To catch a rising star

Ryan Doumit was one of the best bargains in 2008.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the first of a multi-part series, we will set our projections for each position beginning with the catchers.

The catcher position is one in which there are very few good options, and unless you get one of the top-five players, you are resigned to mediocrity...at best. With few exceptions, its rarely a good plan to pick a catcher high since they always fade in the second half of the season due to their heavy workload.

Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs - The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year (.285, 23 HR, 86 RBI) still has a huge upside and on a team with so much offensive power as the Cubs should be better in 2009. He'll likely be drafted high in most leagues, probably too high to get "Fair Market Value."

Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers - Martin (.280, 87 runs, 13 HR, 69 RBI, 18 SB) brings solid numbers in all categories, particularly one which isn't often seen from the catching position - stolen bases. I'm a little concerned about overwork, as he's averaged 153 games and 635 plate appearances over the last two seasons. But that's good for fantasy owners as long as he can continue to stay healthy. His numbers will look a lot better if both Rafael Furcal and Manny Ramirez are in the lineup with him.

Joe Mauer, Minnesota - Every owner has to love Mauer's hitting prowess (.328, 98 runs, 9 HR, 85 RBI) particularly his batting average. But a lack of power keeps him from being at the top of the charts. He's averaged just 9.66 HR per season since coming up in 2006.

Brian McCann, Atlanta - McCann (.301, 68 runs, 23 HR, 87 RBI) has as much home run power as any catcher and a lifetime .297 batting average. He should continue to hit for power in 2009. Long-term, it's possible that the team might move him to first base as only two catchers allowed more stolen bases last season.

Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh - Doumit (.318, 71 runs, 15 HR, 69 RBI) was one of the best bargains in 2008 as he was the 22nd catcher selected with an average draft position (ADP) of over 300. The team now has so much faith in him that they shipped former starter Ron Paulino off to Philadelphia in a trade which should make Doumit the full-time catcher for the foreseeable future.

Victor Martinez, Cleveland - When Martinez (.278, 30 runs, 2 HR, 35 RBI) was healthy, he was the No.1 catcher in the major leagues. Unfortunately, he was never that way in 2008 and suffered from a hamstring pull, neck and finger injuries and a sore right elbow which robbed his swing of all its power. Without him in the lineup, the Indians developed Kelly Shoppach and Martinez may not play much catcher anymore. To keep his bat in the lineup, the team may play him only at DH or first base, but as long as he is still eligible behind the plate, and healthy, he is a top-10 option.

Kelly Shoppach, Cleveland - When Martinez went down with his various injuries, the Indians were forced to find out whether Shoppach (.261, 67 runs, 21 HR, 55 RBI) was an every day player. He is. If the Indians decide that Martinez is still going to be their catcher, expect them to trade Shoppach. If however, they keep him, he has too much talent to sit on the bench. Either way, he'll be a fantasy-worthy player in 2009.

Bengie Molina, San Francisco - Molina is the perfect example of getting the opportunities to succeed. He had a "typical" Molina year, but because he was a cleanup hitter in 2008, he set personal highs in RBIs, at bats, hits, doubles and double plays. Since the team doesn't appear to have found a better cleanup hitter, Molina will apparently bat fourth again.

Chris Iannetta, Colorado - Prior to this season, Iannetta had appeared in 88 games with the Rockies and managed just six home runs, but in 2008 he hit .264 with 50 runs, 18 HR and 65 RBI. This is the real Iannetta and he should continue to produce at this rate.

Matt Wieters, Baltimore - Wieters' combined numbers for 2008 between Frederick and Bowie were .355, 89 runs, 27 HR, 91 RBI. He is a catcher by trade and a pure hitter by talent. The trouble is, Wieters hasn't made it to the "big club" yet and might not start the season there. But if he does stick with the Orioles, he might become the next Soto.

Ramon Hernandez, Cincinnati - The Orioles believe so much in Wieters being the future of the organization that they shipped Hernandez to Cincinnati for Ryan Freel and a couple of minor leaguers. Hernandez didn't have a bad season as far as catchers are concerned, hitting .257 with 49 runs, 15 HR, 65 RBI in 133 games. He goes from one hitters ballpark to another so his numbers should be at least as good as in 2008.

AJ Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox - Pierzynski was still hitting .299 on August 24th, but catching does take its toll particularly in the heat of late summer in Chicago. He finished at .281 with 66 runs, 13 HR and 60 RBI. Batting second limits the number of RBI he might be able to produce, but he is still a viable fantasy player.

Top-12 Catcher Projections
Player Team AB H R HR RBI SB K AVE SLG
Geovany Soto CHC 525 151 70 27 92 0 110 0.289 0.515
Russell Martin LAD 550 154 89 14 72 16 80 0.280 0.435
Joe Mauer MIN 575 183 90 9 90 3 55 0.315 0.450
Brian McCann ATL 550 165 68 23 95 4 65 0.300 0.500
Ryan Doumit PIT 500 140 55 17 77 2 70 0.281 0.485
Victor Martinez CLE 450 129 60 16 70 0 72 0.285 0.460
Kelly Shoppach CLE 460 120 58 21 66 0 115 0.260 0.470
Bengie Molina SF 440 125 40 17 75 0 68 0.285 0.440
Chris Iannetta COL 425 115 60 19 62 0 82 0.270 0.490
Matt Wieters BAL 400 122 62 18 60 0 67 0.305 0.510
Ramon Hernandez CIN 410 109 45 16 65 0 58 0.260 0.400
AJ Pierzynski CWS 500 137 60 10 55 0 70 0.279 0.395


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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