- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
What worries me about productive catchers who play a ton of games is that they will eventually tire, not only in the second half of a season, but cumulatively after a few years. That happened to Paul LoDuca, it has been happening to Russell Martin, and recently I've been thinking Oakland Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki is a candidate to run out of gas as well. He's a catcher who played in 148 and 147 games, respectively, the past two seasons, easily more than anyone else.
That is why, in a way, the fact that Suzuki is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a rib-cage strain and will miss a few weeks isn't really such a bad thing. Sure, you won't get to enjoy his underrated production until at least May 11, but it's a six-month season, and fantasy owners should want him hitting well in August and September. Every little bit of rest has to help, and what we do not want is a catcher playing through injury and hitting .150 over a fortnight.
Suzuki was on my list of sleeper catchers before the season, if someone who hit 15 home runs and knocked in 88 runs can be considered as such, because it didn't appear many fantasy owners got the memo. Curiously, Suzuki was not a top-10 catcher in ESPN average live drafts, but even now, with a far greater percentage of missed games in April than in past seasons, he's No. 12 at his position on the fantasy Player Rater. Suzuki leads the Athletics -- granted, a weak hitting team -- in home runs, and most of his at-bats have come in the fifth lineup spot. He could absolutely produce 15 homers and 88 RBIs again!
That's why I would do my best to avoid dropping Suzuki. Surely those in 10-team leagues, already lukewarm on Suzuki in the first place since he's owned in 65 percent of leagues, should explore replacements for the next two weeks. But I doubt there's someone with the potential for 15 home runs, 88 RBIs and a good batting average -- that rules out ol' three-homer John Buck -- lurking. Stash Suzuki in your DL slot, and if Miguel Montero was already there, then drop him to free agency. Suzuki shouldn't be out long. I'm not even going to bother replacing him in my AL-only league. Spending any free-agent money to add Lou Marson for two weeks, when he can't hit his weight, seems silly. I'd rather have Suzuki on the DL not hurting my team.
The other big story involved in this transaction -- well, to me at least -- is the fact that slugger Jake Fox should become catcher-eligible soon. Fox is not very good at catcher, or any other position for that matter, but he brings good power potential in general, and especially for that weak position. Fox has started four of the past five games overall, has a few doubles and three RBIs, and I still believe the best is ahead. He also has played five total games behind the plate, and will share the position with Landon Powell and call-up Josh Donaldson. Fox can rake, and with five more games at catcher, he'll be eligible there in most ESPN leagues. I'd still rather own Suzuki, but it's quite possible the Athletics will end up having a pair of top-10 catchers on their team.
Here are a few other thoughts on those who don the tools of ignorance:
• I've nearly given up on Chris Iannetta for 2010. The Colorado Rockies demoted him to Triple-A Colorado Springs a few days ago, and I don't expect to see Iannetta -- the No. 19 catcher in ESPN average live drafts -- back anytime soon. Yes, Iannetta hit 34 home runs the past two seasons and plays half his games in a very good hitter's park, but Miguel Olivo is just better. Olivo swatted 23 home runs of his own last year, and leads all catchers on our Player Rater. Iannetta, meanwhile, hit .133 for the big club.
More from Eric
• Podcast: Daily Baseball Today
• It's true that Buster Posey could be up with the San Francisco Giants soon, but those who own Bengie Molina need not panic. It's Aubrey Huff owners who might need to find a replacement. Molina is hitting .350 with eight RBIs and more walks than strikeouts. The Giants can start him 130-plus times and get the same production they did a year ago, with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. Posey would play first base, but since he's eligible behind the plate, fantasy owners won't care. I still doubt this move happens anytime soon, but if you're in a two-catcher league you definitely wait for Posey. Frankly, I think Carlos Santana of the Indians comes up sooner, and will be better statistically.
• Similarly, those relying on Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman/catcher Jeff Clement in deep leagues or NL-only formats should brace themselves for the inevitable, because he's just not a good hitter. Pedro Alvarez is a good hitter, and I expect his promotion to the big leagues to play a corner infield spot sometime in early June. Clement hits like, well, a backup catcher. Ryan Doumit does not, as his home runs on consecutive days against Trevor Hoffman help show. Bad job by many fantasy owners for making Doumit the most dropped catcher over the past week.
Eric Karabell discusses a handful of catcher notes from around the league, including Kurt Suzuki's placement on the DL.