One position that has often befuddled fantasy baseball owners is that of catcher. Usually, there are one or two elite options and the rest of the pack has often consisted of filler players that will hopefully provide a little pop, no speed and not destroy your overall team batting average too badly. Although there are still elite options at the position (no, not Joe Mauer), there are also a few catchers in the major leagues that are worth taking a flier on as well as a few to be cautious with entering the second half of the 2011 season. I recently looked at shortstops for the second half of 2011, now let’s consider some options at catcher.
Brian McCann (ATL) –
McCann has proven himself as the class of his position. He entered the 2011 season with more HR and RBI than any catcher over the past 5 seasons. With vision problems corrected last year and a place in the middle of the Braves batting order, you can expect McCann to keep up his power pace. With .308-16-53 numbers so far in 2011 and considering that McCann has traditionally put up consistent numbers in both halves, the Braves catcher should easily continue lead the pack of catchers from a fantasy standpoint. If you can get him, do it. Then consider him serious ‘keeper material’ for the next several seasons as well.
Alex Avila (DET) –
Avila seemed to come out of nowhere early in the 2011 season. However, after getting off to a quick start, Avila has faded recently. Never one to hit LHP, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will be looking to sit his young catcher a lot more in the second half, including more days off against RHP as well. Leyland recently stated, "Alex is going to need some time. You can take that to the bank. If we're not careful, we'll play Alex into the ground. He's going to need some time." This is not a player who will see an overabundance of playing time in the second half. If you have him, sell high. Fast.
Matt Wieters (BAL) –
The much-hyped phenom has yet to live up to his advanced billing. He has provided some pop with 10 HR so far this season, but none have come with more than 1 man on base. Combined with the fact that he often hits in the lower part of the Orioles batting order, and his RBI numbers have suffered. An incredible defensive player, Wieters will most likely deliver a monster year yet. However, 2012 or 2013 are more likely candidates for the breakthrough season.
Wilson Ramos (WAS) –
Blocked by Joe Mauer in Minnesota, moving to the Nationals in the Matt Capps trade was a perfect fit. Under the tutelage of Ivan Rodiguez, Ramos continues to display a canon for an arm and a knack for calling a good game. Better still for fantasy owners is his steady improvement at the plate. With virtually the same statistics as Wieters, Ramos will cost you a lot less in a trade than the Orioles backstop. If you need a little pop from your catcher, you would be well served to grab Ramos.
Russell Martin (NYY) –
Trending downward for years now, Martin showed some life early in the 2011 season in a potent Yankees line up. One of Martin’s strengths was always his ability to deliver stolen bases from the catcher position. Although he has 7 SB on the season, he has stolen only 1 base since June 3rd and recent hip and knee injuries have limited his ability to run like he used to. The real value he brings to the Yanks is his ability to call a game (A.J. Burnett loves throwing to him) and block pitches in the dirt. These are admirable qualities indeed, but of absolutely no help for fantasy owners. With phenom hitting prospect Jesus Montero in the minors (and a possibility to be called up in September), Martin is not an appealing choice for the second half.
Kurt Suzuki (OAK) –
Suzuki has been an appealing option at catcher the past several seasons due to the fact that he plays a lot of games behind the plate and has hit regularly in the middle of the Athletics batting order, thus producing good RBI numbers. Although he is hitting for the same amount of power this season, his batting average has plumbed depths exceeding his 2010 rate of .242. Hitting only .228 through mid-July, it seems that catching all of those games the past few years is taking its toll on Suzuki’s overall play. Consider the Oakland catcher as one to avoid in the second half as his number of days off are likely to increase.
Ramon Hernandez (CIN) –
At a position where many fantasy owners hope to draft a player and hope he won’t hurt with his statistics, Hernandez can actually help out in batting average. A .297 hitter in 2010, he has hit at a .315 clip in 2011. Although he has been sharing time with Ryan Hanigan (and should continue to do so), Hernandez does offer a nice blend of batting average and some pop (10 HR so far). If you are looking for an inexpensive option at catcher who will help out rather than hurt your overall team stats, Hernandez is a pretty decent option and available on many waiver wires.
Take a minute to look a little closer at the catchers available in your fantasy baseball league and hopefully you will take some of the confusion out of this most unique fantasy position.