Catcher is a barren wasteland. Unless you’ve got one of the top catchers, you’re left guessing as to what to do with the position. This article looks at the best streaming-caliber catchers for the week ahead.
First, we have to rule out any widely owned catcher. For purposes of this list, it means anyone >50% owned (according to Yahoo). The ineligible catchers are: Gary Sanchez, JT Realmuto, Willson Contreras, Mitch Garver, Yasmani Grandal, Will Smith, Salvador Perez, Christian Vazquez, and Carson Kelly.
On top of that, I’m avoiding certain situations until playing time becomes clearer. Those situations include the Padres (Austin Hedges/Francisco Mejia) and the Braves (Travis d’Arnaud/Tyler Flowers). Last week, I mentioned I was reconsidering the Padres, but since then they’ve traded starts back to August 2nd, so I’m back out on Mejia and Hedges. I want to be more excited about d’Arnaud but he’s getting a near-even split with Flowers, so I can’t recommend him right now.
We’re finally getting into catcher streaming territory. The list above started at 13 names and it’s down to 9 after two weeks, suggesting many are unsure of what to do at the position. Maybe you took a flier late in the draft and are still debating whether to hold someone like Omar Narvaez. Maybe you’re wondering if Max Stassi is for real. Either way, let’s take a look.
Reviewing Last Week
Last year, I outlined guidelines for determining a streaming “win” 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 .275 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 major impact. If you get two homers from the catcher position, it’s almost a guaranteed win, unless the catcher batted 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.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Texas Rangers: 8/18, 3 R, RBI, 1 BB, 2 SB
I get that you want a bit more in the counting stat department, but a .444 average and 2 SBs is fantasy gold at the catcher position. If you’re worried about the counting stats though, the Rangers moved him up from 7th to 2nd yesterday and he’s sticking there today. If you’ve got IKF, don’t let him go. He’s going to be a catcher-streaming staple until he proves otherwise.
Kurt Suzuki, Washington Nationals: 1/7, RBI
I bet on Suzuki getting 4/5 Nats starts this week and he only got 3… on top of that, he did nothing with those starts. Is it time to fade the 35-year-old?
Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays: 0/12, RBI, BB
Jansen is probably off my streaming radar for a bit. The playing time is as juicy as it gets, but between last yaer and his slow start to this year, his bat just doesn’t look major league ready. I mean, we’re talking a .202/.279/.351 slash since the start of 2019; granted he has 18 barrels in that time, and xStats that look noticeably better than his traditional line, but I just can’t get behind him right now.
Dave’s Streaming Record: 1-5
Quick Thoughts from Week 2
I write this hoping you’re all proud Salvador Perez owners, as he is mashing to the tune of .313 with 3 HRs so far and 3 multi-hit games in his last 5. He’s also hitting 3rd and 4th in the lineup and playing damn near every day. What more could you want?
I’m intrigued to see the production from Pedro Severino thus far, as he homered yesterday, giving him 4 RBI on 5/7 in his last 3 games. The problem there is he came off the bench in two of those games and is sitting again today for Chance Sisco. The playing time split is not entirely predictable right now, but I’m not sure why the Orioles are going away from the hot bat of Severino…. even if Sisco is hitting .357 over his first 20 PAs. Feel free to invest in Severino, but I’m not until I better understand the PT split.
Ok, lets talk about Max Stassi. The 29-year-old is slashing .296/.355/.741 despite entering the year with a career .204/.285/.326 line. First off, let’s address the playing time. The Angels have a very clear split: Jason Castro faces righties, Stassi gets lefties, with little exception: 5 of his 7 starts have come vs lefties. Stassi is the hot hand right now, which is why he started vs Taijuan Walker on Thursday, but I don’t project a ton of righty starts in the future. Now to the production. What’s intriguing is Stassi already has more barrels than he did all of last season; in fact he has 1/6 of his career barrels in his 7 starts thus far. I’m skeptical of a career altering shift though, as he’s done most all his damage against fastballs, batting 6/19 with 3 HRs but 2/8 with 3 Ks (and a HR) against breaking balls and off-speed pitches. Last year, he corded an xBA below .200 on all three pitch types, so just based on the stats, I’m not feeling too comfortable but maybe he’s made a change with his swing? He’s made a very noticeable change from an extremely upright stance last year, to a more bent-over stance this year
Here, you can see Stassi from last year:
And here, this year:
By the time the pitch comes in last year, his stance looks similar to this year, but after discussing with Shelly Verougstraete, she opined that loading earlier may help his hands get through the zone faster; he doesn’t have to bring the bat back to swing, it’s already there, which could explain some of his improved production on fastballs because he’s able to get to them quicker.
