The catcher position can be a barren wasteland. 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 this list, it means anyone over 50% rostered (according to Yahoo). The ineligible catchers are J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith, Salvador Perez, Willson Contreras, Daulton Varsho, Tyler Stephenson, Yasmani Grandal, Travis d’Arnaud, Keibert Ruiz, Sean Murphy, Mitch Garver, Gary Sánchez, and Adley Rutschman. That’s THIRTEEN catchers.
I’m going to say this now — if you’re in a 12-team league or fewer, don’t stream right now. Try trading for someone’s backup instead of diving in the bargain bin for the players who meet my threshold. But we’re going to go ahead anyway.
Who is Eligible?
So who is left? Christian Vázquez, Alejandro Kirk, Elias Díaz, Joey Bart, Mike Zunino, Yadier Molina, Omar Narváez, Jacob Stallings, Tucker Barnhart, Austin Nola, Francisco Mejía, Jonah Heim, Zack Collins, Eric Haase, Luis Torrens, Max Stassi, Jorge Alfaro, Yan Gomes, Ryan Jeffers, Kyle Higashioka, Jose Trevino, and more. 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. On the other hand, maybe you took a flier late in the draft and are still debating whether to hold someone like Alejandro Kirk. Maybe you drafted Yadier Molina 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.
- 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 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) is the lowest stat consideration because you’re not expecting them from your catcher anyway, and they’re a nice bonus.
Playing time was limited for Kirk, and he only started three games while pinch-hitting in one. He made plenty of contact (93.8%) and chased very few pitches outside the zone (16.1%). Furthermore, Kirk finished with a 55% hard-hit rate and showcased a max exit velocity of over 100-mph in each game player. However, the results didn’t follow suit. It’s close, and I wish we could see into the future to Sunday’s performance, so the win/loss is TBD.
Jansen was a total nothing-burger this week. I knew there was a serious concern with playing time since he was returning from injury but threw caution into the wind, and he should only grab attention in deep two-catcher leagues or until playing time is cemented. Easy loss!
Dave Swan’s Streaming Record: 4-8
Notes & Transactions From Week 7
- He’s arrived! He’s FINALLY arrived! Mega-hyped Baltimore Orioles prospect Adley Rutschman (66%) made his first MLB start on Saturday. Furthermore, the Orioles elected to bat him sixth in the lineup, giving his fantasy value a boost. In the minors, Rutschman displayed a solid batter’s eyes with a bit of power (23 HRs over two minor league levels). Lastly, he’s worth the waiver claim in 12-team leagues.
- Disaster struck Kansas City as Salvador Perez (98%) hit the 10-day IL with a thumb injury. With no exact timetable presented, playing time is opened up for prospect MJ Melendez (35%). In 46 ABs, Melendez has 12 hits with a pair of homers. He is worth the pickup in nearly every format and likely gets plenty of ABs when Perez returns.
- The Texas Rangers activated Mitch Garver (51%) from the 10-day IL. Since his return on Thursday, Garver has been DHing every game. I would expect the Rangers to option Sam Huff (1%) any day now (perhaps after Monday’s day off), and the team will utilize Garver and Jonah Heim (48%) as their two backstops.
- Jose Herrera (0%) was placed on the COVID-19 IL in Arizona. With Carson Kelly (8%) still out with an oblique injury, the D’backs have no choice but to play Daulton Varsho (95%) at catcher. The team has no days off until Friday, so they promoted former Detroit Tiger Grayson Greiner (0%) to the MLB squad.
- The San Francisco Giants placed Curt Casali (3%) on the 7-day concussion IL. Michael Papierski (0%) was recently acquired, moving into his roster spot. Previously, Papierski was in the Astros’ organization, but the switch-hitting backstop could appear in a few lineups next week as they face four right-handed pitchers.
- Chad Wallach (0%) grabbed all kinds of playing time since Kurt Suzuki (0%) and Max Stassi (4%) landed on the IL. However, Suzuki returned on Saturday, and both (Wallach/Suzuki) will split backstop duties until Stassi returns.
- The Colorado Rockies optioned Dom Nuñez (0%) to Triple-A Albuquerque after posting a 30 wRC+ in 28 AB. Grabbing Nuñez’s roster spot is 27-year-old Brian Serven (0%), displaying excellent power in the minors with five HR in 77 AB while walking more than striking out. However, the expectation is still an 80/20 split favoring Elias Díaz (18%).
