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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:
B = Bats.  T = Throws.  Age = Player's Age as of October 1, 2006.
Proj. = Rotohelp's projected 2006 stats and fantasy values for each player.
2006 = Each player's final 2006 stat line and fantasy values.
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2006.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement; aRAR = RAR adjusted to
consider a player's 2006 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players by position 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 all players in the league where they began the season.

21.  Paul PhillipsKC RoyalsAge: 29B:R   T:R

While Phillips slumped to only a .243/.286/.359 performance with 9 HR, 39 RBI, and a 22:37 BB:K in 345 AB this summer in his third campaign for AAA Omaha(PCL), he really belonged on the Royals' bench considering he offers at least as much offensive upside as Paul Bako. Of course, he deserved the Kansas City caddy job last year, too, so I suppose the Royals' acquisition of Jason LaRue really shouldn't surprise me. Phillips even lost his 40-man spot two weeks ago, and now he'll just head back to Omaha once again. Despite some potential at the plate, only a significant injury to LaRue or John Buck will allow Phillips to serve fantasy teams as more than September roster filler in 2007.

22.  Josh PaulTB Devil RaysAge: 31B:R   T:R

Apparently a favorite of Rays' manager Joe Maddon from their Anaheim days, Paul's at-bats this year exceeded his total from the previous three seasons combined. Unfortunately, he hit right in line with his .253/.314/.357 career averages, albeit without any of the quantitative contribution he formerly offered with the White Sox. Now he enters camp in a fight with Shawn Riggans to back up Dioner Navarro, so although I expect Paul to win the job, his position with the Rays appears quite precarious. Nothing in his profile depicts someone worth employing as more than roster filler on any fantasy team.

23.  Kelly ShoppachCLE IndiansAge: 26B:R   T:R

Finally given a shot in the majors following his inclusion in the Andy Marte-Coco Crisp swap with Boston, Shoppach didn't display the same level of plate discipline he showed throughout his days with the Red Sox. He actually hit fairly well over the first two months of the season, but Cleveland still demoted him for a month in favor of Tim Laker, and though Shoppach excelled in the minors, he slumped rather badly throughout the second half. Of course, he also only turns 27 in April, so I see no reason why Shoppach can't regain the promise he showed throughout his previous seasons in the Eastern and International Leagues. Yet for fantasy purposes, he just doesn't merit more than a minimal investment right now as a second catcher.

24.  Tim LakerCLE IndiansAge: 36B:R   T:R

While Laker returned to the Indians after a year's detour to Tampa, he only spent a short month in Cleveland as the club clearly committed to Kelly Shoppach as Victor Martinez's backup. Perhaps he'll return to AAA Buffalo once again as insurance, but Laker appears far more likely to begin a lengthy coaching career than to face professional pitching for one more summer.

25.  Jason L. PhillipsTOR Blue JaysAge: 30B:R   T:R

Despite enjoying three respectable seasons as a starting catcher for the Mets and Dodgers, the erosion of Phillips' offensive numbers led to him signing a minor league with Toronto last winter. He spent most of the year at AAA Syracuse(IL), where he posted a .273/.341/.402 performance with 7 HR, 40 RBI, and a 22:43 BB:K in 249 AB. Apparently that output convinced the Jays that he belonged back in the majors, and following Ben Molina's departure in free agency, Phillips will spend 2007 as Gregg Zaun's caddy. Expect at least a half-dozen homers and an acceptable BA from the formerly strong hitter, and while I don't recommend him highly, Phillips certainly won't hurt you for a buck or two.

26.  Jose MolinaLA AngelsAge: 31B:R   T:R

The Angels' fascination with the eldest Molina brother continues to elude me as Jose posted approximately the same batting stats for the third straight season yet somewhat received the most at-bats of his career. He barely belongs on the same field as Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, though I suspect Los Angeles once again will use Molina as the backup while letting Napoli start and sending Mathis back to AAA Salt Lake. Molina deserves the demotion, but as long as Mike Scioscia runs the Angels, I expect to see a similar preference for defense-first backup catchers. Expect another 200 at-bats accompanied by negative fantasy value for Molina.

27.  Ken HuckabyBOS Red SoxAge: 35B:R   T:R

Huckaby spent most of the year at AAA Pawtucket(IL), where he registered an abysmal .219/.239/.274 performance with 2 HR, 23 RBI, and a 9:72 BB:K in 288 AB. He doesn't even belong in the upper minors any longer, and although he landed a minor league deal with the Dodgers, Russ Martin and Mike Lieberthal should insure that Huckaby spends most of the summer at AAA Las Vegas at best. Even if Huckaby somehow managers to return to The Show in 2007, do not roster him in any league unless receiving an empty 1-for-11 over two weeks from your second catcher somehow helps you.

28.  Chris HeintzMIN TwinsAge: 32B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Minnesota for my comments on Heintz.

29.  Guillermo QuirozSEA MarinersAge: 24B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Toronto for my comments on Quiroz.

