March first, the weather seems to be getting warmer and opening day draws closer. But before we get to opening day, we need to have our draft day. Over the next week or so, I'll be covering the 2010 Sleepers and Busts by position. We kick off behind the dish at catcher.
Ryan Doumit - A wrist injury knocked Doumitout of action for a good chunk of the 2009 season, but his power production didn't seem to suffer when he came back to action. Doumit's AB/HR rate was almost the same as it was in 2008 when he hit 15 home runs in 431 at-bats. His .268 BABIP last season gives us reason to believe that his AVG will me manageable in 2010, even if he doesn't hit .300-plus. He'll also be hitting in the middle of an up-and-coming lineup that features a future star at the top in Andrew McCutchen and a bounce back candidate in Lastings Milledge. Top Prospect Pedro Alvarez should also be up before the all-star break and help provide some protection for Doumit.
Chris Iannetta - Could Iannetta have been yet another victim of the World Baseball Classic? His AB/HR rate has been 18 for two straight years, but his inability to hit for AVG last season cost him a ton of at-bats. Translated, a repeat in 18 AB/HR would equal about 20 home runs over 350 at-bats. If Iannetta can adjust his approach at the plate and hit a few less pop-ups, his AVG will be enough to justify more playing time given his massive power potential.
Jesus Flores - Flores is perhaps the deepest sleeper of the group. He is coming off of labrum surgery that cost him most of the 2009 season. If 100 percent healthy, he has the potential to hit for some power. Ivan Rodriguez was brought into town as a backup plan and mentor for the young Flores and should help keep him fresh all season long. Stay informed on his progress this spring. See comment from MDS below
Carlos Santana - This comes with one condition...he needs to win the job first. That might not be the case out of spring training, but make no mistake about it, Santana should be the number one catcher for the Indians at some point this season. Santana is one of, if not thee, best catching prospects in the game. He projects to become a hitter very similar to former Indians star Victor Martinez, capable of hitting for both power and AVG. Unless he is named the starting catcher early on in the spring (not likely), Santana doesn't warrant a draft pick, but he is certainly one you'll want to pull the trigger on once rumors of his call-up begin.
Max Ramirez - Remember when Maximiliano hit .354 with 17 home runs in 2008 at double-A? Well, that success didn't continue into 2009, but Ramirez battled wrist injuries all season long that sapped almost all of his power numbers. Apparently he's healthy again. He hit 13 home runs and slugged .486 in 210 winter ball at-bats. At this point Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden may not represent the roadblocks they once were. A draft day pick in standard leagues may not be necessary, but keep him on your watch list for sure.
Geovany Soto - If there is one catcher I envision having a big comeback season and becoming a great draft day value it is Geovany Soto. Last season Soto's off the field habits mixed the wrong way with the World Baseball Classic, resulting in a very slow start to the 2009 regular season. Injuries also played a role. Soto has lost around 40 pounds this offseason and is said to be more dedicated than at any point in his career.
Jorge Posada - Average draft positiopn data from Mock Draft Central has Posada in the tenth round. While Posada had one of his best power seasons in 2010, he only accumulated 383 at-bats and scored only 55 runs. Why does that worry me? Posada will turn 39-years-old in August. Outside of Carlton Fisk, how many catchers were mildly productive into their late 30's? Look at Ivan Rodriguez, a once elite offensive catcher. He's only 37! Mike Piazza? He hit .275 with eight home runs in 309 at-bats when he was 38. Catchers certainly age faster than any other position. Most catchers are either coaching or back at home watching baseball from their couch by their mid 30's. Sure, Posada could be one of those athletes that defies the odds for yet another season, but I'm not betting on it.
Bengie Molina- After finding that no other team wanted him this offseason, Bengie Molina re-signed with the Giants on a one-year deal worth about 1.5 million less than his 2009 salary. Just as catchers age fast, a catcher with Molina's body type could completely fall off at any moment. At age 36 this July, Molina is not only a decline risk, but he'll likely lose plenty of playing time to top prospect Buster Posey at some point this season.