Welcome back to the third annual 2 Up 2 Down series. Once again, I will be taking on catchers, trying to identify two backstops who will provide great value for you and two who will not live up to your expectations based on where they’ll be drafted.
Like the adage about steals and saves, Catcher is not a position I am willing to pay a premium on to acquire a safer option. (In a league where you start two catchers, my tune changes slightly). I will gamble late in the draft and if that catcher doesn’t work out, I will keep playing catcher roulette until one pans out.
This season, the catcher position looks to have two tiers; the top five (McCann, Mauer, Martin, Soto, Martinez), and then everyone else. If you get good value on one of the top five, go ahead and draft them. Otherwise, hold on and hope one of these gems slips to you.
Pablo Sandoval – Giants
The beauty with Sandoval is that he won’t play much catcher this season unless an injury fells everyday catcher Bengie Molina. The switch-hitting Sandoval is in line to split time between First Base and Third Base everyday. These are less demanding positions which will give him more time to focus on his hitting. Speaking of hitting, he had a solid season at the plate last season, clubbing 23 HR through three levels (AA, AAA, MLB) after having a previous high of 11. He also roped 48 doubles, suggesting the power output is real. Sandoval will only be 22 on opening day, and in 145 MLB AB last season he drew only 4 BB. However, he struck out only 14 times, so I think the contact ability to maintain a .300 BA is real. Sandoval is a favorite sleeper of mine this season.
Matt Wieters – Orioles
This is probably too easy of a call. Any fantasy player worth their salt knows all about Wieters, Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. They also know that Wieters will almost assuredly start the season in the minors while Baltimore searches for a veteran to come in and keep the position warm for a couple months. While they do that, let Wieters stay warm on your bench until he is called up. Think Evan Longoria last season. His contact, power, and patience will make him a top ten catcher upon his arrival, and he will be the #1 fantasy catcher within three seasons.
Russell Martin – Dodgers
A lot of Martin’s value comes from his speed at a position that doesn’t run (39 SB the past two seasons) but his power stats last season were pedestrian for his position. His 13 HR tied for 10th with the fading Jason Varitek. His 69 RBI were tied for fifth, but he was 16 RBI behind fourth place and 10 RBI’s from being tied for 11th among his peers. He did finish second in runs and his average of .280 is acceptable, however, those aren’t the stats I want with my fifth round pick. Other batters picked in that area, Corey Hart, Magglio Ordonez, Kevin Youkilis, Chipper Jones, Derek Lee, Stephen Drew, and Alexei Ramirez, should match or beat Martin in three or more of the five fantasy stats.
I picked Posada as a down last season, and thanks to an injury that cost him two thirds of the season, I was right. However, coming into this season, I still see Posada ranked as high as #6 among catchers. When he did play last season, he was hampered by a sore shoulder that likely affected his ability to hit and could still be a factor this season. Having celebrated his 37th birthday in August, Posada is unlikely to find the fountain of youth in 2009. You are better served waiting until one of the final few rounds and taking a high upside flier.
There they are, the Cafe’s 2 Up 2 Down Catcher Edition for 2009. There are quite a few young catchers coming along who could make a major impact in 2009, and in all of my leagues where I start one catcher, I will be waiting until close to the end of my draft to take one.
Stay tuned to the Cafe as we bring you more 2 Up, 2 Down all preseason!
Ken Kesterson is a handsome Red Sox fan and one of many fantasy addicts who spends too much time at work surfing 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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