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Fantasy Baseball Preview: Catcher

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PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 31: Catcher Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants throws to second base against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of a MLB game at Chase Field on August 31, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Buster Posey (Photo Credit: Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

By Tony Meale

In our Fantasy Baseball Preview, CBS Local Sports breaks down the top players at each position for your fantasy baseball draft.

1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | C | RP | Sleepers/Busts

Position Overview

Catcher is easily the most forgotten position in fantasy baseball. If you’re not one of the first players to draft a catcher in your league, you’ll almost certainly be one of the last – or so it seems.

You see, with catcher, the challenge isn’t finding a guy who can hit 10-20 homers with 50-60 RBIs; the challenge is finding someone who won’t hit .240 (or thereabouts) and destroy your average.

Thus, for fantasy purposes, catcher is the one position in which average takes precedence over power (within reason).

Here are the top 12 fantasy catchers into 2014 – in the order in which I would draft them.

The Top 12

1) Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Ranked eighth among first basemen, Posey is much more valuable as a catcher. Don’t bank on a repeat of his 2012 campaign, but Posey, a career .308 hitter, will enter his age-27 season with a legitimate shot at 20 home runs. A second-round price tag is too rich for my blood, but fourth round? Oh yeah.

Projection: .315 average, 18 home runs, 84 RBIs, 76 runs, 3 steals

2) Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

If Molina, 31, isn’t the most complete catcher in baseball, he’s no worse than No. 2. Last year, he finished with career highs in batting average (.319), runs (68) and RBIs (80), while also hitting 12 home runs. He’s hit at least .305 in three straight seasons and at least .293 in five of the last six. As a catcher, that’s big.

Projection: .318 average, 17 home runs, 86 RBIs, 73 runs, 5 steals

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 26:  Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a RBI single in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Three of the 2013 World Series at Busch Stadium on October 26, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.

Yadier Molina (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

3) Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

Once considered a first-round pick, Mauer will move from catcher to first base this year after a string of subpar seasons. Case in point? The former MVP hit 28 home runs in 2009; he has just 33 in the four years since. Yes, he’s a career .323 hitter, but for a guy taking up one-third of the team’s payroll, that lack of power is unacceptable. The Twins desperately need 20 and 100 from him, but somewhere around 15 and 75 is more likely.

Projection: .320 average, 14 home runs, 74 RBIs, 79 runs, 3 steals

4) Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

In three full seasons, Santana, 27, has averaged 22 home runs, 76 RBIs and 77 runs. Granted, he’s a career .254 hitter, but he did hit a career-high .268 last season. He’ll also be batting cleanup for a playoff team. There’s value here.

Projection: .266 average, 24 home runs, 84 RBIs, 80 runs, 2 steals

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5) Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies

Rosario, 25, led the National League with 21 homers last year, while also hitting a more-than-respectable .292. Oh, and perhaps you’ve heard of his home ball park. It’s pretty hitter-friendly.

Projection: .280 average, 23 home runs, 72 RBIs, 68 runs, 2 steals

6) Brian McCann, New York Yankees

McCann has hit 20+ homers in six straight seasons. He reached that mark last year despite playing only 102 games and will now be playing his home games in Yankee Stadium, which is built perfectly for his powerful lefty stroke. McCann has hit .270 or lower in four straight seasons, but he’ll make a run at 30 homers. Sign me up.

Projection: .262 average, 28 home runs, 84 RBIs, 66 runs, 0 steals

MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 31: Jonathan Lucroy #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers runs on a double in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during their game at Miller Park on August 31, 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Jonathan Lucroy (Photo Credit: Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)

7) Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

Lucroy, 27, had career highs in home runs (18), RBIs (82), runs (59) and steals (nine) last year, while also hitting .280. He has top-five potential.

Projection: .283 average, 18 home runs, 81 RBIs, 60 runs, 5 steals

8) Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

Only 23, Perez already has 253 major league games under his belt – not to mention a career .301 average, which is fantasy gold at this position. His power doesn’t wow you (he has 24 home runs over the last two seasons), but given his age, there’s no reason to think Perez can’t one day – and possibly even this year – flirt with 20 home runs.

Projection: .298 average average, 18 home runs, 71 RBIs, 55 runs, 1 steal

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9) Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

Ramos showed last season that he can be a beast when healthy (“when healthy” being the key words). He had 16 home runs and 59 RBIs in just 78 games last year, which extrapolates to 33 homers and 123 RBIs over a full season. He won’t reach either number, but there’s a lot of upside here. His career .270 average won’t kill you, either.

Projection: .268 average, 23 home runs, 81 RBIs, 52 runs, 0 steals

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 19: Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles reacts after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 19, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Tampa Bay Rays won, 4-3.

Matt Wieters (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

10) Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles

In the last three seasons, Wieters has hit 22, 23 and 22 home runs, which is remarkably consistent. At the same time, however, his batting average has plummeted from .262 to .249 to .235. Whether the juice is worth the squeeze is contingent upon your lineup.

Projection: .241 average, 22 home runs, 77 RBIs, 69 runs, 1 steal

11) Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves

Gattis, who is also eligible in the outfield, has power – and plenty of it. He had 21 home runs in just 354 at-bats last year. With Brian McCann in New York, Gattis should see 400+ at-bats this season, meaning a run at 25 homers is possible.

Projection: .260 average, 24 home runs, 69 RBIs, 51 runs, 0 steals

12) Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds

With Ryan Hanigan out of the picture, the Reds hope that Mesoraco, one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball two years ago, can fully realize his potential. Mesoraco’s final 2013 tally – a .238 average, nine home runs, 42 RBIs and 31 runs in 103 games – wasn’t much to write home about, but let’s see what the 25-year-old can do over the course of a full season.

Projection: .259 average, 15 home runs, 66 RBIs, 50 runs, 1 steal

Bottom Line

Most fantasy catchers will hurt you in at least one area, but very few require an early-round investment. When you get to the middle rounds, assess your lineup and see what it needs and what it can bear. If you need average, don’t worry about power. If you need power, don’t worry about average. After that, just hope your backstop can avoid a collision at home plate.

Oh wait…

Next up: Relief Pitcher

Check out “30 Players 30 Days,” profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team.

Tony Meale is the author of The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron. He lives in Chicago and won’t be mad if you follow him on Twitter @TonyMeale.

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