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NL Catchers: Day Two

by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National League Catchers with 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.

8.  Chris CostePHI PhilliesAge: 33B:R   T:R

Promised a roster spot after pacing the club with a .472 BA in 24 spring training at-bats, Coste instead headed to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre(IL) thanks to Phiadelphia's last-minute acquisition of David Dellucci. He understandably slumped to a .177/.236/.272 performance in 147 AB, but in the apparent acknowledgement that they carrotted Coste worse than anyone in baseball in 2006, the Phillies finally promoted him in late May upon Alex S. Gonzalez's retirement. Rather than repeat his awful AAA numbers, Coste instead began slamming the ball to the tune of a .311/.340/.356 output in 45 at-bats over his first six weeks in the majors. The trade of Sal Fasano to the Yankees insured Coste's roster spot for the rest of the year, whereupon he broke out by posting a stunning .333/.386/.549 performance in the second half, essentially sharing the starting job with Mike Lieberthal during the Phillies' big playoff push. Of course, befitting the luck of someone who spent four years in the Northern League before joining an affiliated team, Philadelphia signed Rod Barajas last week to start. With Carlos Ruiz already assured of the backup job, Coste will spend another summer fighting for his job. He certainly appears a solid option when in the majors, but due to his uncertain status, I can't recommend Coste as anything more than an endgame option for your second catcher slot.

9.  Miguel OlivoFLO MarlinsAge: 28B:R   T:R

Non-tendered last year by a Padres' club determined to shuffle catchers as fast as possible, Olivo quickly landed the starting catcher's gig with the Marlins. He exceeded 325 AB for the first time in his career, and although his abysmal plate discipline, illustrated by his 9:103 BB:K, led to poor .287 OBP, he supplied sufficient power and defense to retain his position for another summer. Neither Matt Treanor nor really any other catcher in the organization poses an overt threat to Olivo's job, so I see no reason why he can't contribute another dozen or so homers. However, don't be surprised to his BA fall toward his .240 career norm after he only managed a .241 mark in the second half, which would cut his fantasy value from a possible $8 to less than half that price.

10.  Dave RossCIN RedsAge: 29B:R   T:R

Apparently his problems in Pittsburgh soured everyone on Ross since possessed plenty of power potential prior to 2005. San Diego stole him for J.J. Furmaniak at the trade deadline last year, though he barely played with the Padres, and after the club added Mike Piazza and Doug Mirabelli, Ross found himself moved to the Reds in March for Bobby Basham. He spent the year just abusing pitchers when Jerry Narron bothering playing him, resulting in Ross posting an OPS over .900 in very month except September. Now he'll enter 2007 as a starting catcher, supported by both Javier Valentin and Chad Moeller on the bench. While I don't see Ross emerging as a thirty-homer beats, strongly echoing his 2006 stats appears within his grasp. Bidding $6-8 for a catcher with this much power potential makes sense to me

11.  Eliezer AlfonzoSF GiantsAge: 27B:R   T:R

Initially the starting catcher for AAA Fresno(PCL), Alfonzo's .189/.282/.297 performance with a 4:18 BB:K in 74 AB quickly led to his demotion to AA Connecticut(EL), where he rebounded to a .277/.351/.321 output with a 7:16 BB:K in 65 AB. While these neither of these stat lines warranted a promotion, Mike Matheny's likely career-ending injury led to Alfonzo's big league debut in June, in which he hit a two-run homer that served as the Giants' margin of victory. Alfonzo spent the rest of the summer as San Francisco's starter, though the poor plate discipline evidenced by a 9:74 BB:K sabotaged his stats by year's end. He actually owned a .301/.326/.566 line on August 1st before two months of flailing at the plate left him with .266/.302/.465 averages. Now he'll serve as Ben Molina's backup indefinitely following the three-year deal signed by the veteran earlier this month, though despite the upside demonstrated by Alfonzo during his initial months in the majors, he appears more likely to return to the minors than to develop into a fantasy asset while sitting on the bench. Acquire him before Dollar Days only if desperate for the one homer a month he likely will provide.

12.  Mike LieberthalPHI PhilliesAge: 34B:R   T:R

The long-time Phillies' starter spent most of May, June, and July either on the DL or the bench as Chris Coste, Sal Fasano, and eventually Carlos Ruiz claimed most of the catcher at-bats. However, Lieberthal also played a key role in Philadelphia's playoff push by posting a .288/.336/.552 in 125 AB after the break, providing a fitting valedictory for his thirteen years in the city. Allowed to depart after the year, Lieberthal returned home, signing with the Dodgers as Russ Martin's backup. The shift in parks alone likely will deplete much of Lieberthal's value, though at least he still owns decent base skills. Feel free to grab him for a buck or two, but also remember that the extremely fragile catcher turns thirty-five next month and likely wouldn't remain sufficiently healthy to play every day even if Martin suffers a significant injury.

13.  Yorvit TorrealbaCOL RockiesAge: 28B:R   T:R

Acquired from Seattle to start for Colorado, Torrealba instead opened the year on the DL with a strained shoulder that sidelined him until June. He received most of the at-bats behind the plate following his return and actually hit pretty well after a poor initial month, but his shoulder forced him back to the DL in September, allowing Chris Iannetta to claim the starting job for the foreseeable future. Of course, returning to a backup role makes the most sense given his declining plate discipline and the limited upside of any Rockies' hitter who owns a career 2.23 G-F. I view Torrealba as a solid $2 player virtually certain to post positive value yet unlikely to exceed $4 due to his minimal power potential.

