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Red Sox Spring Training Fantasy Rundown: Four-Headed Catching Monster

Boston Red Sox Catchers (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Last season, the Red Sox had one strong starting option at the catcher position at the start of the season. After this past offseason, you could argue that they now have four big league catchers with the ability to produce on a day-to-day basis. However, the volatility at the first base position has resulted in one player being moved to that position, while another will start the year back in the minors as he continues to hone his skills.

 

1. Mike Napoli (1B/C)
Projected Stats:

Year AB AVG R HR RBI SB OBP SLG OPS Catcher Rank
2012 352 .227 53 24 56 1 .343 .469 .812 -
Projected 428 .264 71 26 72 3 .364 .505 .869 5 

Mike Napoli will be the primary first baseman for the Red Sox this season. After inking a 3-year, $39 million contract, a physical revealed that he suffered from avascular necrosis in his hip joints. This prompted a month-long back-and-forth at the bargaining table that led to Napoli accepting a one-year, $5 million contract with performance incentives that could allow the contract to reach the previous average annual value of $13 million. If Napoli stays healthy after the switch to first base, he could be in line to have a monster season playing his home games at Fenway Park. Napoli will also be playing in a contract year with double the implications: if he succeeds, he makes more money on his current contract as well as sets himself up for a new deal. MLB.com and RotoChamp.com have Napoli projected to be drafted in the eighth round of ten team leagues. According to ESPN, Napoli could fall all the way in the vicinity of the 22nd round. If he manages to bounce back anywhere close to his 2011 form, that could be one heck of a steal near the end of the draft.

Verdict: Do not draft him as your primary first baseman. If he stays healthy, he will be a valuable commodity at a thin catching position or as a corner infielder, though that is a big if.


2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Projected Stats:

Year AB AVG R HR RBI SB OBP SLG OPS Catcher Rank
2012
405
.222
55
25
59
0
.288
.454
.742
-
Projected 353 .235 48 17 50 1 .302 .442 .744 19

“Salty” will be the primary catcher this season, but he may not see as much time behind the plate as last season. He had abysmal righty/lefty splits, which may have been what prompted the organization to go out and acquire backup catcher David Ross. The loss of bullpen coach Gary Tuck could also play a major role in his success throughout the season. While he has shown that he can be good for some power out of the catching position, that in itself may not be enough to make up for the .230 average that he will likely post. Saltalamacchia will accumulate average numbers in runs scored, RBIs, and will be a virtual lock for single digit stolen bases. According to MLB.com, he could be worth a play in the 29th round, but as a backup to whomever you select to be your starting catcher.

Verdict: Will not be starter worthy in fantasy this year due to the depth at the position on the Red Sox. Though he would make a great backup option, be sure to start him only against right-handed pitching, as he hit 24 of his 25 home runs from the left side last year.

3. David Ross
Projected Stats:

Year AB AVG R HR RBI SB OBP SLG OPS Catcher Rank
2012
176
.256
18
9
23
1
.321
.449
.770
-
Projected 192 .250 24 7 26 1 .327 .417 .744 34

David Ross came over to the Red Sox via free agency in the offseason after spending the last few seasons backing up Atlanta’s primary catcher, Brian McCann. He may see some time in the starting role versus left handed pitchers, as he has had success where Saltalamacchia has not. If he keeps his average up, he could play as a backup on fantasy teams that have a strong starting catcher when it comes to power and RBI (I’m thinking Posey, Molina, Mauer, M. Montero, Wieters, or Santana).

Verdict: Could be a number two catcher in deeper leagues (twelve team or two catcher). Not draftable in ten team leagues.

4. Ryan Lavarnway
Projected Stats:

Year AB AVG R HR RBI SB OBP SLG OPS Catcher Rank
2012
153
.157
11
2
12
0
.211
.248
.459
-
Projected 109 .239 13 3 13 0 .308 .385 .693 54

Ryan Lavarnway has been heralded as the Red Sox’ catcher of the future for some time now, but it seems that that future still has not arrived. With the acquisition this offseason of two players who can line up behind the plate (though they would probably prefer to aviod that kind of pressure on Napoli’s hips), Lavarnway will find himself back in Pawtucket. If Saltalamacchia or Ross get traded to a contender during the season, Lavarnway should see an increase in playing time, but even then, he should merely be on people’s watch lists.

Verdict: Will start the year in AAA and is not a good enough prospect to justify a pick on in standard leagues (a la Jurickson Profar). Keep an eye on Boston’s catching situation through the season to see if he is worth taking a flier on if he gets called up.

 

Projected Statistics courtesy of ESPN.comRotoChamp.com, and MLB.com.

About DMac - @dmac4226

I grew up on Boston Sports during the championship era. Nothing has supported my love for Boston sports more than seeing three Lombardi Trophies, two World Series Championships, a Stanley Cup, and an NBA Championship all before turning 21. That will never stop me complaining when one of my teams falls on its face, and there will always be game film to go over, which is why I will always have something to write about.

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