What will Joe Mauer offer in 2012?
So far, Minny has given relatively rosy reports on Mauer, who has resumed offseason activities after recovering from a bout with pneumonia that ended his 2011 campaign in late September. He's 100 percent healthy, per general manager Terry Ryan. Pass the grain of salt, please.
Mauer's early-2011 struggles and ensuing disabled list stint for bilateral leg weakness resulted from his attempt to return from knee surgery too soon. He also lost 15 pounds due to a viral infection while he was on the DL; such an empty weight shedding must've set him back in regaining strength. In July, with more reps under his belt, he looked more like himself (.356/.437/.413).
Some respite will come from Ryan Doumit, who will spell Mauer behind the dish and allow him to slide over to DH or first base, depending on the status of fellow DL frequent flyer Justin Morneau. Morneau's abbreviated season gave Mauer plenty of chances to man the 3, but crouching more often might take a toll at some point.
His power was never his selling point; the 28 homers he clubbed in 2009 were anomalous. Target Field and his approach will limit his potential; the opposite-field specialist will have to settle for an upside of about 15, and to reach that level, he'll need to circumvent his line-drive- and grounder-centered profile. The latter attribute was exaggerated last year by his shaky health, though; restoring the power in his lower half should at least rescue him from slap-hitting purgatory.
Making a deep-league investment in high-end catchers - especially those with his medical track record - can be dicey because injury replacements are scarce. Still, the positional advantage he could give you will outweigh his risk at some point. His plate skills and at-bat expectations cement him in the position's top 10 with plenty of upward mobility - a potential "Well played, Mauer" indeed.
What's the latest on Justin Morneau?
Near the end of last season, Morneau underwent procedures on his left wrist (tendon stabilization), left knee (cyst removal) and right ankle (bone spur extraction). Oh, yeah, and the multiple-concussions thing clouds his future. He reportedly hasn't felt post-concussion symptoms since last month and has been doing weight workouts and hitting off a tee. Unfortunately, despite his progress, he's uncertain how he'll feel when he ramps up baseball activities.
How will the surgery on his top hand affect his power? Can he stay conscious long enough to find out? This is Mauer at a lower fantasy level with much more risk. Morneau's dinged brain should be in the front of yours.
His MVP numbers from the past loom in your mind's optimistic lobe. The left side, however, screams for you to remember his tenuous power potential from a homer-demanding position and, even more importantly, the fragility of someone with his extensive brain-jarring history.
Even if Morneau makes significant progress this spring, don't make the same mistake of considering him before healthier options with fewer health concerns. He's a flier in mixed leagues and a shaky AL-only first sacker.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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