Anyone can draft Joe Mauer in the third round and feel secure with their catcher for the rest of the season. Personally, I’d rather wait on filling that slot and look for another guy who can hit me 40 homers. That’s because I keep a list of one or two darkhorse catchers I target towards the end of my draft. Last year, I drafted Brian McCann in both my money leagues, got a chorus of “Who?” from my drunken buddies, and watched as his bat helped me win first place in the regular season in both leagues (don’t ask about the playoffs). So here are two catchers I’ll be targeting late while Joe Mauer gets drafted too early for my liking, leaving a stud at another position for me to grab.
Russell Martin – Dodgers
While Martin is cracking some early top ten lists, he has the kind of upside that can land him in the top five at the end of the season. Always highly regarded through the minors, he has solid plate discipline and is a good contact hitter. He hit .282 with 10 HR and 65 RBI in 415 AB last season. With another year of maturity, he will still only be 24 on opening day. A .300/20/80 season is an optimistic projection, but he has the type of upside that makes it attainable. He’s not someone I would reach for (I wouldn’t reach for any catcher) but if he’s available in Round 15 of a 12-team draft, I could see myself pulling the trigger. You do it, and you won’t be disappointed.
Chris Iannetta – Rockies
Now here is a guy who could go undrafted in your league. Don’t make that mistake. In 641 Tar Heel at-bats over his college career, Iannetta hit .329 with 32 HR and 160 RBI (!). He carried that skill into the minors, holding a .303 average with 32 HR and 134 RBI in 749 AB. He got a brief, non-descript taste of the show last season. Penciled in as the Rockies starting catcher, he is my other target, and has the makeup to take a Brian McCann-like leap into fantasy stardom. And like Martin, he will be just 24 on opening day.
Now here are two catchers I won’t be taking, even if I were drafting a team for my worst enemy.
Jason Kendall – Athletics
I just don’t understand his appeal. People will say “Well his average doesn’t hurt you” and “He leads all catchers in steals.” Maybe so, but he only hit .295 and stole only 11 bases. Do you know how many everyday players hit .295 last year? Among batting title qualifiers, 50. Guess how many player stole at least 11 bases? 48. In the meanwhile he has but one HR the past two seasons! Do you want to know how many players have at least 1000 AB and only one home run combined the past two seasons? One. I’ll pass.
Ivan Rodriguez – Tigers
I still see Pudge getting respect as a top five catcher in some places. Sorry people, it’s not 1999 anymore (though I wish it was). Pudge is now 35-years-old. He was able to raise his average and RBI last season while hitting just one less HR than he did in 2005, but in my opinion, it’s fair to say the Tigers as a whole may have overachieved. Also, with Sheffield now in the mix, less of the offensive burden will be on Pudge and he can focus on working with a young group of promising pitchers. While he is going to be a starter in standard twelve-team leagues, he’s not going to be in my top five, and I would rather head into the season with one of my two up guys listed above. Pudge is on the wrong side of the bell curve, and it’s a fast ride down. It’s not a ride I want to be on.
So there you have it – a couple of good late targets and a couple of guys to cross off your list entirely. Remember catcher is only one hitter out of at least nine, so if you stock yourself up well at your other positions, a gamble there can pay off nicely. Good luck!
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Ken Kesterson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Ken in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigken117.
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