Top 20 fantasy catchers for 2011by Jeffrey Gross
November 26, 2010
Over the next two months, this series will present a top 20 list by position for the players who will be eligible at that position under Yahoo default standards. The rules of eligibility for Yahoo fantasy leagues:
The following conditions apply to a player's position eligibility:
1. A player's position eligibility will not be adjusted prior to the beginning of the season. (If a player in spring training is playing a "new" position, that position will not appear until a player has met the criteria for a change.)
2. Players will not lose eligibility at a previously established position at any time. (For example, if a catcher-eligible player begins to play first base exclusively, he will remain eligible at catcher for the entire season.)
3. It is not possible to customize this setting within Custom Leagues. All leagues are subject to the same constraints.
Gaining eligibility at a new position:
If a position player makes five (5) starts or 10 total appearances at a new position during this season, he will become eligible to play that position in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball. Pitchers need to make three starts to become eligible as a starter and five relief appearances to qualify as a reliever.
ESPN imposes a more rigorous default position eligibility standard (e.g., 20 games played at the position last season, 10 games played in the present season), so you may have to do additional research if you play ESPN fantasy to verify that players listed in these articles are in fact "position eligible" in your league.
These rankings are based on 5x5 standard Roto leagues. Rankings are not based on real life value, but fantasy value. Hence, guys like Juan Pierre will have value. Projections listed below are courtesy of Brian Cartwright's Oliver projection system. I recommend that you purchase a subscription, as the pre- and in-season updates are an invaluable fantasy tool.
My rankings are not exclusively based on Oliver's projections, however. Rankings are primarily determined based on total production by category, balance in production, and scarcity of production. If you have any specific questions about my rankings, please post them in the comments.
Here are my top 20 fantasy catchers for 2011:
Rank Name Team Oliver Slash 2011** 1 Joe Mauer* Twins .331/.411/.493 2 Brian McCann Braves .279/.364/.481 3 Carlos Santana* Indians .267/.378/.479 4 Victor Martinez Tigers .278/.342/.426 5 Buster Posey Giants .300/.376/.480 6 Geovany Soto* Cubs .249/.348/.443 7 Kurt Suzuki* Athletics .261/.317/.392 8 Mike Napoli Rangers .257/.338/.507 9 Miguel Montero* Diamondbacks .265/.332/.431 10 Matt Wieters Orioles .272/.345/.419 11 Jorge Posada* Yankees .240/.324/.405 12 J.P. Arencibia Blue Jays .221/.261/.407 13 Russell Martin* Yankees .253/.353/.347 14 Chris Iannetta Rockies .229/.430/.434 15 Jesus Montero Yankees .289/.341/.509 16 Yadier Molina Cardinals .270/.335/.351 17 John Jaso Rays .259/.351/.375 18 Ryan Doumit* Pirates .253/.314/.403 19 Rod Barajas Dodgers .246/.287/.412 20 Carlos Ruiz Phillies .264/.355/.390*Assuming health, being tender a contract.
**Oliver's 2011 projections have been updated since I wrote down all of the prospective slash lines for my hitter rankings. Due to the sheer volume of time it would take to update my positional rankings for hitters, I am going to keep the Oliver 2011 category listed as is. Most of the projections are essentially similar, but for the most up to date projections, subscribe to THT Forecasts by clicking here. If you are unsure of whether to subscribe to THT Forecasts, you can read about why I love THT Forecasts by clicking here
Outside the top six, catchers are almost entirely fungible. Each either has a serious flaw (generally in the AVG/SB department, e.g. Napoli, Montero), has health/playing time concerns (e.g. Posada, Iannetta, Montero) or lacks some particularized value (e.g. Yadier Molina, A.J. Pierzynski, Jaso, et. al). On my blog Game Of Inches, I have routinely evoked a maxim that a not-top five catcher is not worth overpaying for (be patient) and that top five catchers are generally overrated, so avoid them accordingly.
Considering that most teams like to rest their catchers at least two days a week, few catchers play even 130 games. In fact, only Briann McCann and Joe Mauer eclipsed 130 games in 2010. This limits any AVG value that a player will provide a team (cough cough Posey/Mauer cough cough) and generally caps even the best player's rate-stat totals (e.g. Soto, Napoli). Thus, it is hard to recommending drafting a catcher in the top five rounds, when the relatively rare five/four-category players are still on the table. Last year, Victor Martinez absolutely should not have been drafted over Nelson Cruz, but that's what happened in most leagues.
The same theory applies to auction leagues. Do not pay that $3 premium for Miguel Montero when Mike Napoli and Matt Wieters are still on the board.
In terms of the rankings, the names seem pretty straightforward. I wish I could rank Montero higher in the top 10, where he might end up in terms of end-of-season value, but his playing time is questionable and he is not a proven major league commodity. Remember that Wieters guy? Keep that in mind when someone in your league starts a bidding war over Montero. Catcher is a physically demanding position to play, and that alone can zap a player's health/skill (see Russell Martin).
Some may wonder why I ranked Martinez ahead of Posey/below Santana (who will be that much more valuable in OBP leagues, by the way). Carlos Santana has more power potential in 2011 than Martinez (though V-mart will likely get more playing time cycling through DH/1B on some of his "days off") and similar batting average potential.
Likewise, I ranked Buster Posey below Victor Martinez because I am concerned that much of Posey's 2010 power was a "fluke." A look at Posey's monthly splits reveals that his power bursts were largely limited to two months (July/September). In fact, his July power output was largely relegated to a five/six day span between the fifth and 10th of the month. I think Posey's .290+ AVG potential is certainly legit, but his power leaves me with questions and thus I give the advantage to V-mart's 20-homer power and RBI-potential batting around Miguel Cabrera.
As a Geovany Soto proponent, I wish I could slot him in the top five based on increased projected playing time with "I love to tinker with my lineup Lou" Piniella no longer skippering the Cubs, but I am not that much of a homer. Soto is the final catcher with marginal value over "the remainder," however.
Below him, I ranked the hitters from Kurt Suzuki through Matt Wieters on a tier of their own. After that tier, I would place Jorge Posada (injury issues) and J.P. Arencibia (wild card) in their own tier. Each has a some risk and moderate reward upside. After that, Chris Iannetta is probably the most talented remaining catcher, but it's really anyone's guess once the top 12 guys are off the board.
Jesus Montero could be a great catcher option if given regular playing time, but with Posada, the newly minted Russell Martin, and Mark Teixeira already in the fold, where Montero would play regularly is anyone guess. This is why he is ranked so low. Neither Posada or Martin are poster children of health, however, so Montero could easily find himself in the Yankees lineup this year if, or should I say when, either goes to the DL.
As always, leave your love/hate in the comments. Next week, we'll look at first base eligible players.
Jeffrey Gross is an attorney (and die-hard Cubs fan) who currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. In addition to writing for The Hardball Times, he also writes about craft beer as part of a side project blog titled "saBEERmetrics." He previously worked for The Daily Illini and Northern Star newspapers as a film critic and sportswriter (respectively). You can reach him by email at saBEERmetrics AT gmail DOT com.
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