We all know that catchers are a major risk for fantasy owners, given their propensity to get hurt. Unfortunately it goes with the position, as taking foul tips or bounced pitches off their bodies coupled with the risk of collisions is bound to cause some injuries.
Does that mean that we should ignore the infusion of young talent coming up through the ranks? Absolutely not, as they all offer intriguing options for fantasy owners in many different ways. Let’s take a look at the top catchers 25-years old or younger:
1) Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians – 25-years old
He’s arguably already the best catcher in the league, despite hitting .239 last season. That negative is easily written off as he posted a .263 BABIP. Given his .290 batting average over his minor league career, it’s easy to imagine a significant improvement there.
Throw in the fact that he hit 27 HR, bats in the middle of the Indians lineup and plays virtually every day (thanks to also seeing time at first base) and what exactly is there not to like? I have always held the belief that he could be the next Victor Martinez (.300, 25 HR, 100 RBI). In fact, he could be better than that given the power he has already displayed.
It’s possible the Indians move him out from behind the plate permanently in order to keep him healthy, but that probably is still a few years away. Right now he gives them an advantage over other teams by having that productive of a bat from the catcher position. He’s one of the Top 3 at the position no matter who you talk to and is a great option for fantasy owners moving forward.
2) Matt Wieters – Baltimore Orioles – 25-years old
I am going to do a full write-up on Wieters in the coming weeks, so I am not going to go into too much detail here. That said, we all know the hype that Wieters received as he approached the Major Leagues and it was nearly impossible for him to live up to it. However, he has made improvements each year since reaching Baltimore and could be on the precipice of stardom.
He has made advances in his contact rate every year, getting it to 15.2% in ’11. He also showed improved power, hitting 22 HR based on a realistic 13.6% HR/FB. He’s going to be hitting in the middle of a young Orioles lineup and should be viewed as a must own option in all formats.
3) Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants – 25-years old
We all know about the injury that abruptly ended his 2011 campaign (after just 45 games), but prior to the that he backed up his strong rookie season by hitting .284 with 4 HR and 21 RBI. He may see some time at 1B to help keep his bat in the lineup, though an improved outfield may land Brandon Belt there full-time (should Aubrey Huff struggle). That will limit the amount of starts Posey gets there, downgrading him slightly. The ballpark he calls home is also a negative, as is the weak lineup that surrounds him.
We all know the potential that he has, but given the knocks against him and his minor league numbers (25 HR in 631 AB), his ceiling is a small step below the top two on this list.
4) Jesus Montero – Seattle Mariners – 22-years old
The trade to Seattle knocks him down the list a little bit, as he no longer will be calling a hitter’s paradise home. The other major issue is if he will be able to stick behind the plate for his entire career, as there has been a lot of questions surrounding his defensive ability. However, at least for 2012, he is going to have catching eligibility and therefore has to be included. His bat has looked impressive, hitting .288 with 18 HR in 420 AB as a 21-year old at Triple-A, just showing you what is possible. Just be careful if you are depending on him as a catcher long-term, because there’s a good chance he loses eligibility there by 2014 if not sooner.
5) Devin Mesoraco – Cincinnati Reds – 23-years old
I wrestled a lot with who should get the final spot on these rankings, with Devin Mesoraco, Travis d’Arnaud and Yasmani Grandal all getting strong consideration. At this point any of the three have the potential to be the best of the bunch, though all have potential negatives for the coming season. Mesoraco could share time with Ryan Hannigan, at least early on. D’Arnaud will have to wait for the Blue Jays to grow frustrated with J.P. Arencibia or a trade. Grandal will call Petco Park home.
So, where is an owner to go? For now Mesoraco is going to get the final spot, thanks to being the closest to a full-time job in the Major Leagues. However, d’Arnaud is just a millimeter behind him and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ultimately was the better player.
What are your thoughts of these players? Who do you think is the best young catcher? Which one are you targeting?
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Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: