BY ROB SHAW
There are often a few catchers who stand out as the finest of their generation. In the 1980s it was Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. The 1990s brought us Mike Piazza and Pudge Rodriguez. The 2000s were dominated by archrivals Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada. Now in the ’10s we have a fresh generation of talent.
The fifth best backstop this season will be Giants masked marvel Buster Posey. After a stellar rookie season that included 18 home runs and a .305 average, Posey was again enjoying some success last season while showing a little more plate discipline. This season Bloomberg Sports projects Posey to return to prominence after a nasty collision at home plate ended his sophomore season prematurely. Expect 17 home runs, 76 RBI, and a .282 batting clip.
Coming in at number four is the player with perhaps the most upside on this list, Carlos Santana. As a rookie last season, Santana powered 27 home runs with 79 RBI and 84 runs. Though he hit just .234, Santana’s 97 walks are a tremendous total for such a young player. Bloomberg Sports projects 25 home runs with 89 RBI and even five stolen bases for Santana this season.
The third best catcher this season is also the steadiest: Brian McCann. The Braves star has 20-plus home runs in five of the last six seasons. While he does not offer any speed on the base paths, he does have a great deal of power and usually hits for a high average. Expect 24 home runs with 85 RBI form the 28-year-old veteran.
Coming in as the second best catcher is Twins sensation Joe Mauer. Fantasy managers have to come to grips with what Mauer now offers. Since the move to Target Field, Mauer does not pack much pop. He also lacks speed due to the many leg injuries he has suffered behind the plate. On the other hand, Mauer is a high average option with solid run production. Expect 13 home runs with a .306 batting clip for the former MVP contender.
Finally, the top-hitting catcher in fantasy baseball is Mike Napoli. The Rangers slugger became a household name in Texas last season thanks to his 30 home runs and .319 average. Napoli proved his worth on the offensive and defensive side of the diamond and after going in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts last season he now ranks at the top of his position. Expect him to offer a repeat performance with 30 home runs and 87 RBI.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
By Tom Trudeau
The inaugural LABR mixed league draft was held this past Saturday night, causing some of the industry’s brightest minds to miss the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Competing against an experienced group of fantasy owners made it even more important to dig deep for undervalued commodities. Using Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office 2012, I was able to find those commodities at the catcher position.
Determining replacement level and evaluating positional scarcity are two of the toughest tasks facing an owner in a deep league with a lot of positions. A top-200 list for a typical 10-team league should look very different from a top-200 list for a 15-team league with two catchers, five outfielders, a middle infielder, and a corner infielder, since any change to positional requirements affects replacement level across the board.
It’s hard to overstate how much more valuable catchers are in a two-catcher league. Front Office generates “B-Ranks” for each player based on the league’s settings. For example, Mike Napoli’s B-Rank in a one-catcher, 15-team league is 42nd, while Carlos Santana checks in at 55th. For mixed LABR, those B-Ranks jump to 21st and 28th, respectively. B-Ranks for backstops increased enough to make catchers roughly twice as valuable in the LABR draft, by far the biggest increase of any position. This made catchers the most undervalued commodity on draft day, relative to a typical top-300 list or even the ADP results that the experts study.
With this in mind, I was thrilled to land the top-ranked catcher, Mike Napoli, with the 32nd pick, Joe Mauer with the 59th pick, and Salvador Perez with the 269th pick. Perez’ B-Rank of 109 made him one of the best value picks of the day for my squad. He instantly becomes either an overqualified backup or a valuable trade chip in a league where other owners will be forced to start catchers such as Ryan Hanigan, Wilin Rosario, and Yorvit Torrealba.
Click here to see the complete results.
by Eno Sarris //
Most health updates at this point in the season are nigh useless. Yes, many major leaguers enter spring training in the best shape of their life. Why should we care?
In the case of Indians catcher Carlos Santana, there’s a little more significance to this latest piece of news:
Almost six months to the date after knee surgery to fix a strained LCL and hyper-extended knee suffered in this horrific collision, it looks like Carlos Santana is looking good again. He can catch and run the bases – he’ll get a full spring training.
Projection systems can’t always take injuries into consideration. Sure, they can read that he ‘only’ managed 438 plate appearances next year, and take that into consideration when predicting his playing time this year, but they can’t examine the knee and declare it structurally sound. Bloomberg’s Front Office tool did its best, using the sage B-Rank to project Santana for a .257 batting average, with 18 home runs, 66 RBI and one stolen base in 538 plate appearances. Those numbers look nice, and will play at a tough fantasy posiiton, even if we can’t see the MRIs and examine the ligament ourselves.
What we can do is remark how spectacular Santana has already been by taking a look at his abbreviated 2010 season. Last year, he showed an OBP over .400 by walking in as many at-bats as he struck out (19.3% walk and strikeout rates in 2010). He also had a .207 ISO (isolated slugging percentage, or SLG – AVG), which translates to above-average for the general population (.150 is about average), but even better when compared to other catchers. In fact, only eight catchers have shown an ISO above .200 since 2005, and none of them showed the same elite plate discipline.
