FBB: My unsexy approach to drafting a catcher in 2010

At a different site recently, someone asked me who the hot young sleeper catcher was for 2010. A player they could target in the mid to late rounds and avoid the drafting firestorm that would surround the truly elite at the position.

And, for the first time in my fantasy career, I found myself giving advice so unrisky, non-dramatic and un-ninja-like, I felt sick to my stomach.

I still do.

I’ll hate myself for saying this out loud, in e-print, but this is the year that I …

… burn an earlier pick than normal on one of the four elite catchers.

Now, when I say “elite” catcher, let me get specific.

I mean Joe Mauer … he of the wicked .365 batting average. He of the career-high 28 home runs in 2009 (almost double what he jacked in 2007 and 2008 combined … something a little fishy about that?). Mauer is a workaholic who will produce for fantasy owners at such an elite pace (although I do expect a dropoff in home run totals), that having him gives you an instant boost.

Brian McCann is similar. Twenty-one dingers, a .281 batting average and playing for the prolific Braves, McCann will continue to be a beacon of fantasy consistency in 2010.

Victor Martinez had solid stats last year with the Red Sox, and considering the protection he gets in that lineup (Bay or no Bay), Martinez will continue to be a top-notch catcher in fantasy circles.

Matt Wieters may be the most risky of these top-four, but his star is quickly rising. Here’s betting he doubles the nine home runs he produced last season, and continues to work on his batting average. Playing for the Orioles doesn’t give him a lot of protection, but he is still an exciting player that can play at an elite level sooner rather than later.

After those four players, the dropoff is so severe, in my humble opinion, that I’m willing to burn a third-round pick on Mauer or Martinez or perhaps even McCann. I’d be willing to reach into the fifth or possibly even fourth round for Wieters.

That goes against all conventional teaching from the fantasy baseball days of yore … when you let Joe Draftaholic take an elite catcher early in the draft while you are padding other key positional stats … and then snag the next up-and-coming catcher in later rounds and not losing much in the way of statistical dropoff.

But there is such disparity in the catcher ranks this year … more than ever in my opinion, that I think you put yourself in a better position with one of the four guys mentioned above. For example, let’s say you snag a Jason Bay or Raul Ibanez in the third round and wait on catching. Let’s hypothetically say you land Mike Napoli or Geovanny Soto in the later rounds. Your combo of Bay-Soto or Bay Napoli will produce less, in my opinion, than if you take a Maurer in the early third round and then turn around two rounds later and snag an Adam Dunn-esque player. You get just as many (if not much more in the home run department) and Mauer’s batting average helps offset Dunn’s lack of plate discipline.

Sure there are many exceptions to the rule, and I’m not advocating that everyone go on a mad drafting spree for the four top catchers in 2010. There are a few consolation prizes at the position that I could live with. Including:

Kurt Suzuki is one of just a handful of catchers who’s stats are actually going in the right direction. Home runs are climbing, stolen bases quadrupled in 2009 (eight to two in 2008) and batting average is hovering around a respectable .274. He’s young and has not met his ceiling yet.

Miguel Montero made the best of increased playing time when Chris Snyder went down with injury last season for the D-backs. He hit a career-high 16 dingers and posted a sweet .294 at the plate. He also has a much higher ceiling than many at the position, especially since he has yet to start an entire season in the bigs.

There are a few sleeper candidates who could break out this season. John Baker has some detractors but also could open things up in 2010. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has yet to produce a full season without injury and has tons of potential … although he has seen some stat dropoffs that scare me. Kelly Shoppach can’t hit righties and has a few other deficiencies, but has some untapped power potential that could be drool-inducing. Buster Posey is a rookie with boatloads of potential, but just what will his role be in 2010, especially since Bengie Molina is still officially in town?

Again, someone should slap me for being so un-ninja with this post. For suggesting that you should actually go with the crowd and pay a somewhat higher price for one of the catching elite. However, I just can’t advocate anyone else at this position. Hopefully our ninja viewers here can set me straight.

What is your opinion on the catching class of 2010?

12 Responses to “FBB: My unsexy approach to drafting a catcher in 2010”


  1. ep

    I foresee a great battle, pitting ninjas ep and jzak.
    I agree on Wieters – dolts that drafted him last year know it was a complete waste. But if you draft him this year you are going to be happy with the results because he’s going to be dirt cheap (I’m thinking rounds 9-12) for the stats he should produce.
    However, you wouldn’t get me within 100 yards of Joe Mauer if I was using a borrowed pen and paper/draft program and picking him for someone else’s team. There might not be a more overrated player in 2010 than Joe Mauer.
    No way he hits more than 15-17 homers this year and dude’s going in the early first to early second round.
    It’s like picking Ichiro Suzuki only earlier!
    In case you couldn’t tell by my obnoxious rant, Mauer’s on my do not pick list for 2010.

  2. Sockonfl

    Back in the day(mid to late 80′s) when I used to follow baseball intently and play fantasy baseball, I always drafted the catcher, shortstop and second base position early. People mocked me on draft day, yet I came home with the prize money come the end year 3 out of the 7 years I played. I always gained so many more points then my counterparts at those positions it made up for the slight decline in the cornerman and outfield positions. Plus I always felt you could find sleepers better at the corner postitions and outfield than at the other positions.

  3. ep

    @Sockonfl:
    Thanks for the comment.
    There are some fantasy baseballers who like the strength up the middle (C, P, 2 MIs, OF) approach to drafting. I like that method except I would not pick a catcher before round 5.
    My only thinking is you and JZ must never have been burned picking a catcher too early.
    I’ve been toasted by picking a top-line catcher early because I thought it would give me a lineup-to-lineup advantage against my opponents.
    I’ve done it in football for tight ends, too, and been suffered similar burned.
    You can get burned on any pick, but getting burned on a catcher (or tight end) is infinitely more painful. I’ll have to expand on my opinion in a post soon.

  4. jzak

    Oh, I’ve been burned by higher-tiered catchers in the past. Most recently last year by Russell Martin. However, after going through that ordeal and platooning Jorge Posada and Ryan Doumit trying to get by week to week, I’m learning more than ever towards wanting something rock solid at catcher to depend on. Of course, it all depends on draft positioning and where people fall.

  5. Fantasy baseball sleeper second basemen to target in your 2010 draft at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] (HR/SB) season. You can have all them. While you are picking your elite 2B trophy player, I’ll be snagging a catcher, enduring some eye-rolls from the fantasy veterans in the room and then will take one of many [...]

  6. Third base fantasy baseball values you can’t afford to overlook at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] looking to draft him again this year — along with these guys (check out my sleeper picks at catcher, first base and second base, as [...]

  7. Fantasy shortstop value players that need to be on your radar screen at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] targeting as a value shortstop this year? Let us know in the comments below. Also, don’t miss my less-than-sexy catcher drafting strategy, along with sleepers at first base, second base and third [...]

  8. Fantasy outfield values you need to remember in 2010 at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] a number of young OF who are starting to come alive in the MLB. Much like my early value picks at catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop, here are a few guys I’ll be watching closely [...]

  9. Fantasy baseball: Just so everyone is up to speed… at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] An unsexy approach to drafting a catcher [...]

  10. Geovany Soto should be your catcher in 2010 at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] Mauer is the best catcher in fantasy baseball, but unlike my colleague I can’t recommend picking [...]

  11. A quick look at 2010 fantasy designated hitters at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] out some additional positional primers at  catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop,  outfield,  closers and starting [...]

  12. Catching sleepers at the catcher position in 2010 at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] drama caused by my unpopular catching strategy is still being talked about at the chinstrap ninja headquarters water cooler on a fairly regular [...]