Power at catcher is always in demand, and the position should be getting an influx soon as a the result of a former catcher once again donning the tools of ignorance after leaving the position last year. The former top prospect in all of baseball was Wally Pipped over the last couple of seasons, but he’ll get an opportunity to strut his stuff in the majors over the next couple of weeks. Also, a pitcher whose play and velocity has been up and down this year is coming off of a strong start in which he regained the velo bump he showcased in his first few starts.
Evan Gattis – Util/OF(Y!) – Houston Astros (CBS: 54%, ESPN: 30.3% Yahoo!: 39%)
Gattis was recently sent to the minors to get catcher reps, and he’s back in the bigs and ready to don the tools of ignorance. He’s currently only utility/designated hitter eligible at CBS and ESPN, and gaining catcher eligibility will boost his value across all fantasy sites. The right-handed slugger is off to a slow start this year, but he’s swatted 20-plus homers all three years he’s been in the league, and even his career .248 batting average is palatable behind the dish.
Looking ahead at the schedule, if Gattis is utilized in a strict platoon and starts at catcher versus lefties while Jason Castro catches versus righties, Gattis will pick up three starts behind the plate by the end of the weekend. Unfortunately, the Astros aren’t currently scheduled to face a southpaw again until May 30th after this weekend. He’ll get his fifth start against a lefty on June 1st (if all of the listed probable starters the Astros are facing, per ESPN, hold true), and that’s a big deal since CBS doles out eligibility in season after five games played at a position and Yahoo! does so after 10 games played or five starts at a position. It’s more difficult to gain eligibility at ESPN, and he’ll need to play 10 games at catcher before he earns the all-important “C” next to his name. It is possible the Astros won’t adhere to a strict platoon and Gattis will start behind the plate against some right-handed pitchers as well. That remains to be seen, but the time is now to grab him if you’re in need of help at catcher or if you have a roster spot to work with (catchers are always in need, and scooping him with the intention of flipping him is a solid move, too).
Jurickson Profar – 2B/SS(Y!) – Texas Rangers (CBS: 15%, ESPN: 1.7%, Yahoo!: 3%)
Profar has played 29 games at shortstop in the minors this year, but, as T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com has reported, he’s playing at second base in the minors in anticipation of filling in for Rougned Odor once his suspension is served. After two mostly lost seasons due to injury, Profar is raking at Triple-A Round Rock (.271/.348/.417 with a 111 wRC+). He hit just two homers in April, but his fence-clearing power has come on of late with three homers smacked in the last week. The 23-year-old hasn’t been efficient on the base paths, but he’s stolen four bases in six stolen base attempts. Young talent at second base and shortstop have improved the state of the middle infield in fantasy leagues, but the position remains top heavy. I’m sure I’m not telling gamers in 12-team mixed league (or larger) that utilize a middle infield position anything they don’t already know. There isn’t a clear path to playing time when Odor’s suspension has been served in its entirety, but this is a great opportunity for Profar to showcase himself to other clubs. Furthermore, the schedule sets up nicely for him to have short-term value for gamers churning and burning at middle infield. The Rangers’ next three series are at Houston and then two at home. Minute Maid Park and Globe Life Park in Arlington are a pair of solid venues for hitters.
Hector Santiago – SP – Los Angeles Angels (CBS: 64%, ESPN: 31.3%, Yahoo!: 43%)
Almost exactly one month ago I wrote about Santiago’s new found velocity and excellent results that accompanied the extra ticks on his heater. The uptick in velocity could be explained by a new training routine and pitching with a reliever’s mentality of airing it out every pitch. That’s fair enough, but it left open the question as to whether or not he’d fizzle out taking a max effort approach. I speculated he could wear down over the summer, but I didn’t expect his velocity to take a nose dive after peaking at a fourseam fastball average velocity of 93.61 mph in an April 23rd start, per Brook Baseball. His fourseam fastball average velocity dropped to 92.47 mph in his next start, then 91.28 mph in the start after that and bottomed out at 89.74 mph on May 10th. As his velocity slipped, so too did his results. In that three-start stretch, Santiago allowed 11 earned runs on 23 hits and seven walks with just seven strikeouts in 15.1 innings.
A funny thing happened in his May 15th start against the Mariners. The 28-year-old’s velocity spiked again. His fourseam fastball average velocity jumped back up to 93.67 mph. He threw the heater 63 times and netted a healthy nine whiffs on the pitch. He totaled just 12 whiffs on the fourseam fastball in his last three starts combined. Santiago generated another four whiffs with his changeup in the May 15th start, and he had a total of 13 whiffs on 115 pitches thrown (11.3% whiff rate). The veteran lefty was great in that start and held the M’s scoreless on two hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He faces the Orioles at Camden Yards tonight, and if his fastball isn’t humming, it’s a ballpark he could get punished in. The matchup is good, though, as the Orioles rank 24th in wRC+ (83) versus southpaws this year and have a 20.2% strikeout rate against them. I’m less bullish about Santiago than I was earlier in the year after watching his velocity magically disappear, but he’s worth an add in 12-team mixed leagues or larger if you’re in need of pitching help. The important thing to keep an eye on is the radar gun. If he’s lighting it up again, he’s worth holding. If he’s barely breaking 90 mph, he’s not worth rostering.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.