The Hot Stove league has leveled off at a simmer, so now seems like a good time to start peppering you with sleepers for your 2013 fantasy baseball drafts. First, we have catchers. The position has seemingly seen a sharp influx of talent in recent years, so much so that long-time elite backstops Mike Napoli and Brian McCann are just fringe No. 1 options in the initial version of my rankings — though to be fair, a lot of that stems from injury concerns. So which catchers deserve to be called sleepers?
Salvador Perez, C, KC
Most articles you’ll read this offseason listing sleepers at catcher are going to highlight Perez, but to be fair, it depends on how you consider sleepers. He’s almost certainly going to be drafted as a team’s No. 1 catcher in your league. I think he’s pushing the top five, though, and could easily finish there with a healthy season.
His .301 average from the 2012 season, one that saw him strike out just 27 times in 305 plate appearances, is supported. He doesn’t walk a whole lot, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as he’s proven great in his time in the league at taking good swings at good pitches. He flew through the minors, grabbing roughly 300 plate appearances at Double-A and just a few in Triple-A in 2011 before jumping to the bigs.
Turning 23 in May, Perez already looks like he belongs in the majors, and if his power continues to develop (11 home runs in roughly half a season last year), he could challenge for the top spot at the position as soon as this year. If the power doesn’t develop, we’re still looking at a Joe Mauer-caliber player. He’s the 11th-best catcher on Mock Draft Central as of Jan. 8, and I trust him more than half the guys ahead of him.
Tyler Flowers, C, CHW
Now we get into actual sleepers with Flowers, a guy that’s probably going to go undrafted in most one-catcher leagues. Flowers has been patiently waiting for his chance behind veteran A.J. Pierzynski in Chicago, picking up few trips to the plate in 2009 and 2010 before making 282 plate appearances over the last two seasons. The early returns haven’t been phenomenal — Flowers has struggled immensely against right-handed pitching, which he’ll obviously see a lot of as a full-timer.
He hit just .209 in 2011 and .213 in 2012, but he does have a little latent batting-average upside lurking, as he posted four years of nice averages (.279 to .298) before reaching the majors in 2009. He’s never going to come close to that as a major-leaguer, but even if he hits .250 to .260, he’s a nice commodity at a position where offense has been hard to come by in the past thanks to his power.
While Flowers struggled with Triple-A pitching in 2010, he blossomed in the same setting the next season, hitting .261/.390/.500 with 15 home runs in 270 plate appearances in Charlotte. His 129 major-league plate appearances didn’t go nearly as well, and he was stuck as Pierzynski’s backup for most of last season. Now tabbed as a full-timer with over 300 plate appearances of experience under his belt, Flowers could take a step forward now that he doesn’t have to worry about playing time as a regular. With that could come a nice little fantasy performance.
He should be on your radar in two-catcher leagues especially, and I expect a J.P. Arencibia-like season from him (low average, high homers).
Kurt Suzuki, C, WAS
The Nationals offense is expected to be very strong in 2013, but while guys like Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche get the headlines, don’t forget about the catching position. While Wilson Ramos is likely the better talent in the long-term for the Nationals, multiple surgeries have him out of the picture early on in 2013, and manager Davey Johnson has already named Kurt Suzuki his No. 1 catcher to start the season.
Suzuki has carved out a role in his career as a reliable, durable backstop in his time in Oakland and Washington. Despite only being 29 years old, he’s played in 746 games and made nearly 3,000 plate appearances. There’s something to be said for that, especially at a fantasy position where you’re likely going to wind up far below the limit for games played.
At different times, Suzuki has shown the ability to hit for a solid average in the .270s with double-digit power. The only year that came together was in 2009, when Suzuki hit .274 with 15 home runs for Oakland. But do remember he’s spent virtually all of his career in the pitcher-friendly confines of O.co Coliseum.
He had a nice second half in 2012, culminating in a .267/.321/.404 line with five home runs in 164 plate appearances for the Nationals after being traded in early August. Considering he was a particularly atrocious hitter in Oakland last year (.183/.227/.258 in 130 plate appearances), his presence in the Nats lineup can only be a good thing. There’s a chance he gets hot early and keeps the job all year, so grab him late in the game as a No. 2 catcher and expect a nice profit.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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