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2013 Fantasy Baseball: Top 5 A.L. East Catchers

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Top 5 American League East Catchers

AL East
The Star Ledger

It may only be January, but Spring Training is around the corner and fantasy baseball season is creeping up faster than you think. For the next few weeks we will be taking a look at the top players at each position, division by division.

There has been a ton of turnover this off-season in the American League East, especially up north with the Toronto Blue Jays, who brought in a lot of big names. One trade for R.A. Dickey involved moving top catching prospect Travis D’Arnaud. In that move, the team brought back two catchers; Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. Nickeas has already been signed to their Triple-A affiliate, while Thole will likely be stuck behind incumbent J.P. Arencibia.

The New York Yankees let Russell Martin jet to the Pittsburgh Pirates, raising questions at the catcher position. After a surprising season the Baltimore Orioles look to stick at the top of the division, and they are the clear leader at the catcher position. The Boston Red Sox themselves had their questions at the position, but after a complicated process, Mike Napoli finally signed with the team after issues with his physical. Lastly, the Tampa Bay Rays brought in veteran Jose Molina, but may still be looking for someone to hold down the fort behind the plate as they haven’t had a consistent player at catcher since Toby Hall.

This early in the year, it’s tough to say which catchers will stick in some situations on some teams, but for those with early fantasy drafts, here are the Top 5 A.L. East Catchers for 2013.

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#5 Jose Molina- Tampa Bay Rays

Joy R. Absalon - USA Today

Molina’s name is only going to surface in extremely deep leagues, and at age 37 he doesn’t offer much offensively. Nonetheless, he is really the only other known starter in this division that hasn’t been listed yet. In all likelihood, the No. 5 catcher in this division at the end of the year is not Moline as the Rays could still make a move in bring someone in, as could the Yankees. But as it stands right now near the end of January, Molina comes in at No.5 here.

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#4 J.P. Arencibia - Toronto Blue Jays

Joy R. Absalon - USA Today

While Thole may see some work here and there for the Jays, but the only fantasy relevant catcher in Toronto is Arencibia. He hit 18 home runs and drove in 56 RBI while hitting .233, which is respectable for a catcher, in 2012. He is still only 27 and he did show better power numbers in 2011 with 23 bombs and 78 RBI, so it comes down to whether last year was just a sophomore slump, or if this is just the player he is. There’s still some potential left in that bat, and as long as he is consistent enough to get more at-bats over Thole, he could certainly reach the 20-homer plateau.

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#3 Jarrod Saltalamacchia - Boston Red Sox

Kim Klement - USA Today

With Napoli playing primarily at first base this season, he’ll still have catcher eligibility in most leagues. Nonetheless, that still leaves room in the lineup for Salty, who had one of his best seasons in 2012. He was third among catchers with 25 home runs. He will hurt you in average and his on-base percentage of .288 leaves a lot to be desired, but with power like that he still holds value, especially at a thin position like catcher. The former top prospect is still only 27, and much like Arencibia could potentially get better. If he gets the playing time, 30 home runs is not totally out of the question, but that is certainly his ceiling.

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#2 Mike Napoli - Boston Red Sox

Jim Cowsert - USA Today

Napoli was one of the bigger free agent names this off-season, but after a down year in 2012 and some physical issues, it took a while for him to find a home. Finally in late January, after a back and forth between him and the team, Napoli settled on a one-year deal for $5 million with an incentive package of $8 million.

He has been diagnosed with avascular necrosis of hip joints, and while he has no symptoms of the issue and is expect to be ready for Opening Day, it’s certainly something to keep in mind on draft day. Still, it is tough to find more power from the catcher position than you’ll get with Napoli, whose 24 home runs ranked fourth in home runs at the position, just behind his teammate Salty.

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#1 Matt Wieters - Baltimore Orioles

Joy R. Absalon - USA Today

Wieters is not only the best catcher in his division, but one of the best in baseball and one of the top options at the position for your fantasy baseball team. Though his .249 average in 2012 leaves a lot to be desired, it was still in the top 10 among catchers. His K-rate was up in 2012, which is certainly a concern, but he did play in a career-high 144 games and hit highs in home runs (23) and RBI (83).

His walk-rate was also up over 10 percent for the first time in his career last year. At 26, he has already showed plenty of potential with room for more. It’s going to be hard to find a better source of RBI, runs, and power at catcher without killing your average. Wieters is a top fantasy option.