Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire
At the beginning of the season, the top catchers seemed relatively settled. You had Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey, Willson Contreras, and then beyond that things got a bit hazy. But you knew it in your bones those guys would be at our near the top. Because this is baseball, and things always go exactly as they should.
Well we’re about to enter August, and the top three catchers by wOBA are J.T. Realmuto, Francisco Cervelli, and Yasmani Grandal. None of these guys, except maybe Cervelli, were panned in the preseason per se. But it’s a surprising list nonetheless, and further proof of how volatile a position catcher can be in fantasy. Grandal in particular seems to finally be putting his full potential together. With his 3-7, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI performance yesterday he’s now leading all catchers in home runs with 16. There were rumblings of a swing change in the preseason, and we’re seeing some of the effects of it this year, with a career-high 14.6-degree average launch angle leading to a career-low 40.6% groundball rate. This is great news for a guy who crushes the ball. Grandal’s 12.6% barrel rate this year is nearly twice the league average, and his elite 42.5% hard contact rate is another career-high. Considering his 18.6% HR/FB is right in line with his career average, don’t expect this power outburst to slow down. He has a very real shot at eclipsing 30 homers for the first time in his career and entrenching himself as a top-5 catcher for next season.
J.D. Martinez (OF, Boston Red Sox): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI – Everything about what J.D. Martinez is doing this season is insane. His 48.4% hard contact rate, his 19.3% barrel rate (three times the league average), his .323 average. What’s even crazier is that his groundball rate has spiked substantially this year, up to 44.7%. If he were hitting as many flyballs as he hit last season, he could conceivably be at 40 homers already considering his 33.7% HR/FB. Just Dongs Martinez cannot be stopped.
Elvis Andrus (SS, Texas Rangers): 2-4, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI – Andrus was dropped in a fair amount of leagues after his broken wrist and slow start this year had owners feeling like they were living in a Heartbreak Hotel. But he’s been playing like a Hound Dog recently, with a .346 average, two homers, and three stolen bases over the past week. If you let him go, you must be feeling All Shook Up. And though it may be true that Only Fools Rush In, now might not be a bad time to either pick him up or trade for him, as he appears to be finally getting into a groove again.
J.T. Realmuto (C, Miami Marlins): 1-3, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI – The top catcher in baseball this year by most accounts had another excellent night. It’s surprising to see the counting stats there considering the lineup he’s in and the fact that he’s missed time this year, as he’s now up to 49 runs and RBI. He’s improved his hard contact rate for five consecutive seasons now, and may finally be blossoming into a superstar, just in time for the Marlins to trade him for a pair of Miami Heat tickets and a box of fidget spinners.
Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates): 2-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI – Marte is quickly approaching his previous career-high of 19 homer runs and his current .358 wOBA is the highest of his career. There’s no reason to think he’ll slow down here in the second half as long as he stays healthy.
Devin Mesoraco (C, New York Mets): 1-4, 2B, 3 RBI – It makes me really happy to see the “I like turtles” kid all grown up and experiencing some degree of success. Oh, that wasn’t Devin Mesoraco? Are you sure? Anyway, Mesoraco’s been a bit unlucky with his batted balls this year, but should see things turn around to an extent in the coming weeks, and isn’t a horrible option in two-catcher formats.
Brian Anderson (3B/OF, Miami Marlins): 3-3, 3 R – Anderson’s contact ability is really impressive for a rookie, and he makes a lot of hard contact as well (40.2%). Unfortunately more than half of his batted balls are hit on the ground, limiting his potential power output. There could be 20 homers in his bat if he ever learned to elevate the ball, but I could be a great scientist if I devoted myself to reading books for the next 20 years. The question is really one of motivation.
Mark Canha (OF, Oakland Athletics): 1-3, 3 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB – I keep waiting for Canha to fade away, and it’s just not happening. There’s nothing super exciting here, as his 22% strikeout rate and 19.8% line drive rate are pretty lackluster, but he makes a good amount of hard contact and could chip in another seven homers or so down the stretch if that’s something you need.
Lorenzo Cain (OF, Milwaukee Brewers): 4-5, 2 R, RBI – Cain is suddenly Abel to draw walks this year thanks in large part to a career-low 22.7% chase rate. That’s good news, because it will keep him on the bases when his career-worst 55.5% groundball rate starts making it more difficult for the hits to fall.
Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers): 4-7, R, 2 2B, RBI – Pederson’s getting benched regularly against lefties, and with good reason; he’s hitting just .139 against them this year. That said, I’m buying the much-improved contact ability we’re witnessing from him, and he’s not sacrificing any power for it, as his hard contact is at a career-high 43.9%. If you can afford to keep him on your bench when the Dodgers face a lefty, Pederson can be a useful asset this season.
Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers): 3-4, R, HR, 2 RBI – Has anyone ever seen Christian Yelich and Count Chocula in the same place? Just a little something to think about. When Yelich isn’t making delicious breakfast cereals for kids, he’s busy putting together what may be one of his best offensive seasons yet. Groundballs will, it seems, always be an issue for Yelich, though his current 54.8% rate is actually a career-low for him. As long as he continues to spray the ball to all fields and keep the 45.7% hard contact rate close to where it is, he should be fine.
Steven Souza Jr. (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks): 3-3, R, 2B, RBI, BB – Souza’s hitting .308 over his last 15 games and seems to finally be shaking off the rust from his extended DL stints. There’s a lot to like in his peripherals: 27.7% line drive rate, 41.5% hard contact, career-low 25.2% strikeout rate. He hit 30 homers and stole 16 bags last season in a much less ideal lineup and ballpark, so keep an eye on Souza here in the event he’s about to get hot.
Salvador Perez (C, Kansas City Royals): 3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI – Perez’s .240 BABIP this year is a bit surprising considering he’s tattooing the baseball 45.1% of the time and keeping it off the ground. He’s starting to turn things around lately though, with a .321 average and three homers over the past week, so maybe the hits will begin to fall.
Ryan Zimmerman (1B, Washington Nationals): 3-5, 2 2B, RBI – Oh, hey! I know this guy! He used to play baseball! Apparently he still does from time to time when his back/feet/hands/wrists/bum/head/neck aren’t bothering him. I liked what I saw from Zimmerman early in the year in terms of his peripherals, but I have a hard time he’ll stay on the field or get consistent playing time with Matt Adams around. Pass for now.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB – Lowrie’s hitting just .191 over his last 15 games thanks in part to some bumps and bruises he’s been dealing with. The power hasn’t been suffering though, as he’s up to eight homers just this past month. His 17 for the season are a new career-high, and he should easily eclipse 20 for the first time in his career.
Yoan Moncada (2B, Chicago White Sox): 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB – Despite a 33% strikeout rate, Moncada doesn’t struggle that badly with his contact and whiff rates, which makes me think he may be a bit too patient at times with two strikes on him. The hard contact and line drive rates are great, but he’s still very much an unfinished product.