Welcome back as the Cafe kicks off the Fourth Annual Two Up, Two Down series. If you’re new to the series, what we attempt to do is profile two players at each position who we feel are being undervalued and will exceed expectations, and two more who are being overvalued and will disappoint and frustrate over the course of the season. If you’re familiar with the series then you know that this is a handy tool for creating your cheat sheets. You also know that I am not one to target a catcher with a high draft pick or big money. Once you get past the top three of Mauer, McCann and Martinez, all the catchers merge into a third tier that runs 8-10 players deep, so I plan on using an end pick or $1 to grab one of these guys.
Last season in the catcher spot I called “Up” on Pablo Sandoval (big score!) and Matt Wieters (I’m counting it) and “Down” on Russell Martin (another score!) and Jorge Posada (a miss), so we batted .750, which isn’t bad, but I’m making an attempt to bat 1.000 this season. On to it…
Miguel Montero – Arizona Diamondbacks
Montero took over everyday catching duties last June and provided plenty of offense. His 11 HR after the All-Star Break trailed only Mauer and McCann, he paced his position in doubles (not a fantasy stat, but a sign of burgeoning power) and his .316 BA was second among backstops with more than 150 AB, once again trailing only Mauer. With a full season and the possibility of 500 AB waiting for him, Montero could finish the season ranked in the top 5 for catchers. He was always a good hitter in the minor leagues, with career stats of a .291 BA and .867 OPS. Montero is a favorite sleeper of mine entering the season, and if you’re one of the last in your league to acquire a catcher, he is a prime player to target.
Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians
All the hype for rookie catchers this season is going to San Francisco’s Buster Posey, and it’s well deserved. But someone who I don’t see getting his due is Santana. He had a monster season at AA last year, popping 23 HR with a .943 OPS and winning California League MVP honors. After trading incumbent Kelly Shoppach, the Indians don’t have many viable in-house candidates for full time catching duties, and Santana is the best on the roster. There is always a caveat when drafting rookie catchers, especially one who doesn’t have any AB higher than AA. Cleveland is in a long-term rebuilding project, and could look to get Santana some AB in AAA until June to delay his arbitration clock. Similar to Matt Wieters last season, it will be worth the wait.
Bengie Molina – Free Agent
After testing the free agent market and some significant negotiations with the Mets, Molina re-signed with the Giants in late January, inking a one-year deal. Molina set a career high in home runs last season, but also saw his average drop almost 30 points while his K rate increased. An average trending downward, a rising K rate and the fact that, at 36, a decline is on the horizon, mean I wouldn’t consider taking Molina as one of the 4th-7th catchers off the board.
Victor Martinez – Red Sox
Make no bones about it, Martinez is a stud among the catchers. Batting in the heart of the Red Sox order, you can pencil him in for 20 Home Runs and 100 RBI. However, production like that from the catcher spot will cost you a high draft pick. Over at Mock Draft Central, Martinez has gone anywhere from 14th through 39th overall, and his average draft position has him ahead of other hitting studs like Grady Sizemore, Matt Holliday, and Adrian Gonzalez. These are players that could out-earn Martinez in four, if not all five, of the counting stats. Take one of the other hitting studs here, and fill in your catcher spot later on.
Remember, the catching position is only one of 23 you have to fill. Spending a premium pick or price to fill it, when there are better overall options out there, is not a move I recommend. Some people like the security and prefer to play waiver roulette with a deeper position and that’s not a terrible strategy; but I prefer the better overall numbers and will try to hit later on with my catcher. If he works out, great. If not, I drop him for the next hot hand.
There it is. The 2010 Fantasy Baseball season is right around the corner. Stay with the Cafe as we bring you more 2 Up, 2 Downs all preseason, and be sure to check out the forums, where you can talk about anything you want: players, strategy, commissioner questions, prospects, and much more!
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.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!