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Catcher Waiver Wire Pickups For Week 4

The catching position in fantasy baseball has become a dried-up talent pool in recent seasons. The 2019 season has pumped a few gallons of skill and fantasy competence back into the tank as we are entering some better weather here towards the end of April. With early injuries at the position and some underperforming bats not impressing owners, it may be time to jump into the deep end to look for an upgrade.

Every season the waiver wire is full of potential league-winning gems and to be a successful fantasy player you need to be an active fantasy player. If you were one of the advocates to punt the catching position to the late rounds of your draft, you've come to the right place to choose your next backstop. The good thing about taking a catcher late in drafts is that you can afford to cut ties early without any feeling of guilt that you wasted a valuable draft selection.

The catching position has the least amount of volume of any other spot on the diamond with the number of platoons utilized by teams, so understand that a part-time backstop can still be productive at the position. Depending on league size, these waiver options may or may not be available, but we’ll go through a few tiers of catchers to fit your specific need.

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Top-Priority Adds

This tier is targeted towards single-catcher mixed leagues as they are likely to only be available in these formats. These backstops are also particularly serviceable and could return top-10 value in their respective lineups making it a mystery why they are unowned in the first place.

Mitch Garver (C, MIN) - 30% Owned

Despite only getting seven starts so far in 2019, Mitch Garver has catapulted himself as a top-five overall catcher in fantasy baseball. He’s hit .424 with five homers, 10 runs, and 10 RBI as he’s proving to the Minnesota Twins that he deserves more playing time. Stuck in a three-headed platoon with Willians Astudillo and defensive wiz Jason Castro, at-bats have been few and far between for Garver, but when he’s got them, he’s made them count.

Garver is fresh off a two-homer game in his latest start versus Baltimore where the Twins used him out of the leadoff spot for the second time in as many starts. It’s worth noting that regular leadoff man Max Kepler was out of the lineup, but it’s encouraging to see Garver being utilized at the top of the order nonetheless. He has barreled up an impressive 11.5% of balls in play and has tagged pitchers to a 53.8% Hard Hit% which is the second-best mark among all backstops. It’s only a matter of time before the Twins give more playing time to the 28-year-old, and even if he’s only playing every second or third day, he’s still a valuable piece to any fantasy roster.

Welington Castillo (C, CHW) - 40% Owned

It has been a cold start for Wellington Castillo in his second season with the Chicago White Sox. A hasty owner may have dropped the slumping veteran earlier this year when he started out a measly 2-for-33, but now might be the time to scoop him off the waiver wire. Castillo has woken up his bat over the last week with four hits in his last four games including two home runs. The 31-year-old still has pop in his bat and can prove that he can produce as a top-12 fantasy catcher.

Castillo is only a year removed from a 2017 season in which he clubbed 20 homers and batted .282. A PED suspension limited him to just 49 games in 2018, but that doesn’t mean the man will stop hitting. His current 20.8% K-rate would be the best mark of his career and his 16.7% BB% is light-years above his 7.0% career rate. The walk rate will likely level out closer to the median, but his plate discipline proves that he’s not lost at the dish this year and we can credit his .158 average towards a stunningly low .154 BABIP. His 14.3% Barrel% and 39.3% Hard Hit% suggest positive regression is coming and you’ll want to be the owner cashing in on it.


Streamers/Players to Watch

The catchers in this group are in waiver wire limbo as they are likely scooped up in two-catcher and league-specific formats. They are not ideal single mixed league targets unless you have a deep bench to stash one of these backstops. These bats, however, have an outside shot at returning top-10 value if everything breaks right.

Danny Jansen (C, TOR) - 37% Owned

Toronto Blue Jays backstop Danny Jansen is another player whose shares have plummeted after a slow start in 2019. The 24-year-old was a sexy late-round target by many fantasy managers this offseason, and so far, the results have been disappointing. Jansen is batting a feeble .179 with no round-trippers and just three RBI. He’s never been known to clear many bleachers, but his batting average has always remained his strongest fantasy asset. A .291 hitter in Double-A translated to a .285 average in Triple-A, but he’s yet to find his groove in the majors after hitting .247 in 31 games at the end of 2018 with the Jays.

