I thought I'd start a new series here and see how it plays out. I thought it would be fun for Twins Daily readers to vote on the preseason All AL Central team. The question with each of these rankings will be "Which player do you think will have the best season in 2012?" In other words, it has nothing to do with what happened in 2011 or earlier, and it isn't asking which you would build a team with. It is, which player will be the best in 2012.
Let's start with the Catcher candidates:
Minnesota Twins - Joe Mauer - (2011 numbers - .287/.360/.368 (.729) with 15-2B, 3-HR, 30 RBI)
Cleveland Indians - Carlos Santana - (2011 numbers - .239/.351/.457 (.808) with 35-2B, 2-3B, 27-HR, 79 RBI)
Detroit Tigers - Alex Avila - (2011 numbers - .295/.389/.506 (.895) with 37-2B, 4-3B, 19-HR, 82 RBI)
Chicago White Sox - AJ Pierzynski - (2011 numbers - .287/.323/.405 (.728) with 29-2B, 1-3B, 8-HR, 48 RBI)
Kansas City Royals - Salvador Perez - (2011 MLB numbers - .331/.361/.473 (.834) with 8-2B, 2-3B, 3-HR, 21 RBI)
Kansas City Royals - Salvador Perez - (2011 Min Lg numbers - .290/.331/.437 (.769) with 19-2B, 10-HR, 53 RBI)
2011 was a forgettable season for Joe Mauer. He had knee surgery in the offseason, tried to come back too quick from that, was hurt by a bad Bi-Lateral Leg Weakness disagnosis, struggled, and his season ended early with mild pneumonia. Mauer will turn 29 years old on April 19 and is just two years removed from being the league's MVP.
The Twins will likely move Joe Mauer around a little bit, letting him DH and get some starts at 1B. Cleveland has been doing that for years with Victor Martinez and now with the powerful, patient Carlos Santana. Although the batting average was low, he has a good on-base percentage and a ton of power. Santana will turn 26 years old on April 8.
Alex Avila was a big surprise for the Tigers in 2011. He got his playing time behind the plate and managed to stay healthy all year. He did a nice job behind the plate, but he really took off with the bat, hitting for average and good extra base hit power. Avila recently turned 25 years old.
AJ Pierzynski has been a solid big league catcher for a long time, and his durability has been impressive. With Pierzynski now 35, the White Sox may give Tyler Flowers more and more at bats.
The Royals made news a couple of weeks ago when the inked Salvador Perez to a long-term deal. He played in just 39 big league games with the Royals last year as a 21 year old and hit very well, continuing a season that started with 79 games in AA before 12 games in AAA. He will turn 22 years old in early May and with Brayan Pena around, the Royals can be smart in allowing his development.
Two years ago, the argument could be made that Joe Mauer was the best player, much less the best catcher in baseball. Now, an argument could be made that he is the third best catcher in the AL Central. But that's coming off of a bad 2011 season. What will 2012 bring? Who is your choice for AL Central Preseason Catcher for 2012? Please feel free to vote in the poll.
(in case you're wondering, my choice is...)