Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops here.)
Rankings are the height of subjectivity, of course. Drafts are the expression of the subjective opinions of the different draftees, though, so lets see what we can learn by putting these players in their (subjective, fantasy-oriented) place.
One of the biggest arguments of the offseason in regards to this position will be whether or not Joe Mauer belongs in a tier of his own. Certainly, if he repeats his work from last year, he’ll be above and beyond the best catcher in the league. The problem with projecting his power next year is that he didn’t crack 30% fly balls last year, he just more than doubled his career HR/FB rate (and tripled 2008’s number). That uncertainty regarding his power ‘drags’ him down into a tier with the recovered Victor Martinez and the steady power producer Brian McCann.
Next comes the tier that mixes strong rookies with some doubt with an ageless wonder in Jorge Posada. Matt Wieters or Miguel Montero have the upside to blaze past Posada (at least in terms of batting average). Just look at the second halves that Wieters (.301/.351/.415) and Montero (.316/.366/.534) put up last year for a little taste of the possibility. Though Mike Napoli made a small stride in his strike out rate (27.1% in 2009, 29.7% career), it’s still high, and he’s still the most likely to put up the worst batting average of the group.
The third tier is a mix of riskier young catchers with upside remaining and less-valuable older catchers on their way down. Actually, to be fair, A.J. Pierzynski doesn’t seem to be declining currently with his best batting average in seven years, but he is utterly devoid of upside and provides minimal returns in the power categories. For example, despite a major step back in his slugging percentage (all the way down to .329), Russell Martin could easily hit more home runs than AJ next year (and that doesn’t even mention his stolen bases). Geovany Soto seems to have had some terrible luck (.251 BABIP, .310 career) and is a decent bet for a bounce back. Buster Posey has to be seen as more of a risk than the young veterans ahead of him, despite his strong minor league numbers, just because of his youth (22) and his struggles last year. Bengie Molina had his worst wOBA (.308) in six years and doesn’t have a starting job in hand currently.
The final tier includes a trio of long shots at this point. Though there is reason to remain excited about Chris Iannetta, there are negatives for every positive. You might want to point to his bad BABIP (.253), but that may have been because of his bad line drive rate (16%). You like a power hitter to hit fly balls, but maybe not as many as the young Rockie (52%). If he straightens out those hits a little, he could even leap a tier next year, and he’s the best long shot in the bottom tier. Ryan Doumit just can’t stay healthy, and Kurt Suzuki hadn’t even shown this power before last year (.421 slugging in 2009, .398 career) and without it, you’re relying on a catcher for (already modest) speed.
Many of us will own someone on the bottom of this list sometime next year, but will we really want to draft them at the beginning of the year?