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Drafting Catchers: What’s the Rush?

OK, RotoGraphers.  Your Monday morning cup of coffee from this week forward will be accompanied by some sort of discussion revolving around catchers and all the fantasy deliciousness they provide.  Since the season has yet to begin and several of you are still waiting to draft, let’s talk about when is the best time to grab your help behind the dish.  Is it wise to invest a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick on Joe Mauer or is the position deep enough to wait until later?  Fresh cup of java in hand….let’s get to it…

Bottom line for me is that unless you have some unhealthy obsession with a particular player, selecting a backstop as early as Mauer has gone in some of the mock drafts I’ve done is ridiculous.  I just don’t see it.  Yes, the batting average is phenomenal.  I won’t deny that.  But if I wanted 10 HR and 75 RBI, why wouldn’t I just wait 15 rounds later and grab A.J. Pierzynski?  Is the batting average that important?  Even if Mauer finds a happy medium between 2009’s career totals and last year’s drop-off, his numbers aren’t that much better than atleast a dozen other catchers out there.  So essentially, you’re wasting a crazy high draft choice for a single category.

Beyond Mauer, I see Victor Martinez and Brian McCann coming off the board pretty soon after and you know what…?  They can have ’em!  There’s plenty of mileage on each of them, injury histories that can’t be ignored, and let’s not forget the fact that V-Mart is now calling a park where he’s hit .184 with no HR and 3 RBI in 38 AB over the last 3 seasons, home.  A small sample size?  Absolutely.  But a shoddy track record nonetheless.

The only guy from  the top tier of RotoGraphs’ Catcher Rankings that I can see taking for a quality value based on draft position is Buster Posey and that’s only if A. it’s a keeper league, B. you firmly believe that he will hit .300, and/or C. you’re not getting him earlier than a 4th round pick.  Personally I think he’s going to be the studliest of backstops by year’s end which makes him worth the reach.

The others, not so much.

Check out the ADP Rankings over at Mock Draft Central and look at how far down the other catchers, beyond the aforementioned top 4, are being taken.  Geovany Soto is the next highest to be taken and that’s somewhere around the 99th pick — 8th round in a 12 team mixed league.  Even with time lost due to injury, he put up numbers comparable with all four.  Imagine getting V-Mart production without V-Mart prices?  Couple that with the fact that you’ve spent your first 7 picks building up everywhere else and you’ve got a seriously well rounded squad.

And the further down you go in the rankings, the production still seems to be prevalent.  Mike Napoli and his 20 HR in 400 AB as the 120th overall pick?  What about everyone gushing over Carlos Santana?  Bill James is projecting a .280-22-91 batting line and he’s going somewhere around the 132nd pick.  There’s been a ton of talk about the power potential of J.P Arencibia and now we’re talking about the 320th pick.  That’s the 21st round of a 15 team league.

The point is, you don’t need to go running after the top tier talent in your draft if you feel that other positions are important.  Yes, it’s nice to have the security of knowing you’ve got some seriously proven talent back there, but not at the expense of building yourself up a stronger infield or a deeper pitching staff.  If you think you know the rest of your league owners well enough to know that you’ll be able to build a solid squad and snag a top catcher, then power to you.  Go right ahead.  But if you aren’t sure about what you can do for yourself later in the draft at, say, third base or shortstop, then put the catchers on the back burner.  You’ll be able to find someone productive much later on.