Joe Mauer tops NL MVP Buster Posey as Athlon Sports' top fantasy backstop option
Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.
Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.
Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB
Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catcher
1. Joe Mauer, Twins
While it’s clear that much of Mauer’s over-the-fence power was left behind in his locker at the Metrodome, no one at this position approaches his body of work. Among active catchers, he has two more .300 seasons than any other, five of the eight 80-run campaigns and four of the seven 80-RBI efforts in the AL.
2. Buster Posey, Giants (E)
There have been less than a pocketful of Poseys in history (just two with catcher as their primary position who have matched his .336-24-103-78), but he ran rings around everyone in 2012. Antiquity and a bloated .368 AVG on balls in play (BAbip) conspire against anything approximating that, though. Discounting a 32-game conflagration immediately after the All-Star Game, he hit a mortal .286 with 15 homers.
3. Carlos Santana, Indians (B)
Santana has cheated expectations with a .247 career AVG, but don’t give up on him. Slow to adjust to a regimen of breaking balls, he improved as 2012 wore on by staying in the middle of the field. He finished with upgraded walk and strikeout rates, and led the AL by wrangling a hitter’s count in 75.2% of plate appearances. As with Mauer and Posey, first base eligibility is a little bonus.
4. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
Having stayed healthy in back-to-back seasons for the first time, Montero leads catchers in RBIs and is top five in AVG and runs over that period. Even while virtually cloning his 2011 line (.282-18-86-65) in 2012 (.286-15-88-65), he walked 26 more times.
5. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (E)
It evolved very gradually, but Molina is now Ivan Rodriguez reincarnated. He trumped his 2011 career year of .305-14-65-55-4 with an entirely unimagined .315-22-76-65-12. If he proves as durable as Pudge, he still has another decade on his docket.
6. Salvador Perez, Royals
Just 22, Perez has hit safely in more (90) of his first 115 career games than any catcher in history, and with more power than evidenced in the minors. He was first, second or third among AL receivers in all four fantasy hitting stats after beginning his 2012 season on June 22.
7. Matt Wieters, Orioles
Unless he gives up switch-hitting, Wieters has little upside beyond his current two-year average of .255-22-76-70. You’ll take that from your catcher all day, but he’s hit 104 points higher from the right side (.333) than the left since 2011.
8. Brian McCann, Braves (E,F)
Long-time Tier 1 guy who soldiered through a bum shoulder and, coming off surgery, likely won’t be full strength out of the chute. Leads all catchers in home runs and RBIs since 2006. He’s only 29, so in keeper leagues, seize the discount.
9. Jesus Montero, Mariners
Santana-in-training. Although his .260 AVG of last year might be a ceiling until he commands the zone, Montero will have more to show for his majestic power now that the M’s have moved in the left-center fence 17 feet. Liable to DH at least as much as catch.
10. Wilin Rosario, Rockies
In only 117 games, the rookie Rosario topped all catchers with 28 homers. That number, unfortunately, is eight fewer than his shocking sum of passed balls-plus-errors — explaining why he played only 117 games. When and if he learns to catch the baseball as well as he hits it, he’ll be a force of nature.
11. Alex Avila, Tigers
When a .295-19-82-63 season comes as unexpectedly as Avila’s in 2011, it shouldn’t be expected to recur. It didn’t: .243-9-48-42. Knee problems were a contributing factor.
12. Ryan Doumit, Twins
He’s always had that .275-18-75-56 in him, but there had never been a convergence of health and opportunity until last year. Professional hitter with risk who also qualifies as an outfielder.
13. A.J. Pierzynski, Rangers (E)
Second 35-year-old catcher (with Carlton Fisk) ever to muster a 25-HR season. He ain’t no Fisk, and teams weren’t exactly hammering down his door in free agency. Owns .752 OPS in Arlington, .753 overall.
14. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays
Good Opening Day play; he’s homered in his first game all three of his seasons. Beyond that, he’s a 20-jack batting average virus.
15. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers (E)
He’s a .270 hitter who smoke-and-mirrored a .320 AVG in 2012, and racked up 24 percent of his RBIs in just two games. Solid, but not what he seemed to be.
16. Wilson Ramos, Nationals (C,F)
17. Yasmani Grandal, Padres
18. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox (E)
19. Jason Castro, Astros (B,C,F)
20. Russell Martin, Pirates (E)
21. Chris Iannetta, Angels
22. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies (E)
23. Derek Norris, Athletics
24. Ryan Hanigan, Reds
25. Rob Brantly, Marlins
26. A.J. Ellis, Dodgers (E)
27. Tyler Flowers, White Sox
28. John Jaso, Mariners (D)
29. Kurt Suzuki, Nationals (D)
30. Travis d’Arnaud, Mets (G)
31. Welington Castillo, Cubs
32. Devin Mesoraco, Reds (C,D,G)
33. Mike Zunino, Mariners (G)
34. David Ross, Red Sox
35. John Buck, Mets
36. Geovany Soto, Rangers
37. Dioner Navarro, Cubs
38. Eric Kratz, Phillies
39. Hector Sanchez, Giants
40. Austin Romine, Yankees (G)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013