Joe Mauer is hurt and fantasy owners are sweating. After an MVP season in 2009, Mauer's draft stock was huge, first round huge. However, that MVP season actually caused a bit of a smoke screen. Mauer's history involves injuries and those injuries seemed to just stop worrying fantasy owners this past draft day. One month into the 2010 season, Mauer is hurt again.
The injury is to Mauer's heal and is being described as a "week-to-week" situation. Twins management apparently thinks Mauer may miss chunks of time and so they called upon top catching prospect Wilson Ramos as a replacement.
Ramos is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Described as an above average defensive catcher, he can also hit, but how much is the question fantasy owners (Joe Mauer owners in particular) are wondering.
It wasn't a great start for Ramos at triple-A as he was hitting .179/.214/.328 over 67 at-bats. Last season Ramos hit a combined .317/.339/.496 in 224 at-bats between a small stop at rookie ball and most of the season at double-A. Like Mauer, Ramos has some history with injures, hence only 224 at-bats last season.
Most scouting reports and prospect publications seem to think that Ramos will hit for AVG at the big league level. There is some potential for plus-power, but his plate approach is very contact oriented. He also doesn't draw many walks, which could hurt his fantasy value in OBP leagues.
In his first Major League game on Sunday, Ramos went 4 for 5. While that gets his Major League career off to a fast start, it there are a few factors that should hold back his overall value in 2010. First, Joe Mauer. Mauer will play when he feels he can go. This may require more time off that fantasy owners would like, but it could be what is best for the long run of the season. When Mauer needs the time off, Wilson will play. Second, Ramos' lack of walks may get exploited at the big league level. This could result in a slight rise in strikeouts and weakly hit balls in play, making it difficult for Ramos to hit for enough AVG. Lastly, there is the normal adjustments a rookie must face upon his first big league action. Catchers have an even more difficult transition than most as they must learn a whole new pitching staff on top of trying to maintain good offensive production.
Long term Ramos still profiles as an above average Major League catcher who will hit for AVG and 10-15 home runs per season. However, for 2010, it may be a good idea to find another replacement option should Mauer miss any significant amount of time.