Top 30 Catchers in 1999
Fantasy Baseball Player Ratings
1. Mike Piazza - He is still arguably the top Fantasy player at his position, yet he requires a patient owner. Piazza will look like
2. Ivan Rodriguez - Rodriguez simply does everything you want a Fantasy catcher to do. His power totals have steadily increased over the past four seasons, and he has raised has batting average each year during that span. A 100-run, 100-RBI season isn't out of the question. Rodriguez is highly durable and always gets loads of at-bats. In A.L.-only leagues, Rodriguez should certainly be the first catcher drafted. In mixed leagues, only Piazza can rival his consistently high numbers.
3. Javier Lopez - A solid power-hitting catcher who will never let you down. Lopez won't reach 500 plate appearances, but he is a lock to hit around 30 homers and drive in 100. Lopez's average will always be in the .275-.290 range. He lacks speed, but you can overlook that shortcoming when you're getting quality production in so many other categories.
4. Jason Kendall - Kendall is quickly becoming one of baseball's best young catchers. He lacks the pop of some of the game's better players at his position. Still, he is reliable in other departments. Kendall will get many more plate appearances than other backstops and always keeps his batting average around the .300 mark. He has excellent speed for a catcher, and his extra-base power can translate into 70-plus RBI again.
5. Jorge Posada - Posada should see more time this year after playing a decent inaugural season. He will still give up some at-bats to Joe Girardi, but will spend more time behind the plate and live up to his strong billing. Last year he hit .268 with 17 HRs and collected 63, RBI batting deep in the lineup. His numbers will rise.
6. Charles Johnson - Johnson is an inconsistent hitter whose outlook may be further darkened by a switch in leagues. He has a big looping swing that keeps him from making consistent contact and hurts his batting average. Johnson should have no problem hitting more than 15 homers again. He has zero speed and lacks in the runs scored department. His defensive presence and expert handling of mound personnel will certainly help the Fantasy value of the Baltimore pitchers.
7. Todd Hundley - Hundley's elbow should be sound enough to let him catch regularly. The question is, how much of his power will return? It's doubtful that he can hit 40 or more homers again, like he did in 1996. A healthy Hundley should hit 25-plus homers and drive in at least 80 runs. Hundley may struggle to hit above .260 and score more than 75 runs. His recent health history makes him a risky Fantasy draft pick in 1999.
8. Dan Wilson - Injuries limited his productivity in 1998, yet Wilson doesn't produce great numbers when he's not hurt. In fact, he may be one of the most overrated players available at his position. A lack of quality talent at catcher somewhat inflates his value. Wilson usually hits for a decent average, and can drive in more than 70 runs. But his home run totals have never been eye-popping, and he doesn't score a large amount of runs. Wilson is streaky, and can frustrate his Fantasy owners. Don't make the mistake of drafting him too early.
9. Sandy Alomar Jr. - Alomar Jr. may have proved that 1997 was indeed a career season for him. He was woefully inconsistent, and his .235 batting average was his lowest since 1991. Alomar Jr. should have no problem reaching double figures in home runs this year, as he is definitely capable of hitting much more than the six homers he totaled last year. Don't look for another 20-homer year, though. Alomar Jr.'s average should also get a lift. While he may not be as bad as he looked in 1998, Alomar Jr. isn't as good as he was in 1997.
10. Darrin Fletcher - At first, Fletcher seemed uncomfortable with his switch to the American League. He started to settle in as the summer approached, and finished with his usual ho-hum numbers. Fletcher will always hit for a good average, and usually reaches double figures in home runs. Fletcher seemd on the verge of becoming a better-than-average Fantasy catcher when he hit 17 home runs in 1997. It remains to be seen whether he can approach that level of power again.
11. Brad Ausmus - Ausmus doesn't offer much to Fantasy players, other than a decent batting average and double figures in stolen bases. Scored a career-high 62 runs in 1998, and has good speed for a catcher. Ausmus has little power and doesn't drive in many runs. Anything you get from him other than runs scored and stolen bases will be a bonus.
12. Chris Widger - Will give you average or mediocre production in just about every category. Widger always seems to hit for a low average, and gives you so-so power and RBI production. He'll hurt you in a few categories, and keep you afloat in the HR and RBI departments. He showed some promise last year, but no one will blame you if you remain skeptical.
13. Carlos Hernandez - Hernandez must share at-bats with others. He produces well when he is in the lineup, and has good extra-base power. He is capable of reaching double figures in home runs and hitting above .260. You won't get a lot of runs scored, and very few stolen bases from Hernandez. He may continue to improve, though, and will supply you with some helpful homers and RBI.
14. Eli Marrero - The Cardinals have rid themselves of their usual collection of pretenders at the catcher position, and this may be the year that Marrero leaps to the forefront. He is an awesome all-around talent, and could hit 15 to 20 homers if he stays healthy. Don't look for him to hit above .265. Marrero has eye-popping speed for a catcher, and could steal 25 bases over a full season. He may rise to Fantasy prominence in 1999.
15. Eddie Taubensee - He won't overwhelm you in any category, yet Taubensee will contribute to your progress in the power departments. He's a sure bet to hit a dozen or so homers, and he's definitely capable of driving in 50 runs. Taubensee will always hit in the .280 range, and his only shortcoming may be that he is incredibly slow on the basepaths. Five stolen bases or 55 runs scored would be a shock. The Reds are hoping he'll be fully recovered from a wrist injury by the start of the season.\
16. Dave Nilsson - Milwaukee seems committed to Geoff Jenkins in left field, so Nilsson will get a chance to prove his mettle at catcher this spring. It's probably the only position where he has a chance to see somewhat consistent playing time. If he can show the skills necessary to be a starter, Nilsson is capable of hitting above .275 and finishing with more than 15 homers. He's a risky pick, though. Nilsson may not have the tools to last behind the plate.
17. Terry Steinbach - Steinbach seems to be on the down side of his career after peaking in 1996. He has not hit better than .248 over the last two years, and has driven in just 54 runs in each of the last two seasons. Steinbach now seems incapable of hitting more than 15 or 16 homers, and his runs scored totals are slipping. Steinbach should continue to operate at Minnesota's No. 1 catcher because of his defense. Just don't expect too much from his bat anymore.
18. A.J. Hinch - Hinch beat out a few mediocre veterans for Oakland's starting catcher job last year, and seemed overmatched at the major-league level. He struck out too often, and his .231 average left a lot to be desired. Hinch does have some power, but he doesn't drive in a lot of runs. Hinch may improve with time. He should eventually become a decent major-league hitter.
19. Mike Lieberthal - His 1998 season ended early because of injuries, and there was speculation about him giving way to Bobby Estalella. Lieberthal is now set to open the year as the team's starting catcher with Estalella hurt, and should resume his role as a good power hitter with a so-so average. He may hit 18 to 20 home runs if he plays regularly, but it will be a major shock if he hits over .265. He remains a health risk.
20. Kelly Stinnett - Stinnett has been a backup for most of his career so far, but his outlook is changing in Arizona. Expect him to share time with Damian Miller and surpass 300 at-bats for the first time. Stinnett displayed good power last year and is capable of hitting 15-plus homers. Don't expect him to hit more than a few points above .260, though.
Best of the rest
21. Jeff Reed
22. Brent Mayne
23. Mitch Meluskey
24. Todd Greene
25. Scott Hatteberg
26. Jim Leyritz
27. Benito Santiago
28. Bobby Estalella
29. Jorge Fabregas
30. Mike Sweeney