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Fantasy Baseball Profile: Joe Mauer

On Monday afternoon, Joe Mauer was named the American League MVP with 27 of 28 possible first place votes. Some dude in Seattle voted for Miguel Cabrera with the other 1st place vote, but you probably knew that already.

When you consider the fact that Mauer missed the month of April because of injury, his MVP-caliber numbers are even more staggering. He led the American League with a .365 average, hitting 28 homers, driving in 96 RBI, scoring 94 times, and stealing 4 bases. Over a 162-game season, he likely hits around .350 with over 30 homers, over 100 driven in and over 100 scored.

And you would have gotten all of those numbers from a CATCHER! Due to his injury, his average draft position in ESPN drafts was 94 overall, placing him somewhere between rounds 8 through 10 in 2009 mixed league drafts. That ADP also probably equates to Mauer being the draft day steal of the year.

So, heading into fantasy baseball 2010, the question surrounding Mauer isn’t his status as the no. 1 catcher in fantasy baseball – he’s a lock there. The question surrounding Mauer: how early should he be drafted?

In the early rounds of fantasy baseball drafts, elite players who contribute high numbers in 5 categories tend to be drafted quickly at talent scarce positions. This is why players Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, and Ian Kinsler go so quickly on draft day. Based on his MVP-season, Mauer should probably now join that group of players.

Victor Martinez was the only catcher to surpass Mauer in one of the four major hitting stats among other backstops. And V-Mart only drove in 12 more RBI. Consider the fact that Pablo Sandoval is likely to lose his catcher status next season, and Mauer becomes even more elite at his position.

The biggest change at the plate for Mauer in 2009 is the biggest concern for his fantasy baseball value heading into 2010. Coming into this season, Mauer had 44 career homeruns over what amounts to four full seasons worth of MLB games. Last season, he blasted 28 – more than double his previous career high (13 in 2006).

His run production statistics don’t vary that greatly, by comparison. So, was the 28 bombs a statistical anomaly for Mauer, or has his power finally caught up to his hand-eye coordination? Your answer to the above question affects where you draft Mauer in 2010.

If you believe the homerun production will remain in the 20’s or higher, than Mauer is probably a top 40 mixed league draft pick in 2010. You’re taking him as an elite at a scarce position in the first four rounds of the draft.

Think the power was really a statistical anomaly? Then Mauer is still the no. 1 catcher off your draft board in 2010, but he probably falls in your mixed draft to between picks 60 and 70.

For the investment required to get Mauer in the 40’s or higher due to the hype surrounding his MVP-status, we’d recommend passing on him next season. Getting a backstop like Victor Martinez or Brian McCann is not a significant loss over Mauer when batting average is taken from the statistics – and hits are always available late in drafts.

Should Mauer fall into the 60’s or later, however, he is a steal. You know you’re getting a high average and quality run production. The homeruns were gravy for most of Mauer’s fantasy owners in ’09, and they will be again in ’10 if he can get drafted in the early middle rounds of your draft.

In Fantasy Baseball Dugout’s preseason rankings of fantasy baseball catchers for 2010, Joe Mauer is rated no. 1.

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