The 2012 baseball season is just around the corner. As players gets loosened up at Spring Training, we thought we'd catch you up on some of the top players at each position to help you win your 2012 fantasy baseball league. Today, we look at catchers, starting with the top tier players and work our way down.
1. Joe Mauer, Twins Although the sickly Mauer may have to play the season in a Hazmat suit, his combination of résumé and career stage makes him the No. 1 choice at this perennially anemic position and a potential “best buy.” Target Field precludes anything resembling his .365-28-96-94 showing of 2009, but even .300-15-80-70 is something no catcher’s done since then.
2. Carlos Santana, Indians Though it’s just his second full season, we’re confident in projecting Santana as the 2012 positional HR and RBI leader. Of his last 90 hits, 47 went for extra bases. The rub is that his average was never above .245 after April 10, but .270 should be doable this time around.
3. Brian McCann, Braves McCann is the safest — if not the highest-ceilinged — pick in the tier, given that only three catchers (Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada) have ever exceeded his ongoing six-season run with minimums of 18 homers and 71 RBIs. His other categories are essentially neutral.
4. Mike Napoli, Rangers We were all over Napoli last year (“Thirty homers wouldn’t surprise…” — exactly what he hit), albeit as a projected DH. Now that he’s unambiguously a catcher (with some moonlighting at 1B), he merits a whole new level of fantasy deference. He holds the all-time record at the position with a HR in 6.6% of his ABs, but there are few prospects of anything close to another .320 AVG.
5. Matt Wieters, Orioles Wieters is looking a lot like McCann at this point, although he’s three years behind Brian’s age curve. Doubtful if there’s a ton more upside left, but 2011-type lines (.262-22-68-72) should be the norm for awhile.
6. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks In the two years (2009, 2011) he’s been the Snakes’ primary catcher, Montero has averaged .288-17-73-63. That’s good stuff, but his injury proclivity casts a shadow.
7. Buster Posey, Giants (F) As he’s yet to play a full season, what we’ve seen from Posey to date is nothing more than a few bona fide hot streaks. Clearly he can be a special player, but, like Mauer, he’s emasculated by his ballpark (.697 career OPS at home, .915 elsewhere).
8. Alex Avila, Tigers Avila can hit, but whether he can hit .295-19-82-63 again is dubious. The AL’s third-highest batting average on balls in play (BAbip) at .366 suggests that many of the holes he found were providential.
9. Wilson Ramos, Nationals (B) Ramos pinged .227 in a May-through-August malaise, but he bracketed that with .358 in both April and September. One of our sleeper specials last year at 23, he’ll round out those edges and edge into 20-jack territory very soon.
10. Jesus Montero, Mariners Montero is this year’s Santana, but with all the breathless expectations and hold-your-breath uncertainties of being four years younger. His .996 OPS was the fifth-highest ever at his plate appearance level (69) by a 21-year-old in his first season. But will he follow in the footsteps of three of those ahead of him (Willie McCovey, Ted Williams, Albert Pujols) — or the fourth (Daric Barton)?
11. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays Arencibia is all about how you weigh 25 homers and 75 RBIs against 350 outs. Matt Nokes and Piazza are the only rookies ever to have hit more bombs, all as a catcher. Then again, only Adam Dunn and Vernon Wells had a lower 2011 AVG (.219) at his plate appearance level.
12. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (E) Molina obliged the fantasy “age-28 rule” with personal bests of .305-14-65-55, but his prospectus is more aligned to his full-season career norms of .274-8-54-38. A major attraction is that he’s kind of a robo-catcher who, unlike most at the position, is predictably decent.
13. Kurt Suzuki, Athletics Batted .276 in 2008-09, then .240 in 2010-11. Combined for 86 RBIs in ’08 and ’11, but 159 in ’09-10. See the pattern here? Neither do we. One thing you can count on is that he’ll play — an AL-high 528 games caught in that span.
14. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers Ran out of gas last year (.188 AVG in his last 34 games), but slightly exceeded expectations. More apt to be serviceable than a star.
15. Geovany Soto, Cubs His seasons can be characterized as huge-poor-good-fair, in that order. Even when he’s got his “Arencibia” on, he has value since McCann and Napoli are the sole catchers to have hit more home runs since 2008.
Other Fantasy Baseball Content:
2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield