I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. Here is an early look at the top catching prospects for 2011-for fantasy purposes. This list may differ from lists that John or other prospect experts provide as this list gives you an idea as to which catchers may get some playing time in 2011.
Sure, there are catching prospects, like Gary Sanchez, who will be highly ranked by the experts, but for fantasy purposes, he has little value for 2011. You can draft a catcher like Sanchez as long as you are in a keeper/dynasty league, or where you have other pieces to package him to upgrade your roster for 2011.
So, onto the Top catching prospects for 2011:
1. Jesus Montero, NYY-I slotted Montero at #1 as he has the best bat amongst catching prospects in baseball. He had a slow start to the 2010 season in AAA, but had a strong finish. He hit .289-.353-.517 with 21 HRs and 75 RBIs as a 20 year old in AAA. He may not stay at catcher, but as of now, he is slotted to get plenty of at bats there in 2011.
2. J.P. Arencibia, TOR-Arencibia will be the Blue Jays starting catcher in 2011, after John Buck left for free agency this offseason. Arencibia hit .301-.356-.626 with 32 HRs and 85 RBIs in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2010. He should provide nice power numbers, but could strikeout a bit too much.
3. Hank Conger, LAA-Conger could be the Angels catcher in 2011. He hit .300-.385-. 463 with 11 HRs, 49 RBIs and an excellent 58-55 K/BB ratio. Actually, Conger showed solid plate discipline in AA in 2009 as well, with an excellent 68-55 K/BB ratio. Conger should provide a good BA with a little bit of pop in 2011.
5. Tyler Flowers, CHW-Flowers should be the White Sox starting catcher in 2011, but there is some question if he can hit at the major league level after hitting just .220-.334-.434 with 16 HRs and 53 RBIs in AAA in 2010. He struck out 121 times in his 346 at bats last year, to go with his 55 walks, so he will have to cut down on the strikeouts to keep the job in 2011. Some of his troubles are attributed to him altering his swing during the season.
6. Devin Mesoraco, CIN-Mesoraco finally had his breakout season in 2010, which saw him hit .302-.377-.587 with 26 HRs and 75 RBIs at three levels. He will have to work on his defense behind the plate after having 10 passed balls and 4 errors in 18 games in the AFL, but apparently the Reds front office love his leadership skills. He could see some time in Cincinnati in 2011 if he can show 2010 was not a fluke.
7. Wilin Rosario, COL-the Rockies traded starting catcher Miguel Olivo a few weeks ago, and appear to be slowly giving up on catcher Chris Iannetta, so I think Rosario could be the Rockies starting catcher at some point in 2011, should he prove he is healthy after mid-seaso knee surgery. In 270 AA at bats, Rosario hit .285-.342-.552 with 19 HRs and 52 RBIs. Guys at Baseball America say he could hit 20-30 HRs in the big leagues. Wow.
8. Tony Sanchez, PIT-with the way the Pirates are turning over their roster the last few years, I can see Sanchez being the starting catcher in Pittsburgh in June 2011. Sanchez hit .314-.416-.454 with 4 HRs, 35 RBIs and a solid 41-28 K/BB rate in High A in 2010. Some believe he can be an above average catcher, both at the plate and behind the plate.
Others: Wellington Castillo-CHC, Michael McKenry-COL, Lucas May-KC
Keeper league owners should have a different strategy with regard to prospects, as the top catching prospects will have some value should the owner decide to take on a rebuilding strategy. A rebuilding strategy involves drafting and trading for the top major league ready prospects, along with dealing for cheaper salaried keepers. I employed this strategy in one of my NL-only keeper leagues in 2010. Here are some catching prospects with the most keeper league value for 2011, not mentioned in the list above:
1. Wil Myers, KC
2. Derek Norris, WAS
3. Gary Sanchez, NYY
4. Yasmani Grandal, CIN
5. Austin Romine, NYY
6. Travis d'Arnaud, TOR
7. Sebastian Valle, PHI
8. Christian Bethancourt, ATL
9. Carlos Perez, TOR
10. Max Stassi, OAK