Max Stassi (LAA): 3-4, 3B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
(This is the third time I’ve made an article title pointing to this specific Simpsons reference, and I intend to do it at least once a year until I die or stop writing this column.)
If there’s one thing I preach over and over and over again, it’s to stream any position you aren’t totally confident with. For all but five or six people in each league, that usually means catcher, and yet, I continually see catchers rostered in a wide range of leagues that really probably shouldn’t be. I know it’s not fun using your time looking for a catcher, but there are precious few who actually ought to be plugged into your starting slot without regard for matchups, and by ignoring it, you may well be leaving points on the table!
In a 10-12 team single-catcher league, there are maybe six catchers who I would probably leave alone on a week-to-week basis regardless of recent performance or upcoming matchups: Salvador Perez, J.T. Realmuto, Will Smith, Buster Posey, Willson Contreras, and Christian Vázquez. After that, I really am seeing what a guy has done for me lately and what I think he can do for me soon. Yes, even Gary Sánchez and Mike Zunino, who are power-only contributors with abysmal floors, or any number of guys who had a hot start but have fizzled out since, like Carson Kelly.
Unless I have one of those five guys, I’d be taking a long hard look at Max Stassi, who went 3-4 with a triple, a home run, and three RBI on Sunday. Stassi’s 167 wRC+ ranks second among the 27 catchers who have at least 100 plate appearances since June 1st, and he is available in over 75% of leagues. While he has a somewhat worrisome strikeout rate, his power makes him more than serviceable in just about any format, and there is little to no reason to think he can’t be a top-10 to top-12 catcher for the rest of the season.
Now being a top-10 to top-12 catcher for the rest of the season doesn’t necessarily mean they should be plugged in and left alone, especially since the Angels do have a slightly rough schedule for righties coming up due to a four-game homestand against the A’s. Someone like Ryan Jeffers or Mitch Garver, thanks to the Twins’ softer schedule for the next few days, are a better bet to pick up for this week if available, but even if you do that, I strongly recommend keeping Stassi on the watch list.
Streaming catchers, particularly in July and after, is mostly churning through the same four or five guys based on who has the best matchups that week while your opponents continue to plug McCann in week after week despite bad matchups or performance.
In short, at this point in the season, you need every advantage you can get, and one way to get that without a huge amount of work is to stream your catcher on a week-to-week or even series-to-series basis. You’ll optimize performance and plate appearances (as many catchers are in a predictable platoon), and get that much closer to a strong finish.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday:
Harrison Bader (STL): 3-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.
Bader continues to make much more contact than he ever had prior to 2021. His 16.4% strikeout rate is over 11 points better than his career clip, and through 76 July plate appearances, Bader has a powerful 1.030 OPS and has a hit in 15 of his 19 starts this month. If he can continue to show this kind of contact ability, he can be a top-40 outfielder for the rest of the season thanks to his power, speed, and improved batting average.
Tyler O’Neill (STL): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
While he hasn’t cut the strikeouts like his teammate, he has started barrelling the ball at an incredible rate, more than doubling his rates from 2019-2020. He’s going to threaten 30 home runs (and should at least get to 25) while stealing somewhere between 12 and 15 bases, plus even if you bake in a batting average drop, he should keep the overall average above .255. O’Neill has a strong blend of power and speed, and now that he’s making premium contact 18.7% of the time, he’s looking an awful lot like a top-25 to top-30 outfielder for the remainder of the season.
Chris Taylor (LAD): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
I’m just going to stop doubting his playing time, because every time we do, he does something like this. He’s been fantasy’s second-best second baseman so far in 2021, and while I can’t project him to continue to be that going forward, I can probably project him as a top-seven second baseman the rest of the way, which roughly equates to a top-10 shortstop and top-25 outfielder as well.
Raimel Tapia (COL): 1-3, R, BB, 2 SB.
He probably won’t get to 10 home runs despite playing in Coors for half of his games, but after stealing his 17th and 18th bases of the season, I think he shouldn’t have too many problems getting to 25 when all is said and done, and I also think that there’s more upside to his batting average than the .276 we’ve seen so far despite the .252 expected batting average shown by Statcast. If you’ve got a league mate who values those Statcast numbers a little too blindly and needs a boost in batting average and steals, I think you might be able to catch them thinking they’re selling high when they’re actually selling low. He’s going to lead off for this team no matter what, and if Trevor Story does indeed get traded, it’ll be all the more reason that the Rockies will give him the green light—I mean, they’ll have to score runs somehow, right?
