In the hopes of getting you ready for your auctions, today marks the beginning of my position-by-position rundown of the results of the CBS A.L.-only auction.
THE NEW TOP OF THE HEAP
Carlos Santana $27. Matt Wieters $26
At a glance, you might think that Santana and Wieters were purchased late when there was a lot of money on the table. However, Santana (fourth round) and Wieters (sixth round) were purchased relatively early. Both catchers have some potential growth in their earnings potential, but I don't like either one of these players at these prices. Since 2009, Joe Mauer (2009, $32) and Victor Martinez (2011, $26) are the only A.L. catchers to earn $26 or more. Santana and Wieters will have to take big steps forward in batting average to come close to earning this. Of the two, I probably like Santana better. He earned $17 last year despite a .239 batting average. While $27 would be very difficult, something in the low $20s is possible. Wieters seems less likely to me to earn these numbers. He is an Age 26 with experience candidate for growth, but keep in mind that some catchers plateau offensively. Twenty dollars might be Wieters' ceiling, so I wouldn't pay too much past this price.
COULD BE TOP TIER
Mike Napoli $21, Alex Avila $19, Joe Mauer $16
I like these prices better than Santana and Wieters'. Napoli's average should fall, but he's not merely a product of Arlington. An improved batting eye and contact rates made Napoli's power even more formidable. I expect some regression, but this price still seems about right. My gut tells me that Avila should fade this year, but I don't see anything in the numbers that indicates he will. His home/road HR split was about equal and after a sluggish July, Avila came on like gangbusters in August. I'd expect a little regression this year, but don't let Avila go too far below this price. It's generous at this point to say that Mauer could be top tier, but if he's completely healthy a $20-25 season is well within range. The "if he's healthy" is a Mount Rushmore-sized caveat, though. Like every other baseball player in the history of time, Mauer enters this spring saying he's in the best shape of his life. At this point, pay Mauer for the .300+ average and hope he stays on the field for 450 AB. Keep in mind that Mauer has averaged over 120 games a year over the last five years. He's injury prone, but less than you might think.
THE MID-LEVEL OPTIONS
Ryan Doumit $14, J.P. Arencibia $12, Jarrod Saltalamacchia $12, Russell Martin $11.
Doumit's catcher eligibility is exciting, but I'd avoid him at this price. His last big season was in 2008, and he's had even more trouble staying on the field than Mauer. Yes, Doumit won't be catching this year, but this still seems like a huge risk given Doumit's history. The 20+ HR make Arencibia an exciting Roto proposition, but the terrible batting average gives me pause. Arencibia's approach seems to be take, take, take and then swing two strikes in. The result is a lot of strikeouts and home runs but little else. He's probably keeping the spot warm for Travis d'Arnaud, but Arencibia should hang on to the job this year. Saltalamacchia's profile is very similar to Arencibia's. He doesn't have a top prospect nipping at his heels, but Kelly Shoppach is more than just a 1x/week caddy and should steal some time from Salty. The bid here is about right. Martin is the guy who could potentially be a bargain. His average hasn't been good the last three years, but in 2009-2010 that was a product of Dodger Stadium. 2011 was more of a product of bad BABIP. Martin could hit better in Yankee Stadium, but if he doesn't, this price is still fair. I think he has more upside here than any of these other guys.
FIRST STRING REAL LIFE, SECOND STRING FANTASY
Chris Iannetta $9, Kurt Suzuki $9, Miguel Olivo $7, A.J. Pierzynski $6, Salvador Perez $5, Yorvit Torrealba $4.
I don't like Iannetta at all this year. He's a .171 hitter away from Coors since 2009 (608 OPS) and is moving to a slight-to-moderate pitchers' park. Hank Conger might be up this year after all. Suzuki is a bounce back candidate for some, but he's now had two poor seasons in a row. Maybe the BABIP luck improves and his numbers do too, but I wouldn't go double digits to find out. Olivo is the catcher statheads love to hate (and rightfully so) but has earned between $11-15 each of the last three years because of his raw home run totals.
With Jesus Montero in the fold, this could be the year that Olivo finally loses a good chunk of playing time and - with it - value. Even as a 300-350 AB guy, though, Olivo could still provide 10 HR from a catching slot. Pierzynski is Olivo's fantasy evil twin. He doesn't offer a lot of power, but thanks to a solid batting average he has earned between $11-14 the last three years. Tyler Flowers could start to take some playing time from the 35-year-old backstop, but at $6 Pierzynski looks like a no-lose proposition to me. Perez made it to the Majors young because of his defense, but surprised many with an 834 OPS after his mid-season call-up. He's never done anything like that in the minors, so I'd expect some slippage, but $5 is fine for a guy who should start this year for the Royals. Torrealba isn't quite a starter, but I imagine Ron Washington will continue to play him 3-4 times a week and put Napoli at first base every once in a while. Torrealba is yet another poor option in real life who is useful in fantasy if he's playing, particularly if he's playing in hitter-happy Texas.
Tyler Flowers $3, Jose Molina $3, Hank Conger $1, John Jaso $1, Ryan Lavarnway $1, Lou Marson $1, Ronny Paulino $1, Kelly Shoppach $1.
Molina's a starter, but here is where you find owners either speculating or just trying to find a warm body that will do no harm. I like Flowers' power potential but would have liked him better at $1. Conger and Lavarnway are decent $1 fliers who will pay off if they can wrangle some playing time down the line. Jaso and Marson are pretty safe plays but there isn't a lot of upside, while Paulino fits into the virtually no upside category backing up Wieters in Baltimore.