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Position Primer: Catcher

CATCHER TIERS
Joe Mauer, Min (30.7, $27)
Victor Martinez, Cle (47.8, $20)
Brian McCann, Atl (61.5, $21)


Mike Piazza, Oak (137.4, $6)
Kenji Johjima, Sea (163.9, $8)
Michael Barrett, Chc (161.2, $9)
Ramon Hernandez, Bal (184.1, $8)
Jorge Posada, NYY (135.6, $10)


Russell Martin, LAD (182.2, $8)
Ivan Rodriguez, Det (142.8, $12)
A.J. Pierzynski, Chw (193.0, $6)


Paul Lo Duca, NYM (289.9, $11) Jason Varitek, Bos (267.5, $3)
Johnny Estrada, Mil (299.9, $5)
Jason Kendall, Oak (321.5, $4)
David Ross, Cin (282.3, $2)


Gerald Laird, Tex (320.4 $1)
Bengie Molina, SF (308.1, $4)
Ronny Paulino, Pit (318.6, $2)
Chris Iannetta, Col (312.6, $2)
Miguel Olivo, Fla (333.4, $1)


Gregg Zaun, Tor (333.5, $1)
Josh Bard, SD (328.0, $3)
Rod Barajas, Phi (333.6, $1)
Mike Napoli, LAA (324.8, $2)
Miguel Montero, Ari (N/A, $1)
Yadier Molina, StL (333.3, $1)
Javy Lopez, Col (N/A, $1)

Note: #'s in parentheses are the latest ADP and AAV values from MockDraftCentral.com and FantasyAuctioneer.com, respectively

Other Positions: 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF

It's two o'clock in the morning. The bartender has just shouted "last call." And you, the disoriented sort that you are, meander your way through the remaining crowd hopeful to find a willing, attractive, late-night companion.

You comb the dark, smoke-filled bar only to find an unsuspecting, somewhat good looking damsel who, unfortunately, has one minor flaw – she's the size of Sidney Ponson. You have one more drink …

Catchers are fantasy's version of a regrettable one-night stand. Sure, we're all hard up to acquire a pair of receivers that won't kill our team batting average, but, generally speaking, we don't want to wake up next to them the following day and question our draft day morals.

Undeniably the most hard-to-swallow position to draft, catchers are as bone-dry as ever. Last year, a slim three catchers (Mauer, V-Mart, McCann) finished in the Yahoo! top 200, remarkably tripling the output from '05.

Does position scarcity mean you should dare reach for Joe Mauer at pick 30 ($27 AAV) knowing he gives you an enormous advantage at the spot, but is statistically dwarfed by Derrek Lee's five-category prowess?

No way Joe-se …

Sure, Mauer's projected .320-plus BA will tower above any other backstop, but at least 8-10 others will hit more homers and another five will likely drive in more runs. In other words, it's senseless to break your arm for Mauer when guys such as, Mike Piazza (138.2 ADP, $6 AAV), Michael Barrett (162.1, $9) and Kenji Johjima (164.2, $8) will contribute higher totals in more fantasy categories at a fraction of the cost.

As the Mauer example conveys, the catcher draft theme is patience.

Here are the powers, sours and wannabe Joe Mauers at catcher this year:

