2012 projections: top 10 catchers

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I’ll save the fantasy projections for the Rotoworld Draft Guide, but here are my top catchers for 2012 going by OPS:

.878 – Buster Posey – Giants – 486 AB – .756 in 2011
.868 – Mike Napoli – Rangers – 413 AB – 1.046 in 2011
.867 – Carlos Santana – Indians – 524 AB – .808 in 2011
.855 – Matt Wieters – Orioles – 497 AB – .778 in 2011
.852 – Joe Mauer – Twins – 473 AB – .729 in 2011
.819 – Brian McCann – Braves – 461 AB – .817 in 2011
.816 – Alex Avila – Tigers – 468 AB – .895 in 2011
.799 – Geovany Soto – Cubs – 422 AB – .721 in 2011
.790 – Miguel Montero – Diamondbacks – 473 AB – .820 in 2011
.767 – Ramon Hernandez – Rockies – 338 AB – .788 in 2011

– I have six catchers projected to hit 20 or more homers: Napoli, Santana, Wieters, McCann, Posey and J.P. Arencibia. Arencibia is the lone holdout from the list above; he’s projected for a .290 OBP.

– White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers is another very capable of hitting 20 homers, though it’ll either take an A.J. Pierzynski trade or another Adam Dunn implosion to get him the at-bats. I have him projected to hit .224/.323/.438, giving him a .761 OPS that puts him just below Hernandez here.

– Jesus Montero also misses out, though I’m not sure I would have considered him a catcher for these purposes anyway. I had him projected for an .832 OPS initially, but the trade that sent him from the Yankees to the Mariners pushed him all of the way down to .760.

– As for the bottom of the list, Rod Barajas has the low OPS for anyone projected with at least 300 at-bats (.684). Jose Molina is the low man with 200+ at-bats (.602), and Drew Butera is at the bottom of the 100+ AB guys (.529).

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.