Mastersball

National League Catchers
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 17 March 2011 03:15

It’s now time to examine those who don the tools of ignorance to earn their living. Yes, this week I’ll take a look at the catchers in the National League. If you play in a two catcher NL only league, I pity you as there isn’t much at the top of the ranks and it thins very rapidly as you get deeper into them. Those in single catcher leagues are much better off, but many teams won’t have a catcher worth bragging about. If you don’t get one near the top, it very well could come down to which one will hurt you the least in the category you can least afford to be hurt. That’s where knowing the makeup of your team and its strengths and weaknesses come in to make a wise selection in a draft or purchase in an auction.

Tier 1:

Brian McCann eclipsed the 20 HR plateau for the fourth time in the last five years. He’s also now had in excess of 475 plate appearances four years running – golden for the position for a fantasy player as it enables him to compile very good counting stats. He had problems with his vision in 2009 but recovered nicely except for a drop in his BA to .269. Look for more of the same in 2011 with a rebound in average closer to his career .289. On an anecdotal note, he is 27 years old this year.

Buster Posey acquitted himself quite well in his inaugural big league season last year. In just over 400 AB he finished with an 18/67/58/.305 line with a .862 OPS. He has the added benefit entering 2011 of multi-position eligibility with 1B as well as catcher. This might be the last year, however, as Bruce Bochy has said he might not see any time at first base at all. This means that when he plays he’ll have the rigors of playing behind the plate all the time and any break he gets will be a full day off. But I’d still expect 450+ at bats.

Tier 2:

Geovany Soto bounced back in a big way in 2010 after he stiffed his owners with a horrible 2009 when they paid for a repeat of his rookie year. He had more six more HR, six more RBI, and 20 more runs scored in nine fewer at bats. Soto also increased his BA from a dismal .218 to .280 last year. He had arthroscopic shoulder surgery and should be good to go this year. Soto should approach 450 AB in 2011.

Miguel Montero is a bounce-back candidate entering 2011 after so many expected so much in 2010. He spent much of the first part of the year recovering from a torn meniscus and didn’t reach those expectations as he played in only 85 games. If he can get 400-450 AB, there is still a chance he can manage 20 HR since he plays in a very hitter friendly home park.

The Colorado Rockies signed Chris Iannetta to a three-year contract with an option last January and don’t have Miguel Olivo anymore so Iannetta is the guy going into 2011. He started 2010 very slowly and was sent back to the minors. He performed well there (as usual for him) and was recalled. In all, he only had 188 AB with the big club with 9 HR and a .197 BA which was fueled by a .214 BABIP – low even by Chris Iannetta standards. Look for the BA to bounce back and, if he gets enough plate appearances, 20 HR.

Yadier Molina had three straight years of at least a .275 BA going into the 2010 season. He then finished last year at .262. Yadier also had three straight years of at least 440 AB but has yet to hit double digit HR in any season in his career. Don’t start looking for it now. He’s shown us basically what he is – a catcher that will accumulate counting stats and give you a BA that won’t kill you.

John Buck came to the Florida Marlins this past off-season after signing a new three-year contract. He had a career year in 2010 for the Toronto Blue Jays with 20 HR and a .281 BA. Buck also struck out a career high 111 times last year. The power is legit but will be tempered a bit in Florida and the BA will be more in line with his career .243 rather than last season’s lofty mark.

Tier 3:

Jonathan Lucroy was pressed into major league service from the minors in 2010 after Gregg Zaun’s season ended with an injury. He finished with 4/26/24/.253 in 277 AB. Lucroy had double digit HR power in the low minors but didn’t replicate that as he moved up the ranks. Look for under ten HR with a batting average that won’t sink your team. Lucroy is nursing a broken pinkie but might still be ready to go at the start of the season.

Carlos Ruiz played in a career high 121 games with the big club in 2010 and finished with 8 HR and a .302 BA. Ruiz demonstrated double digit HR power earlier in the minors but that has failed to materialize with the Phillies although he came close with nine in 2009 and eight in 2010. If he can manage to appear in 130 games he might do it. He probably won’t hit .300 again but anything north of .275 is a bonus for a catcher.

Nick Hundley will get the lion’s share of the catching duty for the San Diego Padres in 2011 after splitting time with Yorvit Torrealba last year. Hundley has the potential for mid-teens HR power even in Petco Park. His BA, while not a picture to behold won’t be an anchor either.

Rod Barajas started 2010 with the New York Mets and was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. He went on to hit .297 and hit five HR in 64 AB for the Dodgers. Don’t expect anything close to that BA going forward. He most likely won’t even hit .250 but could approach 20 HR in Chavez Ravine.

Josh Thole took over the primary catching duties for the New York Mets in 2010 after Rod Barajas’ departure to the West Coast. At 24 years of age, he’s still a youngster and should be the Mets full-time catcher in 2011. Most catchers are an either or proposition when it comes to HR and BA and Thole is no exception. The exception comes in the fact that you’ll get BA from him instead of HR power.

Gone is 2006 and its 23 HR and .275 BA that Ramon Hernandez gave the Baltimore Orioles. Instead we are left with mid to upper single digit HR with a middling batting average. Hernandez will be the primary catcher for the Cincinnati Reds but will be splitting the duties.

Tier 4:

Ryan Hanigan is the other bookend for Ramon Hernandez and is the antithesis of him in that he won’t provide more than a few HR and a better BA. Hanigan has the good habit of drawing more walks than strikeouts so that bodes well for him going forward.

Chris Snyder came from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. He took a mulligan after a very disappointing 5/16/12/.169 in 124 AB over 40 games. He’ll get the lions’ share of the time behind the dish for the Pirates and is capable of 15 HR to go along with a pretty putrid BA.

The years with the Texas Rangers just a distant memory, Ivan Rodriguez enters 2011 as the starting catcher for the Washington Nationals. Pudge hasn’t hit double digit home runs since 2007 and isn’t about to start doing so again this year. Gone with the HR is the batting eye as Rodriguez will top out at the .265 range.

Humberto Quintero is only listed here because the Houston Astros are still a major league team and Jason Castro is out for the majority of 2011 after undergoing knee surgery. You don’t want to be stuck with him on your roster.

 

More Articles by Christopher Kreush

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