2011 Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings- Catcher
The 2011 fantasy baseball season is almost upon us, so it is time for my annual ranking of players for your draft. Some of you may have already had your draft. If so, I hope you didn’t wind up with Chase Utley or the newly-renamed Kendrys Morales. For those of you who are in leagues smart enough to wait until the last moment, these rankings are for you.
The format for these rankings is simple- I will use a 16-team, mixed league, model, and incorporate my personal tier strategy of acquiring players. I am an auction player, which influences the following strategy. The way my strategy works is as follows:
- In a 16-team league, you will need 32 total catchers- 16 starters, 16 backups.
- Split the first 16 catchers into two tiers, 1-8 and 9-16. This gives you an upper and lower group of starting catchers. Do the same for the backups.
- Decide how much auction cash you are willing to budget to fill this position.
- The higher in the starting catching tier you go, the more it will cost you. In order to stay on any kind of a budget, this means that you will have to go lower into the backup tier to fill out this spot. If you spend big on Joe Mauer, be ready to stick with a $1 backup.
- The lower you go in the starting tier, the better your backup should be. Say you wind up with someone like John Jaso as your top guy, that will save you some money. Just be ready to spend the extra dollar of two to get a backup catcher like, say, Chris Snyder.
Starting catchers should help you in at least three categories. It doesn’t matter which three, so long as they are contributing. Backups catchers should either help you in one category or just not hurt you in any.
That’s the outline for the catching position- now on to the rankings…
Top Tier Starters (1-8) If you get one of these guys, you get yourself a bit of a cushion that will allow you to play a one-category specialist if you need to.
- Victor Martinez (.308, 23 HR, 102 RBI, 85 Runs, 0 SB)
V-Mart gets the nod over Joe Mauer for the top spot for one simple reason- he will not be the full-time catcher in Detroit. Martinez will get plenty of AB’s at first base and DH, as Jim Leyland has said he wants to save him from the wear and tear of donning the tools of ignorance every day. Extra at-bats for a guy who is an excellent hitter and qualifies behind the plate? Sign me up! (Martinez also qualifies at 1B but, if you get him as a first baseman, you’ve already screwed the pooch for your fantasy team…)
- Joe Mauer (.328, 9 HR, 95 RBI, 91 Runs, 7 SB)
His power spike from a few years ago was a fluke, and the new Target Field in Minny isn’t going to help Mauer’s power, either. But Joe Mauer could hit .320 in his sleep, and those wide-open gaps in the outfield are perfect for his sweet swing. He will get plenty of at-bats, but know that he will miss a few games with some sort of an injury- he always does.
- Brian McCann (.287, 26 HR, 92 RBI, 81 Runs, 2 SB)
If only they had the DH in the National League. If so, McCann might get my top spot at catcher. As it is, he will still give you tons of production, even though he will sit the obligatory number of games that all good NL catchers do.
- Buster Posey (.306, 16 HR, 94 RBI, 84 Runs, 8 SB)
What you saw last year wasn’t a mirage- Buster can flat out rake. The power he showed was a bit misleading, but the average and line-drive stroke wasn’t. Another good thing about Posey is he’s young, which will help him hold up better behind the plate. Think of Buster as the NL’s Joe Mauer, trading a bit of batting average for a dash more power.
- Geovany Soto (.278, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 74 Runs, 0 SB)
Soto came back from a utterly worthless sophomore campaign to show us he could still reach the Wrigley seats last season. His bat is legit, but catching in all those hot summer Chicago days takes its toll. Expect Soto to sit a bit more than your usual top-flight backstop, but he will still produce quite well when he plays.
- Kurt Suzuki (.288, 14 HR, 81 RBI, 78 Runs, 10 SB)
Suzuki gets this spot for one big reason- he will get a tremendous number of at-bats for a catcher. While I doubt this will do a lot of good for his career longevity, it will help him pile up some solid counting stats. When his career ends prematurely at age 34 or so due to overwork, you can feel sorry for Suzuki. But when your putting together your fantasy team, there is no room for sympathy- work him as hard as Oakland does.
- Matt Wieters (.280, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 70 Runs, 4 SB)
We’ve been waiting for Mr. Wieters like some people waited for Gidot, and now our patience will be rewarded. This won’t be his big season, just the precursor. But you don’t want to miss this train, especially if you are in a keeper league. Take advantage of your fellow owners who are chasing the next big thing and grab this post-hype bargain on the cheap.
