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Up until this point in the history of fantasy baseball, no matter what format your league was, no matter what the stat categories were, you would never even comprehend the idea of drafting a catcher in the first round. However, the fantasy baseball world in recent years has decided to open its doors to players at very shallow positions. This has caused players at the 2B and SS position to be vaulted up the rankings and into first round territory.
Now of course, every season somebody takes a 2B, a SS, and even a starting pitcher in round one. Frankly, nobody can blame them because they want the absolute best at that position and they know that there is depth at the other roster spots. Yet, when we think about taking a catcher, it is such a taboo subject. After all, catcher’s do on average put out the least amount of offensive production and the pick is seen as a waste. However, the time has come to usher in a new era. That era my friends, is the Joe Mauer era.
As I mentioned earlier, the 2B and SS positions, who have produced notoriously poor offensive players in the past, have found their way into the first round. First, let’s take a look at 2B.
Yeah, for those of you new to the game, Soriano was the most sought after 2B on the planet. His combination of power and speed produced three 30-30 seasons as a 2B including his historic 40-40 season in 2006 with Washington. For those of you who had him that season, it was his last season with 2B-eligibility.
Utley is still the best 2B in the fantasy world. His best asset is his consistency. You can bank on 30 home runs, 100 RBI, and a .290+ avg every season. The only thing that stopped him from reaching those numbers before were injuries via getting hit by pitches. There is a reason he goes in round one every year.
The new face to round one last season, Kinsler brought the goods in 2008 when he hit .319 with 18 home runs, 26 stolen bases, and 102 runs scored 121 games. The thought of what this kid could do for a full season was just too good to pass up in round one. So far this season, he has 29 home runs and 28 stolen bases with a not-so-good .252 avg. But, a 30-30 2B will once again go within the first 12 picks next season.
I don’t recall what season it happened, but New York’s Jose Reyes somehow jumped into not just round one, but within the first six picks. Not to take anything away from a guy who from 2005-2008 stole on average over 64 bases per season with a respectable .287 avg. Steals are huge in fantasy baseball and without them, Reyes would have to take his bat (which has never reached 20 home runs in a season) and go to a lower round.
Rollins goes in round one almost every year. This has to stop. Yes, the speed is an asset (30+ stolen bases each year since 2004), but if you are waiting for another 30-HR year, then get real. Rollins has reached the 20-HR mark only twice in his career. Plus, he is a notorious second half hitter with a batting average 20 points higher after the break in his career. So he is not worth investing an entire season in. The ’07 30-30 year was a fluke, so just put it behind you and invest the pick elsewhere.
My baby boy! This is the only SS who deserves to be in the first round. Not only the first round, but arguably a first overall pick. As a leadoff hitter, he was untouchable with two straight seasons of 50+ stolen bases which he then followed up with a 30-30 season. Since moving to the #3 spot this season, all he has done is achieved his first 100 RBI season and is on pace for a career-best in batting average where he currently stands at .356 (best in the N.L.). Power, speed, and hitting, Hanley is the total package.
If you are going to draft shortstops and second basemen in round one solely because it is a shallow position and you want to make sure you have the absolute best at that position, then you have to apply that same logic to catchers.
Frankly, Mauer is not just the best catcher out there, but he is on his own planet. Again, the name of the game is consistency. Mauer has a career .328 batting average and has already won two batting titles in his career. Not to mention, he currently leads the A.L. in that category with a .374 mark and it looks like he will win his third batting title in four years. REPEAT: AS A CATCHER, MAUER WILL WIN HIS THIRD BATTING TITLE IN FOUR YEARS!
While it is true that having the best batting average won’t get you into round one (see Ichiro), it looks like Mauer has finally come through on that home run power we have been waiting for all these years. Mauer currently has 27 home runs and leads the league in slugging with .610. What makes that home run total look impressive is that Mauer missed all of April. To bring out an old cliche: “just imagine if he had a full season”.
So after Mauer is off the board, who else can fill your catcher spot on your roster?
Martinez flashes decent power for a catcher. Excluding his injury-plagued 2008 season, Martinez has averaged 21 home runs per season up until 2009 where he has 21 home runs combined between Cleveland and Boston. A career .298 hitter, Martinez is a solid foundation at catcher and is even 1B-eligible.
Basically the same as Martinez. You can bet on 20 home runs and an average between .290 and .300. Both will drive in close to 100 RBI, but Victor gets the slight edge with 1B-eligibility.
Every other catcher available with either give you 20 home runs and no batting average or a decent batting average and no power. Trying to find one with both is next to impossible, which is why Mauer is a god among men.
If, again IF Joe Mauer has finally developed legit power and keeps his hitting at this elite level, then YES, Mauer is first round worthy in 2010. Having a guy in contention for the batting title every season combined with 30-HR power is reminiscent of Mike Piazza when he was with the Dodgers and his early Mets’ years.
Every season, the shallowest positions such as 2B and SS produce first rounders. Even a SP will sneak in there as well. Catchers have rightfully been left out because they have yet to produce a well-rounded, multi-category producing player worth considering.
I’m obviously not condoning taking him within the first five or six picks. I’m not that crazy. Depending on your draft position, I can safely say that you should be confident enough to draft Mauer with picks 9-12. Just don’t be too surprised if someone jumps the gun and takes him at fifth overall. Hey, it happens.
Over the past few seasons, you could have just called Mauer the “Ichiro of catchers”. Now with 2009 being Mauer’s first foray into major home run territory, there is no longer an excuse to exclude him from the first round on your draft board.