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Fantasy:TOP20 CATCHER for 2006


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Fantasy: Top 20 Catchers for 2006

by Tim Dierkes

January 09, 2006

 

As the first installment in my fantasy baseball position breakdowns, I'll be taking a look at the top 20 backstops. Most leagues require two of these guys, and usually the only goal is to avoid drafting catchers who will significantly hurt your offense.

 

1. Victor Martinez: V-Mart arrived as a top notch fantasy catcher in 2004, and he's the easy choice for the first spot in 2006. However, even Martinez's most adamant supporters began to doubt him after the first two months of 2005. He posted an atrocious .210/.280/.331 line through his first 157 at-bats, and panicked owners started trading him for table scraps. The law of averages won out, and Martinez finished the season at .305/.378/.475. Look for further improvements in his batting average plus 20+ home run and 90 RBIs in 2006.

 

2. Joe Mauer: Mauer is probably the only receiver who can swipe more than 10 bags. His power numbers should progress and he could hit .310 in his age 23 season. Most analysts think Mauer will contend for batting titles one day.

 

3. Kenji Johjima: One of the offseason's earliest signings, Johjima jumped from Japan to play for the Mariners. He could get near 500 at-bats in 2006, and he has good power even after adjusting his Japanese numbers. I think he's capable of hitting .290 with 15-17 home runs this season. Lock him up before he becomes a household name in fantasy.

 

4. Josh Willingham: I'm obviously very high on the young Florida catcher. The only potential problem is the possibility of Miguel Olivo stealing his at-bats. If Willingham manages to rack up 400 at-bats, he's probably good for 18 home runs and a .280 average. As a 26 year-old, he mashed 19 home runs in just 219 Triple-A at-bats in 2005. He can draw a walk, too, so that should mean 75 runs scored if he gets the playing time and stays healthy.

 

5. Ramon Hernandez: After playing in only 210 games over the last two seasons, Hernandez should return to his previous level for 2006 as a means of justifying his fat new contract with the Orioles. At the high end, 460 at-bats could mean a .290-20-80 season for Hernandez. If he's a bit off, you might downgrade that projection to .280-16-70, which is still a great season for a catcher.

 

6. Ivan Rodriguez: Pudge decided not to take walks in 2005. He still managed to hit .276 and have a passable fantasy season. I expect his average to go up to the .290 range, and no change in his power production. Don't mistake 34 year-old Pudge for his prime in Texas.

 

7. Jason Varitek: Tek will likely drift toward the .270 range in '06 while holding steady with his 20 home runs and 70 RBIs. Certainly a nice fantasy boost from a catcher.

 

8. Mike Piazza: He's getting up there, entering his age 37 season. The hope for fantasy owners is that Piazza spends most of '06 at DH. He'll still have his catcher eligibility, and a break from the rigors of catching might do his bat some good. In fact, I think he'll come back up to the .270 range and could hit 25 dingers if he gets 460 or more at-bats.

 

9. Jason Kendall: Without the .300 batting average, Kendall's status drops quite a bit. I can see him rebound to around .285 with 80 runs scored and 10 steals. Not your conventional catcher, but he'll get a lot of at-bats and pitch in in a few categories.

 

10. Javy Lopez: With Ramon Hernandez in the fold, Lopez is a good candidate to be dealt. His health is a bit risky, but with 460 at-bats you could get a .285 average and 17 homers. Solid numbers, but I still can't believe he hit .328 with 43 home runs in less than 500 at-bats a couple of years ago.

 

11. Jorge Posada: Just two years removed from one of his best seasons, Posada looks to be entering his decline phase. His power and on-base numbers were down in 2005, although still excellent for a catcher. His batting average might slip into the .250s, but he'll still hit near 20 home runs with around 70 RBIs and runs. That's still an admirable job for a backstop.

 

12. Bengie Molina: Molina has to be disappointed in how the market for his services shaped up this winter. He's coming off his best season, during which he hit .295 with 15 home runs (both career highs). A healthy Molina?perhaps on a one-year contract?with a bit of a chip on his shoulder could be an interesting pickup. I wouldn't be surprised if he replicated his 2005 performance, and maybe added a couple of homers and RBIs with some more playing time. That's more than respectable.

 

13. Michael Barrett: Sometimes a change of scenery really does work. Since his trade to the Cubs two years ago, Barrett has consistently hit .280 with 16 home runs. He's a streaky hitter month to month, so hang with him if you have him on your fantasy team.

