|Say no to Mauer|
|AL or Nothing|
|Written by Jason Mastrodonato|
|Thursday, 17 February 2011 03:16|
Oh, the dreaded catcher position.
Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
I mean honestly, what the heck are you supposed to do with this position?
If you take a look at all the catchers in the American League, sort them from top to bottom, I have to get to the 12th or 13th guy before I find someone I feel comfortable taking given their expected draft position/auction value.
Let’s break it down a little.
There are those in the industry who love Joe Mauer. But I can’t justify taking a catcher with a history of knee problems (and had surgery in December), who, in his “healthy years”, averages just over 500 at-bats in a season.
Now, I know that’s pretty good compared to his peers. But when you talk about guys who are supposed to help you out in batting average, those at-bat totals are extremely important. Ichiro hitting .331 in 680 at-bats is a lot different than Mauer hitting .327 in 510 at-bats.
Add in that Mauer has hit 9 or less home runs in three of the past four seasons, and I really wouldn’t want to waste a first-, or even second-round pick on him. Those are supposed to be the picks who you build your team around. A guy or two who you can count on do a few things really well for you, and stay on the field.
To me, Mauer just doesn’t seem to fit that bill.
V-Mart will likely become more of a designated hitter in Detroit, since he’s awful defensively, and pitchers really don’t like throwing to him – just ask the Red Sox staff – and I’m not sure how he’s going to handle that role.
Posada has had three straight years of less than 400 at-bats, though I will admit, he can still hit. But he is yet another player moving to a DH role.
Napoli, Martin, Santana – all those guys just scream over-rated to me.
So I decided to take what I call the “Theo Epstein Approach to Catching” this year.
Draft two guys who, together, will probably pile together 600-700 at-bats. But in those at-bats, two guys who can hit the ball decently well. (And I know, Epstein has one guy who can hit decently well, and another who has hit .212 the past three seasons, but the idea still works.)
I actually really like Salty this year. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 25 years old, and has a ton of experience for a guy that young.
He was a first-round draft pick by the Braves out of high school and does have decent power, he spent all winter working out with Gary Tuck and Jason Varitek, and the pitching staff has already had nothing but great things to say about the new backstop.
What does his defense have to do with fantasy? Well, it means that Saltalamacchia is going to be in the lineup a lot. With Varitek his only competition, and likely only getting one or two starts a week when tough lefties are on the mound, Salty will finally have a starting job all to himself. And hitting anywhere in the Boston order is no bad place to be.
By waiting until the late rounds to take guys like Salty, Alex Avila, John Jaso, or even Brayan Pena, you can spend your earlier picks on much more productive hitters. The difference between someone like Saltalamacchia and Carlos Santana probably won’t be a whole lot, but they’re being drafted 260 spots apart. Actually, I’d be willing to place a bet that Salty ends the season with more runs and RBIs than the Indians’ hot prospect.
Then you consider the difference between hitters in another position taken in the same two rounds, and that’s like trading in Fred Lewis for Nick Swisher, or Clint Barmes for Brian Roberts, or Nate McLouth for Nick Markakis, or… well, you get the point.
To me, it just makes sense to wait on catching this year, at least in the American League.