Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Even with the loss for the season of last year's second-best fantasy catcher, Victor Martinez, there is more catching talent than I can ever remember at any time in my 30-year fantasy playing career. So much so that the high-average, low-power Joe Mauer, who used to sit smartly atop the catcher rankings every season, can barely crack the 2012 top-10.
1) Mike Napoli, Texas - Napoli left Anaheim for Texas in 2011 and got off to a slow start not because he wasn't hitting, but because manager Ron Washington couldn't find him enough at-bats. In April, he hit six homers, knocked in 12 runs and posted an OPS of 1.164 with just 45 at-bats. He saw 75 at-bats in May but an injury held him down in June. When he returned to the field on July 4th, he batted .327 with 20 HR, 50 RBI and an OPS of 1.170 the rest of the way. Napoli finished the season with 30 HR and 75 RBI in 369 at-bats. Given all the opportunities from the Rangers' great hitting lineup and hitter- friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Napoli should continue to produce excellent statistics. It's just a matter of the manager finding him 500+ at- bats.
2) Carlos Santana, Cleveland - The problem with Santana is...actually there is no problem with the Indians' third-year catcher. The only thing keeping him from being No.1 is the lineup surrounding him. Last year, Santana knocked out 27 homers and 79 RBIs in his first full season after a rookie year cut short by injury. He did struggle, however, with just a .239 batting average in part because he was the only "big stick" in the lineup that other teams feared. So they pitched around him. A return to health of Shin Soo-Choo and Grady Sizemore to go along with Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera could create enough offense so that Santana could be a 100-RBI guy.
3) Brian McCann, Atlanta - If you are looking for a "sure thing" behind the plate, McCann is your guy. The six-time All-Star is going to get you 20-25 homers, 75-95 RBI, hit between .270 and .300 and post an OPS over .800 almost every year. He's not flashy, he just gets the job done.
4) Buster Posey, San Francisco - We have all seen the collision at home plate that ended Posey's second year much to soon (May 25th). The Giants star catcher is on pace to be ready for Opening Day which is great news for fantasy owners. If we combine the 108 games Posey played in 2010 with the 45 he played last season we should have a good idea of what he can produce in a full season - .299 batting average with 22 HR, 88 RBI and an OPS of 0.831.
5) Miguel Montero, Arizona - Montero was a huge fantasy bargain coming out of nowhere in 2009, but disappointed fantasy owners in 2010 when injuries kept him sidelined for half a season. He was healthy all last year and finally showed off what he can do - batting .282 with 18 HR and 86 RBI. The Diamondbacks lineup is getting even more deadly in 2012 with the addition of former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel and a full season from August call up Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup.
6) Alex Avila, Detroit - Avila was the biggest surprise at the catching position in 2011. The preseason free agent (Yahoo ADP 343) batted .295 with 19 HR, 82 RBI and an OPS of 0.895. He made the All-Star team and the confidence from that game only helped him improve on his statistics in the second half. The Tigers lineup may have lost Martinez, but they added Prince Fielder so it should be just as strong. While the Detroit lineup should repeat last year's output, the question is whether Avila can repeat last year's results or revert back to the mediocre hitter he was in 2010. The lack of a consistent history makes him a risky selection.
7) J.P. Arencibia, Toronto - Arencibia came out of the PCL with a history of power and he didn't disappoint in his first year behind the plate for the Blue Jays. As advertised, Arencibia can hit the long ball, knocking out 23 HR, but he struggled with his batting average. He hit just .219, nothing like the .301 he posted in his 2010 stint at AAA Las Vegas. Toronto signed veteran Jeff Mathis in the off season which could help Arencibia by allowing him to DH more often.
8) Joe Mauer, Minnesota - Mauer was limited to just 82 games last year, the fewest since he came into the league in 2004. He's claiming to be completely healthy heading into spring training which can only be a good thing. The problem is, while he's a great average hitter, he's simply not going to get you double-digit homers and 75-80 RBI would seem to be his upper limit. It gets worse if he doesn't have Justin Morneau behind him (Morneau has played just 81 and 69 games the past two seasons due to post-concussion problems) because both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer have left town. Mauer is likely to be overpriced on Draft Day, simply because of his name.
9) Matt Wieters, Baltimore - Wieters came up to much fanfare in May of 2009, but his maturation has been slower than fantasy owners and Orioles fans probably would have liked. In his third season, he made the All-Star game and posted career bests in at-bats (500), runs (72), hits (131), doubles (28), homers (22), RBI (68), slugging percentage (0.450) and OPS (0.778). If he continues to improve he could be a top-five fantasy value.
10) Wilson Ramos, Washington - Ramos finished a well-deserved fourth in the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Vance Worley. In just 389 at-bats, he hit a solid .267 with 15 HR and 52 RBI. If he is given 500+ at-bats, we're talking about 18-20 HR and close to 80 RBI. My only concern is from any lingering effects due to his being kidnapped in Venezuela back on November 9th. As long as his head is in the game, he should crack the top-10 at the position.
Just missed ; Chris Iannetta, Russell Martin, Geovany Soto, Kurt Suzuki.
Rookies with fantasy value; Jesus Montero, Devin Mesoraco.