 

14. Javier Valentin: Valentin looked like a brand new player in his 220 at-bats with the Reds this year. He and Jason LaRue make an unbeatable combo behind the plate, and it's possible the Reds trade Valentin while his stock is highest. He'll need a full-time job to show whether he can hit over a full season and enter the fantasy top ten. As it is, he's a solid second catcher for your team.

 

15. A.J. Pierzynski: A.J. may have sacrificed some batting average for a career high in HRs last season. His career worst .308 OBP fit right in on his new club. He's not a good bet to hit .270 again, but he'll hit at least 15 home runs.

 

16. Jason LaRue. Always one of the last catchers drafted, LaRue is a safe choice. He continues to improve every facet of his game and could find a way to hit .270 with 16 home runs in 2006. Nothing wrong with that.

 

17. Rod Barajas: Barajas is a guy who struggles to hit .250 but can put 20 home runs on the board. He's not reliant on Ameriquest Field, as his slugging percentage was much higher on the road in 2005. If you can risk the batting average, he's worth a pickup.

 

18. Brian McCann: The Braves traded Johnny Estrada to open up a full-time spot for McCann, who will be 22 when the season starts. He had a solid showing in 180 Major League at-bats last year, but he's got a ways to go before he's a top fantasy catcher. I'd be surprised if he hit better than .270 with 12 home runs.

 

19. Jeff Mathis: The Angels chose to cut Bengie Molina loose and give Mathis a full-time job at age 23. He's got very good power and could hit 15 home runs in his rookie season. Expecting a batting average much over .250 would be gamble, however. A decent upside pick if the best options are off the board.

 

20. Ryan Doumit: Another part of a decent crop of young catching prospects, Doumit will be 25 entering the '06 season. He held his own in his rookie season, and could hit .270 with 12 home runs in 2006. Humberto Cota will steal a good share of his at-bats, however.

 

Tim Dierkes runs two daily baseball blogs: RotoAuthority.com and MLBTradeRumors.com. He also contributes to fantasy baseball coverage at RotoWorld. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via e-mail.

 

 

=====================================================================

 

Willingham is great offensive catcher

 

:thumbup

 

marlins need to give him chance

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Tim Dierkes aka Ramp ???

 

:mischief2

 

:blink:

 

:whistle

 

 

 

LMAO :thumbup (just kidding Rampiepoo)

 

Anytime you have a guy who has virtually zero major league experience ranked fourth out of twenty you know this writer doesn't have the faintest idea what he is talking about. Ranking him above AJ, Posada, McCann, Hernandez and Molina, should tell you everything you need to know.

 

I especially liked the line about Olivo "stealing" (as in Willingham has an entitlement to them) at bats. If Willy can earn the job in spring training that's fine, I'll be his second biggest fan (afer Ramp of course), but at least let the guy win the job before we make him our starting catcher.

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Tim Dierkes aka Ramp ???

 

:mischief2

 

:blink:

 

:whistle

 

 

 

LMAO :thumbup (just kidding Rampiepoo)

 

Anytime you have a guy who has virtually zero major league experience ranked fourth out of twenty you know this writer doesn't have the faintest idea what he is talking about. Ranking him above AJ, Posada, McCann, Hernandez and Molina, should tell you everything you need to know.

 

I especially liked the line about Olivo "stealing" (as in Willingham has an entitlement to them) at bats. If Willy can earn the job in spring training that's fine, I'll be his second biggest fan (afer Ramp of course), but at least let the guy win the job before we make him our starting catcher.

 

I disagree. This is fantasy baseball, not real baseball. I think he should be in the 4-6 range. He will have catcher eligibility which is more important then being a starting catcher, and even if he can't cut it full time behind the plate, he is one of the top offensive threats on the ballclub. He will either be hitting in front of Hermida and Cabrera, or behind Cabrera and Jacobs. That is not a bad lineup spot to accumulate R/RBI, and better then most catchers in baseball. He will see time in LF and spotting 1B probably also, so he will be the new Craig Wilson/Brandon Inge of guys who aren't true catchers, but get a lot of AB. Just getting regular AB will make him more valuable then those other guys. The only question is, do you believe he hits 20 HR. If the answer is yes, he is going to be a top fantasy catcher. I don't agree with this list at all - Jojima is to high, Javy and Varitek are to low, etc - but I don't have a problem with Willingham being in that area. I think he can hit 20 in 450+ AB.

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Tim Dierkes aka Ramp ???

 

:mischief2

 

:blink:

 

:whistle

 

 

 

LMAO :thumbup (just kidding Rampiepoo)

 

Anytime you have a guy who has virtually zero major league experience ranked fourth out of twenty you know this writer doesn't have the faintest idea what he is talking about. Ranking him above AJ, Posada, McCann, Hernandez and Molina, should tell you everything you need to know.

