Diamond Duels: Is Joe Mauer worth market price?

by Matt Trueblood and Eric McClung on March 18, 2011 @ 03:39:37 PDT

 


Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

Mauer's fantasy baseball player profile

Yes

Matt Trueblood

  • Mauer has a .327 career batting average. That would have huge value no matter where he played. In the outfield, though, where the average hitter comes in at .267, the value would be mitigated a bit. Not so at catcher: The batting average for MLB catchers last season was .249. Category scarcity within position scarcity is a big deal.
  • Mauer bats third for the Twins and reaches base over 40 percent of the time. That adds up to a ton of RBI and run-scoring opportunities. The 75 RBI and 88 runs he posted last season are essentially the worst-case scenario for him over a full season, and a more likely scenario is that he drives in 85, scores 90 and leads all qualifying catchers in both of those categories, too.
  • Minnesota Twins C Joe Mauer
    Well played, Mauer?
    In the early rounds, it is always wise to avoid risk. Mauer typically goes in the top 25 in mixed snake drafts. Other options for similar values include Dustin Pedroia, Jose Bautista, Ryan Howard and Justin Upton. All of those guys play less scarce positions and have less established track records, or else battled injuries in 2010.
  • Batting average guys are often frowned upon because batting average, by its nature, is far less consistent than homers or runs are. In Mauer's case, though, there is very little true risk. He hardly ever strikes out, hits a ton of line drives and ground balls, and has never batted below .293 in any season. His days as a base stealer are over, but he still has good enough speed to maintain that kind of profile.

Closing argument: From top-50 picks, I always look for a pair of value points: elite production in two categories and top-three overall value at a position. Mauer is the best catcher in the league; no one should argue that. He is one of the five best hitters in the game for batting average, and he will score and drive in a ton of runs, too. You have to make up for what will likely be low power output, but Mauer can be a great cog in a winning team even as a high-investment pick.

No

Eric McClung

  • In most mixed drafts, Mauer has top-24 value and costs a hefty auction penny. His price in ALs is much more pronounced, for obvious reasons. The problem here is that it's nearly impossible for him to achieve that level of performance. Aside from Mauer's epic 28-home run, 96-RBI, .365 batting average campaign of 2009, he has never come close to finishing as a top-20 player. Even if he slides further, it will still be too early to justify reaching for a player that only provides an elite contribution in one category, batting average.
  • Let's do a quick look-see to grasp at exactly what Mauer typically brings to the table. We'll remove his down 2007 season when he missed 29 games with a left quadriceps injury. We'll also scrub the power anomaly in 2009. His 20.4 percent HR/FB was nearly double his career average and more than triple his results from 2008 and 2010. The averages from the four remaining seasons are 10 home runs, 74.8 RBIs and 83.3 runs scored. Aside from the aforementioned unworldly batting average, Mauer is hardly flashing prime years.
  • Mauer recently had injections of lubricant into the same knee that acted up at the end of last year and required offseason surgery. In Mauer's rookie season of 2004, the meniscus was removed from that knee. Since 2007, he has been sidelined or bothered by injuries to his quadriceps, back, ankle, hip, hamstring, neck, heel, shoulder and knee. Indeed, the catcher position has unique physical demands that lead to such aches and pains. While playing through so many issues makes Mauer's achievements all the more impressive, the fear of a major breakdown is looming.
  • The inaugural season at Target Field proved to be a power drainer. Several ballpark factor reports list the Twinkies' new crib dead last in home runs. Even the mighty Mauer felt the effects. His home batting average of .314 was 25 points lower when compared on the road while driving in 17 fewer runs. In addition to few hits, Mauer only treated his loyal hometown fans to a single home run.
  • There are several catcher-eligible options playing at least partially in less taxing positions to target that don't have Mauer's inflated price tag. If you really need an elite catcher, Victor Martinez will see a lot of time at DH, owns a career .300 batting average and provides the pop Mauer lacks. With enough at-bats Mike Napoli has 30-home potential after his move to the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark; he'll play first base and DH and back up at catcher. You can even grab Jorge Posada, the Yankees' full-time DH, towards the end of a snake draft and get satisfactory figures.

Closing argument: Catcher is a thin position, but the idea that drafting Mauer somehow gives you a competitive advantage is an illusion. In fact, the exact opposite is true. There are so many other safer selections at other positions to target in the late-second or early-third round that actually have the ability to live up to their draft position. Mauer is simply an incredible batting average (and equally amazing sideburns) with otherwise unexciting production for such a steep investment. Throw in the injury concerns and there's simply no way you can justify taking Mauer based on his current ADP and average auction value.

KFFL staff verdict

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About Matt Trueblood

Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.


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