RankingsMarch 1, 2009

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Positional Tiers: Catcher

By Michael Marinakis

Welcome to the first edition of the Cafe Tier Rankings in which eight Cafe writers will rank each position in tiers over the next eight days. In today’s edition I’ll be discussing catchers, one of the shallowest positions in fantasy baseball. Many people are split on when to draft a catcher, with some people believing that you should almost never draft a catcher before the last few rounds and some people who buy into the positional scarcity aspect enough to target one of the top three guys in the fifth round. While it’s definitely possible to wait around for a catcher in most leagues, you better make sure not to wait too long in leagues which start two catchers. Now onto the rankings…

Tier 1: Round 5

Brian McCann44Yes.3016823875509
Joe Mauer51Yes.328989851536
Russell Martin45Yes.28087136918553

Catcher is one of the more top-heavy positions in fantasy baseball, with three top-flight guys to choose from in McCann, Mauer, and Martin. While many fantasy players like to wait to draft a catcher until very late in the draft, I tend to subscribe to the positional scarcity argument and grab one of these three. If you do want to land one, be prepared to spend a fifth round pick. I’ve seen McCann go as early as the fourth round, though that may be a bit of a reach. In a two-catcher league, getting one of these three can be big, as the difference between them and the 24th best catcher is huge.

Tier 2: Rounds 6-7

Geovany Soto57Yes.2856623860494
Victor Martinez72Yes.278302350266

If you fail to grab one of the top three catchers, there are a couple of good options a tier below in Soto and Martinez. Coming off an injury plagued 2008 season, Martinez is a good bet to bounce back and return to fantasy stardom as an elite catcher. The risk associated with him is all that keeps him from the top tier, and that risk means you can usually grab Martinez in the seventh round. Soto, on the other hand, had a monster rookie campaign for a catcher, tying McCann with 23 home runs. With another year like 2008 he could also be joining the top tier of catchers in 2009. Soto is a fine consolation prize in the sixth round should you miss out on one of the big three.

Tier 3: Rounds 10-11

Ryan Doumit110Yes.3187115692431
Chris Iannetta141Yes.2645018650333

Doumit and Iannetta may be two of the bigger bargains in the 10th to 11th rounds this year. Both broke out in 2008 and had solid fantasy seasons. If they can build off last year and get an increase in playing time, they could provide significant value for where they are being taken.

Tier 4: Rounds 13-14

Bengie Molina145Yes.2924616950530
Pablo Sandoval217No.345243240145

Many people feel that the weak San Francisco lineup will limit the RBI opportunities for Sandoval and Molina. Projected to hit in the three and four hole, respectively, these two should have plenty of chances to drive in Randy Winn and Edgar Renteria and pad their counting stats. Combine that with high averages and the ability to hit 15-20 home runs and you have a couple of sleeper catchers in the same lineup. One of the more valuable things about these two is everyday playing time. Molina hates taking off-days and Sandoval will have everyday playing time at third base, so expect to get quite a few more at-bats out of these two than you would likely get taking any of the catchers after them. In two-catcher leagues, I love pairing one of them with a top tier guy and gaining a huge advantage over most other owners in the league.

Tier 5: Rounds 15-16

Matt Wieters129-------
Mike Napoli166Yes.2733920497227
Jorge Posada164Yes.268183220168

The only reason Wieters is this far down is concerns over playing time. Gregg Zaun was signed by the Orioles to start the season at catcher and ease Wieters into the majors. The earlier he gets to the majors and takes over for good, the higher his value goes. While many seem to be reaching into the 12th-13th round and even earlier for his enormous potential, I feel that may be a bit premature. The 15th round is a solid place to take a risk that he’ll get called up sooner rather than later and start putting up big numbers immediately.

Napoli and Posada are two other solid options who accompany Wieters in Tier Five. Should Napoli get an increase in at-bats, he is a legitimate 30-home-run threat after hitting 20 jacks in only 227 at-bats in 2008. While his incredibly high strikeout rate will prevent him from posting a very respectable average, it’s worth overlooking this late in the draft for his power potential from the catcher’s position. After a 2008 season where he only played in 51 games due to injury, Posada will most likely get a significant amount of time at designated hitter. This increases his value substantially as it should help to keep him fresh and get him plenty of at-bats. If he can return to anywhere near his pre-2008 form, he could be a huge bargain this late in the draft.

Tier 6: Rounds 19-20

Kelly Shoppach219Yes.2616721550352
Dioner Navarro201Yes.295437540427
A.J. Pierzynski200Yes.2816613601534

The upside pick in this tier is definitely Shoppach who hit 21 home runs in only 352 at-bats in 2008. With Victor Martinez in front of him in the depth chart, Shoppach is going to have to fight for at-bats. The good news is that Martinez should see time at first base and as a designated hitter which should provide Shoppach a chance to put up some solid numbers as a late round catcher. Navarro and Pierzynski are solid options, neither of which has all that much upside or downside. They will both get a decent number of at-bats with a solid average and decent counting stats. Not much to get excited about but they won’t kill you in any category.

Tier 7: Rounds 21-22

Ramon Hernandez221Yes.2574915650463
Kurt Suzuki222Yes.279547422530
Chris Snyder246Yes.2374716640334
Yadier Molina228Yes.304377560444
Jeff Clement233Yes.227175230203

Tier Seven has some interesting sleeper options in Hernandez and Clement. With Hernandez’s move to Cincinnati, we can expect a boost in power numbers as he’ll be playing half his games in a great hitter’s park. With little competition for the job, Hernandez should get plenty of at-bats and could easily outproduce his draft position and could even return to a 20-home-run threat. Clement tore up Triple-A in 2008 and has the potential to become a top catcher. He’ll have to share time with Kenji Johjima so don’t expect a full season of at-bats, but if 2009 is his breakout year, Seattle is going to have to find a way to get him in the lineup as much as possible.

Tier 8: Final Round

Jarrod Saltalamacchia298Yes.253273260198
J.R. TowlesN/AYes.137104160146
Jesus FloresN/AYes.256238590301
Miguel OlivoN/AYes.2552912417306
Gerald Laird250Yes.276546412344

Flip a coin, roll a die, throw a dart. Your best option with this last group is to try to nab the guy who will get the most at-bats. Right now it looks as if Towles should get most of the at-bats at catcher for the Astros and he could be a post-hype sleeper going into this year. Laird and Flores should see a significant amount of time behind the plate and are solid bets to get a good amount of at-bats. Saltalamacchia and Olivo will most likely be sharing at-bats with Taylor Teagarden and John Buck, respectively, but Texas could trade one of their young catcher prospects which could leave the door open for the other to get full-time at-bats in a hitter’s paradise.

Check out the next edition of Positional Tiers here.

Michael Marinakis is a 23-year-old unemployed fantasy addict. You can find him roaming the Cafe all day where he posts as GiantsFan14 and gets ready to watch Tim Lincecum win another Cy Young in 2009.
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