LaMonte Wade Jr.(SF): 3-5, 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
It’s just wild to think that both the 27-year-old Wade Jr, who currently has a .930 OPS for the Giants in 171 plate appearances, and the 22-year-old Akil Baddoo, who has nine home runs and 14 steals with an .828 OPS, were not considered necessary options in the Twins outfield coming into the season. Granted, much of that was due to the outlooks of guys like Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, and to a lesser extent, four or five more outfield prospects who were on the organization’s top-15, but it’s still crazy. Anyway, Wade Jr has been yet another big win for the Giants front office, which seems to win every bet they make this season. He already has five home runs since the Break, and while his prior scouting reports and minor league profile don’t suggest that he should continue to be this good, you could sort of say that for the entire roster for the Giants, and yet here we are. I’d recommend riding this wave as far as it will take you and to try not to think too hard about it.
Thairo Estrada (SF): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB.
Oh right, yet another player who the Giants took off the scrap heap (this time from the Yankees) who has an OPS over .900. Sure, why not? He has a hit in eight of his last nine starts, though his playing time likely has an expiration date of sorts once Brandon Crawford returns from his oblique injury. Until that time, though, I don’t mind Estrada as a streamer in deeper leagues. While he’s never shown a ton of power or speed, he’s had pretty good plate discipline throughout his time in the minors and a decent-to-good hit tool.
Gleyber Torres (NYY): 2-4, 2B, R, RBI, SB.
Don’t look now, but Torres is on an eight-game hitting streak with three home runs and four stolen bases in that stretch. It’s been a grueling season for the 24-year-old Yankee, but thanks to his improved performance since the Break, there’s still hope that Torres can be a top-15 to top-20 shortstop the rest of the way and finish with 15 home runs, 15 steals, and a batting average north of .250.
Alcides Escobar (WSH): 2-3, 2B, 2 R.
There’s no power here, but the scrappy middle infielder continues to slap the ball into play as the Nationals’ new leadoff hitter, putting up the fourth multi-hit game of his last eight starts. His fantasy usefulness is likely limited to very deep mixed leagues, NL-only formats, and maybe 14+ team points leagues that value his playing time and contact, but it’s still a whole lot better than where he was coming into the season (which was basically totally forgotten about).
Rougned Odor (NYY): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Well, the strikeout rate is below 30%, which is good, and he has a hit in each of his last seven games (including three home runs and two doubles) while batting mostly in the third and fourth spots in the lineup. That’s good for Odor, though obviously a sign of tough times for the Yankees. I’m not really interested in Odor in any 12-teamers, though, because it’s hard to say what kind of playing time he’ll have for the rest of the season, and even if he has it, it’s hard to project a batting average better than .225 or an OBP better than .290.
Austin Riley (ATL): 3-4, 2 2B, HR, R, RBI.
During the month of July, he has a 15.3% walk rate and 18.8% strikeout rate, two numbers I thought impossible for any stretch of time for Riley as recently as 2020. The plate discipline improvements are incredibly encouraging and give me a reason to believe that he can continue to post a strong batting average and be a top-10 to top-12 third baseman going forward (keeping in mind that third base is one of the strongest positions in fantasy).
Jorge Soler (KC): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
On one hand, Soler has five home runs in his last 10 games and almost as many walks as strikeouts. On the other hand, he also only has five RBI to go with those five home runs. He’s maybe a top-50 outfielder going forward, and is available in about 60% of fantasy leagues, but honestly, it’s only worth the risk if you really need power. The floor is just so, so low.
Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB.
He’s been fantasy’s third-best hitter in 2021, and should probably be the first overall pick in 2022 drafts where he’s one player with daily moves. What else is left to say at this point?
Deven Marrero (MIA): 3-4, HR, 3 R, RBI, SB.
This was neat. I don’t actually know anything about this 30-year-old infielder other than that he was apparently Boston’s first-round pick in 2012 and that he’s had very limited success in the major or minor leagues, but this was neat.
Starling Marte (MIA): 3-4, RBI, BB, 2 SB.
Will there ever be a season where people don’t speculate that Marte will be traded? Just to be clear, though, Marte’s value doesn’t really change in other environments other than small adjustments to runs scored. He’s going to hit near the top of any lineup and run a lot (because any team that doesn’t run a lot would be unlikely to trade for him).
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter).