Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Over the past 20 years, since I started playing fantasy baseball, the catching position has changed drastically from a fantasy owner's point of view.
In the past, the position was mainly known for its defensive play and to get one of the few offensively-minded catchers required using a higher draft choice than the player probably deserved and certainly a higher draft choice than an owner would want to use.
In 1988 Matt Nokes and Ernie Whitt led all catchers with 16 homers. Whitt was the high RBI man with 70 and Bob Boone's batting average was a league-high .295. The 10th-best catcher in your fantasy league was Mickey Tettleton with 11 HR, 37 RBI and a .251 batting average. The league average for a catcher was 8.84 HR, 40.96 RBI and a .253 average.
Ten years later, the league average for a starting catcher was 9.6 HR, 46.83 RBI and a .258 batting average. There were three superstar catchers in Javy Lopez (34 HR, 106 RBI, .284 ave) Mike Piazza (23, 76,.348) and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez (21, 91, .321), but the 10th-best catcher was still a very mediocre Lenny Webster (10, 46, .285). To get one of the three-top catchers, you had to use a first or second-round pick.
But in 2008 there are enough offensively-minded catchers to fill a 10-team league without the need to use a high-round draft choice at the position, because even the worst player on the list can hit the ball.
Here are the top-10 catchers of 2008 in my opinion: Brian McCann, Geovany Soto, Russell Martin, Jorge Posada, Ryan Doumit, Bengie Molina, Joe Mauer, A.J. Pierzynski, Dioner Navarro and Victor Martinez. These 10 players project to 23 HR, 70 RBI and .304 by season's end. And that includes a zero home run total for Martinez, who has averaged 21 HR over the last four years.
Amazingly, that the list doesn't included "Pudge," who dominated the position from 1993-2007 averaging .300 with 18 HR and 74 RBIs over the 15-year period.
So as you can see, the catching positions has evolved from a top-heavy position which required an early draft choice, to one that has depth and affords you the luxury of waiting to pick your catcher.