Deep fantasy league thoughts -- Chris Iannetta is good, you guys

Thearon W. Henderson

He's finally getting full-time play, and Chris Iannetta is responding by giving his (few) owners stalwart fantasy production.

Jesus Montero is hitting .224/.250/.306, with one home run.

Alex Avila is hitting .196/.224/.304, with two home runs, and those are his only two RBI.

Victor Martinez, back from injury, is hitting .182/.286/.197. His next home run will be his first.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is hitting .208/.288/.453. That slugging is perfectly fine, but holy crap Jarrod, do other things.

Salvador Perez is hitting .258/.269/.348. No homers yet, and with Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer also struggling, run and RBI opportunities might not be plentiful.

If you ended up with a Buster Posey, a Yadier Molina, a (particularly) Joe Mauer or Carlos Santana as your catcher this year, you're pretty happy. Those guys are doing fine - or, in Posey's case, starting to turn it on - and yay for you. But unless you're in a four-team league and those four are the only catchers involved, you might be hurting for catcher production so far this young season.

Wilin Rosario has been fine. So has AJ Pierzynski. Mike Napoli has won over Bill Simmons, and looks good. And Evan Gattis makes Buster Olney drool constantly. That's...pretty much the list, so far, unless you think John Buck has taken Babe Ruth Juice at some point and will continue doing what he has been doing (no).

What I have taken way too many words and numbers so far to say is that catcher, which we looked at as respectably deep a few weeks ago, and still might be as early-season slumps work themselves out, is right now painfully, horrifically shallow. The guys who have been good have been good, but the guys who have been bad have been downright unplayable. Maybe you, like me, thought Jesus Montero would wake up this year. Or Martinez would come back from his ACL and hit like before. Or Perez was as good as the hype machine said, or Avila would remember 2011, or Tyler Flowers was an acceptable Pierzynski replacement. (That last one means you definitely are not Cee Angi)

You need a catcher, though. If you're in a 10-team mixed league, you might need one. If your league is any deeper, there's a really good chance you need one.

May I suggest Chris Iannetta?

As a Rangers fan, it hurts my soul to recommend Iannetta, or any member of the Angels other than Mike Trout, who transcends rivalries. Regardless, Iannetta is woefully underrated across the fantasy landscape, with a Yahoo ownership of 11% and ESPN of 3.9.

The knock against Iannetta historically has been his lack of a full-time job. He has never played more than 112 games or had more than 426 plate appearances, both in 2011. But Iannetta has had an OPS+ over 100 in four of the last five years, with his only year under that number also the year he had his least amount of playing time, in 2010. And remember, OPS+ is adjusted for park, so his Rockies numbers are fair game.

It looks, this year, like Iannetta is en route to a full season of playing time. Through 18 games, Iannetta has played in 15, a pace of 130-140 games over the season. If you think Hank Conger is going to steal plate appearances, then you have more faith in Mr. Conger than I have. Iannetta's if-healthy play will be full-time for a catcher.

As of this moment (it's 7:50 Tuesday night, and if the numbers change tonight I don't expect to go back and change it, so don't you fight me), Iannetta's batting average is .275, which over a longer season would best his career high by a significant margin. Odds are, he won't be keeping it that high.

On the other hand, Iannetta has a career .190 ISO, otherwise known as basically the same career ISO as Posey. Dude might not be a high-average hitter, but he knocks the ball a long way a lot of the time.

If you have been rolling with Matt Wieters and his abysmal numbers, you're kind of stuck. You can't very well drop a Wieters-esque guy. Sorry. But if you are in a deeper league, if you have a Jesus Montero, an Alex Avila? Iannetta is probably available. I almost feel comfortable saying he's better than those guys at this point, using just the evidence at hand and not the scouting backgrounds.

Catcher, which we thought was so deep, has been woeful. We're still firmly in small-sample-size territory, of course, but I think it's fair to say you can't reasonably draw a distinction between the actual, realistic qualities of Iannetta and the mid-tier guys who have been so bad so far. If you are in a deep league, and you don't have an upper-end guy, give Iannetta a shot. At this point, he's certainly no worse than the others.

Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley

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