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AL Catchers: Day Three
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Catchers without Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.  B = Bats.  T = Throws.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2005.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider a player's 2005 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.

Alberto Castillo10121.208114113C
Age: 35B:R    T:R-2-1-3.6-3.5

His formerly strong plate discipline deserted Castillo this year. A significant drop in his contact rate destroyed his batting average, eliminating his fantasy value and even pushing him off the roster of the atrocious Royals in August. He then saw merely one game of action in Oakland before signing with the National this winter, and given he heads to camp in competition with three other similarly ineffective journeymen, Castillo appears unlikely to spend much time in the majors next summer.

Kevin Cash315.1612204C
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R-2-2-1.9-1.7

Neck problems limited his effectiveness, yet Cash continued to flop in the majors even when healthy. He at least managed a .293/.365/.544 performance with 9 HR, 27 RBI, and a 12:42 BB:K in 147 AB for AAA Durham(IL), but his failure to hold an acceptable BA in the majors opens the door for Josh Paul to win the backup job in camp. Nothing here hints that Cash will post positive fantasy value in 2006, so avoid him until he big league stats catch up to his minor league success.

Dan Wilson275.1850202C
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36B:R    T:R-2-2-2.9-3

A torn ACL virtually ended Wilson's season in May and effectively forced the veteran into retirement after one last inning behind the plate in September. The Mariners' primary catcher for the last twelve years, Wilson caught everyone in the organization from Randy Johnson and Roger Salkeld through Jaime Moyer and Freddy Garcia to Rafael Soriano and even King Felix during spring training. While he contributed little to fantasy teams past the mid-'90s, I suspect he'll head to coaching in the very near future, soon emerging in a position able to effect a couple dozen players every season from his dugout perch.

Guillermo Quiroz367.1940403C
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23B:R    T:R-2-2-2.5-2.5

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Toronto for my comments on Quiroz.

Greg Myers121.0830100C
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 39B:L    T:R-2-2-1.6-1.6

Gregg Zaun's April emergence as Toronto's primary catcher resulted in Myers' departure from the club in late April. Refusing an assignment to AAA Syracuse, he didn't return to any club this summer, so even if Myers doesn't retire, he won't impact your future fantasy teams after totaling merely thirty at-bats over the past two years.

Charles Johnson469.1960505C
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34B:R    T:R-2-2-1.6-1.6

The former Gold Glove All-Star posted a perfectly respectable .236/.350/.430 performance in 305 at-bats for Colorado in 2004, yet the Rockies' youth movement pushed Johnson to Tampa after Colorado cut him at the end of camp. He unfortunately failed to find any regular playing time with the Rays, so despite demonstrating good plate discipline by plopping a .327 OBP on his poor BA, he earned his second release of the season in June. Johnson now appears stuck in free agency after not playing in the second half, though perhaps he'll head home to the Marlins given the club's need for a veteran backstop. Still fairly young at 34, Johnson deserves at least one more shot to resume his career as no less than a competent platoon catcher.

Corky Miller120.0000000C
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R-2-3-1.9-1.9

Breaking camp with the Twins didn't lead to any regular playing time for Miller due to Joe Mauer's good health. He headed to AAA Rochester(IL) in May, registering a .229/.379/.465 performance with 11 HR, 25 RBI, and a 27:30 BB:K in 170 AB over the balance of the season. Although he lacks the solid BA and dominant defensive skills to remain in the majors perpetually, an NRI opens the door for Miller to open 2006 in Seattle if the Mariners want to give Rene Rivera the additional development time he deserves. Of course, even an Opening Day roster spot doesn't mean Miller belongs on any fantasy rosters unless your league doesn't count batting average.

Ken Huckaby8718.2070608C
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34B:R    T:R-3-2-5.5-5.8

Huckaby returned to the Jays, spending the majority of the season as Gregg Zaun's backup. A recent deal with the Red Sox moves the journeyman down the coast, though given the slated competition of John Flaherty and Kelly Shoppach, Huckaby needs to demonstrate plenty of proficiency in catching Tim Wakefield to earn a roster spot. Unfortunately, a steady stream of groundballs from Huckaby's bat insures he won't help roto teams even if lands the job in Boston.

