Catcher Update (8/18)

Two weeks ago, I wrote that the catcher landscape has changed in such a way that streaming catchers is no longer a viable strategy in most leagues because most catchers worth owning—or even streaming at this point—are owned. Outside of that there aren’t a ton of viable candidates. So I’m going to experiment with a new format for this article and please let me know what you think.

I’m going to start the same way as I have in the past, by ignoring any catcher who is owned in at least 50% of leagues. Then, I will write a short blurb about intriguing catchers below the 50% mark.

First, we have to rule out any widely owned catcher. For the purposes of this list, that means anyone who has 50% ownership rate or higher according to FantasyPros consensus ranks. The ineligible catchers are:

Gary Sanchez – (New York Yankees)

J.T. Realmuto – (Philadelphia Phillies)

Buster Posey – (San Francisco Giants)

Willson Contreras – (Chicago Cubs)

Yadier Molina – (St. Louis Cardinals)

Yasmani Grandal – (Milwaukee Brewers)

Wilson Ramos – (New York Mets)

Omar Narvaez – (Seattle Mariners)

Christian Vazquez – (Boston Red Sox)

Mitch Garver – (Minnesota Twins)

 

Reviewing Catchers

 

Will Smith – (Los Angeles Dodgers): Somehow, the rookie sits at just 41% owned according to FantasyPros consolidated ownership rates. That’s just wrong. The guy is only hitting .329/.404/.829 with 10 HRs in 25 games, oh and he’s demonstrating elite plate discipline. He’s never showed THIS level of power before 2019, but he’s up to 30 HRs in 86 games between AAA and MLB. If you managed to grab him, don’t let him go.

Travis d’Arnaud/Mike Zunino – (Tampa Bay Rays): d’Arnaud’s power is disappearing and I’m definitely concerned about it. I’m not saying d’Arnaud can’t be a 20 HR guy, but it is a bit worrisome that five of his 13 home runs came in two games; if he can’t be a reliable home run asset, he’s no asset at all while slashing in the .240s. Most of his damage is being done against sliders, posting a 3.2 pVAL and four home runs on the pitch (including one off of Chris Sale). He makes for a strong fantasy platoon slugging .519 versus lefties as opposed to .378 versus righties. Keep both of these facts in mind when deploying him. Zunino is stealing just enough playing time to be a nuisance to d’Arnaud owners, but he has no stand-alone fantasy value.

Carson Kelly – (Arizona Diamondbacks): There is no better fantasy platoon bat than Carson Kelly against lefties. d’Arnaud is good against lefties but Kelly is slashing a prodigious .382/.481/.765… but there’s a weird catch. Of his 17 home runs, 11 have come against righties. I get it—he’s had 2.5 more plate appearances versus righties and you may be thinking he should just be started universally, but with an overall 83 wRC+ versus righties (.210 average), you just can’t. We want to stream him with lefties ahead and ignore for the most part apart from that.

Francisco Mejia – (San Diego Padres): His bat has finally arrived. If you’re hurting at C, go get him now. Over his last 68 PAs, he’s slashing .406/.441/.609. The .469 BABIP is comical and bound to fall, but he’s demonstrating elite bat to ball skill, reducing his K-rate on the season by 2.5% on the season during that stretch. I get it, you want more power from him and that’s fair, but you can’t say you expected the most home runs from the catcher position to begin with. What’s particularly impressive is his production against off-speed pitching, posting a 4.0 pVAL on changeups (.435/.435/.739). Our biggest concern was Austin Hedges, but the playing time split is now overwhelmingly in Mejia’s favor.

Omar Narvaez/Tom Murphy/Austin Nola – (Seattle Mariners): Austin Nola is not catcher-eligible in Yahoo, but in his catcher-eligible leagues he’s been very valuable since his call-up; however, I’m not yet giving up on him unless there’s a better option available. It’s gotta be frustrating as a Murphy owner: He’s slashing .308/.345/.577 since the All-Star Break, but he still can’t get everyday reps. He’s playing a lot more now, even getting four out of five over the last few weeks, but Narvaez has gotten the last four. The good news? It’s a straight platoon: Narvaez starts against righties, Murphy against lefties. The split has been consistent over 13 straight games, so we feel confident in projecting it outward.

Tucker Barnhart – (Cincinnati Reds): .327/.444/.577. That’s Barnhart’s second-half slash line over 63 PAs. WHAT. Don’t get seduced by this. We still have a career .251 hitter who is hitting a meager .228 this year.

