DR. HQ: Preseason Report: Catchers

This series of injury reports in the coming weeks will assist you in your draft(s) by preparing you from a health perspective. It will give you a better chance to avoid taking on too much injury risk at the start of the season.  We will evaluate each position and focus on players who suffered injuries in 2011 that could have an impact on 2012, as well as players who are injury prone. As we move deeper into this spring training project, more injury situations will surface and we will make any updates in a final report, which will allow you to tailor your draft strategy and target the best players for a successful season.

One word of caution: I am not suggesting that you attempt to avoid any players who have injury risk heading into this season.  Depending on the makeup of your league, including whether you have keepers or not, you will have to acquire players with health risks. It’s inevitable. Being aware of those risks and adjusting your strategy will go a long way towards helping you manage that risk and remain competitive.

In this edition, we’ll focus on catchers.

Catchers

Joe Mauer (C, MIN)
Wow, how the mighty have fallen. Just a couple of years ago, Mauer was one of the marquee bats in the majors. Questions about bilateral leg weakness, illness, bad knees and how long he will be able to catch now dog him. Once he moves out from behind the plate for good his value will drop markedly. In the meantime, Mauer needs to demonstrate some durability. The good news is that last season's bout with pneumonia should be a non-issue for 2012.  Mauer showed up to camp 30 pounds heavier than last year (re-gaining all the weight he lost due to illness during the season) and is reportedly much stronger than 2011. A healthy Mauer on Opening Day would be great for the Twins and fantasy owners, but there are still questions regarding his power and adjusting to Target Field. He still has not proven he can hit 20-plus homers there even with a full season's worth of playing time.

Buster Posey (C, SF)
Posey is the big name on the catcher’s list and the big injury question for this position. Posey suffered a fractured left ankle, along with damaged ligaments, last May. As camp opens for the Giants, Posey is moving well considering the damage. Most of the work he is doing now remains non-baseball related, but the Giants expect to increase baseball-related drills soon. Still, it is not a sure thing Posey will be ready for the start of the regular season. We will get a better idea when he gets into a spring game and we can observe how well he handles game situations. Barring any setbacks this spring he should avoid starting the year on the DL. If Posey makes it to Opening Day, the next question is his production. Running isn’t part of his game so we don’t have to worry about that. Once he shakes the rust off his swing, his power numbers and ability to drive in runners should not be affected.

Alex Avila (C, DET)
Avila was the surprise at the catcher position in the American League last year. He had left knee soreness at the end of last but it did not require surgery. Avila hit well all season long so questions about stamina and durability are a non-issue. There are no signs regarding his knee is an issue unless more problems surface in 2012.

Brian McCann (C, ATL)
McCann was the best catcher in the National League last year but his numbers could have been better. He struggled a nagging oblique injury in the second half and his Slg dropped to .388.  It appears as though this injury impacted his swing and production. A healthy McCann should build on his 2011 season as he enters the prime of his career.

Ryan Hanigan (C, CIN)
Hanigan struggled with inflammation in his lower back during the middle of the season, the result of two inflamed discs in his lumbar spine. He had an epidural injection late in the year and one report in the offseason indicated he was back to normal. If that is the case and he does not have any structural issues, he should not have any back problems this season. If the problems resurface, then surgery is a likely option at some point in 2012.

Chris Snyder (C, HOU)
Snyder suffered a herniated disc in the lumbar region of his back and underwent surgery in early June. The surgery cleared up the pain and pressure on the nerves in his lower back. He could have returned very late in the year but he sat to make sure his back was sound entering the offseason. The Astros believe he will be 100% by the start of spring training games if not earlier.

Nick Hundley (C, SD)
He underwent surgery on his right elbow in early July and Hundley was back with the Padres in early August. He showed his elbow was sound in September. He gets a green light from day one in spring training.

Positional Outlook
The odds are good that Mauer and Posey will start the year on the active roster, meaning the catcher position has very little injury risk as spring training opens.

Next Up: First base, early next week.

If you live in the Chicago, Washington DC/Baltimore, New York City or Boston regions, make sure to join us at our annual First Pitch Forums tour. We look forward to seeing you there.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.