Catchers can be like licking a nine-volt battery! Unless you’ve got one of the top catchers, you’re left guessing what to do with the position.
My strategy in many leagues is to wait until the last round if I don’t get one of the top guys. If you can properly use that extra spot, some people go catcher-less, a legitimate strategy in a head-to-head league. But in a roto league, you’re missing valuable production by leaving it empty. So if you missed out on the cream of the crop and need help addressing the problem, look no further. This article will look at the best streaming-caliber catchers for the week ahead.
Who Are the Catchers?
First, we have to rule out any widely owned catcher. For purposes of this list, it means anyone over 50% rostered (according to Yahoo). The ineligible catchers are Salvador Pérez, J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith, Buster Posey, Yasmani Grandal, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Willson Contreras, Gary Sánchez, Christian Vázquez, Yadier Molina, and Omar Narváez. That’s ELEVEN catchers.
On top of that, I often avoid certain situations until playing time becomes more apparent. Those situations include the Rays (Francisco Mejía/Mike Zunino) and the Orioles (Pedro Severino/Austin Wynns).
I’m going to say this now — if you’re in a 12-team league or fewer, don’t stream right now. Instead, try trading for someone’s backup instead of diving in the bargain bin for the players that meet my threshold. But we’re going to go ahead anyway.
Who is Eligible?
So who is left? Sean Murphy, Kyle Farmer, Mike Zunino, Travis d’Arnaud, Eric Haase, James McCann, Austin Nola, Daulton Varsho, Mitch Garver, Tyler Stephenson, Carson Kelly, Keibert Ruiz, Max Stassi, Jorge Alfaro, Tucker Barnhart, Yan Gomes, Jacob Stallings, Alejandro Kirk, Pedro Severino, Luis Torrens, Martín Maldonado, Max Stassi, Kyle Higashioka, and Jose Trevino. That’s an extensive list that will change throughout the year and should give us ample opportunity to find value. If you have questions about those players, please shoot me a tweet; I’m happy to discuss.
Honestly, considering the 50%+ rostered catchers, chances are you already have one of these guys. That’s 13 guys who are well-owned, the perfect amount for a 12-teamer. On the other hand, maybe you took a flier late in the draft and are still debating whether to hold someone like Omar Narváez. Maybe you drafted Salvador Pérez but didn’t feel confident he’d return to his old self.
I find myself saying this every year, but this year’s version of catcher streaming feels so much harder, with so many of my favorite guys on the prohibited list. But, as the season wears on, guys will get dropped, players will emerge, and streaming should become more and more necessary.
Reviewing Last Week
I outlined guidelines for determining streaming a “win” in years past, and I’ll leave these up here each week as a reminder.
- Batting average is king. 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. That said, we have to 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, a catcher can still be a streaming win without home runs if other factors are there.
- Counting stats (R+RBI) are the lowest stat consideration because you’re not expecting them from your catcher anyway. They’re a nice bonus.
Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves: 2/16 (.125), 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI
The HR was there, and even with some counting stats, I am taking the loss. The expectation was for a better batting average, and two hits aren’t going to cut it. d’Arnaud struck out in over 40% of his at-bats, which completely drained the batting average. The good news, when d’Arnaud made contact, it was a hard-hit ball(95-MPH or greater) nearly 45% of the time. He’s close to returning to All-Star form.
Pedro Severino, Baltimore Orioles: 0/6 (.000)
Ouch! Another tough one here to swallow. Severino experienced soreness in his upper leg region that caused him to leave Tuesday’s game and miss additional time. The Orioles decided to handle him with kiddie gloves, and he only found his way into the lineup twice. While I’d love to take an NA, it’s a loss. Streaming is tough.
Swan’s Streaming Record: 22-21
Quick Thoughts From Week 24
- On Sunday, Philadelphia Phillies reinstated Andrew Knapp from the 10-day IL and optioned C Rafael Marchan to Lehigh Valley (Triple-A East).
- On Monday, Houston Astros sent Jason Castro to Sugar Land on rehab assignments. Cincinnati Reds reinstated Kyle Farmer from the paternity list.
- On Tuesday, Chicago White Sox recalled Zack Collins from Charlotte (Triple-A East) and optioned Seby Zavala. Cleveland reinstated Roberto Perez from the 10-day IL and designated Ryan Lavarnway for assignment. New York Mets reinstated Tomás Nido from the 10-Day IL. Miami Marlins placed Jorge Alfaro on the 10-day IL, retroactive to Sept. 16. and selected the contracts of Payton Henry and Nick Fortes from Jacksonville and agreed to terms on major league contracts.
- On Wednesday, Houston Astros sent Jason Castro to Corpus Christi (Double-A Central) on a rehab assignment.
- There was no transactional news for catchers on Thursday.
- On Friday, Houston Astros reinstated Jason Castro from the 10-day IL and optioned Garrett Stubbs to Sugar Land (Triple-A West). Kansas City Royals sent Cam Gallagher to Omaha on a rehab assignment. Minnesota Twins sent Mitch Garver to St. Paul on a rehab assignment.
