Before we continue with the catchers today, allow me to make a correction/clarification. After much discussion behind the scenes and after some of the comments received, these rankings will be purely based on the players’ level of worth, much in the style of our regular in-season rankings. Costs to protect and relative value are up to you as there are just too many nuances and cost variations for individual leagues that we are unable to accurately factor in. That being said, please allow me to make one change to the first tier….
Brian McCann, ATL –His omission from the first article was based purely on relative value to protect, given his ranking and draft position from the beginning of 2011, however, since we’re tossing that out, then obviously, he remains a first tier backstop. While he missed a bit of time to injury last season, it certainly wasn’t enough to be concerned. He still managed 527 plate appearances and posted numbers directly in line with his career totals. The swings in his totals, from the counting stats to numbers like K%, BB% and HR/FB are minimal enough to keep them all fairly similar and that’s the type of consistency you love to have. Sure, the wOBA dipped to .348, the lowest it’s been since 2007, but McCann should easily roll along in 2012 at the performance levels to which his owners have grown accustomed. It may seem like he’s been around a while, but McCann will be just 28 years old at the start of spring training and has a good number of years at the top left.
And now, onto the second tier…
Victor Martinez, DET — While he’s predominately a DH these days, the soon-to-be 34 year old Martinez still played 26 games behind the plate which should be enough to maintain his catcher eligibility in most leagues. Owners may have been disappointed in just the 12 HR and .141 ISO mark, career lows in both, but he certainly made up for that with a .330 average and the 103 RBI. Adjusting to life in Comerica Park can do just. V-Mart’s HR/FB dipped to a 7.3%, mostly thanks to a reduced FB% (33.1%) coupled with a 14.0% IFFB%, but he turned out a fantastic 24.2% LD% which helped sustain that average and .343 BABIP. While staying with Detroit, he may just become a great contact hitter with strong gap power, but he is still capable of putting up 15-20 HR in a season, so don’t rule anything out just yet. He’ll continue as a designated hitter which will prolong his life in baseball, so hopefully he just continues to get enough time behind the dish to keep his eligibility beyond next season.
Alex Avila, DET — What a difference a year makes. Avila, who will turn just 25 before the start of next season, put forth a spectacular year for his owners in 2011 and those that took a chance on him after a disappointing rookie campaign were more than happy to reap the benefits. His triple slash line of .295/.389/.506 was a thing of beauty, his 19 HR and 82 RBI were more than anyone expected, and his 13.2 BB% and 24.8 O-Swing% showed that he had the necessary plate discipline to succeed and maintain a sound OBP. Obviously he needs to do it again for everyone to be a believer, and of course, there’s the question of that .366 BABIP. Everyone wondered when it would “come back to Earth”, but it stayed up all year. If he can do it again, then we’ve got some hitter before us here.
Miguel Montero, ARI — It’s hard to say whether Montero’s 2011 totals are where he will stay as his career moves forward or whether there’s some room for a little growth. While he’s been in the league since 2006, the 28 year old (29 by the All Star break), has seen more than 500 PA in a season just once due to an array of injuries over the years. Durability should always be a question in the back of your mind, but so long as he’s healthy, Montero is capable of putting up solid numbers, and with 2012 being a contract year for him (arbitration eligible now, free agent in 2013), you could be in line for a peak performance. The power is there, the average is there
Joe Mauer, MIN — You’ve got two ways of looking at it here. You can either cast aside 2011’s injury-riddled year and hope that the 29 year old Mauer returns to a level somewhere between his insane 2009 and sound 2010 or you can see this past season as the beginning of the end. Personally, I would have dropped him further down the list, but most of you and my colleagues probably would have run me out of town if I did. Since I enjoy living where I live, I’ll abide and just give fair warning. We all know that Mauer is a pure hitter. When he’s healthy, there’s really no one better. However, given his back issues, you have to be wary. You also have to be wary of the rest of the Twins lineup. Mauer can, for the most part, control his HR and average totals, but runs scored and RBI are going to be a product of the surrounding group. With no Delmon Young, possibly no Michael Cuddyer, and who knows which Justin Morneau will actually show up in 2012, there’s not much of a supporting cast. Elite hitter, health issues, lousy lineup are all I’m saying. You make the call.
Buster Posey, SF — After an award winning rookie season in 2010, Posey’s season was cut short last year by a nasty collision at the plate which resulted in a broken lower leg with a splash of ligament damage in the ankle. We’ve all seen the hit enough times and everyone has their opinions, so there’s no reason to re-hash it all. It’s time to move forward. Based on rehab reports and the fact that Posey, who will turn 25 before the start of next season, is already catching bullpen sessions in the instructional leagues, all signs point towards a full recovery. It’s difficult to do a full assessment of numbers given the fact that he has just one full season in the bigs under his belt. Still, we know the type of hitter he is — strong, disciplined — and can safely assume that when healthy, he should put up numbers very similar to his rookie campaign. Had last year not been such a bust, we could have tracked statistical growth a little better, but based on what we’ve seen at all levels, you can be confident in his abilities to be a top backstop next season.
Tier 3 arrives tomorrow…
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at email@example.com