Miguel Montero is a Late-Season Cure for the Catching Blues
Writer’s Note: In memory of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, the two promising journalists whose young lives were tragically cut short on Wednesday. As a 25-year veteran in the field, my heart hurts to see such good potential taken in such a brutal manner.
Let’s sing a song of cheer while raising our glasses of a foaming beverage that Fred Sanford once called “Corn Flakes in a can” to those insightful souls who invested in Cubs catching this season. If you were among those who did, and rode out the storms of the first half, chances are pretty good you’re loving your Fantasy team these days.
Those who were able to pair up Miguel Montero and Kyle Schwarber have thrived, as the two have combined for 26 homers and 78 RBIs entering Wednesday. With production like that coming from the catcher position, owners in that place of envy are cool with the combined .251 average, as Schwarber’s .275 mark is dragged down by Montero’s .239 average. The duo even throw in the bonus of two steals (both from Schwarber), making them perhaps the best catching combo in baseball. It also doesn’t hurt that Schwarber throws in OF eligibility in most leagues (gotta love that flexibility).
There’s still hope for those who didn’t, for while attempting to acquire Schwarber would be near improbable (think phrases like “arms and legs” and “the birthrights to your next born” if doing so in keeper/dynasty formats), nearly 86 percent of owners can hop on the gravy train of Cubs backstops and latch on the tear that Montero has made against National League pitchers over the past couple of weeks. An afterthought at the beginning of the month, Montero is rewarding those who are still diving into the waiver wire dumpster instead of figuring out if having the first pick in your Fantasy football draft is a blessing or curse.
[caption id="attachment_97147" align="alignright" width="300"] Cubs C Miguel Montero's current tear has him hitting like the All-Star he was with the Diamondbacks. Photo Credit: Jon Gudorf/Flickr[/caption]
Montero entered Wednesday night’s game against the Giants having laid waste to hurlers to the tune of a .368 batting average with four homers and nine RBIs over his last 19 at-bats. The power surge was the final piece to a puzzle Montero had solved since the All-Star break, as he has hit .286-4-11 in 42 ABs in that span. That 1.055 OPS has also helped the recent spike in his ownership in mixed leagues, as Montero’s fan club more than doubled the 6.5 percent who owned him last week to his current 13.9 percent standing.
What’s behind the newfound MonteroMania? Simple, my friends: patience.
Montero’s plate discipline peaked in 2012, when his OBP spiked at .391, which influenced his .286-15-88 line and earned him an All-Star nod. For some reason, Montero tapped into his inner Ron Karkovice the following season and tried to whack everything into the swimming pool at Chase Field, resulting in his patience becoming the equal to a teenage boy ignoring the stop sign to hold at third base on a date. Bye-bye All-Star caliber catcher. Say hello to a .230 average and a .318 OBP (after recording a combined 7.5 WAR in 2011-12, Montero went to 0.1 in ‘13). Last season showed slight signs of improvement, as he went .243 with a .329 OBP and a paltry .370 slugging percentage.
The numbers may not have shown it, but Montero’s discipline showed in the first half, when he had a .337 OBP, which may have also been a precursor to his current bust-out. Entering Wednesday, Montero had a career-high 13.2 percent walk rate that has buffered well against the fact his 24.7 percent strikeout rate is also at a personal worst. What makes Montero worth a play here is that his isolated power stands at .197, far exceeding the .114 and .127 marks he had totaled in that category in his last two years with the Diamondbacks.
Embrace Montero, even with the deceptive batting average, which should continue to inch slowly to a more respectable number. He won’t approach his career .262 average, but mixed league owners in need of either homers or RBIs and are finding the lack of production from their current catchers should take a look at the other half of the best team catching combination for Fantasy owners.
Hey! I didn’t hear a bell. Get up, for the waiver wire still has love for you in the final week of August:
Derek Dietrich, 2B/3B/OF, Marlins: About one of the few good things from (yet another) lost season of baseball in Miami has been the Marlins’ decision to finally give Dietrich consistent ABs. We touched on him shortly after his call up in May and said he could be a bargain if he made contact, and he has lived up to his end of the deal, batting .272-9-20 with a .893 OPS that would rank him 11th had he made enough plate appearances. The return of Christian Yelich from the DL earlier this week throws some shade on Dietrich’s time in the lineup, but the Marlins should be able to plug in his name as a starter down the stretch enough for Dietrich (owned in nine percent of polled leagues) to be a reasonable option in deeper leagues. Entering his age 27 season in 2016, it will be interesting to see if the Marlins either give him a more defined role or trade him to a team that will offer him 300-400 ABs. He’s very intriguing in the latter scenario.