Josh Bard8316.1931906C
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:S    T:R-3-3-4.4-4.3

Turning twenty-eight in March means that Bard needs to depart Cleveland very soon if he ever wants to fulfill the promise he demonstrated in the majors. Of course, with Victor Martinez, Ryan Garko, Einar Diaz, and Tim Laker seemingly set to man the catcher rotation for the Indians and Buffalo Bison, Bard looks like a luxury for a club that doesn't need a defensive specialist behind the best offensive catcher in the game. Moving almost anywhere with the possibility for more playing time probably propels Bard into Dollar Days due to his solid skill set, including a .10 walk rate, .87 contact rate, and a 1.14 G-F. I expect a strong rebound even if he remains in Cleveland, though his long-term upside and eventual double-digit roto value remains tethered to the hope of Bard earning a starting job in a new organization.

Geronimo Gil12524.19241707C
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R-3-3-7.4-7.6

I don't understand why Gil merited a guaranteed contract considering Baltimore already possesses Javy Lopez and Ramon Hernandez. Keeping Gil on the roster simply adds another useless bat to a weak bench. Thumb problems forced him off the roster for much of summer, though his failure to post even a .525 OPS in his four months of relatively regular at-bats adequately depicts his failures at the plate. Right now Gil doesn't belong in the majors and certainly won't help any fantasy teams.

Kelly Shoppach150.0000001C
BOS Red Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:R    T:R-3-3-2.4-2.4

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Boston for my comments on Shoppach.

Pete LaForest6411.1721405C
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:L    T:R-3-3-4.7-4.9

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Tampa Bay for my comments on LaForest.

Vance Wilson15230.197319018C
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:R    T:R-3-2-8.7-7.8

Detroit foolishly dealt Anderson Hernandez for Wilson last January and then watched Hernandez emerge as a surprisingly desirable prospect with the Mets. Now Wilson enters another year as Detroit's backup backstop, and despite his awful performance this summer, an essentially identical skill set predicts a welcome rebound for Wilson. With IRod looking increasingly ineffective and potentially on the trade block, Wilson just might emerge as a regular for a few weeks, so rostering him during Dollar Days isn't a terrible idea. I at least expect him to earn your buck back while possibly adding a few dollars of profit by season's end.

Pat Borders11723.19717012C
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 42B:R    T:R-3-3-8.1-8.6

Borders spent several spring weeks in the Brewers' system before Seattle bought his contact, immediately promoting him to fill their depleted catching corps. He lasted over two months with the Mariners, likely concluding his career with an August release from Seattle. Of course, even if Borders yet again lands a job by spring, he will not help anyone's fantasy team.

John Flaherty12721.165211010C
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 38B:R    T:R-5-4-10.4-11.2

Two mirror seasons led to this disaster as Flaherty finished 2005 as the least valuable hitter in AL 4x4 leagues. I suspect he burned many owners after two respectable campaigns in New York, and now his move to Boston just might enable the GW product to continue his career a couple more years. While he certainly lacks the upside of Kelly Shoppach or the defensive skills of Ken Huckaby, Flaherty's lack of patience doesn't prevent him from possessing decent power potential. He just might return to positive value next year, though until you see him adequately replacing Doug Mirabelli's normal numbers, I don't recommend risking a roster spot on the possible BA black hole created by Flaherty's stats this summer.

Catcher Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Given the variety of retired and soon-to-be-retired veterans clogging this column, few of these players look like obvious 2006 targets. I expect mild rebounds from Charles Johnson and Vance Wilson, and Kelly Shoppach certainly could leap up the catcher charts if dealt this winter. However, Josh Bard remains the one player set as a certain sleeper even if stuck behind Victor Martinez. Anyone looking for a cheap second catcher should grab Bard for a buck or two, expecting acceptable stats as an Indian and an excellent bargain if moved somewhere like Tampa, Florida, or even the Yankees over the course of the season.

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