 

Quick Thoughts on Week 20

 

Jonathan Lucroy, after getting dFA’d by the Angels, got picked up as Victor Caratini‘s backup while they wait for Contreras. They’re splitting starts almost evenly, making both bad bets for fantasy.

Buy back into Roberto Perez in case anyone dropped him. His power is still real and he can be a game-changer in the playoffs. Three games against KC sets him up for success.

I’m streaming Carson Kelly who gets a lefty tomorrow in Kyle Freeland, then two more starts versus mediocre Rockies starters and then a trio of iffy Brewers starters (Jordan LylesChase Anderson, and Zach Davies).

In a deep league, I’m curiously investing in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who still has no power but is getting on base as of late. The main reason I’d get him this week is his eight-game slate. He’ll probably play six at most, but that’s still a LOT of opportunity.

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Dave Cherman

Pitcher List Content Manager, also a former player and umpire and Denver-based lawyer who spends his free time studying advanced statistics and obsessing over fantasy trades. Will debate with you about most anything.

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Comments


Barry

Hello Dave,

Great stuff! Living in AZ I get a first hand look at Kelly and he has definitely had a nice second half. He is currently stuck in a platoon with Avila, and with 5 righties on tap after Freeland, I’m concerned about the potential lack of AB’s for Kelly this week.

I’ve been riding Narvaez since April and I’m hesitant to switch with one week left before my league playoffs start, however he has been very unproductive for the last 7/15/30 days.

I’m actually leaning towards Barnhart for the week as his wOBA and wRC+ for the past 7 and 30 days are outstanding.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated

Dave Cherman

Hi Barry,

I wouldn’t call what Kelly is in a platoon. Of the last 10 starts vs righties, Avila has started 5 of them. So Kelly getting every lefty plus half of righties is sufficient to me, on top of the fact that Avila hasn’t started back to back games since 7/14-16 (two games).
I don’t buy into Barnhart because he’s never been a power threat and that’s still a middling lineup.

Harley Earl

So, no comment on the White Sox’ James McCann? Not even a blurb in the notes? Do you realize McCann went 10-for-23 with 7 runs, 2 doubles, 1 triple, two grand slam Home Runs, and 11 RBIs last week? How do you not mention him?

Dave Cherman

Yes, I realize. I also realize that prior to 8/3, he had a stretch of 183 PAs where he hit .222/.290.395. There wasn’t room to discuss every one and I don’t fully believe that he’s back to being a .300 hitter. Hitting is hard because whereas one start by a pitcher could give you a lot to talk about, it’s a much smaller sample for hitters so I try not to overreact to it.

Harley Earl

I get the “don’t overreact to it” but the fact you mention Tucker Barnhardt’s bleh season in a blurb yet leave out the American League’s all-star catcher after a career week is a bit puzzling. Hitting is hard, and McCann has hit .290 to .300 all season. Yeah, he’s not Gary Sanchez or Wilson Contreras, but maybe he’s coming back to life. I just thought he deserved a mention.

Dave Cherman

I’m not sure how an All-Star catcher is a little secret, but yeah, he’s been very solid this year. I’ve been out on him since his June and July began showing signs of the old James McCann, a guy with a career .240/.288/.366 line and he looked very much like that over the last two months so I was trying not to overreact to one huge week.

Flaps

McCann’s numbers over the past two weeks are better than any of the catchers you decided were worthy of discussion.
Mccann’s numbers on the season are better than any catcher’s you decided was worthy of discussion.
Your responses to questions about McCann sound like he personally offended you somehow.
The simple fact remains, he’s been performing more than solidly, albeit in fits and starts all season. That’s more than can be said for any catcher you talked about. Bizarre. He’s at least worth a mention to say why he’s not worth a pickup, if you think his numbers are misleading.

Have fun,
Flaps

Brad R

Does Posey still have value as a Backup catcher? I grabbed Smith so i feel set but he doesn’t go every day and i basically roll with the rest of my lineup with little changes.

Points/OBP league

Taters

Hey Dave, I have this weekend and a week left in my roto league. Sanchez is my C. I have added Severino (I like his upcoming matchups and he seems to play regularly), but wondering if it’s safe to go ahead and drop Sanchez? I have a lot of options in free agency; Ramos, Vasquez, Narvaez, Smith & d’Arnaud.

Dave Cherman

It’s definitely safe to drop Sanchez. He said this feels similar to a groin strain that cost him 16 games earlier this season. I really don’t imagine any scenario where he had to be sent back to NY for testing and he plays again in the regular season. I think you’re in good shape with Severino.

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