Catcher ranks: Where's Carlos Ruiz fit in? 

April, 25, 2013
Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz smacked a three-run home run and walked twice for Class A Clearwater on Wednesday night, a reminder that his season-opening suspension is nearing its end and fantasy owners will soon enjoy another productive player. Ruiz wasn't among the top-10 catchers in ESPN average live drafts nor should he have been, considering he was forced to miss the first 25 games for testing positive for a banned drug. However, when he plays for the Phillies on Sunday, it's worth remembering he finished the 2012 season as fantasy's No. 4 catcher, hitting .325 with 16 home runs.

The only three catchers who topped Ruiz in fantasy last year were Buster Posey, Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer, and they came off the draft board in that precise order in most drafts, and in the first six rounds. It's worth noting that Ruiz, even had he not broken the rules, would not have been ranked next, but he would have been in my top 10, with similar value to Salvador Perez and Jonathan Lucroy, two fellows I've been defending for their slow starts. The point is, from Sunday onward, Ruiz doesn't have that proverbial strike against him. He could play as many games as any other catcher the final five months, and while some batting average regression seems warranted, he should produce.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Ruiz
Miles Kennedy/Philadelphia Phillies/Getty ImagesCarlos Ruiz actually posted a better average on the road than at home each of the past three seasons.
In ESPN standard mixed leagues, in which only one catcher is needed per team, it's not a bad idea to stream options unless you own one of the obvious stars at the position. Despite his 2012 campaign, Ruiz isn't in that class, but there seems little momentum in his current ownership. He's at 5.5 percent owned, barely top 20 among backstops. He's better than that, and I suspect myriad Miguel Montero, Jesus Montero, Ryan Doumit and Perez owners are ready to move on. In shallow leagues, there's almost no need to worry about dropping a second-tier catcher and having it cost you later; streaming the hot option is wise.