Alright folks, dust the Cheeto crumbs off of your keyboards, it’s time for fantasy baseball again. Whether you play rotisserie, head-to-head, or points, there’s one position that will always be like the tonsils of your team. You don’t need them, they don’t really seem to do anything, but if you don’t have them, you’re prone to get sick more often. This bitch of a position is the catcher. They’re arguably the most important player on the field in real baseball, but in fantasy, most of them do nothing but get you 30-40 runs and RBIs, 7-10 HRs, and 0 stolen bases.
Of course, there are anomalies like Victor Martinez. But, those guys are few and far between. Like the tight end in fantasy baseball, life would be so much easier if you didn’t even have to bother with them. But, the catcher is a necessity in fantasy baseball. So, let’s go through and show you some of the most overrated and most underrated of the lamest position in fantasy baseball.
1. J.R. Towles – Houston Astros – You may or may not have heard of this guy yet. But, trust me, by the end of the season, he will be a household name amongst fantasy baseball managers. The 2008 version of Russell Martin, Towles can hit and run with as much dominance as could be expected from a catcher. In the minors over the last 4 years, J.R. (or Justin Towles) produced 28 HRs and 42 SBs in 907 ABs. That’s roughly 14 HRs and 21 SBs per a catcher’s full MLB season with a career .300 minor league batting average to boot. Right now, Towles has an average fantasy ranking of 19.3 amongst catchers. Much of that may have something to do with Brad Ausmus, the 39-year old road block crouching in his way. He may not start the season as the starter, but he’ll finish the season making the rest of your league managers wonder why they jumped on Jason Kendall so quickly.
2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Texas Rangers – I know Salty isn’t MUCH of a sleeper with a 12.1 average fantasy ranking, but he’ll be much higher than that by season’s end. I personally have seen Salty back when he played for the AA Mississippi Braves, and he’s solid. He hit 46 dingers in 1346 ABs in the minors, which works out to be around 15-16 in a full MLB catcher’s season. He’s as clutch as they come, knocking in 204 RBIs during that same time (an equivalent of about 70 per season in the MLB). Not only that, when he’s not catching he will fill in at first base. Since one of the other major downfalls for catchers is their average of 100-120 games played per season, when a catcher also fills in at another spot you’d better jump on that bandwagon.
3. Michael Barrett – San Diego Padres – Yeah, I said it. I am, and have been for a long time, one of Barrett’s biggest fans. Nothing stung worse than seeing him be ridden out of town on a rail by my beloved Cubs last season. That being said, the number one reason I heart Michael Barrett is his passion for the game. I love that he makes mistakes, not due to inability, but due to the fact that he gets so pumped that he just flips his lid. So, do you think Michael Barrett, a once very respectible fantasy catcher, will slink into a corner and twiddle his thumbs after last season’s debacle? Of course not! Not MY Michael Barrett! I don’t expect Victor Martinez numbers out of him, but the good old days of 50-15-50 and .280 don’t seem like a stretch on February 8th to me.
1. Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins – Yes, we all love him for his batting title in 2006. We also very much love his sideburns. But, Joe, what have you done for me lately in fantasy baseball, buddy? Not much! Yeah, a .300 BA is good, but not when you’re only playing 100-110 games a season! After that, he’s getting 7-10 HRs and 7-10 SBs. You know who’s got similar numbers to Handsome Joe? Mark DeRosa. Yeah! Mark DeRosa! 74-10-72-.324 & 71-12-73-.295 Which of the previous two seasons’ averaged stats belong to which player? Okay, the .324 gives it away, but you take that batting crown out and you’ve got a .300 career hitter. I’m not saying he’s not good, I just don’t think he’s worth the average fantasy ranking of 3.1 among catchers. He won’t live up to your expectations this season.
2. Jason Kendall – Milwaukee Brewers – Why is Kendall even still being ranked at all? Much less owning as high of a ranking of 19 and 20 among ALL catchers! (Two reputable publications ranked him that high, his average ranking is 29.4) I guess if 0-3 HRs plus 40-50 runs and RBIs is good business to you, then more power to you. Maybe you’re holding out for another monster 11 SBs out of him, I don’t know. But, come on! If you see someone draft Kendall don’t hold back the laughter, they need to hear it or else they’ll never learn.
3. Ramon Hernandez – Baltimore Orioles – His sudden surge in the long ball category in 2003 with Oakland and now his sudden inability to play full seasons over the following 5 years screams Larussa turning yet another blind, drunken eye to a sharp stick in the ass cheek. With power numbers on the sharp decline since steroids have had their cover blown completely off a year or two ago, I don’t think we’ll ever see our average fantasy ranked 11.5 Ramon Hernandez return to the form many cling to like the hopes that Brad and Jen will get back together.
So, there you have it. Since you’ve got to have a catcher, you might as well go into the whole procedure informed. A couple other tips on catchers. Don’t keep more than one on your roster, please. It doesn’t make sense, it’s like keeping Pokey Reese on your bench just in case Craig Counsell goes down. After Victor Martinez, Russell Martin, and Brian McCann get drafted just wait it out until you have the rest of your starters taken. Catchers work the same way in the draft that tight ends do in fantasy football, once the big three are taken, there’s a rush as everyone’s afraid they’ll get stuck with nothing. Then you end up drafting Mike Napoli in the 4th or 5th round and you feel dirty like you just made sweet love to your cousin the next morning.
Check back in later when we uncover the Sleepers & Busters in the world of first basemen…