Batter’s Box: A Pocket Full of Poseys

Finding a good catcher in fantasy baseball has never been easy, and in 2019, the situation has been nothing short of dire. Longtime catching stalwart Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants) delivered some fantasy goods on Sunday (3-3, R, 2B, BB), but overall, his season has been quite abysmal. The career .304/.372/.461 hitter has just three home runs in 60 games this season with 20 runs scored and 20 RBI. In standard fantasy formats, that’s good enough to be the 27th-best fantasy catcher. The wear and tear of catching at least 140 games for five consecutive seasons from 2012 through 2017 has likely taken its toll on Posey’s body, as he underwent surgery in late August 2018 to deal with a torn labrum and an impingement in his hip. It’s hard to say to for sure whether either of those who issues continues to plague Posey now, but it’s safe to say that these issues didn’t make him any younger.

You might be wondering why I’m choosing to highlight the 32-year-old catcher on one of baseball’s worst offenses, especial when most of the available data suggests that Posey has not been unlucky. In fact, his expected batting average and slugging are down for the fifth straight season, and his strikeout rate has gone up for the fifth straight season. The real reason I’m bringing Buster Posey to your attention today is that he is owned in 75% of Yahoo leagues and 67% of ESPN leagues. The quick and easy explanation as to why the 27th-ranked catcher in leagues that generally do not require more than 12 to be rostered is that Posey’s name brand is still a very powerful thing in the current fantasy catching landscape; however, this needs to end.

I don’t do many rankings, but if I did do a top 200 ranking for the rest of the season, I can guarantee that no more than five catchers would make the cut: Gary SanchezJ.T. RealmutoYasmani GrandalWilson Contreras, and Wilson Ramos. After these five guys, there’s a steep drop and you’re probably in streaming catcher territory. Buster Posey being owned in as many leagues as he is probably means that there are a ton of folks out there who don’t stream a catcher, and that makes me sad. The truth is that after those top five, you should strongly consider just streaming that spot based on hot streaks and matchups. The rest of the catcher pool can go from fantasy savior to fantasy sandbag at the drop of a hat. There are a bucket load (or at the very least a pocketful) of Posey replacements out there for those of you toiling away with him locked in that role for your fantasy squad. Need help finding them? A great place to start is our own Dave Cherman’s weekly article on this exact topic. I encourage you to check it out and to stop locking bad hitters into lineup on a weekly basis.

Christian Vazquez (C, Boston Red Sox)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Speaking of streaming catchers, Vazquez could certainly qualify as a guy to replace Posey on fantasy teams as he’s slashing .328/.333/.552 over the past 20 days. He doesn’t walk much, but he limits the strikeouts and his defense has earned him the starting gig in Boston. He doesn’t hit the ball all that hard and the numbers suggest he’s a very average hitter, but while he’s hot he’s probably worth a look. Just don’t get too attached—he could easily turn back into the guy who has slugged .364 in 1,243 career plate appearances at any moment.

Kevin Pillar (OF, San Francisco Giants)—4-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 5 RBI. He hit .291 in June with a .534 slugging, five home runs, and two steals as an everyday outfielder for the Giants, making him very useful in batting average leagues. The biggest surprise during this stretch is that he had just nine strikeouts in 106 plate appearances this past month, which is low even for him. He was absolutely awful for quite a while earlier this season, but if health permits him to play a full season, he could flirt with 20 home runs and 20 steals with a .250 batting average. The walk rate is extremely low and he’s not likely to have an OBP north of .300, but those in 12-team or deeper batting average formats could do worse than look his direction if you need a blend of pop and speed.

Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros)—3-5, R, RBI. The good news: Since his return from the IL on June 19, he’s hitting .292. The bad news: The power has yet to return, and he has just one stolen base on the season (and it was back on April 2nd). I think he should get to 20 home runs or so, but it’s hard to see him stealing more than 10 bases. He’s still a good second baseman in fantasy because of his ability to hit for average, but without the steals, he’s just pretty good as opposed to great.

Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 3B, 2B, 6 RBI. While it’s not as good as it was back in March, he’s still showing excellent plate discipline and is well on his way to 35 home runs. Getting to 100 RBI may be a bit of a stretch because of the Athletics’ not-so-strong offense and the fact he often hits second in that lineup, but 100 runs should be feasible.

J.D. Davis (3B/OF, New York Mets)—3-5, R, RBI. Statcast likes what Davis has done so far this season, showing an expected batting average of .311 and an expected slugging on .498. The problem for Davis is playing time, and with a healthy Todd Frazier clogging up third base and a plethora of outfielders with better legs and gloves than Davis on the bench for the Mets, the sporadic playing time will likely continue. If a spot opens up, he’ll be worth a look in deeper leagues.

Yandy Diaz (1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-4, 3 R, 3 2B. He’s slotted back into an everyday role for the Rays since returning from the IL and now has five hits (including four doubles) in his past two games. It’s hard to project his home run totals because of his very low launch angle tendencies, but he hits the ball extremely hard and should maintain a high batting average for the rest of the season.

Bryce Harper (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. Based on the way people tend to talk about him, I expected to see awful numbers when I looked him up. Instead, I found a guy who is on pace for roughly 30 dingers, 10 steals, and 200 combined runs and RBI. His batting average is only .250, but Statcast thinks it ought to be closer to .264 and his 15.3% walk rate means his OBP is still a solid .368. He’s really good, folks.

Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets)—3-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB. He’s a multihit machine with just enough power to hit double-digit home runs and plenty of doubles. I’ve talked about him a lot because I like him a lot, and he has a place on most rosters in most formats.

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-5, 2 R, 2 2B. When he was called up, I mentioned in articles and podcasts that he looked like teammate Greg Allen and that I wasn’t interested unless I was in a 15-teamer and needed steals. While his expected batting average of .268 and expected slugging of .398 indicate I may have been on the right track, the reality is that people who didn’t listen to me have been able to reap the rewards of his .314/.360/.477 slash line. I have been wrong so far, that much is clear.

Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-5, R, 3 RBI, BB. The key to owning Pederson is surviving the slumps and cashing in on the hot streaks. It takes patience and a willingness to be really frustrated at times, but you can be rewarded by his power (especially when he faces righties). He’s hitting .321 over the past week, and while there hasn’t been much power, this might just be the start of one of his runs.

Matt Beaty (1B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-6, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI. He’s a nice DFS play when the Dodgers face a righty, and those in NL leagues should already have jumped on him. While he has regular playing time right now, he doesn’t have strong enough tools to recommend in 10- or 12-team leagues, especially when (or if) the Dodgers get a few more guys back from the IL.

Brian Anderson (3B/OF, Miami Marlins)—2-4, 2 R, 3B, 2B, RBI. He’s not very exciting, but you can do a lot worse in your outfield in a 15-team league. He hits for enough average to avoid being a drag, and he walks enough to have a decent OBP. Put that with his 20 home runs and 650 plate appearances, and you’ve got yourself a fourth or fifth outfielder in the deeper formats.

Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. In 161 career games as a hitter, he’s slashing .290/.359/.560 with 34 home runs and 14 steals. He’ll also be pitching next season. That’s why he’ll be a first-round pick for me in 2020. Oh, and if you’re a DFS player, take special note of his 1.002 career OPS against right-handed pitching.

Justin Smoak (1B, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. This is a good sign for the recently activated first baseman, and he should be a good bet for OBP and power for the rest of the season. His 16.1% walk rate and 17.9% strikeout rate are Joey Votto-like, which is the highest plate discipline compliment that can be given.

Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Signs of life! He now has back-to-back two-hit games, so perhaps there is hope yet for the slumping third baseman. I won’t blame you if you bench him for a little while longer, but please don’t drop him. He’s too good to let go.

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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Comments


Sam

Would love to see a JBJ deep dive piece. Hitting .283/.393/.530 since May 1st and was on a lot of breakout lists this year.

Scott Chu

I’d love to see one too, Sam! I’ll recommend it to the team. I feel like I’ve been covering him for quite a while in these articles as I was one of the pre-season believers, and a lot of it had to do with the quality of contact metrics on Statcast. Mike Petriello and Matt Meyers, who do the MLB Statcast podcast (among other things) did a nice job back then getting me to buy in and it certainly appears that there is something there, even after the atrocious start.

