This is my first time ever writing this column, so in the tradition of this column from last season, where the practice of streaming catchers is described by using a simile for pain, streaming catchers can be like applying hand sanitizer to your dried, cracked hands in the dead of winter. Unless you have one of the top catchers, you are left guessing what to do with the position.
Catchers are similar to kickers in fantasy football – you don’t think about your catcher slot as much as the other high-scoring positions – but if you’re looking for an advantage over your competition it makes sense to monitor what is happening. Why wouldn’t you research every position on your team?
We have all been on the losing end of a matchup when we needed just one more hit or one more steal so that deep-cut catcher you just picked up and who homered on Sunday – that guy could deliver you to victory.
So join me gluttons of fantasy baseball punishment and without further ado – let’s kick off the first full week of the season!
Reviewing Last Week
Here are the established guidelines from last season for determining whether or not streaming was a “win”, and I’ll leave these up here each week as a reminder.
- When we stream a catcher, we’re not expecting multiple home runs, so a guy hitting .250 is helpful, and I’ll consider that a plus. Anything over .300 is a super plus and a near-automatic win. We must keep in mind the number of plate appearances — under 10 PA diminishes that boost.
- Home runs have a significant impact. If you get two homers from the catcher position, it’s a guaranteed win unless the catcher bats under the Mendoza line. However, if other factors exist, a catcher can still be a streaming win without home runs.
- Counting stats (R+RBI) is the lowest stat consideration because you’re not expecting them from your catcher, and they’re a nice bonus.
Since this is the first column of the season, the streaming picks from this week will be reviewed in next week’s column.
So for fun, let’s look at some of the best catcher stat lines from spring training:
- Willson Contreras, Cardinals – 15 GP, and a slash line of .351/.400/.432 with 13 hits in 37 ABs. Contreras has big shoes to fill with the retirement of Yadier Molina, but he was off to a great start with a .351 average in spring training.
- Seby Zavala, White Sox – 18 GP, and a slash line of .289/.377/.689 with five home runs and 11 RBI. Zavala led all catchers in home runs and was second in RBI. He’ll back up Yasmani Grandal for the South Siders.
- Adley Rutschman, Orioles – 17 GP, and a slash line of .310/.420/.595 with four home runs and nine RBI. This kid has the chance to be very special. Look what he did on Opening Day!!
Adley Rutschman has been to the plate six times today, and he has reached base six times. He’s 5 for 5 — a first-inning home run followed by four singles — with a walk and four RBIs. He is the first catcher with five hits on Opening Day since at least 1900, per @ESPNStatsInfo.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 30, 2023
Nate Kosher’s Streaming Record: 0-0 (it’s week 1, but this counts as a perfect score right?)
Notes & Transactions From Week 1
- Carson Kelly will be placed on the IL with a fractured forearm, which opens the door for Gabriel Moreno, a catching prospect who joined the Diamondbacks this offseason in the Daulton Varsho trade. Moreno appeared in 25 games for the Blue Jays last year and hit .319. With the starting position now his, Moreno’s ownership percentage will increase soon.
- The Mets optioned top prospect Francisco Álvarez to Triple-A before the season and will rely on Omar Narváez as the starter and Tomás Nido to fill the backup role.
- The Cubs purchased the contract of Luis Torrens from the minors. He is primarily a catcher but can play 1B or DH. This flexibility is nice, but don’t rush to add him – he is still the third catcher on the Cubs’ depth chart.
- Angels starting catcher Max Stassi hit the 10-day IL after straining his left hip at the end of spring training. Logan O’Hoppe and Matt Thaiss will fill the void.
Have more questions? “Catch” up with me on Twitter @NathanielKosher!
Week 1 Streamers
Each week, we’ll highlight an option for a 12-team league and a 15-team league. Let’s examine the players who might provide added value for the upcoming week:
d’Arnaud hit 18 home runs and 60 RBI last season as the primary catcher for the Braves and was named an All-Star for the first time in his 10-year career. Despite this success, d’Arnaud was bumped from the top tier of fantasy catchers when Atlanta acquired Sean Murphy in December. He’ll now serve as the backup behind Murphy in 2023.
However, what first seems like a fantasy negative could actually be a boon for streamers since d’Arnaud will stay fresh by playing less catcher and can still get starts for the Braves at DH. On opening day, d’Arnaud started at DH and batted eighth in Atlanta’s lineup. In the Braves’ 7-2 victory, he went 4-5 with a double and two RBI.
d’Arnaud has considerable pop and will be hitting for a strong lineup that is arguably the best in baseball so he’ll continue to get RBI opportunities. He’s a lifetime .253 hitter with considerable pop and during the seasons when he has played 100+ games, he has averaged over 15 home runs.
Reviewing the schedule, the Braves will be playing three games against the Cardinals followed by four games against the Padres so he’ll run into some quality pitchers. With no off day scheduled for Atlanta this week, he also likely won’t play in every one of those games. I still like his chances this week.
The Tigers aren’t going to be a good team this season, and there’s not a lot to get excited about in their lineup. But if you are playing in a deep league and need to stream a catcher, you may want to look to the waiver wire and see if Haase is there.
His first season with major playing time was in 2021 when he cleared 20 home runs with 60 RBI and a bonus two steals thrown in. His at-bats increased further in 2022, and while he only hit 14 home runs, his average jumped from .231 to .254, and his OBP went from .286 to .305.
Haase is the starting catcher for the Tigers for 2023 but will also see occasional time in the outfield. During his breakout 2021 season, Haase played 22 games in left field and hit .316, and compiled a 1.074 OPS in those games. This flexibility is a cheat code for streamers. If you can start him on your fantasy roster at catcher, but he is actually playing in the outfield that day, he could produce some sneaky good numbers.
The Tigers start this week with a tough three-game series against the defending World Series champion Astros, but will then get the Red Sox (and their less formidable pitching staff) at home for three games.
Added to each week will be a ten-player list of potential streamers by weekly rank. For example, if Christian Vázquez is already rostered in your 12-team league, the next in line should be Gabriel Moreno, and so on down the list. Also, 15-team leagues are much deeper, so attention to roster% is added to the process. If a 12-team player is available, they are considered the player before the 15-team streamer. Lastly, the Roster% is based on Yahoo leagues.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)