- Carlos Santana (.282, 16 HR, 72 RBI, 68 Runs, 3 SB)
Sweet swing, sweet name, sweet game- but beware, folks. Santana hit like the top prospect he is in his debut last year, but he got hurt before the book on him came out. Two warning signs move him down to this spot for me- 1) AL pitchers will publish that book around May, and 2) he hasn’t caught a full MLB season yet, so we don’t know how well he will handle the load. By all means get Carlos as a starter if you can at a decent price, but don’t overpay. There are other catchers who will give you what Santana does at a cheaper price.
Second Tier Starters- These guys will help your offense, but not carry it…
- Miguel Montero (.278, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 62 Runs, 3 SB)
Montero can swing the bat, and playing in the launching pad known as the BOB out in ‘Zona for half of his games sure doesn’t hurt. He is an injury risk, but so are almost all of these guys. If his D’Back teammates ever learn to take a walk, his RBI numbers will jump up to around 80…
- Jorge Posada (20 HR, 86 RBI, 71 Runs, 0 SB)
This will be the last year Posada qualifies at catcher, as he is DH-bound. Feast on his last season as a catcher, because Posada can still hit. That alone would be enough to stick him in your lineup at catcher, but when you throw in his hitting in the best lineup in the league and whacking away in the House Much Smaller than the One that Ruth Built, you get some sneaky good numbers from a DH disguised as a catcher.
- Chris Ianetta (.262, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 59 Runs, 2 SB)
Rockies manager Jim Tracy must have caught Ianetta in bed with his wife, for there is no other logical reason for the almost pathological distain he shows this guy. If Tracy would just swallow his pride and give Ianetta full-time started AB’s, these numbers will seem paltry. He’s got 30 HR pop- all he needs is a manager who isn’t an idiot.
- Yadier Molina (.287, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 55 Runs, 8 SB)
He is Yadier Molina, he has always been Yadier Molina, and he will always be Yadier Molina. His numbers won’t knock you out, but you will always get them, and there is value in that sort of secure, decent, production.
- Carlos Ruiz (.268, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 55 Runs, 2 SB)
I’m going conservative on his RBI/Run totals, with Jayson Werth gone and Chase Utley hobbling. But Ruiz will give you some pop without totally torpedoing your batting average.
- Russell Martin (.274, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 57 Runs, 5 SB)
The Yanks didn’t pony up some serious money to sit Martin on the pine. Getting out of the sweatshop that was L.A. and into the hitting heaven that is Yankee Stadium will at least partly rejuvenate his bat- just be sure to spend the extra dollar to back him up with Jesus Montero…
- John Buck (.247, 18 HR, 54 RBI, 49 Runs, 0 SB)
Buck should have “Big” as his middle name, as he cashed in on a free agent bonanza based on last year’s numbers. Those numbers will regress- he’s not a .280 hitter (his OBP was only .314 with that .281 batting average, and the .314 was a career high), Toronto was a home run paradise, and he’s on the wrong side of 30. Buck will smack some dingers in his new Florida digs, but don’t pay for 2010 version of Buck.
- John Jaso (.265, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 60 Runs, 5 SB)
If you absolutely love Yadier Molina and can’t get him, snag the poor man’s version in Jaso. There are some things to like about this guy- he has upside, and he’s got a good eye at the plate, which will get him on base at a decent rate and lead to a fairly good amount of runs scored in the Tampa Bay offense. You could do worse behind the plate than Jaso, and he shouldn’t cost much.
Top Tier Backups– If you wind up with a second-tier starter, pairing him with one of these catchers is a must.
- Mike Napoli (.248, 20 HR, 58 RBI, 54 Runs, 2 SB)
I know I’m giving Napoli stats that are better than some second-tier starters, but there is a reason I have him in backup status. There is just too much uncertainty as to how much PT the guy will get. He won’t (and shouldn’t) catch, first base is already a logjam in Texas with Mitch Morland and Chris Davis there, and Michael Young is going to have to DH to be in the lineup. So where will Napoli play? He will pop 20 big flies in Texas if he gets 400 AB’s- he always hits 20 homers if her gets 400 AB’s. Napoli is a sneaky get at backup catcher, though- odds are someone will get hurt or collapse under the Texas sun, and he does qualify at both catcher and first base. Don’t go after him as a starter unless Texas etches in stone that he is in the lineup, but snatch him up as your backup if you can. He might just get lucky (as we did with those party pics of his mom- yowza!)
