Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Each year fantasy owners hope to find those hidden gems at the end of drafts that may help them win that league title. This week I take a look at three catchers who may help owners in A.L.-only leagues.
Can a starter for the New York Yankees be a sleeper? If you are Russell Martin, that answer would be "yes." The 21 homers were very nice, but if you owned Martin, you spent most of the 2012 season wondering if the batting average could get above the Mendoza line. By season's end Martin had a .211 BA, 50 runs, and 53 RBI to go with those 21 HR. The HR total was more than expected, at least by me, but the batting average was far less than I expected. With an average CT% well over 80% to go with a consistent double digit BB%, I expect a BA in the .270 area. Even if you factor in the rigors of the catcher postion, I think .258 to .262 is within the reach of Mr. Martin. With the increased power over the past two seasons, owners might expect a lower BA, and Martin's has certainly trended in that direction, but I wonder if there might be a turnaround in the near future. As players mature, plate patience improves. With the proven skills noted above, I believe Mr. Martin has a chance to hit .258, and keep the power, giving him a chance to put a respectable BA with 19 HR, and RBI north of 60. For someone who will be drafted late an A.L.-only league, that production is nice to have at the back end of the draft.
Next up, Geovany Soto. Who will be the starting catcher for the Texas Rangers next season? Each of the Rangers' catchers from 2012, Mike Napoli and Geovany Soto, are free agents in 2013. While too early to tell, at the moment, it appears that Mr. Soto will have those honors. What can owners expect? If you just look at the declining BA from the last three years, that .198 will probably be enough of a concern to let him pass to someone else. However, Mr. Soto's mid-70s CT% and his double digit BB% over his six major league seasons leads me to believe that we may have been witnessing a young catcher learn a difficult position, and that we may see a turnaround as soon as 2013. When looking at catchers, it is important to keep in mind that with all of the things they need to learn defensively, sometimes the offensive game takes longer to develop. The above stats indicate the possibility of a .246 BA, and with that improvement in hitting, an increase in runs and RBI from the 46 and 49, respectively, he has averaged over the past three seasons. Power? Given the injuries last season, it is understandable that Geovany's PX declined to a career low 94 last season. I believe we will see 18 HRs in 2013.
Let's finish our look at A.L. catcher sleepers with a look at the starting catcher for the newest American League team, the Houston Astros, Jason Castro. While the limited playing time in 2011 and 2012 makes it difficult to project 2013 stats, a look at his minor league results may give us a peak into what owners might expect. Throughout the minors Jason maintained a CT% at, or above 80%. Given that in his first two major league seasons, he has been able to maintain a CT% in the high-70s, I will look for a .244 BA, and while he will not power his way onto owner's radars, I think 8 HRs and 53 RBI are within reach. If you play in a two-catcher league, like me, you like to have a third catcher for those times when one of yours is injured, I think Mr. Castro is the guy for that role.
If you play in a two-catcher league, or a deep A.L. only league, one of the above three catchers could be very helpful. Waiting on catcher can bring strategic rewards to owners who employ that strategy, successfully.