Skeptics Say: That is a huge if. Catchers are going to play less anyway, but considering 162 games to be a full season, Mauer has missed 20% of a season three different times and was right on that mark in 2005. There's also a huge question about him in the categories outside of batting average. Since moving to Target Field, Mauer has hit 1 home run in 396 at-bats. The lineup around him isn't going to help with RBI and runs either.
Peer Comparison: Seeing Mike Napoli ahead of him everywhere you look makes sense. Napoli had a year in Texas last season. What was interesting to see was that Matt Wieters is going ahead of Mauer at Mock Draft Central. Mauer is still in the prime of his career according to age and has been ranked in the top 100 in four seasons and whenever he's been able to stay healthy for at least 110 games.
Wieters has not been ranked higher than 177 in any season. Wieters had a fantastic end to last season with a .840 OPS in the second half of the year. He is also clearly a better player in terms of home runs, but aside from that category Mauer is the better option. Wieters is not in the same class as Mauer just yet though.
Lineup Outlook: According to Rotoworld, the Twins plan on starting Jamey Carroll, Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Alexi Casilla. Between those four players last season there were 4 home runs and 84 RBI. I realize that these guys aren't middle of the order types, but 4 home runs and 84 RBI? Justin Morneau is still the team's first baseman and at this point it's safe to call him a below average first baseman because of the baggage he has. Josh Willingham and Danny Valencia are also essentially average players. If Mauer and Morneau give a similar effort in 2012 as they gave last season, the Twins will be competing with the Mariners as the worst offenses in the American League.
What They're Saying: CBS Sportsline: #5 Catcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #5 Catcher & #111 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #6 Catcher & #80 ADP; RotoChamp: #71 Overall
Projection: Mauer had a career low HR:FB% last season, so the power will be there a little more this season. Don't forget, these numbers are from a catcher.
80 R 10 HR 78 RBI 3 SB .330 AVG .380 OBP .875 OPS in 490 at-bats