14.  Chris SnyderARI DiamondbacksAge: 25B:R   T:R

Fresh off a disastrous 2005 as the Snakes' starter, Snyder settled into a backup role behind Johnny Estrada with impressive results. Now he'll head into 2007 in the same position supporting new starter Miguel Montero, also a switch-hitter like Estrada. Snyder should see most of the starts against left-handed pitching given his difficulty against right-handers, but unless Montero totally implodes, Snyder's immediate ceiling seems rather low. Merely treat him as an excellent $2 option for your second catcher slot rather than someone overly likely to emerge as a great keeper for the following seasons.

15.  Brian SchneiderWAS NationalsAge: 29B:L   T:R

Although Schneider largely echoed his 2004 performance, producing similar stats in the majority of categories, he hit eight fewer homers and a total of thirteen fewer extra-base hits. Yes, he lost some time to a hamstring injury in the first half, but Frank Robinson seemed to despite most of the backup catchers run through Washington this summer. Hopefully Manny Acta will ease Schneider's workload, however Rule 5 pick Jose Flores almost certainly will make the team as Schneider's caddy this year, likely leading to a higher workload then ever for the veteran. At least he doesn't need to worry about playing for a new contract after signing a four-year deal for $16M in January. Expect a mild rebound from Schneider, albeit not one that carries him beyond the $4-6 range.

16.  Javier ValentinCIN RedsAge: 31B:S   T:R

Ranked on almost everyone's sleeper list prior to 2006, Valentin posted a .214/.274/.321 so bad that he fell to third on the depth chart behind Jason LaRue and new Reds' starting catcher David Ross. However, Valentin reemerged with a .351/.377/.622 output after the break, insuring his place behind only Ross for 2007. He again looks like a solid value as a second generation post-hype sleeper, so while I don't anticipate him pushing double-digit value, consider him a solid buy below $5.

17.  Henry BlancoCH CubsAge: 35B:R   T:R

In a year full of ridiculous contracts, the $5.25M/2 deal signed by Blanco helped set the market for backups at a price at least double his actual worth. Yes, Blanco contributes a lot behind the plate, but Cubs' third catcher Geovany Soto seems a much better caddy for Michael Barrett. Of course, with Blanco now stuck in Chicago, remember that this career-best performance at the plate this summer appears unrepeatable and therefore even employing him as roster filler makes little sense.

18.  Todd GreeneSF GiantsAge: 35B:R   T:R

Greene spent this summer as the backup catcher for the sixth difference franchise of his career, quickly landing with the Giants after San Diego cut him in the spring. Unfortunately, playing in AT&T Park converted his former Coors' homers into doubles, leaving him with his worst power numbers in years. Still unsigned for now, Greene seems certain to find a similar role somewhere for 2007, though given his perennially role, he won't help you as more than roster filler.

19.  Mike RiveraMIL BrewersAge: 30B:R   T:R

An impressive hitter throughout the vast majority of his ten-year tour of the minors, interrupted only by a couple cups-of-coffee and an extended stint with the Tigers in 2003, Rivera finally took advantaged of a chance in the majors this summer. Promoted in early July after posting a .296/.339/.488 performance with 10 HR, 46 RBI, and a 13:40 BB:K in 213 for AAA Nashville(PCL), Rivera hit nearly as well for the Brewers while also demonstrating better plate discipline. If given the opportunity, he'd rank among baseball's best backups, but after the Brewers' acquisition of Johnny Estrada, Rivera will need an injury to Estrada or Damian Miller to see more than a brief look in Milwaukee in 2007.

20.  Dioner NavarroLAD/TBAge: 22B:S   T:R

A remarkably undervalued property at the moment, the switch-hitting backstop won't turn 23 until February yet owns the batting skill set of a catcher ten years older. Navarro opened the year as the Dodgers' starter, and while he performed adequately, a bone bruise on his right wrist suffered in early May allowed Russ Martin to displace him in Los Angeles. The club then dealt him to the Devil rays at the end of June with Jae Seo for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson in a shocking waste of talent that immediately positioned Navarro as Tampa's probably starting catcher for the rest of the decade. He appears a perfect fit in the #8 hole for the revitalized Rays' offense, so despite my mild concerns regarding his slow development curve, Navarro otherwise appears a solid starting catcher for anything under $10 in AL leagues.

Catcher Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: NL Starters Miguel Olivo, Dave Ross, and Brian Schneider all appear overvalued right now, and while Dioner Navarro looks like an excellent AL option, he obviously address the paucity of catchers available to NL owners. Among the players discussed above, Chris Snyder and Javier Valentin look like your best bets if they're available for a buck or two, and Mike Lieberthal and Yorvit Torrealba at least shouldn't hurt you. I still highly recommend rostering at least one promising young starter, but if you need to spend your cash on higher-upside infielders and outfielders, grabbing one of this quartet of reserve at least should add a half-dozen homers to your ledger.

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