Catcher is typically a top heavy position, but I don’t spend for an elite option, instead choosing to wait and try and find some upside or value late in the draft. You won’t find me taking Joe Mauer in Round 2 when Prince Fielder is still on the board. This season the catcher position does not appear to be as shallow as once thought, with future (or current?) studs Buster Posey and Carlos Santana having made it, and some other names like Mike Napoli and John Buck showing legitimate power. This new found depth is even more of a reason to wait on a backstop, and as usual, it will likely be the last position of my starting batters I try and fill.
Welcome back to the Cafe’s annual “2 Up, 2 Down” series, where Cafe members highlight two players per position expected to outperform projected draft slot, as well as two players that should not be drafted at their typical rank.
Chris Iannetta, Rockies
Here we go again. I wrote about Iannetta in 2007 as an Up catcher, and all these years later I still believe. Iannetta struggled last season, hitting .197 (thanks largely to a .212 BABIP) and eventually losing his job to veteran Miguel Olivo. However, Iannetta’s walk rate remains strong, his power is real, and if his BABIP returns toward the mean, a 60 point jump in average is likely. Don’t laugh about a .260 BA — the average catcher BA was .249 last season. His competition this season is inexperienced Jose Morales, so he’s likely to have a longer leash to correct any early season struggles he may encounter.
JP Arencibia, Blue Jays
As of publication the Blue Jays had just acquired catcher Mike Napoli for $86 million worth of Vernon Wells. However, I still think Arencibia finds his way into at-bats, and that he has potential to deliver as an end-game pick. Arencibia mashed 32 HRs in a repeat of Triple-A last season, showing off his power while improving his walk rate and decreasing his strikeout rate, as one hopes someone repeating Triple-A can do. After two full Triple-A seasons, he has nothing left to prove and deserves to be in the line-up to show the Jays what he can do.
As a caveat, Arencibia is prone to breaking stuff away, as most rookies are, and is not a polished defender, both of which may hurt him in his competition with Jose Molina to be the Jays everyday catcher.
Matt Wieters, Orioles
Blasphemy! At one time Wieters was The Next Big Thing, a sure bet who was being taken as high as the fourth catcher off the board only two years ago. After two disappointing seasons that failed to reach lofty expectations, you would think that enthusiasm would be tempered some. However, according to the quintessential MDP, Wieters is ranked 110, which is equivalent to the 10th round in a standard 12-team league. That would mean Wieters is off the board before such proven veterans like Tim Hudson, Bobby Abreu, and Chone Figgins. I’m all for finding upside at the catcher spot, and Wieters offers as much as anyone out there. However, for where he’s being drafted, I’d like more than 11 HR and a .249 BA.
John Buck, Marlins
Buck’s MDP rank of 198 isn’t so egregious given his production last season, when he set career highs with 20 HRs, 66 RBIs and a .281 BA. He’s here because, simply put, I don’t expect him to repeat those numbers. His average likely won’t repeat, as we have to expect regression in a .335 BABIP. His poor walk rate isn’t fit for sustaining a high BA and his .409 BA vs. lefties won’t happen again, given he was a career .244 hitter against southpaws coming into 2010. You could expect his power to drop moving from friendly Toronto to neutral Florida, but Buck had better power numbers on the road in 2010. His power shouldn’t totally disappear, but I wouldn’t expect 20 more given the return to reality of his BA that’s coming.
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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