- On Saturday, Milwaukee Brewers optioned Luke Maile to Nashville. San Francisco Giants designated Chadwick Tromp for assignment.
- After a monster Week 23, Alejandro Kirk was a disappointment to anyone that scooped him up. I hope the readers listed and didn’t scoop him up. The return of George Springer zapped Kirk’s plate appearance, and he only started two games. I am expecting the same sporadic playing time as we advance.
- Manny Piña went yard twice on Saturday, but we shouldn’t garner any attention from the fantasy community. He’s only swatted three over the fences and starts two games(at most) in any given week. This is what Pollack calls a “Birthday,” which is a special occasion that will only happen once a year.
- Dustin Garneau hit two solo shots on Wednesday and Saturday, bringing his season total to five. Due to Eric Haase’s recent struggles(5-for-29 with .518 OPS), Garneau has found some playing time. He could be an intriguing playoff option for two-catcher and AL-only leagues if he continues to get starts.
- Keibert Ruiz had a pair of three-hit games and is starting to show progress at the MLB level. He has immense talent upside, and his plate discipline and power make him a “take notice” streaming option. However, Washington still rosters Riley Adams and Alex Avila, so Ruiz’s playing time is limited.
- Jason Castro is back in Houston. The Astros may take it easy on him at first, but given his 12% barrel rate, it’ll be hard to keep the added thump out of their lineup. Although, his 32% K-rate spells a big problem in the batting average category.
- Austin Nola may finally be heating up. However, the power is entirely non-existent(zero HRs in his last 68 ABs). He collects hits in three of his four games, including six in his previous 12 at-bats. This is probably not the version of Nola you drafted, but there are much worse options.
- STOLEN BASE ALERT! A reader reached out to me and asked about finding a catcher with stolen bases. So, as we advance, I will be recapping any catcher that swiped a base that week. J.T. Realmuto (11 and 12) and Willson Contreras(5) each stole bases. Sadly, we can’t stream either of these catchers.
Have more questions? “Catch” up with me on Twitter @davithius!
This Week’s Streamers
Well, that was a lot to go through. So now, let’s examine players who might provide added value for the upcoming week:
This week is the playoffs for many leagues. I added secondary options with the 12 and 15-team streamer calls if the top choices aren’t available. To those still on a championship run, good luck!
Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks (28% Rostered) 12-team leagues
It’s playoff weeks for many, and these streaming calls need to come with plenty of skills to help in some way. For Varsho, he’s got terrific sprint speed(28.8 ft/sec – 86th percentile) to go along with a 9.4% barrel rate. Even better, he’s shown the ability to take a walk(10.3% walk rate), which leads to a greater chance at runs. The power+speed(11 HR and 5 SB) skillset is all there.
The upcoming week showcases seven games with five against right-handed pitchers. This is perfect for Varsho because that’s where the majority of his success has come. Against RHP, he’s hitting 80 points higher in ISO and putting the ball in the air 15% more. Whether he finds himself at catcher or outfield, all the stats count the same for this 12-team streaming option. Let’s shoot for the moon with expectations and hope for a good batting average, HR, and even a steal. Why not?
- Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta Braves (45%) – Atlanta only has a one-game lead for the division and will need to get d’Arnaud’s bat in the lineup as much as possible. His ability to hit for average and some power makes him a safe option with seven games on the docket.
- Kyle Farmer, Cincinnati Reds (49%) – Farmer is a Yahoo league only call out. His dual eligibility makes him a candidate for everyday at-bats, and seven home games at the hitter-friendly GABP is a massive advantage.
Elias Díaz, Colorado Rockies (17% Rostered) 15-team leagues
On the road(.201/.270/.408 and .679 OPS), it is unusable as a streamer. However, inside Coors Field(.279/.346/.543 and .889 OPS) is outstanding. Well, the Rockies play a six-game homestand with two DANGs (Day After Night Games) in that time span. The matchups are less than ideal, as he will face names like Julio Urias, Max Scherzer, and Walker Buehler. It’s challenging, but it’s Coors Field, and I would imagine the Dodgers don’t push their starters too hard.
Another point, I don’t think fantasy managers realize how good Elias has been in the second half. Since the All-Star break, Díaz is 39-for-130(.260) with 11 HRs and 22 RBI. For reference, that is the fourth-most HRs hit by a catcher in that span. Not to mention, he is carrying a 118 wRC+, which is higher than names like Buster Posey and J.T. Realmuto. While I could never say sit either catcher for Díaz, you can’t overlook the production. If my playoffs were on the line, I’d feel very confident about starting him for the week ahead.
- Keibert Ruiz, Washington Nationals (8%) – Ruiz showcased rare abilities in the minor leagues with plenty of power and on-base skills. He’s still learning how to handle MLB pitching but showing the signs to boom in a given week. He’s a bit of an upside play with plenty of risks due to the unknown playing time.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)