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Catcher Waiver Wire Pickups For Week 5

With the calendar flipping over to May later this week, we as fantasy managers, have to legitimately assess the state of our team's play so far. We now have over a month's worth of sample size to evaluate whether we can chalk a hitter's slow start to either wrongful misfortune or simply genuine failure.

If you're in the market for a catching upgrade this week or the near future, we'll go through a few tiers of backstops who will fit your specific league format. 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. Some people may believe that catchers are next to worthless for your team, but if you find an unowned superior performer in your league, you'll wind up with a massive advantage over your opponents.

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. Whether you plan to stream this spot on your roster weekly or if you're looking to find a long term option, we'll go through a vast range of backstops who'll hopefully take you to the fantasy promise land.

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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.

Mike Zunino (C, TB) - 42% Owned

Mike Zunino was an early season underperformer going 2-for-29 in his first eight starts, and an impatient owner in your league may have dropped the slugging catcher prematurely this month. The 28-year-old is a must own with his power stroke turning a corner over the last week. Zunino has clubbed two homers over his previous four starts for his first long balls in a Rays uniform. If we date back over the past two weeks, he’s driven in 10 runs and is batting a fresh .400 in this span.

Along with the improved hitting ability of late, Zunino has also shown tremendous improvements in plate discipline. A career 33.9% K-rate has enhanced to a 22.7% mark so far this season as he’s showing more aggressiveness at the plate by swinging earlier in counts. It’s an encouraging step for Zunino who has always drained the batting average category with an abysmal .208 career average. Zunino remains a 20-plus home run threat, and if the new approach sticks for the remainder of the season, he’ll be your league’s top catching gem off the waiver wire.

Jorge Alfaro (C, MIA) - 36% Owned

Jorge Alfaro continues to get little love from fantasy leagues despite an outstanding start to 2019. Often overlooked because of the jersey that he wears, Alfaro has thrived in his everyday role in Miami. He is unquestionably shaping up to be a win for the Marlins in the J.T. Realmuto trade as he’s hit five big flies on the year including two over the last week to go along with a respectable .297 average on the season.

Strikeouts remain to be an issue with Alfaro, so his batting average isn’t likely to linger in the .300 range by season’s end. His 35.4% K-rate is among the league’s worst and his 2.5% BB% isn’t helping out his cause either. We want to roster Alfaro for his home run and RBI potential anyway, in which we anticipate a wealthy total. He’s crushed the baseball to a terrific 52.2% Hard Hit% and barrelled up 10.9% of balls he’s put in play. These kinds of numbers can easily translate to a home run total in the mid-teens, but we shouldn't rule out a number eclipsing 20 either. Alfaro is still young and has a great skill set, so expect the 25-year-old to continue to improve with more seasoning.


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.

Mitch Garver (C, MIN) - 36% Owned

Another week goes by, and another appearance from Mitch Garver appears in this weekly write-up. This time, the news isn’t so much about what Garver has done on the field, but about what has caused his stock to rise in lieu of a teammate’s injury. Willians Astudillo landed on the IL over the weekend with a hamstring strain opening up more playing time for Garver on the Twins’ crowded catching depth chart. Now with just Jason Castro to split time with, we should see close to a 50/50 timeshare with these backstops for the interim.

It’s clear that Garver is the better offensive performer of the two, but teams need to rely on strong defensive minded catchers as well which is why Castro will remain in the lineup consistently. Garver has still managed to hit five homers in 40 at-bats this season, and he carries a .348 batting average making him a current top-five fantasy catcher despite the lack of playing time. Even if the expanded role only lasts until Astudillo returns, Garver’s bat needs to be owned and taken advantage of while it’s hot.

Tyler Flowers (C, ATL) - 3% Owned

Another backstop recently picking up some steam at the plate is Braves backstop, Tyler Flowers. He’s fresh off a superb weekend in which he had a 4-for-4 game with two homers as his average has now climbed up to .346. He has split time behind the dish with the aging Brian McCann this season, but Flowers' hitting ability gives him the upper hand in possibly taking over a more prominent role behind the plate for Atlanta.

If this timeshare starts to favor Flowers more often, he’s a good player to target in leagues wherever available. If you’re in search of more home runs, he may not be the first choice as he’s only eclipsed double-digits once in his career, but his batting average is a beneficial attribute that not many other catchers will be able to provide. His current .346 average surely won’t hold, but a modest projection of .270 isn’t outrageous since he’s finished two of the last three seasons with an average higher than this. If you need a backstop who won’t kill your categories, Flowers is a stable option for your squad.


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.

James McCann (C, CHW) - 3% Owned

After talking up Welington Castillo in last week’s write-up, the attention has shifted over to his teammate James McCann this week. The White Sox batted McCann out of the cleanup spot last week as they’ve certainly rewarded the 28-year-old with his superb play. He's currently 11 for his last 23 as he upped his average on the season to .357 in the early going. McCann has also surprisingly added to the stolen base column with two thefts on the year, although counting on him to swipe anything more than a handful would be ill-advised.

McCann has knocked two balls out of the park in his 13 games so far and is showing a revamped skill set with his new club. He’s made improvements in plate discipline with what would be career-highs in his 21.7% K% and 6.7% BB%, and he may be forcing the issue regarding more playing time over Castillo. Now considered his backup, the role could grow into a 50/50 split especially if Castillo doesn’t build on his lowly .204 average. Even as a secondary player, McCann is an attractive target in two-catcher formats as he continues to flourish in his new uniform.

Grayson Greiner (C, DET) - 1% Owned

Those fantasy managers who scrape the bottom of the barrel for a second catcher should consider adding Grayson Greiner. The 26-year-old is on the good side of a 70/30 split for starting duties behind the plate for the Tigers, and he’s taken advantage of it. Greiner belted two home runs this past week and now has three on the year with seven runs scored and nine RBI. These aren’t dynamic measures by any means, but it’s serviceable in deep two-catcher formats.

Like most catchers, Greiner strikes out a lot with his K-rate currently sitting at 30.1%. His 4.1% walk rate isn’t anything to boast about either, but he posted double-digit marks consistently throughout his minor league tenure and held an outstanding 14.7% rate in 30 games with Detroit in 2018. With a bit more patience and big league experience, Greiner should be able to build a bit on his .232 average which still isn’t all that bad in the current catching landscape. The youngster won’t move the needle for you considerably in the roto categories but is worth a dart throw if you’re looking to replace an injured player or your secondary backstop.

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