 

I especially liked the line about Olivo "stealing" (as in Willingham has an entitlement to them) at bats. If Willy can earn the job in spring training that's fine, I'll be his second biggest fan (afer Ramp of course), but at least let the guy win the job before we make him our starting catcher.

 

I disagree. This is fantasy baseball, not real baseball. I think he should be in the 4-6 range. He will have catcher eligibility which is more important then being a starting catcher, and even if he can't cut it full time behind the plate, he is one of the top offensive threats on the ballclub. He will either be hitting in front of Hermida and Cabrera, or behind Cabrera and Jacobs. That is not a bad lineup spot to accumulate R/RBI, and better then most catchers in baseball. He will see time in LF and spotting 1B probably also, so he will be the new Craig Wilson/Brandon Inge of guys who aren't true catchers, but get a lot of AB. Just getting regular AB will make him more valuable then those other guys. The only question is, do you believe he hits 20 HR. If the answer is yes, he is going to be a top fantasy catcher. I don't agree with this list at all - Jojima is to high, Javy and Varitek are to low, etc - but I don't have a problem with Willingham being in that area. I think he can hit 20 in 450+ AB.

 

as long as he has catcher availability is what matters which means 15 games behind the plate.. Jacobs has it too though I believe this year. Which I would take him over willingham honestly.

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Juanky, I know you and I share an understanding of what it takes to be an everyday catcher. My overwhelming concern regarding Willingham behind the plate is the toll it would take on him physically, with the result being his offensive production suffers.

 

That's why, for myself, and I'm not in the decision-making loop, I'd like to see Willingham in leftfield where he'll have the best chance to stay healthy and contribute with his bat, playing enough time behind the plate to better his skills, but primarily leaving the bulk of the time to others. This team needs to score runs in order to survive, perhaps more runs than previous years.

 

And BTW, you make a good point that this is a fantasy baseball POV.

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as long as he has catcher availability is what matters which means 15 games behind the plate.. Jacobs has it too though I believe this year. Which I would take him over willingham honestly.

 

 

Jacobs doesn't have catcher. Did not play there in 2005, and I don't think any service will give him C eligibility because he is viewed as a 1B now. Willingham played 13 games (5 starts) in 2005 behind the plate. I know that is good enough for default yahoo and espn fantasy leagues, but every league is different.

 

Also, concerning another post. Willingham might be a better fantasy catcher if he plays everyday in LF. Less wear on him physically, and more AB then having to sit out 2+ games a week. He's the new Craig Wilson fantasy player for sure.

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He sure is pretty high on Willingham and Johjima, ain't he?

 

 

great offensive catcher but no clue how to play defensively.

 

Is that your expert opinion or something you've heard someone say with nothing else to back it up? Can we please get a scouting report on his defensive skills? He's had this reputation after his first trial at catcher three years ago. Either he's not improving (highly doubtful) or his critics aren't watching.

I'm thankful that he may be given the chance to disprove them. A great many players never get a chance to prove they can hit lefthanders, turn a double play, get major leagers out without a 95 mph fastball, etc.

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Juanky, I know you and I share an understanding of what it takes to be an everyday catcher. My overwhelming concern regarding Willingham behind the plate is the toll it would take on him physically, with the result being his offensive production suffers.

 

That's why, for myself, and I'm not in the decision-making loop, I'd like to see Willingham in leftfield where he'll have the best chance to stay healthy and contribute with his bat, playing enough time behind the plate to better his skills, but primarily leaving the bulk of the time to others. This team needs to score runs in order to survive, perhaps more runs than previous years.

 

And BTW, you make a good point that this is a fantasy baseball POV.

I don't personally see him playing catcher for more than maybe 20 games this season. I think, unless Olivo absolutely bombs in Spring Training, the job should be his as it leaves only one spot open in the field instead of two.

 

I don't see the need to have him at catcher, it's a defensive position. The offense would be for naught if he can't call a good game and can't throw runners out, among other things. I'd prefer him in LF where we've seen him play (no mistakes from my memory) and let someone who is a catcher naturally to man the position. Plus, that way we only need to have an Aguila/Reed/Whoever battle for CF instead of just handing one of them the job of LF.

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Juanky, I know you and I share an understanding of what it takes to be an everyday catcher. My overwhelming concern regarding Willingham behind the plate is the toll it would take on him physically, with the result being his offensive production suffers.

 

That's why, for myself, and I'm not in the decision-making loop, I'd like to see Willingham in leftfield where he'll have the best chance to stay healthy and contribute with his bat, playing enough time behind the plate to better his skills, but primarily leaving the bulk of the time to others. This team needs to score runs in order to survive, perhaps more runs than previous years.

