Posted by FlyAtTheThigh | 1/23/2009 01:19:00 PM | Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Geovany Soto, Joe Mauer, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Mike Napoli, Minnesota Twins, Russell Martin, Victor Martinez
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Catcher has always been a valuable fantasy position as it's one of the hardest position to get offense from. Even worse, catchers tend to only play 4 out of every 5 days making it an iffy position to draft early. This means you have to find the perfect balance between taking one way too early or waiting too long and ending up with Ramon Hernandez. I've listed my top 5 catchers as well as a guy that I think can be had late and still provide above average offense. Enjoy.
1) Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves - 2008 - .301/.374/.523; 23 HR, 87 RBI, 68 R, 57:64 BB:K, 5 SB
McCann experienced a major bump in his plate discipline between the 2007 and 2008 seasons, adding 22 walks while cutting out 10 Ks. He dropped his swing percentage on balls outside of the strike zone from 27.4% to 24.7%. He plays in a bad, bad lineup which features a third baseman who cannot stay healthy and a line drive hitting first baseman around him, which could affect his run and RBI totals but positively affect his OBP as pitchers pitch around him. If bumped to third in the lineup to hit in front of Chipper Jones whenever he's healthy, could have huge numbers across the board as pitchers become forced to pitch to him. Regardless, he should be the first catcher taken, but the difference between him and the other top catchers is no longer vast due to his lineup.
2) Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs - 2008 - .285/.364/.504; 23 HR, 86 RBI, 66 R, 62:121 BB:K, 0 SB
I had trouble with this ranking as his peripherals (those strikeouts are huge) scare me. Those who watched him last year saw him look amazing at the plate at some points, look abyssmal at others. Unlike most Cubs, he did not have a major difference between home and road OPS (878 to 858). He did suffer a bit of a second half drop off in OPS, though (891 to 827). He has trouble making contact, even on strikes, only making contact on 75% of his swings, 83.4% on strikes. Those numbers from last year, though, may be too good to pass up. Seems a safe pick to hit you 18-20 HRs and any improvement in his contact rates could lead to a MVP-caliber season.
3) Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins - 2008 - .328/.413/.451; 9 HR, 85 RBI, 98 R, 84:50 BB:K, 1 SB
Mauer is the premier OBP catcher in MLB. He has never in his major league career swung at over 20% of the pitches he sees that are outside of the strike zone. Hitting in front of Justin Morneau leads to Mauer seeing a lot of strikes as well as being involved in several situations that allow him to score runs. Don't expect to get much in the way of HRs or XBH from Mauer, but of all the catchers that I will list here, Mauer is by far the safest pick.
4) Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians - 2008 - .278/.337/.365; 2 HR, 35 RBI, 30 R, 24:32 BB:K, 0 SB
I know, I know. Everybody reading this just stopped taking me seriously. We have to get past the incredibly disappointing 2008 season, though, and move on to evaluating the player. Martinez stunk on ice last year before going down with an elbow injury. Post-surgery, however, Martinez put up slash stats at .279/.351/.456. Martinez began to chase a lot of balls last year, seeing his outside-the-zone swing percentage increase from 23.8% to 27.3%. He also saw less fastballs last year than he had the year before (53.8% fastballs in 08, down from 56.3). This leads to one very important question: was his chasing pitches indicative of him pressing and, as such, causing pitchers to throw him more breaking pitches or did pitchers find a major hole in Martinez's swing and start to throw him more breaking pitches in key situations, knowing he'd chase? If the former is the answer, expect a good season out of Martinez this year. If the latter...oops.
5) Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers - 2008 - .280/.385/.396; 13 HR, 69 RBI, 87 R, 90:83 BB:K, 18 SB
Martin gets a lot of his value from his stolen base numbers. However, he combines Mauer's power numbers with Martinez's batting average...which is fairly weak. Martin will play every day which is nice for the first half of the season when you're getting an extra game out of your no. 1 catcher (huge in head to head leagues), but it is going to be a major problem in the second half. Martin saw his numbers fall off in the second half of 2008, his OPS plummeting from 830 to 708. Manny Ramirez's presence in the lineup didn't appear to do him any favors, but fatigue seems to be the number one concern. In fact, if Manny were to resign with LA, I'd expect Martin to have an excellent first half before falling off. He may be a player that you take with the expectation of trading in July for two players. Martin had a major power drop off from 2007 to 2008, losing 16 XBH.
Late Draft Pick - Mike Napoli, Los Angeles Angels - 2008 - .273/.374/.586; 20 HR, 49 RBI, 39 R, 7 steals
Those numbers are pretty stellar...and then you consider they were only in 227 ABs! Napoli is a guy that not a lot of casual players know about. He was largely lost in last year's Los Angeles offense, not getting the same sort of national publicity as Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Teixeira, or Torii Hunter. Playing on the West Coast did him no favors, either. The contact rates are worst than even Soto's (72.8% contact rate, 78.5% on balls in the zone) so you can expect a bit of an average drop. The power is there, though: Napoli hit 29 HRs one year in High A ball and 31 another year in AA. You can go far with a catcher who hits you 25 HRs, even if he's only hitting .260. It will be interesting to see whether Teixeira's abscence will lead to Napoli being put in more run producing situations in the 2009 season.