Tier 1 – Joe Mauer
Mauer stands alone as the best catcher available on draft day.  While his 2009 power surge was clearly more smoke and mirrors than anything else (28 HR in ’09 compared to a career high of 13 in ’06 and no other season of more than 9), he brings more than enough to the table to excite owners.  He is one of the few catchers who brings run potential to the table.  In fact, in the past four years he has scored 342 runs.  Second place among catchers is Russell Martin with 282 (and third place is Victor Martinez with 260).  Throw in a perennial .325+ average and 85+ RBI potential and it is clear that there is no one else in his class.

Tier 2 – Victor Martinez, Brian McCann
These guys have both proven what they are capable of doing and are among the better hitters in the game, but they still remain a cut below the top gun.  They bring a little bit more power to the table, but may not have the upside in the other categories. 

Martinez, however, is going to be an interesting player to watch while working as a DH in Detroit.  Those extra at bats will certainly help to offset any decrease his production may take from moving away from Fenway.  Throw in joining Miguel Cabrera in the lineup and he certainly has the potential to put up some big numbers in 2011.

Tier 3 – Buster Posey, Carlos Santana
I know people want to believe that Posey belongs in Tier 2 (or maybe even Tier 1), but there are some huge risks involved in taking him early on in your draft.  I’m going to post an article on him later on this week (so check back for that), but an increased strikeout rate along with his struggles at home could help him to regress a bit in his sophomore campaign. 

Santana, meanwhile, is trying to come back from a serious knee injury.  While I’ve dubbed him the next Victor Martinez, he’s not there yet, which is why I would put him in this tier.  Both of these players have the chance to be among the elite, but they need to back it up on the field in 2011.

Tier 4 – Miguel Montero, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Wieters, Geovany Soto
This is probably the tier that most people are aiming to dip their toes into.  All of these players have significant upside and come at a far greater value than the first three tiers (outside of maybe Carlos Santana who is actually being drafted after half of this tier according to Mock Draft Central). 

Soto rebounded nicely from a tough 2009 (.280, 17 HR in 322 AB) and hopefully will get significantly more playing time in 2011. 

Wieters has not yet lived up to the hype, but with a significant upgrade in talent around him there certainly is the hope that he takes the next step forward.  Montero has proven that, when healthy, he is a very good catching talent. 

Suzuki, meanwhile, is similar to Wieters where he has a ton of talent but now he needs to put it together on the field. 

These guys are all available between rounds nine and 16, where they bring great value compared to the top three tiers.

Tier 5 – Mike Napoli, Jorge Posada, Chris Iannetta
The next grouping has power potential across the board, but red flags abound. 

Napoli finds himself in a good situation, but he is going to be shifted around the diamond in Texas and could continue to struggle to find AB.  He’s going to catch some, as well as share time at 1B and DH with Michael Young and Mitch Moreland.  Of course, he also could struggle in the average department. 

Posada, at his age, is always a risk to suffer an injury.  While DH’ing should help, you just never know. 

Iannetta has a ton of upside potential, but will this finally be the year that the Rockies actually show patience and stick with him?

Tier 6 – J.P. Arencibia, Yadier Molina, Miguel Olivo
From a fantasy perspective there is a big falloff in talent at this point in the rankings.  Arencibia certainly has a ton of potential, given his Triple-A numbers from 2010, and is a great selection especially in two-catcher formats.

What are your thoughts on the tiers?  How would you group them?  Is there anyone that you think doesn’t belong in the group that I’ve placed them?

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