcher, and his average is a plus. If Hanigan can find a way to play most of the time, he's a worthwhile pickup, especially in OBP leagues.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: 92 games. .285/.374/.388, 8 HR, 40 RBI, 38 Runs, 0 SB.
Ramon Hernandez, Reds
Ramon Hernandez had a fine 2010, but I question the validity of it. His BABIP was .332, and he cooled off significantly after a hot start. Hernandez brings more power to the plate, but he is also a defensive liability. The problem with the Reds' catchers is that it's hard to determine who will play. If one stands out, then the winner will be worthy of top 20 value.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .268/.333/.389, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 35 Runs, 0 SB.
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers
Yorvit Torrealba is the backup behind Mike Napoli, but Napoli is not a player one can bank on. If Torrealba does somehow manage to get playing time, he's a decent offensive catcher. Drafting Torrealba as a handcuff may be a wise decision with the defensive liabilities of Napoli.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: 75 games. .270/.335/.412, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 25 Runs, 1 SB.
Nick Hundley, Padres
Nick Hundley is the main catcher in San Diego, and should get plenty of at-bats. Other than meager power in the double-digit range, he's not good.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .243/.303/.389, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 37 Runs, 3 SB.
Alex Avila, Tigers
Alex Avila projects to get most of the catching duties, while Victor Martinez spends most of his time at DH. This is not a lock, so be wary. If Avila plays, he is not a horrible option as he does provide some pop with his bat and gets on base respectably.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .238/.326/.380, 9 HR, 45 RBI, 38 Runs, 3 SB.
Ivan Rodriguez, Nationals
Pudge is still in the league, and Jim Riggleman insists that he's their starting catcher. Other than a passable average, Rodriguez does not provide much in fantasy, with the distinct possibility that he'll be replaced soon.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .260/.285/.346, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 40 Runs, 3 SB.
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
Jonathan Lucroy projects to be the Brewers' starter at catcher and there are only former Yankee scrubs behind him, so he looks safe. Lucroy isn't much of a fantasy option, but if you're in a deep league and need someone to play, here you go.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .255/.319/.350, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 35 Runs, 5 SB.
Jason Kendall, Royals
Jason Kendall is hoping to return from offseason shoulder surgery. With his days of hitting for average seemingly long behind him, the only value with Kendall is his rare stolen base potential from the catcher spot. If Kendall isn't ready for the season, Brayan Pena projects to be the starter. He is also not a draftable fantasy option.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .254/.320/.310, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 30 Runs, 8 SB.
Humberto Quintero, Astros
Projected Astros starter Jason Castro went down with a torn ACL and being a crappy singer on American Idol. That leaves Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles as Houston's backstops. Unless the Astros make a trade, ignore their catchers.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .238/.272/.339, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 25 Runs, 0 SB.
Jeff Mathis, Angels
Jeff Mathis is the Angels' starting catcher. He is atrocious offensively. Mike Scioscia ran Mike Napoli out of town after benching him constantly, so Scioscia likes his baseball players to be gritty and crappy, I guess. Hank Conger would be the best offensive catching option for the Angels, but you don't want any of these guys.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .203/.250/.300, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 33 Runs, 5 SB.