 

And BTW, you make a good point that this is a fantasy baseball POV.

I don't personally see him playing catcher for more than maybe 20 games this season. I think, unless Olivo absolutely bombs in Spring Training, the job should be his as it leaves only one spot open in the field instead of two.

 

I don't see the need to have him at catcher, it's a defensive position. The offense would be for naught if he can't call a good game and can't throw runners out, among other things. I'd prefer him in LF where we've seen him play (no mistakes from my memory) and let someone who is a catcher naturally to man the position. Plus, that way we only need to have an Aguila/Reed/Whoever battle for CF instead of just handing one of them the job of LF.

 

Absolutely correct.

 

:notworthy

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He sure is pretty high on Willingham and Johjima, ain't he?

 

 

 

great offensive catcher but no clue how to play defensively.

 

Is that your expert opinion or something you've heard someone say with nothing else to back it up? Can we please get a scouting report on his defensive skills? He's had this reputation after his first trial at catcher three years ago. Either he's not improving (highly doubtful) or his critics aren't watching.

I'm thankful that he may be given the chance to disprove them. A great many players never get a chance to prove they can hit lefthanders, turn a double play, get major leagers out without a 95 mph fastball, etc.

 

Anyone who's seen Willy play catcher can understand why he is a defensive liability there. I'm high on the guy, but left field should hold a majority of his playing time until he proves he can cut it.

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great offensive catcher but no clue how to play defensively.

 

Is that your expert opinion or something you've heard someone say with nothing else to back it up? Can we please get a scouting report on his defensive skills? He's had this reputation after his first trial at catcher three years ago. Either he's not improving (highly doubtful) or his critics aren't watching.

I'm thankful that he may be given the chance to disprove them. A great many players never get a chance to prove they can hit lefthanders, turn a double play, get major leagers out without a 95 mph fastball, etc.

Anyone who's seen Willy play catcher can understand why he is a defensive liability there. I'm high on the guy, but left field should hold a majority of his playing time until he proves he can cut it.

And why is that? Because he doesn't look the part? Because he's slow to react? Because he doesn't call a good game? Because he doesn't have the arm strength? Where's the scouting report? Anyone's going to have problems adjusting to a new position, let alone catching, but it seems like there's been no attempt to measure his skills there since the initial impression.

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I suspect his performance would suffer through the every day grind of catching. I've said as much in the past. I'm not sure it's worth moving him to LF full time and starting Olivo, but I certainly wouldn't like him to be playing through jammed fingers and bruised ribs. I'm not as high on Willingham as you may think. I think his chance of being the incredibly productive ballplayer we need lie with him playing a key position like catcher. The ideal situation would be for Willingham to play 80-100 games at catcher, Jacobs 10-20, Olivo or someone else the rest. That way we keep them all fresh and get good production, offensively and defensively, from the catcher spot.

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Why is it required that catcher be a 'plus' offensive position when the bat would be in the lineup regardless (C or LF)?

 

So we either have Olivo behind the plate with Willingham in LF and Aguila/Reed in CF, or we can put Willingham behind the plate with Aguila in LF and Reed in CF. I'd prefer the former, since it ensures Hammer has nothing hindering his offensive performance on the defensive side of the game and it puts the better defending catcher behind the plate at all times.

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We can debate whether we'll ever see Jacobs behind the plate again (emergencies aside, and certainly not 20 times a season, not with a surgically repaired labrum in his throwing arm) but if 2006 is a dress rehearsal for the rest of this decade, I would think it's in everyone's best interest to see exactly how good Willingham is offensively, without the pressure and pain of catching a hundred games a year.

 

Girardi and the FO may of course feel differently. I'll cheer whoever is in the opening day lineup and whatever positional decisions are made, but I cling to the notion that the best way size up Josh is to give him every opportunity to stay healthy.

 

I guess part of my thinking revolves around something Juanky said regarding positional options and the possibility of Eric Reed starting in centerfield. Perhaps in another year or two, but nothing Reed has accomplished to date would indicate (at least to me) he's ready offensively to play at the major league level.

 

Am I willing to be proven wrong? You betcha, but so far what I see is a kid moving through the organizaton who has the potential to play at the ML level at some point in his career, but not now.

 

So, if Willingham's bat does turn out to be not unlike Roy Hobbs' let's take advantage of that, put him in left so that at worst, with Hermida penciled into RF (although I'm conflicted about whether he could be our CFer of the future) you only have one position to fill, not two.

 

I'd also like to see what Helms can do with 400 ABs but that's for another thread/discussion.

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