2007 Catchers: On the Rise
Rank Player Team Pos ADP AAV
1 Mike Piazza Oak C, DH 137.4 $6
Outlook: Forget Pert Plus ads, after this year Piazza may ink a deal with Vidal Sassoon. Quite possibly the worst defensive catcher this decade, Piazza smartly has discarded the mask in favor of something he's good at, being a professional hitter. Left for dead in New York after a string of dwindling years, Piazza, shockingly, had a power rebirth (22 HR in 399 at-bats) in pitcher-friendly San Diego in '06. At 38, it's unlikely he'll recapture the 30-plus homer magic he once had, but 24-28 tape-measures are not out of the question in Oakland. Half the price of Pudge, Piazza will have you rolling around naked in a mountain of cash – anticipate .285 BA, 25 HR, 74 RBI, 60 R.
2 Michael Barrett Chc C 161.2 $9
Outlook: If you buy into the theory of a contract-year upswing, free-agent-to-be Barrett is your man. Last year, Barrett had his best season as a pro, notching a career-high .307 BA with 16 homers and 53 RBI. His upward trending peripherals (BB, CT%, OBP, FB%) arrow to a power numbers leap in '07. Given his current trends and with dime on the line, Barrett's career year is now – .300 BA, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 60 R.
3 David Ross Cin C 282.3 $2
Outlook: Surprisingly, Ross had more homers than V-Mart and Johjima in nearly half the at-bats last year. In fact, if you extrapolate Ross' totals over 450 at-bats, he would have smashed a mammoth 37 homers. That's better than A-Rod (35), Vladimir Guerrero (33) and Manny Ramirez (35). In his peak power years at age 29, Ross' slugger stroke appears real. Expected to split some time with Javier Valentin, Ross could see an additional 50-75 at-bats, which could translate to 23-28 homers. If you can stomach a cave-dwelling BA: .249 BA, 23 HR, 55 RBI.
4 Gerald Laird Tex C 320.4 $1
Outlook: Laird is a southpaw masher. In 85 at-bats against lefties last year he tallied a first-rate .400 average with eight doubles and three homers. Interestingly, he only hit .241 versus righties. As a full-timer this season, don't expect another .296 average. However, in a hitter's park and with double-digit power, he should be a stable No. 2 catcher capable of a .270 BA, 12 HR, and 50 RBI.
5 Gregg Zaun Tor C 333.5 $1
Outlook: With Bengie Molina in the Golden Gate City, Zaun enters 2007 as the primary backstop for John Gibbons' club. One of the most disciplined hitters at his position, Zaun has an outstanding 112:114 K:BB split since 2005. Forgotten in a majority of drafts, although he'll never wow you in any single category, Zaun is a legit second catcher capable of a .270 BA and low double-digit home run totals. Deep-thinking owners could do much worse.

2007 Catchers: On the Decline
Rank Player Team Pos ADP AAV
1 Ivan Rodriguez Det C 142.8 $12
Outlook: Entering his 17th season in the bigs, at some point, you would think the baby-faced Pudge would show some signs of age. Despite being a consistent source of BA, 10-15 homers and a palm full of steals, I-Rod is not worth his ballooned $12 AAV. Sure he could see a small surge in runs as a potential lead-off man against LHP, but guys like Johjima, Barrett and Martin, going some 40-plus picks later, will outperform Pudge in most categories. Let someone else shell out the extra dough.
2 Jason Kendall Oak C 321.4 $1
Outlook: Every time Kendall's name is mentioned my ankle twitches. Still one of the few backstops that won't sink your team batting average, Kendall has also been a consistent source or steals and run production in his prosperous career. With Kurt Suzuki waiting in the wings, Kendall is in his farewell tour as an Athletic. A marvelous contact hitter who draws walks, Kendall has begun to show signs of age as his eye has slowly begun to erode – he had a six-year high 54 strikeouts last year. Expect a slight decline – .280 BA, 1 HR, 45 RBI, 70 R, 8 SB.
3 Bengie Molina SF C 308.1 $4
Outlook: The primary signal caller in the land of the Barrys, Molina should see a significant drop-off in offensive production switching leagues and parks. Compared to the power-happy Canadian air found in the Rogers Centre, AT&T Park is a pitcher's haven, which should suppress Molina's tater totals. Splitting time with Eliezer Alfonzo, anticipate an all-around regression for the eldest Molina brother – 400 at-bats, .275 BA, 13 HR, 55 RBI.
4 Jason Varitek Bos C 267.5 $3
Outlook: Varitek's plunge since 2004 is more frightening than a gruesome Stephen King plot twist. Indicative of his dramatic 43-point BA and 10-homer nose-dive, rickety knees hampered Varitek in '06. His quality 11% walks mark over the past three years suggests a rebound is possible, but, given his advanced age (35) a return to skyward 20-25 homer days is a pipe dream. Make sure you drop no more than an Honest Abe for his services in mixed auctions – .270 BA, 16 HR, 60 RBI.
5 Javy Lopez Col C N/A $1
Outlook: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once one of baseball's most prolific power backstops, since his zenith 43-HR, 109-RBI explosion in 2003, Lopez's career has plummeted faster than prime acting gigs for Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. With his bat nearly flat-lined and Chris Ianetta a superior defensive receiver, Lopez is nothing more than a rotting Colorado corpse – even with a career .356 average at Coors. Confide in him only as a No. 2 in 14-team and deeper mixed leagues.

