BY DAVID KOMER
Sam Bradford: AP
Fantasy baseball league drafts and auctions are in full swing as we hit the home stretch before Opening Day and with apologies to Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan to pick up a catcher until the drafts and auctions actually start. OK, so it's not quite his "...until you get hit in the mouth" line, but getting caught with a gaping hole at your backstop can sting all the same. From the neophyte to the time-tested fantasy gamer, it's universally one of the most frustrating spots to get a read on, mostly because of its lack of depth.
If sitting through a dizzying myriad of mocks as well as real snake drafts and auctions the past few weeks have taught me anything, it's to have a plan at this easily overlooked position.
Joe Mauer, the 2009 American League MVP, is the gold standard, and it isn't even close. But as the offseason speeds to a close, every draft or auction I've been in has seen his stock soaring. Whatever you think his value is, be prepared to pay some inflation. The highest I've seen Mauer fly off the board was with the last pick in the first round of a 12-team snake draft, while the lowest was pick No. 18 in round 2 out of multiple drafts. Usually his average cost was between $25 and $31 (yes, $31) on a $260 scale.
Following Mauer, the next two universal picks, Boston's Victor Martinez and Atlanta's Brian McCann have been going between the fourth and fifth rounds with regularity between $12 and $16. Both are fine alternatives to Mauer, but also are big-ticket items in their own right when it comes to the catcher spot.
Beyond the top three, there's been wild swings of value for Baltimore's Matt Wieters who was picked as with regularity between rounds 5-10 and purchased from $8 and $15 (!).
As somewhat of a draft day upside junkie, I'm bullish on Wieters and most of the younger catchers (McCann, Arizona's Miguel Montero, the Dodgers' Russell Martin, Oakland's Kurt Suzuki, the Cubs' Geovany Soto). Unless it's a bargain that's insane, go for broke with younger rolls of the dice, because odds are that at least half your league probably won't fill the position adequately anyway, as long as it's more than eight teams.
I do exclude Jorge Posada when it comes to the catcher age rule, whose surrounding lineup is always scary-good and whose 2008 season looks more and more like an anomaly. Posada's value has also been all over the place from rounds 7-13 and $5 to $9.
This is one of the hardest positions to get a read on, but there?s value to be had and upside to be had with the youth movement. SI.com?s Jay Clemons has an excellent catcher breakdown for further analysis from the 2010 fantasy baseball preview
From the thinnest position in fantasy baseball to the most stocked, we all know first base is packed with big names and bigger bats. But one draft day strategy I've been using in most of my leagues has had to do with waiting to fill the first base spot through the first few rounds. Unless you're looking at grabbing Albert Pujols first of course, target for the first couple rounds your marquee infielders (Hanley Raimrez, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley, Evan Logoria, David Wright, Ian Kinsler, etc.) and/or a star outfielder (Ryan Braun, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp,
The brackets might be toast, but the players (some, at least) are still out there. With one week left in the college basketball season, those brave enough to try their hand at Fantasy March Madness by drafting teams of individual players and totaling their stat lines through the tourney are eying the same wide-open Final Four that the hoops purists and bracketoligists are. The scoring system I used was assists, rebounds and made free throws x 2, three-pointers, blocks and steals x 3 + points scored. Of the four remaining teams, here is the top player, fantasy-wise for each.
Butler: Shelvin Mack, 55.7 fantasy point average
Michigan State: Durrell Summers, 46.0
West Virginia: Da'Sean Butler, 63.7
Duke: Kyle Singler, 55.0
Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia, 255
John Wall, Kentucky, 223
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia, 222
Kevin Jones, West Virginia, 185
Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky, 184
LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor, 229
Kyle Singler, Duke, 220
Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, 218
Jon Scheyer, Duke, 194
Omar Samhan, Saint Mary?s, 177 (3 games)
Nolan Smith, Duke, 177
Evan Turner, Ohio State, 223 (3 games)
Durrell Summers, Michigan State, 184
Wayne Chism, Tennessee, 179
J.P. Prince, Tennessee, 175
Raymar Morgan, Michigan State, 174
Jacob Pullen, Kansas State, 264
Shelvin Mack, Butler, 223
Gordon Hayward, Butler, 204
Jordan Crawford, Xavier, 203 (3 games)Wes Johnson, Syracuse, 201 (3 games)