In a move that was widely expected on some level after he missed the end of the 2013 season with a concussion, the Minnesota Twins announced on Monday that catcher Joe Mauer will move to first base next season. The move makes sense as the Twins look to protect their best and most important player, but how will the position move impact Mauer’s value to fantasy baseball owners?
Mauer will retain catcher eligibility in the vast majority of leagues next season (75 games in 2013), and he may be eligible at first base right out of the gate in some leagues (eight games last season, 30 games in 2012) before even playing a game there next year. He immediately will not stand out as a great fantasy option at first base since he has hit more than 15 home runs just once during his career (28 in 2009), but he hits for a high average (.323 career), hits a lot of doubles (35 last season, 30 or more six times in his career), gets on base a ton (.405 career on-base percentage) and may even steal a handful of bases if his legs are fresher due to not playing behind the plate.
Mauer’s RBI and runs scored totals may suffer some in 2014 if his supporting cast does not improve, but by the same token he is unlikely to be a detriment in either category to fantasy owners that maintain reasonable expectations. The likelihood of better health and playing more than the 113 games he played last season, along with greatly reduced risk of an injury-riddled season like 2011 ever happening again, is good news for Mauer’s overall fantasy value next year and beyond.
Mauer may still be a first-round pick in most fantasy drafts next spring, and he should still command a fairly high winning bid in auctions, but there is a chance he becomes a relative draft day value if owners overreact to the move to first base and choose to avoid him altogether. The biggest negative impact to Mauer’s fantasy value will not come until 2015, when he loses catcher eligibility in virtually all leagues and becomes just an ordinary, middle-of-the-pack option at first base.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.