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.
My strategy in many leagues is to wait until the last round if I don’t get one of the top guys. Some people go catcherless, which is a legitimate strategy in a head-to-head league if you can make proper use of that extra spot. But in a roto league, you’re missing valuable production by leaving it empty. 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 >50% rostered (according to Yahoo). The ineligible catchers are: Gary Sánchez, JT Realmuto, Willson Contreras, Yasmani Grandal, Buster Posey, Austin Nola, Yadier Molina, Will Smith, Salvador Pérez, James McCann, Omar Narváez, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Christian Vázquez, Travis d’Arnaud, Carson Kelly, and Sean Murphy. That’s SIXTEEN catchers.
On top of that, I’m avoiding certain situations until playing time becomes clearer. Those situations include the Rays (Francisco Mejía/Mike Zunino), the Jays (Alejandro Kirk/Danny Jansen), the Nationals (Yan Gomes/Alex Avila), and the Mariners (Luis Torrens/Tom Murphy).
I’m gonna say this now – if you’re in a 12 team or fewer, don’t stream right now. Try to trade for someone’s backup above as opposed to diving in the bargain bin for the players that meet my threshold. But we’re gonna go ahead anyway.
Who is Eligible?
So who is left? Stephen Vogt, Pedro Severino, Zack Collins, Roberto Pérez, Wilson Ramos, Martín Maldonado, Max Stassi, Austin Barnes, Jorge Alfaro, Kyle Higashioka, James McCann, Jacob Stallings, Victor Caratini, and Jose Trevino. That’s an extensive list that will change throughout the year and should give us ample opportunity to find value. I base my list on Yahoo eligibility, as it is generally the broadest, so some players like Yermín Mercedes aren’t included. If you have questions about those players, feel free to shoot me a tweet and I’m happy to discuss.
Honestly, considering the amount of 50%+ owned 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. 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 don’t feel confident he’ll 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. As the season wears on, guys will get dropped, players will emerge, and streaming should become more and more necessary.
Reviewing Last Week
In years past, 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.
Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds: 2/9, 2 R
Playing time continues to be painfully frustrating to predict this season. Just when I think Barnhart has carved out a clear starting role, he started half of the six games this week, in favor of youngster Tyler Stephenson. The Reds’ situation is becoming another in a long list of catching situations to avoid. Truthfully, I am upset with myself for not seeing this coming. We talked at length about many pitchers being limited as we go from 60 to 162 games, but I don’t think we thought enough about catchers being limited. We’ll continue to monitor it going forward.
Roberto Pérez, Cleveland: 0/11, SB
Exit velocity, barrel rate, and chase rate metrics are all excellent, but the average continues to plummet. It’s deeply frustrating as a fantasy manager to see the 37% strikeout rate even if it comes with a 13% barrel rate and 16% walk rate. It has to turn around soon. It just has to.
Dave’s Streaming Record: 2-3
Quick Thoughts from Week 4
The Twins demoted Ryan Jeffers to Triple-A, giving Mitch Garver a clear path to everyday playing time…in theory. In return, they called up Ben Rortvedt. The second rounder from 2016 started in his first game in the bigs and entered the second as a defensive replacement for Garver in the 7th inning. It’s perplexing. After 2 HRs on Wednesday, it seemed clear that Garver would get every opportunity to re-claim his everyday job, but it’s far from clear. Rortvedt has always profiled as a strong receiver without much of an offensive toolbox. He reached Double-A in 2019, slashing .239/.332/.355 in 226 PAs, totaling 7 HRs across both High-A and Double-A that season. Right now, it’s very hard to remove noise from catcher framing statistics this early in the season but Garver is generally grading out below average thus far, begging the question if the loss of Tanner Swanson to the Yankees before 2020 has cost the Twins’ backstop his defensive game that he earned significant praise for. Right now, I’m steering away until we better understand how the Twins will utilize Rortvedt or Garver proves he can cut down on his 44% K-rate.
Atlanta placed Travis d’Arnaud on the IL with a left thumb injury and recalled prospect William Contreras. Contreras, Willson’s brother, posted intriguing offensive skills in 2018 between High-A and Double-A. Last year, he got 10 PAs at the big league level and should get ample opportunity with Alex Jackson also heading to the 10-day IL with a strained left hamstring. Feel free to speculatively add him. Jeff Mathis‘s contract was also selected in a corresponding move. Mathis was let go by the Phillies and then signed to a minor-league deal in March, and he likely won’t be around once Jackson makes his return.
Arizona recalled Daulton Varsho this past Wednesday after placing Kole Calhoun on the IL. In that time, Varsho hasn’t started a game. With Carson Kelly‘s emergence, I’m growing deeply skeptical that Varsho will maintain his catcher eligibility that made him valuable in dynasty formats.
There’s a growing catcher controversy in New York, as Kyle Higashioka will have started four of the last six after today. Sánchez started yesterday, going 0-for-3. We know that Higashioka is Gerrit Cole‘s personal catcher, but the 31-year-old veteran is hitting .258/.378/.710 through his first 31 ABs. With Sánchez posting a sub .620 OPS over his last 217 ABs and failing to provide elite defense, we could see him continue to lose playing time to Higashioka. It’s worth monitoring.
The Brewers placed Omar Narváez on the IL yesterday with a strained left hamstring. It’s a crushing blow to not only the Brewers, who now turn to Luke Maile and Jacob Nottingham, but also to fantasy managers who were riding his hot start.
Friday was an encouraging game from Alejandro Kirk, who went 2/4 with 2 HRs, 4 RBI, and 3 R, but he’s still starting every other game for the most part. We were encouraged by a second consecutive start yesterday, but he was removed with left hip flexor discomfort and he might be headed to the IL.
Austin Nola went 0-for-3 in his return from the IL yesterday. Be patient with the Padres’ backstop, who has the tools to post an .800+ OPS, as he did over the last two seasons. Pick him up anywhere he’s been dropped.
Keep riding Sean Murphy if you grabbed him recently. The average will come. I’m encouraged by the max exit velocity and barrel% despite subpar underlying contact metrics.
Have more questions? Send me a tweet @davecherman!
This Week’s Streamers
Well, that was a lot to go through. Now, let’s take a look at some of the players and who could provide some value to your team this week:
Dom Nuñez, Colorado Rockies: The Rox play host to San Francisco and Aaron Sanchez, Alex Wood, and Logan Webb, followed by three games in St. Louis. Facing only one left-hander over that time should give the 26-year-old ample opportunity to capitalize on Coors Field.
Roberto Pérez, Cleveland: We’re going to double down on an offensive rebound from Pérez. Cleveland gets three games vs Kansas City, but avoid Danny Duffy. Then, three games against Cincinnati (albeit one against Tyler Mahle) and you can absolutely find far worse matchups in a given week. Here’s hoping this week is better than the last.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcommr on Twitter)