Yes, there will be catchers discussed in this week’s waiver wire, but I promise I’m OK despite being hit smack on the bridge of my nose while working out with a jump rope on Wednesday night (staying in shape, yes. Fit enough to fight Ivan Drago? Um…that’s a no).
August brings out the strange among us in Fantasy Baseball. Not everyone can own Buster Posey or Gary Sanchez, so doing what you have to do in order to get positive production from your catcher slot(s) is encouraged around here. This week happens to be a banner one during which we will suggest picking up any of the four backstops profiled here, as they each have a trait or two that can carry you over the finish line.
James McCann, C, Tigers: Whatever McCann did during his downtime at the All-Star Break turned him from Ron Karkovice into an in-his-prime Joe Mauer. Since returning from vacay, McCann is batting .365/.412/.492 with a .904 OPS. While he has just one homer and six RBIs in that span, who among us will complain about a player adding 49 points to his batting average? I’ll wait. McCann has gone from 13 percent ownership to 45 percent in CBSSports.com leagues and should be able to maintain solid production the rest of the way. He’s a strong buy in that (wait for it) his hitting appears to be catching up with his defense, as is the case with the majority of catchers. McCann has shown he has 10-15 homer potential, so while he’s never going to be an elite Fantasy producer, there’s a potential 3-4 year run of above-average production coming from his bat.
Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics: Explosive power has always been Chapman’s calling card. That he’s found plate discipline has turned him into a possible late season beast in any Fantasy Baseball format. Like McCann, Chapman has improved his game since the break, sporting a .340 OBP that has helped fuel a bat that has produced a .921 OPS in the same span. Owned in 24 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, Chapman’s ownership has doubled in the last week, as he came out of the August gate batting .321/.429/.571 with five of his nine hits going for extra bases. There’s a great piece on Chapman by Fangraphs.com writer Dave Cameron that explains why there’s a good chance that Chapman could emerge as an All-Star caliber performer, and with the surge he’s currently on, Fantasy owners would be wise to add him off the waiver wire now.
Christian Vazquez, C, Red Sox: An .829 OPS since the break might be a sign that Vazquez is beginning to shake off the good field-no hit tag that has hounded him throughout his climb to the majors. Don’t get fooled into thinking that Vazquez will become a 20-homer, 90-RBI beast. Rather, I’m seeing a catcher who should be able to hit in the .270-.280 range with a smattering of pop and the potential to steal close to 20 bases (five entering Thursday). Owned in just six percent of CBSSports.com leagues a week ago, Vazquez has more than quadrupled that and is now sitting at 26 percent ownership. Do know that if the Red Sox win the World Series, Vazquez’s dramatic walk-off blast against the Indians on August 1 will go down as a key moment toward that run.
Matt Belisle, P, Twins: So, we had it all wrong. It happens. Rather than trusting Tyler Rogers with the closer’s role, Minnesota gave the ball to the well-traveled Belisle, who has responded with a pair of saves in his last three appearances. Rest assured, his 12 percent ownership in CBSSports.com leagues is going to climb, especially considering Belisle has not allowed an earned run since June 24. Since then, he has tossed 17.1 innings of relief and limited batters to eight hits and three walks while fanning 19. He looks unlikely for the role, yet give Belisle some love for dropping his ERA from 8.59 on June 10 to its current 4.34 mark. The Twins are in the thick of the AL wild card hunt, and as long as Belisle is holding a hot hand, he represents a bargain in a category that is hard to make up points in at this late in the season.
Michael Kopech, P, White Sox: Consider Kopech a coming attraction, as it looks likely he will be in the majors soon. He of the 105 MPH fastball, Kopech has fanned 145 batters in 112.1 innings at Double-A Birmingham, along with limiting opposing hitters to a .187 batting average. The franchise’s top pitching prospect (third overall), Kopech will soon join fellow prospect Reynaldo Lopez (who makes his debut on Friday) in what could be an imposing rotation within the next few years. A darling of the keeper/dynasty formats, look for Kopech to set the foundation for potential Rookie of the Year talk next spring.
Rhys Hoskins, 1B/OF, Phillies: We told you last week to be patient with Hoskins, who was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he smoked opposing pitchers to the tune of 29 homers and 91 RBIs while also carrying a .284/.385/.581 slash line. Hoskins recently began playing in the outfield to enhance the ability to keep him in the lineup, so it shouldn’t take long for him to become OF-eligible. His 33 percent ownership in CBSSports.com leagues will climb rapidly, as he has big boy power to all fields and should be able to hold his own against major league pitching. Oh, did I mention he also has four stolen bases? He’s a must-add across the board.
Tyler Flowers, C, Braves: Hey, look…another catcher. When we profiled Flowers earlier in the season, we suggested the strong start wasn’t a fluke. Looks like we were right, as Flowers entered Thursday batting .301 with nine homers and 37 ribbies while getting on base at a .389 clip. It’s safe to go into the water and swim the rest of the season with Flowers, who is owned in 46 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. He’s got an .895 OPS since the All-Star Break, as half of his 16 hits post-ASB are of the extra base variety, which is why his slugging percentage of .595 is 155 points higher than it was before the break. Why Flowers is still available in more than half of leagues is beyond me, so help your Fantasy team and my reasoning. Pick him up.
Brandon Woodruff, P, Brewers: The fourth-ranked prospect in Milwaukee’s organization, Woodruff won his major league debut this past Thursday by holding the Rays scoreless over 6.1 innings, and he followed up with a solid outing against the Twins on Wednesday in which he allowed two runs over 5.2 innings. Woodruff averaged nearly a strikeout per inning in the minors while also improving his walk rate, and he should settle in to be a solid yet unsung arm for a Brewers club on the rise. He’s owned in 20 percent of CBSSports.com leagues and should post good numbers the rest of the way, making him a nice fit in deeper leagues.
Austin Hedges, C, Padres: Hedges is off to a strong start in August, batting .320 with a pair of homers and three RBIs, but let’s be honest: if you’re here for Hedges, you’re here for the power. Hedges entered Thursday’s game at the Reds with a .224 batting average, but he has 15 homers, placing him fifth at the position. He’s a potential drain on your batting average, yet with the lack of catchers who can contribute, Hedges needs to at least be strongly considered at this point of the season. You don’t have to join the 44 percent of CBSSports.com owners who have taken the plunge, but where else are going to find some pop behind the plate in mid-August?
Jesse Winkler, OF, Reds: Cincinnati has made Winkler, their fifth-ranked prospect, an everyday presence in the lineup. He’s batting a mere .224 with a pair of homers in his first 19 games entering Thursday, yet there’s enough to consider him if you’re in a deeper league or an NL-only format. Winkler is still working through a wrist injury from last season that has sapped much of his projected power, but is expected to eventually regain the form that once had him projected as a 25-30 home run hitter. His ownership has climbed to 17 percent in CBSSports.com leagues and if his power makes a return, expect that number to rise. He also has enough speed to help a Fantasy team in the stolen base category, making him an intriguing play at this point of the season.