30.  Corky MillerBOS Red SoxAge: 30B:R   T:R

Perhaps Miller will reach the majors for a seventh straight summer, but he certainly appears unable to leave the big league bench for any reason. The minor league deal he signed with Seattle lasted only until the Mariners outrighted Guillermo Quiroz in mid-April, at which point the club release Miller. He quickly signed with the Red Sox and proceeded to post a very solid .258/.343/.510 performance with 13 HR, 36 RBI, and a 22:43 BB:K in 198 AB for AAA Pawtucket(IL). His minor league deal with the Braves this winter seems a much better fit since the Braves possess little catching depth beyond Brian McCann and Brayan Pena. Unless Jarrod Saltalamacchia wildly impresses everyone in the spring, Miller should fill any injury-related opening in Atlanta, possibly providing fantasy owners with an unexpected short-term boost for clubs looking for any extra upside at catcher.

31.  Wil NievesNY YankeesAge: 29B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: New York(A) for my comments on Nieves.

32.  Adam MelhuseOAK AthleticsAge: 34B:S   T:R

Now entering his fifth year as the Athletics backup catcher, Melhuse unsurprisingly watched his offensive contribution continue to deteriorate as his skill set no longer resembles the impressive tool box he initially brought to Oakland. If Jason Kendall departs as a free agent next fall, Melhuse could follow him out the door since the club possesses a wealth of upper-level catching talent, led by Kurt Suzuki and Jeremy Brown. Suzuki even could supplant Melhuse during 2007 if the veteran doesn't rebound, making Melhuse someone to avoid as more than roster filler in all leagues.

33.  Chris StewartCH White SoxAge: 24B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Chicago(A) for my comments on Stewart.

34.  Raul ChavezBAL OriolesAge: 33B:R   T:R

Unexpectedly claimed off waivers from Houston by Baltimore end the end of spring training, Chavez lasted only a week with the Orioles before the club sent him all the back to Double-A for the first time in more than a decade. They recalled him four days later and he lasted all the way until the beginning of June before Chavez returned to AA Bowie(EL), where he then registered his customary .255/.289/.337 output, along with 2 HR, 21 RBI, and an 11:19 BB:K in 196 AB over the next three months. He served as Baltimore's third catcher in September and then fled into free agency, where he appears unlikely to receive more than an NRI with the promise of another couple of dozen big league at-bats as injury filler. Obviously Chavez doesn't belong on anyone's fantasy team.

35.  Shawn RiggansTB Devil RaysAge: 26B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Tampa Bay for my comments on Riggans.

36.  Kelly StinnettNYY/NYMAge: 36B:R   T:R

Now one of only about a dozen players to play for both the Yankees and Mets in the same season, Stinnett spent the first four months of the year as Jorge Posada's backup and then most of September subbing for the injured Raul Castro. However, the Mets also cut him right before the playoffs, and since Stinnett also turns 37 in February, he won't last much longer in the majors. While he still possesses a little pop, his limited at-bats and poor batting average will sabotage any of his attempts to return to positive fantasy value.

37.  Jeff MathisLA AngelsAge: 23B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Los Angeles(A) for my comments on Mathis.

38.  Chris WidgerCHW/BALAge: 35B:R   T:R

Widger bombed in his return to Chicago, lost his job to Sandy Alomar in July, and then spent a month on Baltimore's bench before a pinched nerve in his shoulder ended his season. Even if he somehow lands more than an NRI this winter, Widger appears highly unlikely to contribute positively to fantasy team, leaving you no reason to roster him anywhere.

39.  Paul BakoKC RoyalsAge: 34B:L   T:R

I viewed Bako as a waste of roster space on the Cubs, saw no purpose in his signing with the Dodgers, and really didn't understand why the Royals bothered with him considering Paul Phillips appeared prepared to post comparable numbers for half of the $700K he received from Kansas City. The four weeks he missed with a strained oblique added more value to Kansas City's season than the club otherwise received from his signing in the other five months. Of course, the Orioles, with their infinite inability to read columns of statistics, rewarded Bako for his .209/.281/.245 output with one million dollars of what I must assume is Monopoly money. Hopefully Rule 5 pick Adam Donachie will play Bako right out of camp since employing any catcher other than Bako while simply allowing Peter Angelos the use of five hundred thousand pennies for each of his daily copper baths during the season looks like a far better strategy to actually improve Baltimore's record in 2007.

40.  Rene RiveraSEA MarinersAge: 23B:R   T:R

Though Rivera occasionally showed flashes of hitting talent in the minors, his complete collapse at the plate this summer shouldn't have surprise anyone. He demonstrated no plate discipline, little power, and probably offered less upside to the Mariners than perennially unemployed backstop Box O' Rocks. Don't be surprised if Seattle pushes Jeff Clement to the majors next summer as the regular DH and occasional sub for Kenji Johjima barring a completely unanticipated rebound for Rivera.

Catcher Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Not many veteran catchers that fall to this level of offensive ineptitude generally merit much fantasy consideration in future seasons. Obviously youngsters like Kelly Shoppach, Shawn Riggans, Jeff Mathis, Chris Stewart, and even Guillermo Quiroz could blossom in 2007. However, among the more experienced backstops discussed above, only Jason Phillips and possibly Corky Miller appear able to serve you as more than roster filler next summer.

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