The catcher position looks fairly top-heavy this year in fantasy baseball. You have a young group on their way up and a few prominent catchers that look to be transitioning into a designated-hitter role. I ranked the top 20 catchers and added some sleepers and busts to help you in your draft.
My rankings are based on a standard 5×5 league. If you have any specific questions about a different league, email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins – This was the easiest pick. He is the overall best player at this position and can’t argue against it. He will be taken in the first-round of your draft.
2. Brian McCann – Atlanta Braves – Some people are a bit cold on McCann this year, but I have owned him the last three years in my NL-only league and he hasn’t hurt me. There are some durability issues, but I think he has a great year.
3. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants – He showed what he can do in the playoffs last year and his stock is high. You might have to take him rather early to own him, but if you’re in a keeper league, he could be worth holding onto.
4. Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians – His season was cut short due to a nasty injury at homeplate last year. He was the best prospect in the Indians farm system and excelled during his short time in the Majors. He will have a solid year and worth an every day start in your league.
5. Geovany Soto – Chicago Cubs – He has been up and down since he was promoted to the Majors. He bounced back and had a good year last season and I feel like he will improve on those numbers in 2011.
6. Victor Martinez – Detroit Tigers – ESPN has him at #2 in his rankings, but I fear that the move from Fenway Park to Comerica Park will hurt his numbers. He isn’t surrounded with the same kind of talent as Boston. I would worry about taken him as the #2 catcher off the board, but feel like he is still a smart option at catcher.
7. Matt Wieters – Baltimore Orioles – Is this the year that Wieters finally puts it all together in the Majors? He was the best prospect in the minors a few seasons ago, but it hasn’t translated to dominance yet. The Orioles line-up is much better and he has more protection around him. I think this is the year he becomes an All-Star candidate.
8. Miguel Montero – Arizona Diamondbacks – He missed a few months last season with a knee injury, but came back strong to finish the year. You could draft him later than some of the catchers below him in my rankings. He will give you solid power and .270-.280 batting average.
9. Mike Napoli – Texas Rangers – He won’t be an everyday catcher for the Rangers, but he will find his way into the lineup. He will be moved around and play catcher, first-base, outfield, and maybe DH. It’s scary to think about what kind of numbers he could have hitting in the small park in Arlington. He could have a career year without even getting 400 at-bats.
10. J.P. Arencibia – Toronto Blue Jays – He isn’t a household name yet, but he put up great power numbers in the minors. The Blue Jays seem sold on him and I think he could be a steal of the draft if you get him late.
11. Kurt Suzuki – Oakland A’s – He had a great first-half of the 2010 season, but dealt with an injury the second half and only his .223. He is a safety pick if you reach and go after a risky catcher. He will give you double-digit power and his batting average won’t kill you.
12. Jorge Posada – New York Yankees – Is this the last year for Posada to be fantasy relevant? He can still rake at the plate, so he will get most of his time as the DH. He will still log some time behind the plate, but his defensive liability will keep that from happening much. He is s risky pick, but could be a nice value pick of other players in your league is scared off by his age.
13. Chris Iannetta – Colorado Rockies – Iannetta is a streaky player and difficult to rank. He even landed in the minors for a bit to work on his mechanics. The guy has power, but only hit .197 last season. He has the starting job in Colorado, but I wouldn’t say that he has a complete stranglehold on the position. This is a risky pick, but I think he will hit 20+ homers this season.
14. Carlos Ruiz – Philadelphia Phillies – He is a very under-rated catcher that doesn’t get much love from fantasy baseball players. He is kind of a one-trick pony with his batting average. The rest of his stats won’t help you much, but won’t hurt you either. If you draft a power hitter that struggles with batting average (Ryan Howard, Carlos Pena), you may want to pick up Ruiz to help balance out your batting average damage.
15. Nick Hundley – San Diego Padres – In only 273 plate appearances last season, he hit 8 homers and batted .249. He had a K/BB ratio of 66/25, which means that he has a decent eye at the plate. In a full season, expect 18 homers, 80 RBIs, and a better batting average than .249.
16. John Buck – Florida Marlins – Don’t expect the same production out of Buck this season as last year in Toronto. He was swinging for the fences every time he was up at the plate in 2010. I’m hoping that the Marlins hitting coach will adjust a few things and make him become more of a complete hitter. He struck out 111 times in 409 plate appearances, but still amazingly hit .281. He’s a risky pick, but could be a decent back-up catcher on your team.
17. Rod Barajas – Los Angeles Dodgers – He should benefit for playing a full season with one team. He joined the Dodgers mid-season from the Mets. He will give you some power, but average stats in the other categories. He won’t hurt you in any of the other categories.
18. A.J. Pierzynski – Chicago White Sox – He isn’t a guy that you should circle before a draft. He is a catcher that you will end up with at the end of your draft if you still need a backup catcher. He will hit 8 or 9 homers, hit .270, and drive in 50 RBIs. You know what you’re getting with Pierzynski, you won’t get any more or any less.
19. Miguel Olivo – Seattle Mariners – His home/away splits last season with Colorado has a gap as big as Bartolo Colon. It’s a big red flag coming into the 2011 season, since Safeco Field isn’t Coors Field. This is a risky pick, but he’ll add a handful of steals to your team, if you choose to play him on those days.
20. Russell Martin – New York Yankees – I have owned Russell Martin in a keeper league the last three seasons. He never hurt me until last season. His numbers have declined every year that I have owned him, but I think he is worth a late-round pick. There isn’t much pressure on him to produce in the Yankees line-up. He will even get you some steals, which isn’t a category that you expect to help you in.
Jason Varitek – Boston Red Sox – He’s a flashy name that people know and you could even bait another owner to draft him early if you wanted. He isn’t going to play much of the season. He still has some pop, but I don’t see him getting as many at-bats as he has in the past.
Chris Snyder – Pittsburgh Pirates – He is another player that has helped teams in the past. He moves to the Pirates and will add power to your team, but his batting average will kill you. Not worth the risk by drafting Snyder.
Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals – He’s another known player and is a better player in real-life than he is in fantasy. He will help your average, but there isn’t any other category that you will benefit from starting Molina.
Jesus Montero – New York Yankees – He is worth taking a flyer at the end of the draft and holding on to him. He could pay off or turn into a trade chip. The Yankees current backstops are Jorge Posada & Russell Martin, both are injury risks and the Yankees love Montero. He is their catcher of the future and possibly a keeper for you in your league.
Brayan Pena – Kansas City Royals – You won’t find many people that will draft Pena this year. He will be the starting catcher this season over Jason Kendall, but he will share time. He was serviceable in his short time up with the club last year and could turn into a solid backup.
Ryan Hanigan – Cincinnati Reds – It’s not 100% that the Reds will give Ramon Hernandez the starting job out of spring training. Hanigan showed the same offensive skills that Hernandez has put up so far with the team. If you were thinking about draft Henandez as your backup catcher, I would hold off and wait for this position battle to show a winner.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Boston Red Sox – Salty will get his shot this season with the Red Sox. He only had 24 at-bats last season with the team, but he will be in a time-share with Varitek. He’s only 25, but this is his third team and he is running out of chances. His back is against the wall and I like guys with something to prove. I think he runs with this opportunity and earns his spot on the team.