Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Once upon a time, actually not too long ago, if you didn't select from the threesome of Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez or Brian McCann, you didn't bother to draft a catcher until the end of the draft ... sort of like NFL kickers.
In 2009, Mauer posted a phenomenal .365 batting average with 28 HR, 96 RBI and a 1.031 OPS. Martinez was pretty good too, batting .303 with 23 HR, 108 RBI and a .861 OPS and McCann went .281 with 21 HR and 94 RBI. Below the trio it was primarily a wasted selection.
But there is a new reality in 2013.
There are at least a dozen catchers worthy of a spot in your fantasy lineup. No longer do you have to rush to overpay for one of the few top catchers.
Sure, Buster Posey is a superstar coming off his 2012 batting title (.336) which included 24 homers, 103 RBI and a .957 OPS. However, rushing to select him in the second round (current Yahoo ADP 20) may not be necessary.
Below are a dozen guys, who may not be quite up to Posey's standards, but could actually give you better "bang for your buck" than spending the high pick.
Joe Mauer, Minnesota (70) - No, he's not a 28 home run hitter, he barely reached double-digits last season, but he's still a valuable asset to any fantasy lineup with his lifetime .323 batting average and .857 OPS.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis (78) - The improvement of Molina's bat is one of the reasons the Cardinals managed to overcome the loss of Albert Pujols from the lineup. Last season Molina set career highs in runs, hits, homers, RBI, batting average and OPS.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland (79) - Though Santana has still not fulfilled the promise when he first came to be big league in 2010, he's averaged 22.5 HR over the past two seasons and has a career OPS of .806. The addition of Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourne to the Indians' lineup can only help Santana's production.
Matt Wieters, Baltimore (89) - When Wieters first arrived in the majors he was called the "next Mauer" and the tag likely hurt his progress. In his fifth season he could finally blossom and improve on last year's 23 HR and 83 RBI performance.
Victor Martinez, Detroit (90) - Martinez missed all of 2012 with a knee injury, but is expected to be in the heart of the Tigers' powerful lineup. We have no questions about his ability to hit, but he'll likely end up being the full-time DH and may not get enough work behind the plate to be eligible for the position in fantasy lineups.
Wilin Rosario, Colorado (97) - Rosario was one of the biggest surprises of 2012, taking over the job for an injured Ramon Hernandez and not giving it back. Rosario finished his first full season with 28 homers, 71 RBI and a solid .843 OPS. He's likely to bat fifth, a prime spot in the Rockies lineup, behind Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.
Miguel Montero, Arizona (114) - Montero has averaged .284 with 16.5 HR, 87 RBI and a .825 OPS over the past two seasons. In most years that would put him in the top-five, but not last year and probably not in 2013 either.
Brian McCann, Atlanta (129) - McCann has been a reliable fantasy catcher for the past seven season, hitting 20 or more homers in six of them. His batting average took a tumble last year and he's coming off right shoulder surgery so he might be a bit of a gamble this season.
Salvador Perez, Kansas City (130) - Perez came up in June last year and in just 289 at bats hit .301 with 11 homers, 39 RBI and a .798 OPS. As an 11th-round selection, he might be the best fantasy value in the draft.
Jesus Montero, Seattle (143) - In New York, Montero was hyped as the next great hitting catcher, but fantasy owners aren't seeing it. It doesn't help that he plays in a "pitcher's ballpark." In his first season he hit .260 with 15 HR and 62 RBI.
Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee (170) - Lucroy struggled with injuries last season which limited him to just 316 at-bats. If you extrapolate his .320 batting average with 12 HR and 58 RBI over an entire season, he'd finish as a top-five fantasy catcher.
A.J. Pierzynski, Texas (189) - Pierzynski is coming off a career year (27 HR, 77 RBI) and joins a powerful Rangers lineup that despite losing Josh Hamilton and Michael Young still has plenty of run-scoring ability. Just don't look for last year's abnormal power numbers.
And the above list doesn't include Mike Napoli (139) who may be catcher- eligible, Ryan Doumit (217), Alex Avila (231), J.C. Arencibia (267) or Carlos Ruiz who will have to sit out a 25-game suspension at the start of the season.
As you can see, the catching position is enjoying a prosperous time and fantasy owners should take advantage of it.