1. Jorge Posada, NYY $25
Posada was easily the best fantasy catcher in the American League last season, but a few new additions to the league make that distinction a little closer for 2004. Posada set career-highs in homeruns and RBI and posted his best batting average since 2000. 2003 was most likely Posada's peak season, but even if his numbers falter slightly, he's possibly the best at this position.
Projection: .279 - 27 - 92 - 85 - 1
2. Javy Lopez, BAL $24
Lopez joins the AL for the first time in his career, and will have a similarly potent lineup around him in Baltimore as he did in Atlanta. We don't expect him to duplicate last season's ridiculous numbers, but as long as Lopez stays healthy he can put numbers that make him an excellent choice for your team's backstop.
Projection: .295 - 24 - 88 - 78 - 0
3. Ivan Rodriguez, DET? $24
All signs point toward Pudge moving to Detroit for 2004, since he apparently can't get a deal anywhere else. It would be a great move for the Tigers, but Pudge might suffer some from a pretty weak lineup (though it's getting better). He did perform well in spacious Pro Player last year, and he is still an excellent hitter. His status as a top catcher shouldn't be in question.
Projection: .306 - 17 - 79 - 86 - 8
4. Jason Varitek, BOS $19
V-Tek rounds out our "elite" group of catchers, after he posted his best season in 2003. He set career highs in homeruns (25) and RBI (85) last season, as a role player in Boston's offensive juggernaut. He was probably a bit over his head, he is 31 after all, and some decline toward the norm is expected. But that norm is pretty excellent for a catcher.
Projection: .270 - 18 - 72 - 60 - 2
5. Benito Santiago, KC $12
Age means nothing to Santiago, who continues to post great numbers for a catcher as he heads toward his 40's. An injury sidelined this guy for a part of last season, but he'll be the everyday catcher in Kansas City and can DH from time to time. With a couple of good hitters to protect him (Sweeney, Beltran, Gonzalez), Santiago should have a solid season.
Projection: .269 - 12 - 68 - 60 - 0
6. Toby Hall, TB $11
Hall is just coming into his own as a fantasy player and flashed signs of brilliance in 2003. He's still got room for improvement, and he could be a noise-maker in Tampa Bay's exciting, young lineup.
Projection: .260 - 15 - 59 - 58 - 0
7. Greg Myers, TOR $9 The only things stopping Myers from placing higher than seventh are his age (37) and the question of playing time. Few players have their breakout seasons as late as Myers did, as he set career highs in quite literally every fantasy category (except steals). It's likely that 2003 was a fluke, but the shared at bats may have helped him play better.
Projection: .270 - 10 - 50 - 42 - 0
8. Matthew LeCroy, MIN $8
LeCroy is useful because he is actually a DH, so he won't wear down like regular catchers and plays more often. He has good power and can hit for a pretty good average. He'll start the season as the Twins' starting DH.
Projection: .284 - 20 - 70 - 58 - 0
9. Joe Mauer, MIN $8-12
Here's the guy that you should be aware of for next year's draft.
|Mauer: He's the real deal, but likely to either go earlier than he should or for too much money. Buyer beware!|
Projection: .304 - 10 - 65 - 74 - 2
10. Victor Martinez, CLE $8
Martinez is a sleeper candidate. He had decent power in the minors and hit for a high average. He showed signs of life in 2003 after he took over the catcher's job in mid-season. Did we mention that he hit .344 in September? Martinez is an exciting prospect, keep an eye on him.
Projection: .289 - 11 - 58 - 50 - 2
11. Bengie Molina, ANA $8
Molina's known more for his defense than his contributions to fantasy baseball, but he's a pretty solid hitter in his own right. He'll split some time behind the dish with his brother, Jose, but this Molina will see the bulk of the at bats since he can actually hit a little, and in Anaheim's revamped lineup, he could drive in some runs.
Projection: .279 - 13 - 75 - 52 - 0
12. Miguel Olivo, CHW $5
Though he hasn't done much with it, Olivo has good potential and he's still young enough to make something out of it. He was a career .286 hitter in the minors, and showed signs of good power. He should have the starting job out of Spring Training, it's his to lose.
Projection: .256 - 10 - 42 - 50 - 5
13. Damian Miller, OAK $4 Miller was a steady producer from 1999 to 2002, but injuries hurt his totals severely in '03, as he hit just .233. A change of scenery may help him somewhat, but he's going from a hitter's park to a pitcher's park in Oakland. If healthy, Miller can be serviceable, but don't expect much.
Projection: .258 - 10 - 46 - 40 - 0
14. Einar Diaz, TEX $3
At this point on the catcher list, it's all about the playing time. Diaz has the starting job in Texas all locked up with little competition (though rookie Gerald Laird isn't too bad), and he'll make as much of it as he can. Though he should definitely be one of your last options, at least Diaz won't actually do your team much damage (unless he hits .206 like he did in 2002).
Projection: .265 - 5 - 49 - 54 - 4
15. Ben Davis, SEA $2
Let's just say that catcher isn't exactly the strongest position in Seattle's lineup. Davis will play, but he won't play well. Keep in mind he shares time with Dan Wilson.
rojection: .245 - 7 - 48 - 30 - 0
16. Sandy Alomar Jr., CHW $1
Somehow Alomar Jr continues to be relatively productive despite the fact that his "Jr" status is in question. He doen't play often, but he makes the most of his few at bats. If Olivo falters, Alomar could step in and handle the bulk of the playing time.
Projection: .270 - 6 - 30 - 28 - 0
17. Brook Fordyce, TB $1
Fordyce will be a reserve player for the D-Rays, and is probably around more to help a young pitching staff and young team. That, of course, means jack for your fantasy team, but Fordyce can hit a little, he just won't get the at bats to make a difference.
Projection: .270 - 4 - 27 - 20 - 0
18. Josh Bard, CLE $1
Bard lost his job to Victor Martinez last season, and he'll have a difficult time getting it back since he can't hit very well.
Projection: .245 - 5 - 28 - 25 - 0
19. Dan Wilson, SEA $1
Wilson shares time with Ben Davis, need we say much more?
Projection: .240 - 4 - 35 - 30 - 0
20. Brandon Inge, DET $1
Being a backup will take playing time away from Inge which, sadly, is good news for fantasy owners. His career batting average is .198. Don't even think about it.
Projection: .205 - 4 - 20 - 22 - 2
Special thanks to Mark Rubin, our in-house fantasy baseball expert.