Oh, the catcher position. It is one of the toughest positions to plan and draft for. You could draft Yadier Molina, and he might very well finish outside the top 10 this season. Look at none other than Mike Napoli, drafted as a top-three catcher last season, who finished 13th on ESPN’s player rater at the end of 2012. The top 10 as a whole is just littered with question marks. So, how should you plan for such an erratic position?
My first fantasy baseball draft tip: Buster Posey maybe the one and only catcher to take. However, his pre-draft ranking is in the mid teens! Though he is coming off a career high in every counting category, he has the pedigree to continue putting up these stats. He’s also good enough to be your primary first baseman if you want to go that route. Nevertheless, it’s hard to say who will get injured and who won’t. Any position in baseball that reminds me of hockey probably means they have a higher degree of difficulty for staying healthy the entire season.
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For instance …
What you have to pay to get Posey turns me off on taking him. If he somehow fell to the end of the second round or possibly top of the third, I think there is clear value in grabbing him, but that’s not likely to happen. What’s left at catcher when Posey is gone? A catcher who has never lived up to his potential, a catcher who has chronically tired legs, or a 34-year-old catcher coming off a season-long injury. After Posey, the top seven or so don’t really scream: “Take me!” Instead, let’s jump to catchers ranked in the bottom 12 to see if there’s any value there.
Wilin Rosario — This guy is pure power, baby. He cranked out 28 home runs last season in 426 plate appearances. Being drafted ninth last season, he finished sixth overall on the player rater. The big drawback to Rosario is he has Ramon Hernandez backing him up. Hernandez is not a young buck, and his ability to remain healthy is a huge question mark. Fantasy baseball draft tip: Even with Hernandez there, I still think Rosario still gets close to 500 plate appearances, and if so, he has the ability to be a top-five catcher for a third of the price.
Salvador Perez — This is a guy many have had their eyes on, waiting for the breakout performance that propels him to a top-tier catcher. He has the pedigree, but so far, he is really lacking in the counting numbers. Would I be surprised if he hit .320, 20 home runs, 90 RBIs and 65 runs? No, but in the same breathe he could finish 18th on the player rater for catchers like last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised. Fantasy baseball draft tip: If you wait to take Perez, he might be one of the guys that leads you to the championship.
Jesus Montero — Now this guy really interests me. If you have not heard, the walls were moved in a bit a Safeco Field. With the Yankees, Montero displayed amazing power with a .262 ISO, 34.1 FB% and a 26.7 FB/HR%. A year later he gets shipped to the hitters graveyard known as Safeco. In a full season with 553 at-bats, his ISO drops to .126, his FB% remains fairly consistent at 32.9, but his FB/HR% really drops off to 10.8%. Was this a player just adjusting or did Safeco claim another victim?
As you can see from the chart above, Montero clearly struggled when playing in Safeco. Now we come to this season. If Montero’s FB% remains consistent, it is conceivable that his FB/HR% will go up now that the fence is shorter? Montero finished 12th on the player rater last season. If he improves on his numbers, he has the ability to be a top-seven catcher. Fantasy baseball draft tip: I like him going forward and think he is a buy-low in keeper leagues.
The catcher position in fantasy reminds me of picking a defense in fantasy football. There are only a couple teams to reach for, and if you don’t get one of those elite defenses, you are fine ending up with Cincinnati’s defense. If you don’t get Posey, you might as well wait for one of the bottom-tier catchers, and there are several others you could make a case for, as well.
My biggest fantasy baseball draft tip: Blow your money or high draft picks elsewhere and wait around for one of these guys to fall in your lap. During your draft, remain calm and don’t go into “Oh shit, I don’t have a catcher!” mode. Do you seriously want to worry about Joe Mauer’s chronic leg condition all year or be underwhelmed by Carlos Santana’s poor batting average? Roll the dice on this position and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, there is always A.J. Pierzynski to pick up.