Rich

You mention that Ohtani will be pitching next year and that’s why he will be a first-round pick for you in 2020. That’s why he won’t be a first-round pick for me, unless you’re in a league where you get credit for both his hitting and pitching, but I haven’t seen one of those. With full-time ABs I can see him as a 1st, but pitching will limit his plate appearances as they will surely not DH him every day and have him start every 5th or 6th day.

Scott Chu

I can understand that, Rich. My 1st round value comes from my belief that he’ll get 350ish PA and 120 IP. That’s a big stretch, of course, due to his injury history and a bit of the unknown in terms of how he’ll be used. It’s also format dependent — he’s only potentially worth a first round pick if it’s a daily league that allows Ohtani to be switched between pitching and hitting (which I am pretty sure is everywhere except Yahoo).

When he first debuted in 2018, he was hitting roughly three times a week between starts (mostly against righties) with one start a week. A guy who can hit for a .275+ BA/.350+ OBP, 20 HR and 8-10 steals combined with even 100 IP of a 3.50 ERA or better and 100+ strikeouts will contribute enough value across the board to be a top 10 overall asset. That said, it only works if you believe what I believe, and there are plenty of reasons not to.

Scott Chu

A single Ohtani can be put in as a pitcher or hitter, CV, but you only get credit for one at a time (depending on where you started him for that day/week). He functions as a standard multi-positional player in that sense. That’s why he’s much more difficult to value in weekly formats, since you can only get credit for the one start for the 3-4 days at the plate, not both.

theKraken

I hate to break it to you, but .250 30 HR isn’t what it was in 2015. For a HOF lock with a 300 MM contract that is really bad. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t settle for highly acceptable and call him a superstar at the same time. His value is much less to his real team as he is kind of a model skillset for modern metrics that miss out on a lot of reality, like over-weighting HR and BB which is his entire package. I would also argue that Harper is extremely streaky which further reduces his real value to his team. He is also very injury prone as well… so he needs to do a lot while he is on the field without excuses.

Scott Chu

No worries, Kraken – I make then point about how many 30 HR hitting outfielders there are almost every single time I write this piece.

I get the whole hype not equaling expectations thing, but from a fantasy perspective he’s still a very good player in all formats. The thing about Harper is that he’ll get to 100 runs and 100 RBI along with close to 10 steals and a .360+ OBP—most of the 30 HR guys struggle to do even one of those extra things. I went short of calling him a superstar in fantasy, but he’s far from just another of the power hitting outfielders, and has shown superstar talent in the past. In standard 5×5 with batting average, he’s the 27th ranked OF as of right now on ESPN’s player rater, and if his AVG was closer to his expected average of .264 on Statcast (which I know you don’t particularly care for), he’d be inside the top 20 (without going into all the math, his zAVG jumps way up with even a .008 increase in AVG because there are a bunch of guys clustered in that .250-.260 range). That’s very good. Not worth the price that was paid, but not a reason someone is struggling in a league.

theKraken

To be fair, I am buying if you are selling! I am really not a Harper fan so I am pretty salty. Thanks for the reply. I think he is a massive disappointment based on what people said he was and will be – that’s mostly where I come from. I was always the guy saying that we should probably wait and see that late 20s peak before we assume he is going to be challenging Bonds as the greatest hitter of all-time. Peaking in your early 20s is awesome… until reality sets in.

Jaybird934

Suarez has been hitting the ball right on the screws for the better part of a week now, with nothing to show for it. He slumped after being hit in the hand there a while back, but it’s over. I wouldn’t bench him anymore at all. 2nd half Suarez is gonna be fun Suarez!

Scott Chu

I hope you’re right, Jaybird! I haven’t had eyes on him recently but the depth of 3B and the depth of his struggles make me empathetic towards those who are being cautious. I get it. I probably wouldn’t do it (meaning I’d likely keep him active), but I get it.

theKraken

He’s a good buy low right now. The point where the struggles are well documented is that moment. I hope Jaybird is right – that sounds believable lol. That offense is trending upward lately IMO.

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