But it goes deeper than that:
Watch these swings from a two week period in 2019:
According to our own Kyle Horton (who noticed the swing discrepancy from last year), “It looks like he was searching for his swing [in 2019]…if all of his swings from this year look the same then I’d say from a feel standpoint, he’s found a swing that’s comfortable and repeatable for him. He can show up every day knowing the swing would be there, whereas last year he probably didn’t have that feeling with how often he made changes. from a mechanical standpoint, I see smaller movements and a controlled load that is probably putting him in a consistent position to make solid contact.”
I didn’t mean for this to turn into a Max Stassi Going Deep, but Kyle and Shelly’s help kinda forced my hand. I’m not putting a ton of stock in Stassi’s hot two weeks, but it’s certainly exciting to see this change in approach and we can understand exactly why he’s doing notably better than 2019; I just don’t know how long it’ll last.
With Tom Murphy out, Austin Nola has held down the fort at catcher, going 6/11 with 6 RBI in his last 3 games and a .324/.395/.588 line overall. He flashed this upside last year, going .269/.342/.454, so it’s exciting! xStats doesn’t love it, pegging him for a .246 xBA and a career 3.4 barrel/BBE. It’s unclear if Nola stays in the lineup with Murphy returns, but there’s still no timetable for his return, so fire up Nola in the interim.
We still are not allowed to see Joey Bart in the bigs, but the Giants satisfied me briefly with my new favorite baseball name: Chadwick Tromp, who is hitting .269 with 2 HRs so far and while I want so badly for him to be good, he’s a career .257/.321/.381 minor leaguer with just 23 HRs in 1216 PAs. Granted he’s only 25 so some power could be developing, as he hit 9 HRs over 161 PAs last year, but I’m not buying into a massive career breakout. Fun stat for Tromp, because he has a sac fly but no walks, his OBP is actually lower than his AVG right now. Oh, that wasn’t fun? I thought it was.
This Week’s Streamers
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Texas Rangers: The power we were hoping for in Summer Camp and Spring Training hasn’t showed up but the improved hit tool and speed VERY much have- plus he gets 3 games at Coors this week! Tack on 3 starts against Justin Dunn, Marco Gonzales, and Taijuan Walker and you’ve got a stew goin! He does get Marquez at Coors, where the Rockies pitchers have been surprisingly good, actually, but I’m rolling with him 100%.
Austin Nola, Seattle Mariners: I touched on Nola above and I think it should’ve been obvious I’d roll with him here. He’s dealing with a minor hand issue, but they’re hoping he’s back in the lineup today. He doesn’t face a particularly tough slate, getting the Rangers (but not Lance Lynn!) in the form of Kyle Gibson, Mike Minor, and Jordan Lyles, none of whom have been particularly dominant so far. Then the M’s travel to Houston to get Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and Lance McCullers. Let’s give it a shot.
Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers: I hate this. Please don’t do it. The entire Brewers offense has looked very sluggish to start the year, and Narvaez is not immune, slashing .179/.343/.214. There’s the chance this blows up in our faces, as the Brew Crew face Maeda, Hendricks, and Darvish, not to mention the suddenly sexy Randy Dobnak and Tyler Chatwood. I don’t think this goes well but if you’re desperate, fire it up I suppose.
I want so badly to buy into Tony Wolters with 6 games at Coors, but he’s a bat I can’t even trust in that scenario. Please, Colorado, give us a catcher who can rake at Coors. Please.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcommr on Twitter)