As I prepare these rankings, I have to guard against being influenced by my inherent bias as an Indians fan. A little explanation of my criteria for ranking players. I'm not ranking based solely on last year. I'm also not predicting the rest of a player's career. For this ranking, I'm only trying to project which team will get the most out of each position THIS YEAR.
1. Cleveland. Victor Martinez
was selected to his first All Star game last year and ended the season with 23 homers and 108 RBI to go along with a .283 batting average. This year I expect his batting average to improve but wouldn't expect his other numbers to go up. Josh Bard
is slated to back-up Martinez this season. Bard should provide solid defense and enough offense that the manager
won't be afraid to DH or rest Martinez. Martinez' offense suffered late last year and he should benefit from more regular rest.
2. Detroit. http://www.baseball-reference.com/r/rodriiv01.shtml is a future Hall of Famer and potentially one of the best two catchers in Major League history with Johnny Bench
as the other. However, he 33 (turns 34 in June) and has caught a lot of games. It seems that age 33 is the fall off point for catchers. Browsing http://baseball-reference.com/, I only identified one catcher (http://www.baseball-reference.com/f/fiskca01.shtml) who caught regularly after age 33 and continued to produce offensively. Pudge might be the second but I wouldn't bet on it. I expect him to see time as DH. His back-ups will not produce anywhere near Pudge's level.
3. Kansas City. http://www.baseball-reference.com/b/buckjo01.shtml made his Major League debut last year. Based on his raw numbers (12 homers and 30 RBI), it's understandable if you're not impressed. However, he finished strong and his back-ups are very capable. Eli Marrero
is a good bat off the bench. Paul Phillips got limited playing time after a September call up but hit .312 at AAA Omaha. I may have Buck overrated, but there must be some reason KC insisted on getting him in return for Beltran last year.
4. Minnesota. Joe Mauer
has been proclaimed a star. He has done well in very limited playing time. The playing time is the issue. Mauer blew out his knee last year and no position in baseball puts more stress on the knees than catching. If Mike Redmond or Matt LeCroy get considerable time behind the bench the Twinkies are in trouble.
5. Chicago. The White Sox signed A.J. Pierzynski
to a one year deal in the off season. He had a reputation in San Francisco of being a jerk but more important than that is the fact he hits for okay average with little power. Pierzinski will be backed up by Ben Davis
. Chris Widger was signed to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring training. Jamie Burke at AAA Charlotte is more likely to get the call up if either catcher on the 25 man roster gets hurt.
I, of course, reserve the right to change these rankings if there are major injuries to any of the players.