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2006 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Catchers

It's never too early to think about 2006, especially when a sly pickup now can have a big impact on your fantasy baseball team come next spring.  With that in mind, The Roto Authority has hand-picked two quality sleepers at the catcher position, both coming from San Diego. 

While a case could be made for Robert Fick as a decent second fantasy catcher, this post concerns Ramon Hernandez and Phil Nevin

The Padres are trying to win now, and their offense needs all the help it can get.  That's why they traded for Joe Randa, and that's why they're trying to prevent Ramon Hernandez from having season-ending wrist surgery.  Late word is that surgery would keep Hernandez out six weeks instead, but either way it would hurt the team's offense. 

Hernandez's agent is very much in favor of the surgery, knowing that a demonstrably healthy Hernandez can cash a free-agent deal similar to Jason Varitek's this winter.   The Padres are unlikely to cough up a four-year, $40 million deal in any case.  Had Hernandez been healthy this season, he most certainly would have been on the trading block right now. 

If Hernandez has the surgery during the season, his numbers won't improve much from the .273-7-38 line he's put up so far.  Even something as simple as the commonality of his name has kept him underrated as a fantasy catcher for years.  This offseason, expect Hernandez to move to a stable, more hitter-friendly environment and post a .280-25-80 line.  If you're out of the race in your league, trade some scraps for him now.  Failing that, try to acquire him before he signs a free-agent contract and enters a more well-known market like New York. 

Fallout from the Ramon Hernandez injury is that Phil Nevin will be used occasionally behind the plate.  Nevin hasn't played there in years, but his defense is the least of a fantasy owner's concerns.  As a catcher, Nevin's stock has gone through the roof, especially for 2006.   A line of .275-30-100 is average for a fantasy baseball first baseman, and first base is where Nevin might play in 2006.  However, he'll likely be with another team (most likely on the West Coast) and he probably won't be catching.  That means he'll fall under the delicious loophole of qualifying at catcher but not playing there in 2006.

You won't have to be quite as active with Nevin, as his numbers this year are causing his stock to drop.  He should come back to his career norms next year with a more stable setting.  Try to pick him up in a trade before your auction or draft, because at that point everyone will have read the roto magazines touting his eligibility.   

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