Catching the Blues in KC

Unless you are lucky enough to have Joe Mauer or Geovany Soto gracing your Fantasy roster, the catching position can be a bit of a headache. It can even occasionally do more harm than good. As a result, Fantasy owners are always on the lookout for catchers with upside. The Kansas City Royals organization currently has four catchers vying for two roster spots. Incumbents Miguel Olivo and John Buck certainly do not inspire a lot of hope.

Olivo had a respectable season in the American League in 2008 after spending the previous two years with Florida. He had the second highest batting average of his career (.255) but continued to be allergic to walks with just seven (!) in 306 at-bats. He has just 79 walks in 640 career games. On the plus side, Olivo showed a little more power in 2008, while posting a career high in slugging (.444) and his second-best ISO (.190). At the age of 30, the right-handed hitting catcher may be able to sustain this level of offence for another year or two. That said, Russell Branyan had a better contact rate than Olivo last season (68.5% to 66.8%).

Buck has never lived up to his potential due to an inability to make consistent contact (although he bested Olivo at 75.2% in 2008) and to hit for a respectable average. He has a career batting average of .234, but has hit just .223 in the past two seasons. Buck walks a little bit more than Olivo (He at least breaks the .300 OBP mark,albeit barely at .304). The 28-year-old backstop has traditionally provided a little bit of pop at the plate (He hit a career-high 18 home runs in 347 at-bats in 2007) but his slugging percentage was just .365 in 2008, along with an ISO of .141. Buck’s hold on a Major League roster spot should be tenuous.

The team also added ex-Braves prospect Brayan Pena to the 40-man roster this past fall. He still offers some upside even at the age of 26 and with just 71 career Major League games under his belt. In the past three Triple-A seasons, Pena has hit at least .301 and he has not struck out more than 11% of the time. He doesn’t walk either; 10% is the highest rate during that same three-year span. His ability to handle the bat and work the zone (as well as his switch-hitting capability) might make him a nice complement to Olivo.

Former Mets and Tigers backstop Vance Wilson was also brought in on a minor league deal after missing all of 2007 and 2008 due to not one, but two Tommy John surgeries on his elbow. It’s hard to know if he has anything to offer offensively or defensively. Even before the injury, Wilson was a .240-.250 hitter with modest power.

The best pairing of catchers in KC, from an offensive perspective, appears to be Olivo and Pena, but Buck no doubt has the inside track on the second spot because he is due more than $2 million in arbitration. If Pena is given playing time, keep an eye on him.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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as ole david pointed out in november, if kelly shoppach can minimize the number of strikeouts he records, i think he’ll make a monster statement in the catcher department this year. that along with giving him consistent at bats instead of letting him get red hot only to bench him and play sal fasano. ole sal pal is out of the mix now, so as a tribe fan im pulling for the vic at first and letting kelly take over the reins. we’ll see what happens. good read marc.

in hopes that shoppach floats under the radar in my fantasy draft