This Frankencatcher Report was a tough one to write. It began as a piece hailing the return of Evan Gattis and mentioning Blake Swihart as a potential roll-of-the-dice pickup. The Red Sox called Swihart up to get a look in left field when Brock Holt hit the disabled list with what appears to be a pretty serious concussion, as he has now been on the DL for about a month.
But then Swihart ran into a wall.
And not the wall rookies or sophomores sometimes run into. He actually ran into the wall down the left field line and jacked up his ankle. Swihart was playing some solid outfield before that, and his bat showed signs of coming alive, but he now has what they are calling a serious ankle sprain, so we won’t be seeing him or his regular at bats in the near future. And in worse news, I had to delete the nearly 200 words I wrote about why he might be a decent target for desperate fantasy owners looking for help at catcher. That’s the real injury here.
Then the article morphed into a piece that still rode the Gattis power bus but swooned over Tommy Joseph and his hot bat. We talked about Tommy Joseph in the comments of my last article, and those of you who grabbed him early were rewarded. He got called up by the Phillies and started at first base over Ryan Howard almost every night.
And from May 13 through June 10, he raked:
Even if you consider that two doubles and two walks in a month of baseball is, well, not good, the rest of the numbers are solid. Especially those seven home runs at the catcher position (yes, he is playing first base, but catcher eligibility is all that matters). I was already coming up with Tommy Boy headlines (Back in the toolbox you go, “Holy Schnikes” headline) and thinking of pet names for him.
But then he stopped hitting. And he didn’t just run into a slump. He all but fell off the face of the earth. In just 10 days, his batting average dropped 100 points. He went 2 for 35, and his one hit on Jun 16 was sandwiched by an 0 for 16 and 0 for 11. His OBP fell to .252, and he is only slugging .470. Even for a fantasy league catcher, that is ice cold and unplayable. As quickly as his ownership percentage jumped up in late May and early June, it all but disappeared in the last two weeks.
He may turn it back around at some point, but stay away for now. His last few years in the minors are pretty hard to read, as well, since he has been plagued by some injuries and hasn’t really played a full season of baseball since 2012, when he had a largely underwhelming year in AA. Feel free to add him to your scout team, but for now the hot streak is over.
The Evan Gattis/Non-Tommy Joseph Part of the Article
Now, back to the original direction of an article that began over a week ago: the triumphant return of El Oso Blanco to catcher eligibility. Many of us thought this day would never come, but the Astros have begun playing Evan Gattis at catcher part time, and he now has catcher eligibility in every fantasy league that doesn’t have absolutely ridiculous positional eligibility requirements. In a year with so few options at the catcher position, the return of Gattis and his power is enough to make even the cellar dwellers in your league feel a little randy as they put in their waiver claim for him.
Now, Gattis hasn’t exactly made the league bow down before his sans batting gloves displays of power so far this year, as he is slashing just .214 / .286 / .434. However, he does have 11 home runs in 51 games. He’ll give you the 25 home runs you’re looking for, but you just have to hope he slashes closer to .250 / .325 / .500, like we know he can.
And now for someone you should grab who is only owned in 60% of leagues right now.
As if the Cubs needed any more young talent in the pipeline, they have another top 100 prospect, plus hitting catcher in Willson Contreras that they just called up from AAA. The only real concerns for Contreras right now are that he is an unproven talent at the MLB level (this is the first call-up for the 24-year old) and that the Cubbies already have two catchers in David Ross and Miguel Montero that they like and play regularly.
However, neither of the latter two are going to hit much, and Contreras destroyed minor league pitching the last two years at AA and AAA. If Contreras hits the way he is capable and is not a defensive liability behind the plate, then he will play and one of those other two will be gone at some point. The rumor, for now, is that Montero will continue to catch Jake Arrieta, Ross will continue to catch Jon Lester, and Contreras will catch the other three starters. But there is no way that they keep that rotation up for long, even with mad scientist Joe Maddon calling the shots.
The Other Guys
Travis d’Arnaud is getting activated. Hooray? I don’t know if we can really celebrate the activation of a guy who was hitting .196 with zero power. Or can we? If we’re gonna go glass half full, he had only played in 13 games before going down, so chalk it up to a small sample size if you want to. Surely that potential we saw in AA and AAA five years ago was no fluke.
Russell Martin—don’t look now, but Russell Martin is getting hot with the rest of the Blue Jays lineup. He is somewhat quietly slashing .279 / .431 / .488 in June. He still has a pretty large hole to dig out of after an awful April and underwhelming May, but he appears headed in the right direction. I would still like to see some more homers and extra base hits before I pulled the trigger on picking him up, but this is a guy who his hitting well now after barely even touching the ball in April.
Derek Norris has had a nice first few weeks of June, too. He is slashing .309 / .333 / .509 this month. Personally, I’m still not a big believer and would need to see more before I made a move. If you’re desperate and looking for some short term help in a deep league, then feel free to take a flyer. But I offer nothing more than a lukewarm endorsement based on his June splits.
If you want to talk catchers or have players you want me to feature next time, hit me up on Twitter at @mikeMaher or post a comment here.