Carlos Santana has already shown he belongs. Once he shows he’s healthy, his price will begin rising. And appropriately so – he’s likely to end the season as a top option at his position. Recent mocks have Santana going anywhere from the seventh to the fifteenth round, but with this news expect that second number to get smaller.
For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Carlos Santana
Despite having his rookie season cut short with a gruesome knee injury, Carlos Santana looked as good as advertised in his 46 major league games. After hitting .316/.447/.597 in 57 minor league games, the young catcher compiled an .868 OPS in 192 plate appearances for Cleveland. Although his batting average was just .260, Santana had an on-base percentage over .400 (.401). This is because he walked an amazing 37 times in 192 appearances (19.3%).
Biggest Bust: Grady Sizemore
It is somewhat unfair to label a player a bust when his season ends after just 33 games due to a major knee surgery. But even before the injury, Grady Sizemore was not producing like a top-level outfielder – the spot where most people drafted him this year. As mentioned, Sizemore played in just 33 games. In those games, he hit just .211/.271/.289. This comes on the heels of 2009 in which he hit just .248/.343/.445 in 106 games, itself a huge step-down from his prior superstar performance. He’s a high-upside pick next year, but given the risk, don’t overbid.
2011 Keeper Alert: Carlos Santana
Not only is Santana a really good hitter with ridiculous on-base skills, he does it from one of the least productive positions in baseball. The average OPS for a major league catcher this season is .702, the second-worst mark for any position on the field (shortstop .696). In his brief time, Santana posted an OPS of .868. There are three catchers in the entire league (minimum 190 PA) who posted a higher OPS: Geovany Soto, Buster Posey, and Joe Mauer.
2011 Regression Alert: Matt LaPorta
As the crown jewel in the CC Sabathia trade of 2008, Indians fans are still waiting for Matt LaPorta to replicate his minor league success at the next level. LaPorta has hit just .221/.306/.362 in 425 plate appearances. His batting average on balls in play was also pretty low at .250. A large reason for this is his weak percentage of line drives hit. Just 12.5% of the balls in play off LaPorta’s bat were line drives – the third-worst mark in baseball (minimum 400 PA). It is no secret that line drives are the type of batted ball that tends to fall for a hit the most often. Still, LaPorta’s minor league track record suggests power potential, and he should start right from Opening Day next season. He’s worth a shot in deeper leagues.
For more on Carlos Santana and the Cleveland Indians lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Tommy Rancel //
In the summer of 2008, the Dodgers acquired Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians. Blake, 36, was a soon-to-be free agent after the season. In exchange for a few months of Blake’s services, the Dodgers parted ways with catching prospect Carlos Santana and minor league relief pitcher Jonathan Meloan.
The Dodgers re-signed Blake after the ’08 season, and the four-corner man (1B/3B/RF/LF) has been a good player for Los Angeles. On the other hand, he is far from an impact player. While it may have not seemed like it at the time of the trade, one of the players sent to the Indians may indeed become an impact player.
Jon Meloan has bounced around the league, from Cleveland to Tampa Bay to Oakland. Meanwhile, Carlos Santana has become a top-10 prospect in baseball. With the Indians already out of the race 2010, the focus has shifted to the future.
Santana figures to be a key part of that future. A former third baseman/outfielder, Santana was converted to catcher in 2007. His defense is still questionable, but Santana’s ability at the plate has him ready for the big leagues right now.
In 2008, while splitting time between the two organizations, Santana hit .326/.431/.568 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 21 home runs and 117 RBI. That said, 560 of his 568 plate appearances came at the Single-A level. The Indians promoted him to Double-A in 2009, and he responded by hitting .290/.413/.530 with 23 home runs and 30 doubles. Ready for the top level of the minors in 2010, Santana appeared in 57 games for Triple-A Columbus – compiling a slash line of .316/.447/.597 with 13 longballs in just 246 PAs.
Along with a good batting average, and very good power (.241 Isolated power, aka slugging minus batting average, in 2009), perhaps Santana’s greatest skill is his batting eye. As a member of the Indians farm system, he walked 145 times and struck out just 132 times over the past two plus seasons. Throughout his minor league career, he has 333 walks and 322 strikeouts. It is that fantastic plate discipline that should help ease the transition from a good minor league hitter to a good major league one.
So far, so good. In his first four games as a major leaguer, Santana had three walks and just one strikeout. He also belted his first major league home run on Saturday. Although his batting average may take an initial hit at the top level, his plate discipline should keep him on base at an above-average clip.
Despite playing in the same division as Joe Mauer, don’t expect Mauer-like production, at least not right away. Meanwhile, looking at the man Santana indirectly replaced, Victor Martinez, we may have a more apt comparison. If Santana is on your waiver wire, put in a claim immediately in all mixed-league and AL-only formats.
Not much has gone the Indians’ way in 2010, but Santana’s supernatural on-base ability should be fun to watch this summer.
For more on Carlos Santana and other top prospects, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.