Hector Olivera, 1B/3B, Braves: While it looks like Atlanta’s new (yet old) toy won’t debut until next Tuesday, he’s a player who can be a difference-maker in deeper leagues. His current 6 for 37 (.162 batting average) skid will take some of the luster off Olivera, yet, aren’t we all curious to see if the 30-year-old is worth the hype (yes, according to a handful of projections I did on Out of the Park Baseball, which remains the hidden, yet game-altering secret weapon for Fantasy baseball)? If the hamstring injury has passed by, you’ll see Olivera hit with more authority, which could mean a month of doubles sprayed over Turner Field. Owned in 11 percent of polled leagues, he’s a low risk play in most formats, with batting average and RBIs standing as the potential categories which would benefit.
Ketel Marte, SS, Mariners: Granted, his name evokes images of either a strong, dark German beer or the title of a storyline in a Call of Duty video game, but Marte has made a sound impression upon his arrival in Seattle. Wednesday’s two-hit game marked the fourth multi-hit game Marte has recorded in the last seven, bringing his average to .326. There’s some pop in his bat, but speed is the name of Marte’s offensive game, as he had 20 steals in Triple-A. He raised his walk rate to 7.0 percent while keeping his strikeout rates reasonably low, which has resulted in a .378 OBP over his first 20 games. Owned in just under three percent in polled leagues, Marte is a good play for AL-only owners still sitting on some FAAB, yet is also a stealth move in deeper leagues, especially if you’re in need of steals. Keep an eye on this 21-year-old, whose September could translate into sleeper status come next draft/auction season.
J.A. Happ, P, Pirates: Most wanted no part of Happ when he was posting mediocre numbers with the Mariners, yet he’s become one of the cool kids since coming to the Steel City. NL hitters have been hapless against him this month, as he is 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 21.2 innings of work while also striking out 22 in that span. That .265 batting average against may indicate some risk; keep in mind that hitters wore him out to the tune of .302 last month. I think his BAA will go down considering the solid defense he has around him with the Bucs compared to the grab bag of confusion he had with the Mariners. Owned in 15 percent of polled leagues, Happ is worth the play, especially in DFS formats.
Tyler Duffey, P, Twins: Whoa! A Twins pitcher that strikes out a batter per inning? Hold the phones, Virginia. There may be a Santa Claus after all. Duffey’s 4.60 ERA and 1.47 WHIP looks unclean, but six of the nine earned runs he’s allowed came in his August 5 debut against the Blue Jays. The former Rice University standout has whiffed 15 batters in his last 13.2 innings entering his start versus the Rays on Wednesday night, and while his 90.4 mph “heater” doesn’t quite strike fear in the hearts of AL hitters, Duffey came into the bigs averaging 9.19 strikeouts per nine innings, which makes him Nolan Ryan, circa 1975 compared to the rest of the Twins’ rotation. Owned in nearly seven percent of polled leagues, you may want to be part of the trend upward if he spent Wednesday mowing down hitters at that rate.
Domingo Santana, OF, Brewers: This week’s shout-out to NL-only owners was part of the booty the Brewers hauled in from the Astros for Carlos Gomez. At 6’5”, 225 lbs., Santana looks more a candidate to replace the injured Jordy Nelson in the Packers’ lineup, yet he moves reasonably well for a big man along with the gift of making errant pitches go far....very, very far. The Brewers look like they will give him ample ABs the rest of the way, which will help Santana become more comfortable. The hope is that Milwaukee won’t learn what those of us who’ve seen Santana in his two tours of Houston kinda know: he can hit the ball far....very, very far, yet makes that a rare occurrence due to his free-swinging ways. Owned in just two percent of polled leagues, Santana falls under another Fred Sanford phrase (“It don’t hurt none”) when it comes to those stringing out the season in search of a possible 2016 gem.
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