While I tried to tackle the task of ranking keepers
back in September, a lot more research and analysis has been done during the offseason. Below are my final keeper rankings for the catcher position.
Note: These are not rankings for 2011 and do not consider players with no major league experience (there are plenty of sources of prospect rankings for that). These players should help fantasy teams in 2011 as well as the foreseeable future. The number next to the player's name represents his age on opening day 2011.
1. Carlos Santana - 24
2. Buster Posey - 23
3. Joe Mauer - 27
4. Matt Wieters - 24
5. Brian McCann - 26
6. Victor Martinez - 31
Joe Mauer is just so consistent when it comes to AVG and OBP, so he'll hold his value in both formats not matter what the power output is. He has at least four or five more years of projectable production behind the dish before we will have to worry about a position switch, especially since he is determined to stay a catcher for his entire career.
There is something to be said for the fact that Matt Wieters is still only 24-years-old. While his numbers are still well below expectations, he is showing signs of improvement. This past season, Wieters lowered his strikeout rate while raising his walk rate and contact rate. He has shown power potential in the past and just needs to find his grove at the big league level before it begins to show up in games. Those looking to buy low on Wieters may be rewarded big-time, as his breakout seems to be coming, albeit slowly.
Brian McCann is about as steady a fantasy catcher one could ask for. Only his age holds his keeper value back slightly.
V-Mart's value is lowered by his age, but the fact that he will DH most of the time in Detroit gives his value a bit of a kick upwards for health reasons. There is the risk in him turning into a full-time DH within a year or two, but his offensive numbers should remain top-notch should he retain catcher eligibility over the next couple of seasons.
14-plus team considerations
7. Geovany Soto - 27
8. J.P. Arencibia - 24
9. Miguel Montero - 27
10. Mike Napoli - 28
Lou Piniella messed with Geovany Soto's lineup spot and playing time for much of 2011. Soto improved his plate discipline in 2010 and has enough power to hit around 20 home runs for the next few seasons. Soto edges out J.P. Arencibia due to similarities in power, but Soto projects to hit for a better AVG. The two are real close though and Arencibia has the edge in age. I wouldn't fault anyone for ranking Arencibia ahead of Soto.
A knee injury kept Miguel Montero
from coming anywhere close to the numbers he put up in 2009. However, he still projects as a good hitting catcher, just not one that is going to be much better than he was in that 2009 season.
Mike Napoli has the potential to approach 30 home runs if he could get the at-bats. It was made clear last season that Mike Scioscia doesn't trust Napoli behind the plate. There is also the fact that prospect Hank Conger is just about ready to start his big league career. Napoli will spend a lot of time DHing in 2011, but he should catch enough to retain eligibility for now. Ultimately, however, his future is probably at DH and his skills may not age well given the injury issues he has already faced.
Deep league considerations
11. Kurt Suzuki - 26
12. Chris Iannetta - 27
13. Wilson Ramos - 22
I could see Kurt Suzuki moving up this list, but he'll need to stay healthy. Chris Iannetta has always had tremendous power potential, but he has yet to put everything together at the big-league level. He could finally reach that 20-25 homer potential in 2011, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Wilson Ramos is a fringy keeper. He doesn't project to hit for a ton of power, but he could be an asset with AVG and decent RBI numbers in the future. He'll likely split time with Pudge Rodriguez in 2011, with a chance to become the full-time catcher for the Nationals by season's end. Top prospect Derek Norris should be in the mix at some point, which makes Ramos' future in Washington a bit cloudy.