Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the first of many offseason fantasy reviews, we begin our analysis of the 2012 fantasy baseball season behind the plate.
The catching position has come quite a distance in a short amount of time. It wasn't long ago, if you didn't select Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer or Atlanta Braves backstop Brian McCann, your catching production would be minimal. That isn't the case anymore.
In fact, McCann didn't even make The Sports Network's top-10 fantasy catchers this season, nor did 2011 sensations Mike Napoli and Alex Avila.
The catching class of 2012 is much more proficient at hitting the ball than in past seasons, and even without McCann, Napoli and Avila, there were still plenty of "good sticks" behind the plate.
Let's look at our fantasy Top 10:
Buster Posey, San Francisco - There is no questioning the best catcher in fantasy baseball. Posey has been at or near the top since his arrival in 2010. Returning after missing most of 2011 due to a horrific ankle injury, he never missed a beat, starting with a .353 batting average in April. He posted personal bests in almost every fantasy category, but not stolen bases, which was probably a wise precaution. Posey is only going to get better and will likely rise to a second-round overall selection next year.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis - The continued improvement of Molina's bat along with the addition of Carlos Beltran helped the Cardinals make up for the loss of Albert Pujols. Molina spent most of the year batting fifth or sixth, which provided him with more opportunities and he cashed in for career highs in batting average (.315), home runs (22) and RBI (76).
Joe Mauer, Minnesota - The Twins were careful with their star catcher, allowing him to also DH and play first base this season to keep him healthy and rested. It worked as Mauer played the most games of his career (147). He'll never be that home run hitter he was in 2009, but with Mauer, you can rely on a high batting average and solid RBI total.
Wilin Rosario, Colorado - Rosario was an unknown property at the beginning of the season and it wasn't until Ramon Hernandez was injured that we got a look at the talents of the 23-year-old Rosario. He proved to be a powerful addition to any fantasy lineup, leading all catchers with 28 homers. His minor league best was 21 homers at Double-A Tulsa, so this could be a mirage.
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia - Before an injury sent Ruiz to the disabled list, he was putting up numbers that were better than Posey. Through the All-Star break, Ruiz batted .350 with 13 homers, 46 RBI and a .995 OPS. We don't expect the Phillies catcher to continue to produce the power numbers, but he has averaged .303 over the past three seasons, and that should continue into 2013.
A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox - Pierzynski was one of the biggest surprises at the catching position with his new-found power. He blasted a career-high 27 homers, more than three times his totals in 2010 and '11, and tied his personal best with 77 RBI. Fantasy owners should be concerned that this was a one-time thing, like Mauer's 28-homer season in 2009 and not over- reach for him next season.
Miguel Montero, Arizona - Fantasy owners who were looking for Montero to improve on his breakout 2011 season were disappointed. Although he had another solid season, he seems to have hit a plateau. When drafting him in 2013, don't expect more than 15-20 HR and 85-90 RBI.
Matt Wieters, Baltimore - Wieters had a monster April and September, but in between, it was a struggle. He finished with career highs in homers (23) and RBI (83), but after his start, we were all thinking a Posey-like season.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland - After a 27-HR, 79-RBI 2011 season, big things were expected of Santana. Then he batted .220 with just five homers and 29 RBI through the end of June and many fantasy owners sent him packing. He improved over the final 80 games (.278, 13 HR, 49 RBI), but by then the damage had been done. If you don't select him too early, he should give you solid fantasy value in 2013.
Ryan Doumit, Minnesota - In his first seven seasons in Pittsburgh, the multi- position eligible Doumit proved to be a solid hitter; however, very few people noticed because he was playing to an empty stadium. With the Twins, he set career highs for homers (18) and RBI (75). We believe he can continue at this level and as long as he stays catcher-eligible, Doumit is a fantasy-worthy starter.