Today we'll take a close look at catchers. Usually, it's the position you dread drafting most. You get to that special point in the fantasy draft when someone takes McCann and Mauer and you end up throwing your hands in the air and assume you'll end up with the bullpen catcher from the Devil Rays. Well, we're here to give you some options for draft day and some names to watch throughout the season. The list you see below isn't a comprehensive ranking of catchers in the league (you'll see some key names missing like Brian McCann and Mike Piazza). Instead, we picked a list of 13 catchers that we expect to have more value in 2007 than they did in 2006. Here we go...
Joe Mauer - Mauer has one of the sweetest swings in the game and it certainly showed in 2006, being the first AL catcher to win the batting title in baseball history. While a repeat performance of a .347 is highly unlikely, Mauer should remain consistent and put up solid numbers. We're looking at a .312 Avg, 86 RBI, 16 HR, and 85 runs scored. His forecasted FPI is 0.73 (just shy of our #1 rated catcher Brian McCann) and has an EAV$ of about $15. Be careful about jumping to get him too early though. McCann should double Mauer's production in HR while maintaining a .300+ average and a 0.76 FPI (Forecast: .312, 16 HR, 86 RBI, 0.73 FPI, $15 EAV).
Michael Barrett Barrett has all the makings of a career year in 2007. Aside from coming off the best season of his career in 2006, Barrett will be looking to put up some big numbers to make the big bucks as a free-agent at the end of the year. Taking a closer look at 2006, Barrett's EYE improved from 0.5 and 0.6 the previous two years to 0.8 last year. His power numbers got better with an OPS of .880 and he broke the 0.70 FPI mark as well. Add in a better offensive cast in the Cubs lineup and you could see some big things from Barrett. I consider him at the top of the "next" tier of catchers. We have him forecasted at 19 HR, but it wouldn't surprise me if he hits 25. (Forecast: .301, 19 HR, 69 RBI, 0.68 FPI, $7 EAV).
Johnny Estrada - People forget just how good a hitter Estrada is for a catcher. He has bounced around a couple of different teams over the last three years, but he finds himself up in Beer-country with the Milwaukee Brewers for 2007. If you're looking for power out of the catcher position, you can look elsewhere. His sub-.800 OPS is a guarantee for this season and his career-high in HR came last year in Arizona with 11. However, if you're looking for a little average boost in your Roto league, you can capture a little upside with Estrada who hit .302 last year and .314 in 2004. If you have the option between Estrada and Barrett, its no contest - pick Barrett. But, its likely that you can get Estrada for cheap or in later rounds. His average draft position is over 20. (Forecast: .308, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 0.62 FPI, $7 EAV).
Russell Martin - Martin's call-up last May helped a lot of fantasy owners who were in desperate need of some catching help. He showed some plate discipline in his first year, posting an EYE of 0.79 while putting up a .436 slugging percentage. His 40 extra base hits (out of 117 total hits) shows that he has some pop at only 24. I think he can put up low-teen HR and SB production - not bad for a $7 EAV catcher in his second season in the bigs. (Forecast: .291, 11 HR, 71 RBI, 8 SB, 0.64 FPI, $7 EAV).
David Ross - Ross is your answer if you're looking for HR out of the catcher (aren't we all?). Let's have some fun with numbers... in just 247 AB, Ross hit 21 HR, drove in 52 RBI, and scored 37 runs. If you increase his AB to 400 and keep with the same ratio, we're talking 34 HR, 84 RBI, and 60 runs. Of course, that estimate isn't real scientific, but Ross definitely made a big splash in a little time. So why is his EAV$ only $6? Your Roto average is going to take a beating - he posted a .255 average last year and he is forecasted at .242 for this season. And, he'll likely split some time behind the plate with Javier Valentin. But, we think he'll be close to 400 AB by the end of the season (Forecast: .242, 26 HR, 78 RBI, 0.61 FPI, $6 EAV).
Josh Bard - Getting Bard for anything cheaper than $5 is a steal. After being dealt from the BoSox to the Padres last year, Bard hit .338 with a .406 OBP and .943 OPS in part-time work. In the enormous Petco Park where even Babe Ruth would be a singles hitter, Bard posted a 21.6 HR/AB and a .537 Slg (season totals were 25.7 HR/AB ratio, FPI of 0.90, and decent plate discipline with an EYE of 0.7). With Piazza making the move north, Bard will be the everyday catcher and should log 450 AB. (Forecast: .306, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 0.69 FPI, $5 EAV).
for the complete analysis on all 13 Catchers who are expected to increase
in value this year.