- The Pittsburgh Pirates designated Andrew Knapp (0%) for assignment and claimed former Blue Jay’s backstop, Tyler Heineman (0%). Neither catcher should factor into many fantasy baseball decisions since the Pirates start Michael Perez (0%) five times a week. Move along from any of these names unless you’re in an NL-only league.
- Colorado Watch! The Rockies have seven road games next week. Avoid!
- Who’s Hot (and under 20% rostered)!
- Most dropped! Last week, Danny Jansen (23%) was the most-dropped catcher. Toronto only started him in half the games, and his 1-for-10 performance will quickly get him off rosters.
- Most Added! Adley Rutschman (66%) was easily the most-added catcher. I’d speculate that the moves came within the last 48 hours, or since news broke of his promotion to the MLB.
Week 8 Streamers
If the main streamer is not on your waiver wire, there will be a streamer for 12 or 15-team leagues and additional options. Let’s examine players who might provide added value for the upcoming week:
As Boston’s offense heats up, so has Vázquez. In May, he’s slashing .267/.340/.356 with a 105 wRC+. Sure, that’s not league-winner numbers, but it’s miles above many options in today’s catching landscape. Part of his new success is the added contact rate in his profile. He’s up nearly nine points from April, and the BABIP is starting to produce better results.
So, what can we expect for playing time? After a day off on Monday, Boston draws seven games (three @ CHW, four vs. BAL). Included in the Baltimore series is a doubleheader on Saturday. Additionally, with only one DANG (Day After Night Game) in the week, we should see at least five games of production.
Vázquez isn’t showing much in the way of power, and he needs to collect a multitude of hits to be our productive streamer. Let’s look for a batting average over .250 and a handful of counting stats.
- MJ Melendez, Kansas City Royals – Until Salvador Perez gets back from injury, it’s full steam ahead on the Melendez train. He’s already shown the power with a pair of HRs last week. This upcoming week, the Royals have six games and plenty of opportunities for ABs.
- Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays – Kirk is a small adjustment away from becoming a must-roster catcher. The time split with Jansen could spell some trouble in regular ABs but the team likes using him at DH too. His breakout is coming soon, just be patient.
- Jonah Heim, Texas Rangers – With Garver back, Heim should lose a little playing time. However, Texas currently uses Garver as the DH, and Heim should still see quite a few games and make enough contact to fend off the lackluster plate discipline.
- Austin Nola, San Diego Padres – After a quick stop in Milwaukee (where he faces Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser), Nola gets favorable matchups in Pittsburgh (José Quintana, Bryse Wilson, and JT Brubaker). The matchups alone put him in play, but he’s also striking out less than 20% of the time.
The Twins have utilized their catchers differently. Jeffers starts at catcher vs. RHP, and Gary Sánchez starts vs. LHP. Furthermore, the Twins play seven home games this week, and all the projected SP are right-handed. Two of the games are DANGs which could lead to an additional day off. So, we were looking at at least five games in the starting line.
Now, Jeffers is NOT a tremendous source of batting average because of the alarming strikeout rate. Instead, we are going to rely on his abundance of power. He’s already taken three pitches deep, which is no surprise when you consider he showcased a .202 ISO in 2021. Additionally, he’s still pulling the ball at nearly a 40% rate this season, and almost 70% of his batted balls are hit in the air. Fingers crossed, Jeffers hits a pair of dingers this week.
Each week, I’ll add 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 MJ Melendez, and so on down the list. 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.
|Christian Vázquez (BOS)||45%|
|MJ Melendez (KCR)||35%|
|Alejandro Kirk (TOR)||36%|
|Jonah Heim (TEX)||45%|
|Austin Nola (SDP)||22%|
|Ryan Jeffers (MIN)||4%|
|Joey Bart (SFG)||16%|
|Yadier Molina (STL)||17%|
|Omar Narváez (MIL)||12%|
|William Contreras (ATL)||5%|
|12-team Streamers (less than 50%)|
|15-team Streamers (less than 20%)|
Have more questions? “Catch” up with me on Twitter @davithius!
Featured image by Jacob Roy (@Jake3Roy on Twitter)