- J.P. Arencibia (.238, 22 HR, 54 RBI, 46 Runs, 0 SB)
He’s got power, and he hits in Toronto, where their batting training manual contains just one phrase- “Grip It ‘n Rip It!” He’ll top 20 boomers if he stays healthy, but his batting average makes him a backup…
- Miguel Olivo (.238, 16 HR, 48 RBI, 44 Runs, 4 SB)
He’s an older version of Arencibia. If you want experience, go with Olivo. If you want upside (and more risk), go with J.P.
- Ryan Doumit (.264, 13 HR, 58 RBI, 54 Runs, 3 SB)
Man, this guy is boring! We’re always waiting on him for something. We’re waiting for him to be the hitter he could be. We’re waiting for him to get injured (which will happen, trust me). We’re waiting for him to get traded. All the while, he chugs along with the same numbers every year. He’s a risky play, which is why I have him as a backup.
- Jesus Montero (.283, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 41 Runs, 0 SB)
Yes, those projected numbers are pretty weak, until you know that those projections are for the second half of this year. I seriously doubt Montero will see the bright lights of NYC until late June but, when he gets the call, he will hit. My advice? If you get Russell Martin as your starter, buy Montero as your backup, and find room on your roster for Francisco Cervilli to cover for Martin until Jesus is brought up.
- Chris Snyder (.238, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 47 Runs, 2 SB)
Another of your “double figure HR catchers who will toast your batting average” backup guys. He’s OK if you don’t have to stay with him in your lineup too long…
- Jerrod Saltalamacchia (.241, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 42 Runs, 0 SB)
I know a lot of people are jacked up about Salty going to Fenway, but I’m not. Guy didn’t hit like a starter in Texas, so I don’t see him doing it anywhere. But he’s a decent backup.
- A.J Pierzynski (.254, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 46 Runs, 2 SB)
As a backup, you can plug him in for a few weeks and he won’t hurt you too much, but his starting days in fantasy baseball are over.
Bottom Tier Backups- Well, you gotta get a second catcher from somewhere…might as well be one of these $1-$2 guys.
- Alex Avila (.262, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 44 Runs, 3 SB)
At least Avila has upside- he could go off much better than this. He is starting behind the dish in Detroit, so he will get AB’s. A real solid pickup if you smoke your budget on a top-tier starting catcher.
- Ryan Hanigan (.280, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 41 Runs, 4 SB)
If you have to play him, at least he won’t hurt your batting average…he’s better than Ramon Hernandez now. Just wish Cincy would see that.
- Josh Thole (.272, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 37 Runs, 4 SB)
If the Mets would just leave this guy alone, he would help their team and not hurt yours as your backup…
- Jonathon Lucroy (.258, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 38 Runs, 7 SB)
Meet John Jaso’s fantasy little brother. But he will add a handful of steals for a catcher…
- Nick Hundley (.237, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 37 Runs, 2 SB)
Here’s a guy who needs a change of scenery. Hundley’s best asset is his power- he’s got double-digit thump in his bat. Doesn’t do a lot of good when you play in PETCO Park, the Yosemite of MLB.
- Rod Barajas (.232, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 34 Runs, 1 SB)
Let me get this straight- the Dodgers spent north of $3 million for a 35-year old catcher whose only real asset is mediocre power that is fringy for their home stadium? Nice going, L.A.- why are their divorcing owners fighting over this team, anyway?
- Jason Castro (.251, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 55 Runs, 6 SB)
If you knew he was going to be the Astro’s #1 guy all year, he would move up a bit. He’s worth a flier this late.
- Hank Conger (.254, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 34 Runs, 3 SB)
The Angels of Somewhere in Southern California will eventually realize that Jeff Mathis couldn’t hit over .230 in a decent Little League, and give Conger the shot he deserves. He could pay off for you in spurts the second half of the season.
There you go- the catchers of 2011. Next up will be the big boppers who man first base. In the meantime, if you enjoy this, think about picking up my new ebook “Who Da Man? The Quintessential History of the NBA Draft 1947-2010”, now available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. It is a slot-by-slot breakdown or every player drafted by the NBA since 1947, with the best players ever to play in the pros cited and a featured player for each slot. There is also a ranking of every NBA draft from worst-to-best included. It’s only $7.99, which is the price of a fantasy baseball magazine, the equivalent of which I will post here for free through the week.