2007 Catchers: Top Prospects
Rank Player Team Pos ADP AAV
1 Chris Iannetta Col C 312.6 $2
Outlook: The top catcher prospect in the Colorado system, Ianetta flourished between Double- and Triple-A last season slapping a stellar .336 BA with 14 bombs in 307 at-bats. A popular sleeper selection in expert circles, Ianetta is a fantastic receiver who could develop into one of the better defensive catchers in the NL. Because of his defensive prowess, the rookie will stave off maladroit vet Lopez for a majority of playing time. Look for him to be a top-flight source of BA with low double-digit pop in the thin air of Coors.
2 Miguel Montero Ari C N/A $1
Outlook: M&M is a candy-coated late-round selection who should post sweet numbers in a part-time role. Because of his defensive inadequacies, Montero will split time with Chris Snyder, but should take roughly 300 steps in the kitty box. A quality bat with good knowledge of the strike zone (45 BB in 107 at-bats in '06), Montero possesses 15-20 homer upside. Just 23, it's only a matter of time before he takes over duties full-time. Throw down a G-Dub with confidence.
3 Jarrod Saltalamacchia Atl C N/A $1
Outlook: A fifth grader and fantasy writer's worst spelling nightmare, J-Salt is the brightest backstop prospect in the minors. After bashing 29 combined homers in two Single-A seasons ('04 and '05), J-Salt battled injuries and finished with a disappointing .230 BA at Double-A Mississippi in '06. A smooth, fluid switch-hitter, many scouts project 20-plus homers annually from him based on the natural loft his swing exudes. Although the Braves have yet to make the move, J-Salt will most certainly go the way of many stud catcher prospects (i.e. Neil Walker, Ryan Garko, Daric Barton) and switch to first or left due to Brian McCann's presence. If that does occur, his fantasy value will be minimized greatly. Look for him to make his MLB debut sometime in 2008.
4 Jeff Clement Sea C N/A N/A
Outlook: Possibly the most talented catcher prospect you've never heard of, Clement, the third overall pick in the 2005 draft, is a master blaster. Average at-best defensively, Clement's short swing and long 6-foot-2 frame, helps him turn quickly on the ball and generate a great deal of power. Although his minor league numbers reflect marginality (12 HR in 417 career at-bats) he projects as a 20-plus homer player. The presence of Kenji Johjima could force Seattle to make him a full-time DH if he explodes in PCL play at Triple-A Tacoma.
5 Kurt Suzuki Oak C N/A N/A
Outlook: Far from a cheap economy car, Suzuki is an eagle-eyed Cadillac who's made significant strides in each of his three minor league seasons. Known as "Kurt Klutch" among Cal-State Fullerton fans, Suzuki is a hard-working, patient hitter who has a sparkling 137:139 K:BB ratio in 992 career minor league at-bats. Some scouts believe he will develop into a perennial 10-15 homer bat down the road and given his keen eye, he'll also notch a BA above .280. With Kendall a free-agent-to-be after this season, Suzuki will likely start '08 in O-town.
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