Start your draft prep work with catchers first

Now that the MLB lockout has ended, it is time to kick your fantasy baseball prep work into high-gear. Things will move quickly — from free-agent signings to spring training to Opening Day on April 7 — and your draft date will be here before you know it. A deep knowledge of the player pool is paramount to your success, and the catcher position is where your work begins.

To simplify, catchers are very much like tight ends in fantasy football. You have your small upper-tier of players who will cost you one of your top six picks, then you have the rest of the field. If you believe you will earn a significant advantage over your competition by drafting Salvador Perez, JT Realmuto or Will Smith, then you make the move. Yasmani Grandal and Willson Contreras fall into that tier as well, though you can grab them a few rounds later. But if you choose to wait, the rest of the field leaves you with one key decision — power or batting average?

The trick to waiting on catchers is to find players who won’t hurt you in the overall. If you draft other players with strong batting averages, then you can wait for catchers like Mike Zunino or Elias Diaz. You’ll get your 20 home runs, but they will come with a .230 batting average, so having a surrounding cast with strong averages is a must.

If you find that your early-round picks are loaded with power, but lack a strong batting average, then you’re going to have to ignore the power and focus your attention on players like Austin Nola or Omar Narvaez. Even a rookie like Keibert Ruiz should fit the bill. They aren’t completely bereft of power, but their strength is in their average.

Is there a sleeper catcher out there who can do it all? Check out Tyler Stephenson from the Reds. He has the ability to hit for both power and average, and with the new universal DH rule, he should even see extra at-bats as Cincinnati will need to keep his bat in the lineup.

The position is not pretty with regard to the fantasy game, but it is still a requirement to fill. Reach early if you like, but just don’t wait too long. You need at least one positive trait from your backstop.

Howard Bender is the head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 pm Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy baseball advice.

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