Very few catchers reach keeper status in the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League. It's the most demanding position in Major League Baseball and the best catchers will have approximately 100 less at bats than their counterparts at other positions because of the wear and tear of the position. This should make you think hard about your strategy for drafting catchers.
Despite the fact that the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League requires each team to start two catchers, Mike Napoli, Brian McCann and Buster Posey are the only players to reach keeper status in the first two seasons of the league. Napoli and McCann are elite-level MLB catchers and an argument can be made that their production - while not at the level of first basemen and some outfielders - is good enough to warrant what is essentially a fifth-round selection in the draft. Posey is not at that level, which brings us to one of our first draft strategies - protect your favorite player.
If your primary concern is winning the pennant, protecting your favorite player can be a risky strategy. But if your goal is to have fun playing fantasy baseball and you have a favorite team and favorite players, this strategy is encouraged. As a Giants fan, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Brian Wilson and Madison Bumgarner are probable keepers. Given the value of holds in our league, you might even make a case for Sergio Romo. Not only do they give you a chance to cheer your favorite players while they are on your fantasy team, but they are good enough to help your team win. If you reach too early for Brandon Belt, Melky Cabrera, and Freddy Sanchez, you have to understand risk is involved.
If you are an A's fan, there's nothing but risk in 2012.
In 2012, I can make a case for keeping three catchers, Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, and Mike Napoli. They are listed below with their projected stats for 2012 as calculated by CBS Sports.
This becomes especially important when we look at our next set of catchers. These are very good players, but not quite elite. Each has a small statistical defect in their game which makes them less desirable than our elite tier. You can expect these catchers to go early in the draft, or, as is the case with Posey, be kept due to their popularity.
This next tier represents your last opportunity to draft a productive, top-level catcher. If you don't have a catcher on your roster when these players begin to go in the draft, you are risking falling behind in production at the position.
I placed three young players at the top of this tier because I like their potential. Jesus Montero could have been placed in the second tier, but it's possible he will lead all catchers in strikeouts this year, reducing his value. If you are targeting Montero, Wilson Ramos, or Devin Mesoraco, be sure to watch them closely in spring training. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is only 26 years old and could be a sleeper to better his projections.
Rod Barajas, John Buck, Kurt Suzuki, Yadier Molina and Jonathan LuCroy are reliable veterans that should produce close to their projections. If you can draft any of these players as your second catcher, pairing them with a catcher from a higher tier, you could lead the league in production from this position.
The tier is primarily composed of veteran free-agents who have bounced from team to team over the years. Salvador Perez is the exception. He's just 21 years old and could be a sleeper in this tier. Because he's young, you'll want to follow him in spring training to be sure he's not struggling at the plate.
These players are interchangeable. They are also expendable in the event a veteran catcher is hurt early in the season and a team promotes a highly-touted rookie. You should not be afraid to cut any of these players from your roster if they are not performing.
Finally, I want to say something about the statistical projections you've seen in this blog post. I'm using the CBS Sports projections because they include all of the statistics we use in the SFRRC Fantasy League. I have no reason to doubt they won't be 70 percent reliable, which is the industry standard for projecting baseball player statistics for the upcoming season. Yes, there is an industry that does just that.
I included the projected number of at-bats a player will have - even though it is not a counting stat in our league - because I think it's valuable in giving you an idea how much playing time a player will receive.