Top 15 Keeper Rankings: Catcher

July 31, 2010 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 31 July 2010: Cleveland Indians designated hitter Carlos Santana.

I decided to halt my re-rankings since it is already August and most teams have things figured out by now. The great thing about keeper leagues is that whether you’re in it or out of it, you still need to keep an eye out for the future. So, today marks day one of the long-term keeper rankings position-by-position.

Note: These are NOT rankings for 2010. The focus is on long-term keeper values. 

1. Carlos Santana l Age 24
Unfortunately, a nasty knee injury has ended Santana’s season. If there is any good news, it’s that Santana managed to avoid any “major” damage and should be out four-to-six months, which would get him back by spring training. Santana’s has a real shot at being a BETTER version of Victor Martinez in his prime hitting for both AVG and power. He’s a great player to target in a keeper league should his owner be in contention.
2. Matt Wieters l Age: 24
There is something to be said for the fact that Wieters is still only 24-years-old. While his numbers are still well below expectations, he is showing signs of improvement. This season Wieters has lowered his strikeout rate while raising his walk rate and contact rate. It took Delmon Young a few seasons before he finally broke through this year. My guess is that it wont take Wieters nearly as long. When he does breakout we’re talking about the potential for some .300/30/100 seasons.
3. Joe Mauer l Age: 27
We’ve seen Mauer’s potential to hit for both AVG and power last season, but injuries have held him back so far this season. That is and will be his biggest enemy going forward. Catcher is a rough position to start with and there are a lot of people that think the Twins will be best served long-term to move Mauer out from behind the dish or at least split his time between C/1B/DH. Unfortunately, Mauer’s toughness and desire to catch and only catch may ultimately hold his keeper value back just a little.
4. Buster Posey l Age 23
I knew Posey would hit for a good AVG upon his Major League arrival this season, but he has gone well beyond expectations. That being said Posey is probably not going to hit .340-plus next season with 20 home runs. He has always projected as a catcher that could hit .300 with 15 or so homers per season and that would be a good expectation level going froward.
5. Brian McCann l Age: 26
There are few catchers in baseball that have been as reliable as McCann has over the past few seasons. Even if the AVG has fluctuated a bit, he still gets his home runs and RBI when all is said and done.
6. Geovany Soto l Age: 27
a recent breakout in July has put Soto back on the map, but in reality he has been doing just fine all season. Lou Piniella has messed with Soto’s lineup spot and playing time for the most part this season. He’s about as number one as a number one catcher can be with improved plate discipline this season and enough power to hit around 20 home runs for the next few seasons.
7. Victor Martinez l Age: 31
Injuries have been the one thing that have held V-Mart back. He should still have three or four more productive seasons in him, but dynasty leagues might want to think about putting him up on the trade block and see what kind of return is out there.
8. Miguel Montero l Age: 27
A knee injury has kept Montero from coming anywhere close to the numbers he put up in 2009. However, he still projects as a good hitting catcher, just not one that is going to be much better than he was in 2009.
9. Mike Napoli l Age: 28
The only issue going into next season will be playing time. It was made clear this season that Mike Scioscia doesn’t trust Napoli behind the plate. There is also the fact that prospect Hank Conger (see below) is just about ready to start his big league career.
10. J.P. Arencibia l Age: 24
Arencibia was having a monster season at triple-A, but a lot of hitters put up big numbers in the Pacific Coast League. His power is the real deal and could churn out 20-plus home runs annually. The AVG, however, may not be anything to rely on.
11. Kurt Suzuki l Age: 26
He’s not flashy or projectable, but Suzuki has been very reliable when healthy.
12. Chris Iannetta l Age: 27
We were expecting a breakout season from Iannetta about two years ago. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to put it all together at the big league level yet. The Rockies signed him to a 3-year extension this past January, so they still seem to believe in him. If everything comes together, he could turn into a Mike Napoli type with a better OBP.
13. Hank Conger l Age: 22
Conger has already hit one home run at Angel Stadium this season. It came in the Futures Game and his future in Anaheim may be as soon as this September. He projects as an offensive minded catcher, which doesn’t sot so well with Mike Scioscia.
14. Wilson Ramos l Age: 22
Despite having a sub-par season at triple-A this year, Ramos remains one of the brighter catching prospects in the game both offensively and defensively. A good enough prospect that most of the analytical world though that the Twins gave up too much when they shipped him to D.C. for Matt Capps. There is a good chance that Ramos starts 2010 with the Nationals and splits some time with Pudge Rodriguez.
15. Johnathan Lucroy l Age: 24
Lucroy was well known for his advanced plate discipline and good contact skills in the minors. As he finds his comfort level in the big leagues he could become an asset to OBP leagues, but also hit for enough AVG with 10-15 home runs annually to have an impact in all formats.
Others to watch
Wilin Rosario l Age: 21
You don’t hear much buzz about Wilin Rosario, but he is in the midst of a breakout season at double-A (.288/.344/.562 with 20 home runs) while recieving praise for his defensive game. The Rockies have a $2.5 M option on Miguel Olivo for next season and Chris Iannetta is signed through 2012. We’ll have to see what happens this offseason, but he’s a name to keep in mind.
Jarrod Saltalamaccia l Age: 25
Funny how the big name going to Texas in the Mark Teixeira deal was Salty and not the two players actually making a big league impact Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz. Salty’s struggles to begin this season led him back to triple-A when he then developed Rube Baker Disease. Not only was Salty having throwing problems, but he continued to do next to nothing at the plate. The Red Sox saw enough potential in him to strike a deal with the Rangers. We’ll see if a change of scenery and life with a new organization can get him back on the right track.
Note: There are several big-time prospects not on this list such as Jesus Montero (NYY) and Wil Myers (KC), but both are not likely to spend much time behind the dish at the big league level due to poor defensive reports.