Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Mauer placed on DL: Five fill-in options
By Eric Karabell
Anytime a player gets that little asterisk signifying a disabled list stint next to his name this late in the season, fantasy owners must consider the risks versus the rewards of keeping the player or looking elsewhere. With awesome Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who was placed on the seven-day DL on Tuesday with concussion symptoms, there's no question this is a guy worth keeping around. Mauer isn't expected to be out any longer than the minimum DL stay required, which in this case is a week, and I doubt anyone needs a reminder about how good the guy is. He's hitting .324, and if it wasn't for the amazing Miguel Cabrera, yet another batting title would be a realistic possibility.
There's a long-held theory that catchers are poor trade targets in fantasy leagues the later it gets in a season because they tend to get tired and wear down more than regular position players. Frankly, most players wear down, regardless of position, but as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey proved a year ago, catchers can retain their value as the season progresses, and perhaps even gain value. Mauer is a strong example. His career batting line shows a .324 batting average and .877 OPS before the All-Star break, and a .322 average and an .869 OPS after it. And his September numbers also show no drop-off.
Mauer is one of seven catchers owned in 100 percent of ESPN standard leagues, and that should not change this week. He's a must-own guy, a difference-making fantasy option ranked second among catchers to Yadier Molina -- who recently came off a DL stint of his own -- on the Player Rater. Mauer's DL stint is likely as much about simply giving him a few days off as it is for concussion symptoms, since this isn't exactly a contending squad. He'll resume hitting like a champ next week.
However, if you have the bench space or an opening in your DL slot, you absolutely should be looking for a fill-in catcher, as every base hit and run scored counts and could affect your league title. Here are five readily available catchers to consider adding:
[+]Enlarge Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJason Castro is on pace for 41 doubles and 18 homers and is hitting a respectable .270.
Jason Castro, Houston Astros: It's understandable that his value hasn't picked up more steam in single-catcher formats, but he has been a top-10 catcher for the season, and he's hitting .333 over the past 15 days, with power. I'd rather own him than Mike Napoli, Evan Gattis and Matt Wieters at this point.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox: He has knocked in a run in four consecutive starts, and registered multiple hits in four of eight. Frankly, the reason to be cautious of Salty is generally his batting average, but with a season mark of .272, that risk seems overblown. The .386 BABIP is ridiculously high for a slow-footed catcher, but it's not likely to regress all the way to the mean over a one-week span.
Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals: Ramos has been on a run-producing streak of his own lately, with an RBI in six of eight games, including his mammoth home run Monday, his eighth of the season. Eight doesn't sound like much, but Ramos has played in a mere 44 games.
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals: Concussion symptoms landed him on the seven-day DL a few weeks ago, but hopefully Saturday's home run gets the talented Perez going. He has dropped nearly 100 points of slugging percentage this season, but it's worth noting that in 180 career at-bats in September (and a few in October), he's hitting .339 with power, and his contending team wants him playing every day.
Travis d'Arnaud, New York Mets: This interesting prospect, who got his first major league hit Tuesday with a ringing double, is certainly someone to watch. He has power, has shown good plate discipline, and as long as he can stay healthy, he projects as a potential top-10 option at the position, perhaps as soon as next year. The Mets must deal with the tough Detroit Tigers pitching staff this weekend, but after that it's the more enticing NL East teams like Philly and Miami.