Monday, March 14, 2005

Joe Mauer Report

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
Drafted 1st Overall, 2001 Draft, HS, St Paul, MN
Bats L/Throws R
21 YO, 6'4". 220 lbs

This is the obligatory Joe Mauer column. He's probably the most talked about player in this season's fantasy drafts. The reasons are obvious. He's catcher-eligible (more on that terminology in a minute) and he carries the real potential to drop a .330/.400/.550 season on the league, making him the most valuable player in fantasy baseball. The problem is his knee. An optimist will speculate that it will only EVENTUALLY move him out from behind the plate sometime in the future. The Twins appear to be optimists in this respect. I'm more skeptical. When Will Carroll tells me that they removed his medial meniscus, that makes me think that his career as a catcher is effectively over. You can't catch without your meniscus, and if you try, you'll have a lot of problems, missing a ton of time with soreness, possibly bone spurs.

So where does this leave us? Well, if the Twins insist on staying the course, Mauer seems likely to be overvalued for my taste. He'll miss a couple months at least. If they move him, he might need some time in Rochester to get acclimated depending on exactly where they intend to move him. Obviously, the easiest conversion is first base. But they have Justin Morneau there. At DH, he'd be crowding Lew Ford and Matt LeCroy, both pretty damned good hitters in their own right(s). If they see him as a potential plug at third or second, then that moves Mike Cuddyer one way or the other, but he's unlikely to just hit the ground running at either of those spots. He'd need at least a month or two to learn the basic footwork and fundamentals of the position. An outfielder corner would be a possibility too, but the Twins are already looking at a crowded cast of characters out there.

My advice is that if you're in a one year league, go for the sure thing first. Let somebody else draft the lottery ticket. If you do draft him, make sure you have a competent backup on call in case the kid goes to Rochester or the DL...Ramon Hernandez or John Buck would be good. If you're in a keeper league and he is available, go ahead and draft him. He has the bat to be a top 5 player at just about any position. If/when he misses time, you could stash him on the bench and dream of days to come.

Now let's make this a real prospect review.

2004 Minnesota: .308/.369/.570, 8 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 4 BB, 14 K, 107 AB
mL Career: .332/.407/.426, 62 2B, 5 3B, 9 HR, 132 BB, 107 K, 1055 AB

I think the power spike was real. He has plate discipline, outstanding hand-eye coordination, and a beautiful swing. He's simply a gifted hitter. His swing is crafted for line drives, but he hits them hard enough that a lot of them are going to fly over the fence. Morneau will his for more power, but Mauer will get on base more and be more like your typical #3 lineup anchor. When your worst case scenario is John Olerud, you're doing pretty well. Defensively, the knee injury casts doubt on his ability to stay behind the plate, but he's always been pretty athletic for a catcher, with quick feet, good hands, and a reasonably strong arm. I think third base would be a logical destination.

I like what the Twins are doing. It's hard NOT to like what they're doing. They have 2 easy candidates for stardom in Morneau and Mauer. Jason Kubel will be a big player if he comes back at full strength as well. They have quality draft after quality draft. As long as they keep drafting like they have been, they will continue to win the AL Central arms race. This isn't a story of the Twins beating up on the little sisters in their division. They're legit pennant contenders, and they're only getting better as they replace marginal or average players with stars like Mauer and Morneau. As a Royals fan, I hate to see the Royals division rivals loading up on impact players, but as a small market fan, I love to see a team on a budget putting together a nice run like this.

As always comments are open, and I expect there will be at least a few comments on this subject.

ETA: Last Year
5 Stars

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