Another week of fantasy baseball is nearly in the books, and this week we’ve got a trio of catchers to begin the festivities. Life keeps getting weirder, doesn’t it? Housekeeping—every player mentioned in this effort is 50% rostered or less on Yahoo. Go crazy!
Can we just publicly illuminate the state of this sorry position from the jump? Mike Zunino is the No. 11 catcher in 5x5 leagues, and he’s got a sorry .197 batting average. Are the 12 homers really worth all that? Just disgusting. Christian Vazquez is the No. 6 backstop, and he’s sitting on a .097 ISO (only three homers) and a .303 OBP. Sure, the six steals are nice, but man ALIVE this is a crummy position. That said, it isn’t every week that there are three legitimate options under the 50% threshold.
Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers (47% rostered)
I’m going to keep touting him until he’s over the 50% mark. Which probably means all year. What, you don’t want a catcher who is a plus-plus in batting average? While also not hurting you in power (six homers despite missing some time). He’s the No. 8 catcher in 5x5 leagues despite missing some time and sharing catching duties with Manny Pina. He’s consistently batting in the heart of the order for Milwaukee, and despite the Brewers’ ineptitude, over the course of the season that perch will pay off as far as counting stats goes.
Honorable mentions: Max Stassi, Eric Haase
3B/OF Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees (35% rostered)
Andujar has had a power surge of late, batting .301 with five homers over the last month. Andujar hasn’t missed a game since June 4th, either—i.e. he’s getting playing time. That’s at the expense of Clint Frazier, as Frazier has limped his way to a .182/.301/.308 slash line. Frazier should see time against lefties, but that should come at the expense of Brett Gardner, not Andujar Add it all up, and you’ve got to take a shot on Andujar, who broke out in 2018 with a 27-homer campaign.
Compared to his breakout 2018, in 2021 Andujar is striking out a bit more and walking less, but his batted ball quality has improved. His barrel rate (6.3% to 9.0%), average exit velocity (89.1 MPH to 90 MPH), sweet spot rate (34.4% to 34.6%), xBA (.273 to .286), .xSLG (.431 to .485), xwOBA (.320 to .331), XWOBACON (.363 to .419), and hard hit rate (35.8% to 44.9%) are all improved. And to date, his actual wOBA of .305 is well below his expected mark of .331. The same is true for his .262 batting average (well below his expected .286 mark). Lastly, Andujar is swinging like a madman at a 55.6% rate, but he’s making tons of contact inside the zone (94.1% zone contact rate). That’s again better than his 2018 mark of 91.8%. Andujar may have to be more judicious as the season wears on—a 45.4% chase rate is ghastly—but he was on the high end in this regard in 2018 as well (39.4%). He’s aggressive, but he’s getting results. I’m getting in while his value is still on the bottom floor. The Yankees haven’t been the Bronx Bombers of old this year, so if Andujar reprises what he did in 2018, they should be forced to let him rake.
Honorable mentions: Joc Pederson, Bobby Bradley, Joey Votto, Daniel Vogelbach
SS/OF Amed Rosario, Cleveland (49% rostered)
Rosario had a hit in seven straight games entering this Monday, with three of those being of the multi-hit variety. Over that same stretch he scored eight runs, hit a homer, stole a base, and chipped in with five RBI. This week he’s added another three-hit game, two more runs, two more RBI, and another steal (as of Wednesday night).
Rosario gave us really useful efforts in 2018 and 2019, so I think viewing the pandemic-shortened 2020 as an anomaly is logical. He’s had a rebound in the power department compared to last year’s lost season, and he’s encouragingly swiped seven bags already after posting a bagel in last year’s 46-game sample. He’s also trimmed his K-rate and has a career-high 6.9% walk rate, which is aiding his career-high .339 OBP. That’s not an electric on-base mark, but it’s good enough to play for a guy with 97th percentile sprint speed. Finally, after getting caught stealing 11 times in 2018 and 10 times in 2019, Rosario is a perfect 7-for-7 on the basepaths so far. He’s not a guy we look to for power, but his batted ball quality is such that he could threaten for a 12/20 sort of year if everything breaks right.
Honorable mentions: Jonathan India, Josh Rojas, JP Crawford, Ty France
Jake Fraley, Seattle Mariners (33% rostered)
Over the last 14 days of action, Fraley is the top-rated outfielder in the fake game, with a .293 BA, 4 HR, 3 SB, 10 R, and 15 RBI. His recent production has vaulted him to the No. 2 spot in the order for Seattle for the last three games running. He has an AMAZING 26.8% walk rate, and more walks (22) than strikeouts (19) on the year. He’s slashing .254/.463/.492, and is to four homers and four steals. The cautionary piece is that he’s sitting on a mere 22.5% hard hit rate, which is abysmal and inside the 1st percentile in the MLB (tied with Kevin Newman). That said, Fraley has an above-average 10.0% barrel rate, so there’s still some hope for power given the angle with which he’s hitting plenty of balls. The No. 2 stop will likely be kind to him given that he is so passive at the plate—I’d expect plenty of runs scored and some chip-in steals, with the occasional homer. That’s not nothin’, folks.
Honorable mentions: Justin Upton, Joc Pederson, Jesus Sanchez
Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers (47% rostered)
Skubal, like his teammate Casey Mize, is prone to allowing a homer here and there that sort of tarnishes what would otherwise be really, really strong starts. But the youngster has good stuff, and he’s sixth in the majors over the last two weeks with 24 strikeouts over his 17 innings. And if you filter for the last month of baseball, Skubal’s 50 strikeouts ranks third in the majors, after only Zack Wheeler (62!) and Lucas Giolito (53). Over the last 30 days, Skubal has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP, and he’s even given us four wins despite playing for the morose Tigers offense. The ratios might not be stellar always, but right now they are good enough and the strikeouts are top-notch. If that’s what you need—it’s what I’m always monopolizing—then Skubal is your guy.
Honorable mentions: James Kaprielian, Adam Wainwright, Matt Manning
Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Reds (49% rostered)
Sims has a whopping six saves over the last month of action, seventh-most in the majors. The Reds’ closer role has been a revolving door at times this year, but Sims has the gig locked down currently—he nabbed a save just yesterday, and excepting one run allowed on June 10th, hasn’t allowed a run since all the way back to May 21st. He’s got the added ability to also log more than one inning at a time, so enjoy that if you’re lucky enough to pluck him up from waivers.
Honorable mentions: Pete Fairbanks, Hansel Robles, Jose Cisnero
That’s a brief list, but some helpful names! The options at catcher look particularly sturdy this week, which is weird. I also like a lot of those middle infield honorable mentions.