As always, catcher is a fantasy wasteland. Just three backstops, Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey and Brian McCann, are inside the top 200 of standard 5x5 leagues. Players like Jonathan Lucroy, Willson Contreras, J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal, who were expected to be reliable fantasy performers, are outside the top 350. For most people, catcher has been a nightmare fantasy position this season.
Luckily, at least for one proactive fantasy owner in every league, a reinforcement is on the way.
The Rays activated Wilson Ramos on Saturday. He has been on the DL all year, rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered with the Nationals in the final week of the 2016 season. He has been playing in minor league games for two weeks now, and has passed every big test placed before him. He has caught a full nine innings, and has been behind the dish in consecutive games. Both of those developments were crucial, with Corey Dickerson’s success as the Rays DH this season. Dickerson could slide into the outfield, but the Rays have been set there, too, even in the wake of Kevin Kiermaier’s injury. With Logan Morrison entrenched at first base, Ramos needs to be able to catch consistently to get regular at-bats. He has proved he can do that. All that’s left for him to do now is get back to The Show.
Even if he’s eased back into the lineup, he’s worth owning in all fantasy formats. He hit .307/.354/.496 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs last year, and should slot into one of the top spots in the back half of one of the league’s most potent lineups.
Given the dearth of dependable fantasy options at catcher this season, Ramos should be able to find a home in all fantasy leagues. Every fantasy owner who doesn’t have Sanchez, Posey or McCann behind the dish should at least be considering Ramos. Assuming he’s healthy enough to play mostly every day, it’s hard to find an argument against him being a top-seven catcher the rest of the season, and he has a ceiling to be one of the very best at his position, just like he was last year. Go get him while you still can.
Mike Zunino, C, Mariners
Ramos isn’t the only person providing some much-needed help at catcher. The “is Mike Zunino good?” discussion is back with a vengeance, and for once he seems to be answering in the affirmative. He has been one of the league’s best hitters in the month of June, slashing .253/.317/.500 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs. Forget about his past for a second. Zunino in June has outperformed what every catcher other than Sanchez, Posey, McCann and Alex Avila have done all year, when factoring in rate stats. That’s enough to trust him in all formats.
Steven Souza, OF, Rays
Logan Morrison is finally owned in more than 50% of leagues, but the drumbeat goes on in Tampa for Souza. The 28-year-old is hitting .269/.378/.498 with 14 homers and 48 RBIs on the year. He’s swinging the bat well lately, going 17-for-51 with four jacks and 15 RBIs in his last 14 games. Add it all up, and he’s the 47th-ranked player in standard 5x5 leagues, yet he’s owned in fewer than half of them.
Mallex Smith, OF, Rays
Smith will get the majority of the starts in center for the Rays over the next two months while Kevin Kiermaier is on the shelf with a fractured hip. Smith has hit leadoff in most of the games he has started since Kiermaier went down, though he has, on occasion, hit in the bottom half of the order. Anyone who hits leadoff for the Rays consistently is going to be a significant run-scoring threat, given the potency of the rest of the order. On top of that, Smith is a serious stolen-base threat, swiping nine bags in 84 plate appearances this season. Smith is, at the very least, a strong two-category player.
Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Cubs
Happ continues to hit for power when he’s in the Cubs lineup, belting 10 dingers in 138 plate appearances this season. Joe Maddon is giving him four or five starts per week, and he is now eligible at second base and in the outfield in most fantasy formats. Happ has hit no lower than fifth in any of his starts, putting him in prime run-scoring and RBI spots. Even though he won’t necessarily help your rate categories, he can be a huge boon to any fantasy owner’s counting stats.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Rangers
Forever underrated, Choo continues to provide a little juice in all five categories. The veteran outfielder now owns a .384 OBP, 11 homers, 41 runs, 34 RBIs and six steals in 280 plate appearances. Choo is the 22nd-ranked outfielder in standard 5x5 leagues, ahead of Christian Yelich, Andrew Benintendi, Wil Myers and Dexter Fowler. How is he available in four out of every five fantasy leagues?
Amed Rosario, SS, Mets
Sandy Alderson notwithstanding, Rosario is going to be with the Mets eventually this season. We can’t say with any certainty when that might be, unfortunately. When the GM doesn’t want to call up his top prospect, a shortstop who’s hitting .321/.365/.471 with seven homers at Triple-A Las Vegas, after his starting shortstop and second baseman hit the DL, it’s hard to project when he might actually get the call. Still, Rosario will be in Queens at some point this season, and the Mets would be wise to see a lot of him before next year. He’ll be immediately relevant in all fantasy formats once he gets promoted.
Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B, White Sox
Like Rosario, Moncada’s time has to be coming. He’s hitting .289/.391/.456 with nine homers, seven doubles, 27 RBI and 15 steals at Triple-A Charlotte. He has nothing left to prove in the minors, and is a huge part of the White Sox future. The team really has no reason to keep Moncada down at the Triple-A level any longer. If you have room to stash him for a few weeks, that move could pay huge dividends during the second half of the season.
Carlos Rodon, SP, White Sox
After spending the entire season thus far on the DL with a biceps injury, Rodon is just about set to rejoin the White Sox rotation. He hasn’t necessarily pitched all that well on his rehab assignment, notching a 10.06 ERA and 1.77 WHIP in 13 2/3 innings, but the important thing is that he has been entirely healthy in that time. Even if there’s some rust to shake off, he’s a fantasy asset in all formats with the injury in his rearview mirror.
As always, we will keep a list at the bottom of our weekly waiver wire column of relief pitchers who are not closers, but can still be fantasy assets because of their strikeout rate, ERA and WHIP. The relievers are listed in order of fantasy value.
Carl Edwards, RP, Cubs
Hector Neris, RP, Phillies
Archie Bradley, RP, Diamondbacks
Will Harris, RP, Astros
Brad Hand, RP, Marlins
Darren O’Day, RP, Orioles
Adam Ottavino, RP, Rockies
Arodys Vizcaino, RP, Braves
David Phelps, RP, Marlins