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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fantasy baseball: How Victor Martinez's injury affects the 2012 catcher rankings

Victor Martinez was going to be a full-time designated hitter in 2012.

The Tigers have a very good, much younger catcher in 24-year-old Alex Avila, making Martinez a perfect fit for DH.

The news this week that the 33-year-old could miss the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during offseason conditioning was still a big blow to the fantasy catching ranks, however.

Many leagues allow you to use a player at the position at which he played the season before, even if said player has changed positions and might never go back. Thus, if you had the option of playing Martinez at catcher or utility in fantasy, you certainly would have selected catcher.

Sadly, we probably won't have that choice this year. The Tigers said this week Martinez likely needs surgery, making his chances of playing in 2012 remote at best.

Martinez no longer seems to be much of a power hitter -- he had 12 home runs last season, down from his average of 21.5 in 2009 and '10 -- but he still rakes. In 2011, he batted a career-high .330, drove in 103 runs and had an OPS of .850 (up from .844 the year before).

In his career, he's a .303 hitter who has had at least 20 home runs five times and driven in 100 runs or more four times.

Martinez's injury thins an already-skinny catching position in fantasy.

He would have been our top-ranked catcher. Now, we're left with his long-term replacement in Cleveland, Carlos Santana, leading a list that features five very good options, a former stud who is a risky pick before the middle rounds (Joe Mauer), two solid-but-unspectacular choices (Miguel Montero and Matt Wieters), a touted rookie (Jesus Montero) and ... a Molina?

Our early top 12 at catcher as spring training nears:

1. Carlos Santana, Indians: Batted .239, but had 27 homers, 79 RBI and 84 runs in 2011.

2. Brian McCann, Braves: He's not the stud he once was, but McCann has still averaged 23 homers and 74 RBI the last two seasons.

3. Mike Napoli, Rangers: We doubt he can come close to duplicating his sensational 2011 (.320, 30 homers, 75 RBI and 72 runs in 369 at-bats).

4. Buster Posey, Giants: He was productive as a rookie in 2010, but is coming off a frightening ankle injury sustained in a home-plate collision early last season.

5. Alex Avila, Tigers: He batted .295 with 19 homers and 82 RBI in his first full big-league season.

6. Joe Mauer, Twins: He says he's recovered from an illness- and injury-plagued 2011, but we're left with the realization he can hit for average and not much else.

7. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks: He was solid in three categories in 2011 (.282, 18 homers, 86 RBI).

8. Matt Wieters, Orioles: OK, so maybe he isn't as good as we thought he would be, but Wieters did hit 22 homers and drive in 68 last season.

9. Jesus Montero, Mariners: He batted .328 in 61 at-bats as a rookie for the Yankees. He was traded to the Mariners in the Michael Pineda deal.

10. Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Granted, he hit .305 with 14 homers and 65 RBI last season, but this is where the rankings seem to take a dive toward A.J. Pierzynski levels.

11. Russell Martin, Yankees: He started strong for the Yankees last season, but tailed off and finished with a .237 average, 18 homers and 65 RBI.

12. Wilson Ramos, Nationals: He hit .267 with 15 homers and 52 RBI in 389 at-bats in his first full major-league season. In a 12-team league, he could be a starter, which makes me miss Martinez already.

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