Mauer undisputed king of catchers in 2010
1. Joe Mauer, Twins
No one's saying Mauer, the reigning American League MVP, cannot duplicate 28 homers, 96 RBIs, .365 batting average and 1.031 OPS again ... we're just saying it won't collectively occur in the same season for the foreseeable future. With that said, Mauer is still the runaway choice for No. 1 catcher. Just lower your expectations a little bit. Projections: 17 HRs, 84 RBIs, 87 runs, 5 steals, .330 average.
2. Brian McCann, Braves
Only Atlanta residents can truly appreciate McCann's numbers from 2009 (21 HRs, 94 RBIs, .281 average). Day after day, we were bludgeoned with news reports of McCann's vision problems -- before and after the LASIK surgery; and to come reasonably close to his yearly averages, given all the drama of being less than 100 percent, is commendable. Projections: 26 HRs, 93 RBIs, 74 runs and .305 average.
3. Victor Martinez, Red Sox
If V -Mart should play 140-plus games for Boston, he's a solid choice for No. 2 catcher behind Mauer (sorry, McCann). And if the word "platoon" never gets whispered in his direction -- in association with Jason Varitek -- he might surpass Mauer's numbers by season's end. In the meantime, we'll stick at the 3-spot. Projections: 19 HRs, 89 RBIs, 92 runs and .297 average.
4. Jorge Posada, Yankees
It's easy to dismiss Posada as old (he'll be 39 on June 8) and predictable. But as long as he's a day-in, day-out fixture in the Yankees' lineup, he's going to produce. And unless hotshot prospects Jesus Montero or Austin Romine are doppelgangers to Mauer or the No. 5 guy in our countdown, Posada is a cinch to be the everyday backstop this season. Projections: 19 HRs, 81 RBIs, 83 runs, 3 steals, .306 average.
5. Matt Wieters, Orioles
The conservative fantasy analyst in me wants to predict that Wieters will have modest across-the-board improvements from his '09 rookie campaign -- something like 13 HRs, 66 RBIs, 73 runs and .294 BA for 2010. However, the rambunctious, tangibly reckless analyst in me wants to scream the following projections: 21 HRs, 87 RBIs, 97 runs, .296 BA and .880 OPS -- essentially the same numbers of fellow Oriole Nick Markakis at 24.
6. Russell Martin, Dodgers
There is no guarantee Martin will equal or surpass his amazing production from 2007 (19 HRs, 87 RBIs, 21 steals). On the other hand, we're absolutely certain he won't repeat last year's woeful lows in the same categories (7 HRs, 53 RBIs, 11 steals in 143 games -- ouch!). Talk about a bad news/good news proposition, which is why he's firmly behind the big-name studs -- and comfortably ahead of the up-and-comers. Projections: 17 HRs, 73 RBIs, 81 runs, 14 steals, .277 average.
7. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
Astute readers of the 2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview may remember that Montero failed to crack our top-30 list; and ironically enough, Chris Snyder (a top-10 pick last year) is nowhere to be found in the current countdown. The lessons here: Don't believe everything you read (ahem) ... and don't just automatically assume Montero will catch 130 games in '10. Projections: 16 HRs, 65 RBIs, 60 runs and .285 average.
8. Geovany Soto, Cubs
Meet the Midwest version of Russell Martin. The 27-year-old Soto endured a predictable sophomore slump (50-percent reduction) after an out-of-nowhere monster rookie campaign in 2008 (23 HRs, 86 RBIs, 66 RBIs, .285 average) ... and now, he's basically a forgotten quantity in fantasy circles. Funny how that works sometimes, huh? Speaking of good humor, you'll be laughing all the way to the bank if Soto registers 80 RBIs -- for the low, low price of a 13th-round pick. Projections: 16 HRs, 78 RBIs, 69 runs, 1 steal, .272 average.
9. Mike Napoli, Angels
It's easy to dismiss Napoli as a second-rate fantasy producer, but there's no doubting his consistency: 20 homers and a .270-ish average. That's decent bankability for a low-round pick -- especially since he may have to assume a larger role in the Angels' scaled-down offensive attack. Here's one more nugget in Napoli's favor: In my mind, he's the home-run king for midweek 'getaway' games. Projections: 19 HRs, 53 RBIs, 58 runs, 4 steals, .273 average.
10. Bengie Molina, Giants
By most accounts, Molina should be the No. 7 or 8 catcher based on a deceptively strong track record in recent years (55 HRs, 256 RBIs from 2007-09). However, with the expected emergence of Buster Posey, Molina has suddenly devolved into a questionable asset for mixed and NL-only leagues. Sounds like the perfect situation for a Molina-Posey handcuff on draft day. Projections: 13 HRs, 59 RBIs, 62 runs, 2 steals, .274 average.
11. Kurt Suzuki, Athletics
With any other ballpark to come home, Suzuki would most likely be a top-10 catcher in the preseason -- a reasonable occurrence for someone with 7/49/.311 splits on the road last year. But when you play in Yellowstone National Park, er, Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, it's hard to go ga-ga over the occasional trip to The Ballpark in Arlington, Camden Yards or Fenway Park. Projections: 12 HRs, 81 RBIs, 77 runs, 10 steals, .266 average.
12. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox
Pierzynski is the baseball equivalent to the "comfortable old shoe," a certifiable lock for 14 HRs, 56 RBIs, 62 runs and .297 average -- with little variation either way. If you're a proponent of drafting catchers in the late rounds, A.J. represents perfect fantasy value in that area.
13. Ryan Doumit, Pirates
It's difficult to identify Doumit's fantasy ceiling -- even though he's almost 30 -- which explains the ambiguous ranking here. Bottom line: As long as Doumit keeps teasing us with 20-HR, 75-RBI, 70-run potential, he still represents a super-sleeper pick in later rounds. After all, he'll reach the 135-game summit at some point, right? Projections: 18 HRs, 74 runs, 71 runs, 4 steals, .263 average.
14. Ramon Hernandez, Reds
Speaking of launching pads, how is it possible that Hernandez clubbed only five homers last season while playing half his games at cozy Great American Ballpark? Talk about a fluke occurrence. With the assumption of 130 games, we're guaranteeing 17 homers and 73 RBIs in 2010. (And feel free to mock us if horribly wrong.)
15. Kelly Shoppach, Rays
No one is predicting a Carlos Pena-like career resurgence (circa 2006) for Shoppach, once he starts playing at Tropicana Field every day. But there's absolutely no reason he shouldn't notch 14 homers and 65 RBIs with a club that's loaded with power, speed and in-their-prime youth. He should reap the benefits of Tampa Bay in a big way. Projections: 15 HRs, 69 RBIs, 68 runs, 0 steals, .267 average.
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