Catcher

Most of the top players are in the AL, but the NL has up-and-comers
March 20, 2006

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

      Avg. HR RBI Runs SB  
1. AL Victor Martinez, Indians .305 20 80 73 0 Switch-hitter batted a major-league-high .380 in thesecond half last season and finished with 167 hits--a team record for acatcher.
2. AL Jason Varitek, Red Sox .281 22 70 70 2  
3. AL Joe Mauer, Twins .294 9 55 61 13  
4. NL Michael Barrett, Cubs .276 16 61 48 0  
5. AL Jorge Posada, Yankees .262 19 71 67 1  
6. NL Mike Piazza, Padres .251 19 62 41 0  
7. AL Bengie Molina, Blue Jays .295 15 69 45 0  
8. AL Rod Barajas, Rangers .254 21 60 53 0  
9. AL Ramon Hernandez, Orioles .290 12 58 36 1 After hitting 21 home runs for the A's in '03, hislast full AL season, he'll take full advantage of Camden Yards' inviting poweralleys.
10. AL Ivan Rodriguez, Tigers .276 14 50 71 7  
11. AL Kenji Johjima, Mariners (Japanese stats) .309 24 57 70 3  
12. NL Jason LaRue, Reds .260 14 60 38 0  
13. AL A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox .257 18 56 61 0  
14. NL Josh Willingham, Marlins (Triple A stats) .324 19 54 56 5 Versatile player might wind up starting in leftfieldand could see time at first base and third; fantasy value is greatest behindthe plate.
15. NL Mike Lieberthal, Phillies .263 12 47 48 0  
16. NL Ryan Doumit, Pirates .255 6 35 25 2  
17. NL Brian McCann, Braves .278 5 23 20 1  
18. AL Toby Hall, Devil Rays .287 5 48 28 0  
19. NL Mike Matheny, Giants .242 13 59 42 0  
20. AL Jeff Mathis, Angels (Triple A stats) .276 21 73 78 4 Long touted as the franchise's catcher of the future,he'll share time with defensive specialist Jose Molina.
21. NL Paul Lo Duca, Mets .283 6 57 45 4  
22. AL John Buck, Royals .242 12 47 40 2  
23. NL Damian Miller, Brewers .273 9 43 50 0  
24. NL Brian Schneider, Nationals .268 10 44 38 1  
25. AL Jason Kendall, A's .271 0 53 70 8  
26. NL Danny Ardoin, Rockies .229 6 22 28 1  
27. NL Yadier Molina, Cardinals .252 8 49 36 2  
28. NL Yorvit Torrealba, Rockies .234 3 15 32 1  
29. NL Johnny Estrada, Diamondbacks .261 4 39 31 0 A defensive liability with a sore back, he could bepushed by solid backups Chris Snyder and Robby Hammock.
30. NL Dioner Navarro, Dodgers .273 3 14 21 0  

SPOTLIGHT

Bengie Molina

Wondering howmotivated Molina is to improve on his career year in '05? Consider hisoff-season: At 31 the Gold Glove catcher was discarded by the Angels and thenlargely ignored as a free agent because he misjudged the market. Finally, aweek before pitchers and catchers were to report in February, the Blue Jayssigned him to a one-year, $4.5 million deal. "It's behind me," Molinasays of his winter. "This is a new challenge for me, and I'm going to givemy heart." While his durability is a concern (2002 was the last season heplayed in more than 120 games), Molina has quietly emerged as one of the AL'smost reliable run-producing catchers and is particularly dangerous againstlefties (1.078 OPS in '05). Entering another walk year, Molina will be tryingto top his .295 average, 15 homers and .336 OBP of last year.

DEEP SLEEPERS

MATT LECROY,Nationals The former Twins DH, who had 17 homers last season, is part of abackup platoon behind Brian Schneider and will be Washington's top righthandedpinch hitter.

RUSSELL MARTIN,Dodgers The best-hitting catcher developed by L.A. since Mike Piazza is soliddefensively too. He'll be the starter in 2007, if not sooner.

JARRODSALTALAMACCHIA, Braves A 20-year-old switch-hitter with power (19 home runs anda .519 slugging percentage in Class A last year), he may have too potent a batto keep in the minors.

TWO PHOTOSTOM DIPACE (MOLINA); AL TIELEMANS (SALTALAMACCHIA)
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)