For seven consecutive seasons, Cardinals C Yadier Molina was good for about 125 games, 420 at-bats, 105 hits, six homers and 50 RBI. His seasonal batting average would range between .250 and .280, and Fantasy owners were happy if they got him in Round 23 and happy if they didn’t. He was a true No. 2 Fantasy catcher in every sense of the word.
|My Top 15 Catchers|
|1. Carlos Santana, CLE|
2. Mike Napoli, TEX
3. Buster Posey, SF
4. Matt Wieters, BAL
5. Brian McCann, ATL
6. Joe Mauer, MIN
7. Yadier Molina, STL
8. Alex Avila, DET
9. Miguel Montero, ARI
10. Jesus Montero, SEA
11. Ryan Doumit, MIN
12. Wilson Ramos, WAS
13. Carlos Ruiz, PHI
14. Russell Martin, NYY
15. A.J. Pierzynski, CHW
Then 2011 happened.
In 2011, Yadier Molina, the youngest of the three catching Molina brothers, had a career season. He hit .305 with 14 home runs, and 65 RBI in 139 games with the World Series champion Cardinals.
The question, entering this season, was, “Which Yadier Molina will show up in 2012? The light-hitting catcher or the valuable player he was last season?” So at the beginning of the year, I ranked Molina 13th behind several less worthy catchers. I basically said, he’s the top No. 2 catcher you could own.
My skepticism was based on his previous seven years at the plate, and the fact that he no longer has manager Tony LaRussa as his manager. On top of that, he now has Mike Matheny, a former catcher and teammate, as his new manager. It was anyone’s guess how he would react to a great year, a championship and a new manager.
But now, one month into the season, I’m beginning to see the error of my ways.
When One-Year Wonders Go Longer Than One Year
I was definitely in the one-year-wonder camp in the offseason. I failed you. I failed myself. Last year’s 14 homers was the first time he hit over eight in a season. And his .305 batting average was another career high.
When someone walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there’s a pretty good chance that he’s a duck. But through 21 games and one month this season, Molina’s batting .316 with four homers and 15 RBI, and Head-to-Head owners that were smart enough to ignore me now own the highest-scoring Fantasy catcher (80.5 points through Sunday, with only Joe Mauer also over 65 points).
Making a Wrong Aright
So I’ve looked into Molina a little further, to see what I missed. He’s 29 years old and he has been playing professionally since he was 18 years old. He had one season at each level in the minors, including rookie ball, and he arrived at The Show when he was just a 21-year-old backstop. Catchers rarely come up that early, but his defensive abilities gave his career a huge early boost.
Here we are, in his ninth season, and he’s growing into his own offensively, since he doesn’t have to “learn” defense and pitching like once did. Now he can concentrate on his bat, and he’s at the prime age. In an article by J.C. Bradbury at BaseballProspectus.com, he goes into great detail to show us how baseball players age. (He sounds pretty nerdy, and shows a bunch of charts with decimals , so I’ll take his word for it.)
“Hitters peak in batting and slugging average at 28 [Molina last year] while continuing to improve in their home-run hitting and walking abilities until 30 [Molina this July] and 32,” said Bradbury.
I’m asking everyone to scooch over on the Molina bandwagon, and make some room for me. It takes a big man to admit he’s wrong, but it takes an even bigger man to quickly change the subject –
How do you get warm beer cold quickly!?!?!
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.