The biggest issue with Jansen lies in his K-rate. He’s struck out an abnormal 28.6% of the time this season with a 10.9% SwStr%. His K-rate stayed in the mid-teens throughout his minor league career so expect the youngster to become more selective at the plate as the season progresses. Jansen remains a good contact hitter, but pitchers are taking advantage of his aggressiveness by getting him to swing-and-miss at an unpleasant 58.8% of pitches out of the zone. It may not happen immediately, but Jansen was touted as an excellent hitter for a reason, and he should come around at the plate. He’s currently on a mini five-game hit streak so keep an eye out for him as his bat gets hotter in the coming weeks.

Christian Vazquez (C, BOS) - 10% Owned

Perhaps one of the reasons why Blake Swihart was driven out of Beantown has been the play of Christian Vazquez. He’s shown a much-improved swing this year as he’s already eclipsed his 2018 home run total with four taters in the early going this season. Vazquez is only hitting .208, but he’s never hit for a high average so with the improved pop and 11 RBIs it’s well worth the trade-off. He’ll maintain the majority of playing time even with Sandy Leon returning to the big league roster, so the counting stats will continue to build accordingly.

Vazquez’ power may be here to stay with his launch angle increasing to a new career-high (13.9°) as he’s produced a 10% increase in his fly-ball rate from 2018 up to 34.1% this season. The 28-year-old has also found a way to square up the baseball after a 1.9% Barrel% last year has sky-rocketed to a 7.3% mark in 2019. It’s early, but this could be the start to a breakout year for Vazquez especially if the rest of the Red Sox lineup picks up their game around him.


Two-Catcher League Options

This tier meshes catchers that may still be available in two-catcher leagues, as well as league specific setups. They may carry some single-catcher mixed league value at some point, but for now, they can stay on your watchlist. They aren’t necessarily going to win you a category, but they won’t hurt your overall production either.

Blake Swihart (C/OF, ARI) - 3% Owned

Blake Swihart is finally moving on from the Boston Red Sox and into an increased role with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D’backs currently have Carson Kelly, John Ryan Murphy, and Alex Avila on their catching depth chart, so Swihart will be played mostly in the outfield with his new club. This positional eligibility is the ultimate cheat code to take advantage of in fantasy baseball, especially if he finds infield work to keep his bat in the lineup as GM Mike Hazen hinted at after his acquisition.

Swihart will undoubtedly receive more at-bats than what he was accumulating with the Sox, and we hope for his well-being and for the benefit of fantasy owners that he'll earn close to an everyday role. Still 27-years-old, Swihart’s potential remains high after being a former top prospect in all of baseball. He batted .231 with a homer and four RBI in his 12 games with Boston and is worth rostering in NL-Only leagues as well as two-catcher leagues where available.

Elias Diaz (C, PIT) - 1% Owned

After a productive 2018, Elias Diaz is fresh off of the IL after missing all of spring training with an undisclosed virus. He’ll move into a backup role with the Pirates behind Francisco Cervelli, but his bat will remain serviceable in two-catcher leagues. In 82 games a season ago, Elias clubbed 10 big flies and batted .286 which was the second-highest average for a catcher with more than 200 at-bats. Elias didn’t show any rust either in his Triple-A rehab stint as he batted a crisp .414 in 30 trips to the plate.

The 28-year-old is a fine addition in two-catcher formats as he’ll dip into Cervelli’s playing time more significantly than any other backup catcher. Cervelli is also a free agent at season’s end who dealt with concussions a year ago, so it’s no guarantee that he stays healthy or remains a member of the Pirates by midseason. Diaz is a sneaky waiver option with good upside who won’t hurt your team in any category.

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