1. Mike Piazza, NYM $29
Still the best catcher in the NL, probably the league. The only thing that can stop this one-man wrecking machine is horrible injury, which does seem to happen. He'll make the transition to first base this season, which should slow down the wear and tear. Look out for his comeback.
Projection: .296 - 35 - 108 - 89 - 0
2. Mike Lieberthal, PHI $21
Lieberthal's power has seemingly vanished recently. He hit 31 homeruns in 1999, but has just 30 in the last three years combined. He set a career-high in batting average last season, so it's possible he's just taking a more relaxed approach to hitting. Either way, we love his numbers.
Projection: .309 - 16 - 85 - 70 - 0
3. Ramon Hernandez, SD $19
A newcomer to the NL, Hernandez made a name for himself in the AL over the past couple of years as a durable backstop with good pop. He's moving to a better lineup in San Diego and is still peaking.
Projection: .278 - 19 - 82 - 73 - 0
4. A.J. Pierzynski, SF $17
Pierzynski's been steadily improving over the last three seasons, and he was San Francisco's prized acquisition this off season. Moving to PacBell won't help his power numbers (which weren't great to begin with), but hitting around Mr. Bonds will help his overall game.
Projection: .310 - 9 - 75 - 68 - 2
5. Jason Kendall, PIT $17
Kendall's initial claim to fame was that he was a catcher that could steal 20 bases in a season. He's slowed down recently however, but his average jumped up to help compensate. It looks like he's staying in Pittsburgh for now, though the Marlins are reportedly interested. Kendall's a former elite catcher, and he could get back there with a good 2004.
Projection: .315 - 8 - 57 - 75 - 11
6. Craig Wilson, PIT $17
Wilson's value spikes because he's actually a first baseman. He plays catcher from time to time, but he can generally avoid being injured because of the lighter workload. Wilson has good power and, with a full season to play, he would be a great pick for your backstop.
Projection: .271 - 20 - 63 - 55 - 2
7. Johnny Estrada, ATL $14-17
The new kid on the block. Estrada was traded to Atlanta for Kevin Millwood last year. At the time, people thought Atlanta was crazy, but Estrada can seriously hit. He batted .306 in a cup of coffee this season, and he'll be the full-time catcher in '04. He could come up big. He's a little too well-known to be a sleeper, but there's still a lot of owners who aren't aware of this kid.
Projection: .300 - 11 - 65 - 51 - 0
8. Jason Phillips, NYM $14
Another first baseman/catcher, and the second Met on this list. Phillips and Piazza will split time between the two positions and, while Piazza is obviously the better hitter, this guy was solid in 2003. He can hit for a good average, and should stay healthier than the average catcher.
Projection: .295 - 12 - 60 - 50 - 0
9. Paul Lo Duca, LOS $11
Lo Duca won't ever repeat his crazy 2001 season, and his numbers have been dropping consistently ever since. He'll see more time at first base in 2004, which should help a bit, but playing in Dodger Stadium is a tough handicap to overcome. Look for a slight rebound from Lo Duca.
Projection: .280 - 11 - 59 - 61 - 0
10. Robby Hammock, ARI $10
Hammock was pretty good in his major-league debut last season, hitting .288 with eight homeruns in 195 at bats. Arizona is handing him the starting job after they dealt Moeller to get Richie Sexson. Hammock is a good sleeper pick, and would go very late in normal drafts.
Projection: .280 - 18 - 66 - 51 - 2
11. Ramon Castro, FLA $10
Sleeper alert. While Castro hasn't done anything since joining the majors in 1999, he was a very good hitter in the minors. He hit .283 last season with five homeruns in only 53 at bats. That's a 47-homerun pace, by the way. He obviously won't jack 47 homers, but 15-20 is definitely within reach if he gets the at bats.
Projection: .278 - 18 - 69 - 58 - 0
12. Charles Johnson, COL $8
Anyone that plays in Colorado shouldn't be overlooked come draft day. Johnson has good power, but can't hit for average anymore. He's got great protection in that lineup, and should drive in a lot of runs. He's only a few years removed from a .300 season, but that was his best year by far. Look for a good amount of power, bad average.
Projection: .241 - 19 - 68 - 47 - 0
13. Chad Moeller, MIL $7
The Brewers were thrilled to get Moeller to be their everyday catcher, and you could be pretty happy with him too. He had better power in the minors than he's shown so far, and Milwaukee is a pretty good hitter's park. Decent sleeper pick.
Projection: .272 - 14 - 68 - 60 - 1
14. Michael Barrett, CHC $5
Barring a trade, Barrett will be Chicago's starter in 2004. Keep Paul Bako in mind, he's Barrett's backup. Barrett's average was awful in '03, but he should rebound nicely in the Friendly Confines.
Projection: .255 - 13 - 52 - 41 - 2
15. Mike Matheny, STL $4
Matheny could share some more playing time this year with Chris Widger, but this guy is the starter. He's a pretty good pick for your catcher, particularly in deeper leagues and NL-only universes.
Projection: .248 - 7 - 44 - 40 - 0
16. Jason LaRue, CIN $4
LaRue proved to be a pretty good clutch hitter last season, with several walkoff homeruns, but those don't mean much for your team. LaRue brings good power and a not-good average to the mix. Just know what you're getting into.
Projection: .240 - 15 - 51 - 50 - 2
17. Brian Schneider, MON $3
Schneider is currently the only catcher on Montreal's roster, though they'll likely call up a guy like Randy Knorr from AAA or just sign someone. As it stands, Schneider should get the bulk of the at bats. What he does with them is another matter.
Projection: .265 - 8 - 49 - 38 - 0
18. Brad Ausmus, HOU $1
Ausmus still has his job because of his defense and expertise at catching young pitchers, not because he can hit. His days of hitting in the .270's are behind him.
Projection: .240 - 3 - 42 - 40 - 4
19. Vance Wilson, NYM $1
Wilson is actually a pretty good hitter, but he won't get the at bats to make a difference unless someone gets hurt. While that's a possibility, let's not bank on it, shall we?
Projection: .260 - 6 - 34 - 30 - 0
20. Mike Redmond, FLA $1
Redmond and Castro will be splitting the duties for the Marlins right now. Redmond has been announced as the "starter", but we bet Castro will take that gig soon enough. He did hit .305 in 2002, so that's gotta count for something.
Projection: .275 - 3 - 42 - 38 - 0
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