This post is the latest in Ryan’s fantasy baseball position primer series. To his primers for all other positions, click here.
Catcher Stock Watch
Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
Avila burst onto the scene last season to form the best catching tandem in the majors with Victor Martinez. His role in the Tigers offense will expand after V-Mart’s recent ACL tear.
Now with the addition of Prince Fielder, you have to like most players in the Tigers’ offense. The rising star will be asked to continue his power output from last season, in which he hit 19 home runs.
While Avila may be looked at as a potential one year wonder candidate, his patience at the plate and the fact that he will become a key cog in the Tigers offense should give you the confidence to draft Avila as an upper tier catcher.
Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks
I listed Montero as a potential sleeper last season and he broke out after a down year filled with injuries.
Montero should continue his rise due to a couple of key stats. The D’backs backstop saw his strikeout and flyball rate fall last season as well as an increase in the number of line drives that came off his bat. These are encouraging sign for a catcher who has the potential to hit twenty home runs in desert this year.
Do not be afraid to draft Montero as one of the top 5 catchers this season.
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Use this as your reminder to not draft Martinez this season as he tore his ACL and will miss this season.
Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
With 17 homers and 54 RBIs out of the catcher’s spot, Soto seems to put up good numbers. However, those numbers represent a decline in productivity for the former Rookie of the Year.
In 2010, a season in which Soto missed 20 more games than last season, he put up the same number of homers and only one fewer RBI. Potential owners should also beware his plate discipline, as his strikeout rate went up significantly while his walk rate was nearly cut in half last season.
Two Big Questions at Catcher
1. Will Joe Mauer recover after an injury-plagued season?
Mauer’s weak legs cost him nearly half a season last year. Additionally, when he was playing, it was not really a fantasy owner’s dream anyway.
Mauer had a career low three home runs and .287 average. The Twins’ high price backstop has never been known for his power, but the average was too much for owners to handle.
However, Mauer is too talented to envision another season like the one he stumbled upon last year. Draft him like a Top 5 Catcher.
2. Who should be the top catcher taken in the draft?
Judging from last year, Mike Napoli would be the top candidate, but I cannot put him above Brian McCann, who consistently puts up top numbers for catchers.
Napoli is 30 years old and coming off a career year, while McCann is still only 28. Napoli is a career .264 hitter with a lot of power, who managed to hit .320 last season. I am very skeptical. McCann will put up a dependable 20 home runs every season and have his average fall in around .280.
Do not be too quick to jump on the Napoli bandwagon, instead go for McCann’s consistency.
This Year’s Top Sleeper at Catcher
Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
Clearly, the Reds are serious about their top catching prospect, as they traded away the solid yet underappreciated Ramon Hernandez to the Rockies this offseason. There is a lot to like about Mesoraco, who had 15 homers and 71 RBIs at AAA Louisville last season.
Mesoraco has the opportunity to become one of the elite catchers this season, but, like all rookies, its still a risky pick. Put him into your middle tier catchers, but do not be afraid to pull the trigger.
When it comes to a position like catcher, there is an extreme lack of depth to the position. Now that Victor Martinez will miss the entire season, that lack of depth just becomes intensified.
There are several good young catchers who are not considered to be the elite category, such as Wilson Ramos, J.P. Arencibia, and the previously mentioned Mesoraco. However, the wisest option is to get the production of someone like a McCann or Buster Posey early.
If you fail to get a truly elite catcher, then do not be afraid to wait and take a backstop with upside or one of the many undervalued catchers, such as Kurt Suzuki, who will put up solid but not spectacular numbers.