• Art Tornabene

Catcher and Stolen Base Streamers for the week 4/19-25

I am still not yet inspired by any more clever name for my column. Catch a Steal did not strike me as very good, but the workshop is always open. Any recommendations are heartily appreciated. As always, I hope your teams are doing well.

On Steals

Manny Machado has stolen four bases this week. I repeat, Manny Machado has stolen four bases this week! Those who drafted Machado might be seeing a bit of a boost in his season-long value if this is one of those seasons where he is committed to stealing bases. Machado has posted seasons of fourteen and twenty before, as well as a season of zero over 696 plate appearances in 2016. Machado throwing in four in 2020 showed some reason for optimism coming in, and this past week has only bolstered that optimism.

Ramon Laureano has guaranteed his second straight week of at least three stolen bases, after tallying four in the week ending April 11, and currently sits four stolen bases ahead of the pack. Garrett Hampson has turned in a solid hitting week with no steals after his four stolen bases last week. The playing time has continued for Hampson, also, as he only sat during the first half of a doubleheader on Saturday.

Through Friday, Jurickson Profar, Eddie Rosario, Whit Merrifield, and Andrew Benintendi have all had at least two stolen bases this week. Benintendi deserves special mention this week before the narrative of his early-season struggles take hold too long. On its face, Benintendi’s .267 batting average, .353 on-base percentage, .400 slugging average week is perfectly pedestrian. The stolen bases were Benintendi’s second and third of the season, however, and he has managed a hit in nine of eleven appearances this season. His first two extra-base hits of the season coming Wednesday and Thursday provide encouragement, as does the stolen base ethos practiced in Kansas City. If you are in a league where he was dropped by a skittish owner, strongly consider adding him for an under-performing middle-round outfielder, as this could be a sign of good things to come.

On Catching

Early season standouts Christian Vazquez and Omar Narvaez had means-regressing weeks, while early batting average darlings Carson Kelly and Jose Trevino keep it rolling, with Kelly taking two out of the park. The best power source continues to be Wilson Ramos, as he cracked another two home runs this week. Willson Contreras managed a redemptive week after a dismal start, and Sean Murphy began to show signs of life, while early struggles continue for Travis D’Arnaud and Yasmani Grandal continue. Sal Perez was awesome.

It is worth monitoring that Mitch Garver continues to struggle at the plate, though he did still hit leadoff on Friday for Minnesota against Anaheim. I have liked backup Ryan Jeffers since the preseason, as he was considered more ready to handle the defensive duties than a typical young catcher. Jeffers has struck out on fifty percent of his plate appearances and is getting by on a .444 batting average on balls in play, but that should not distract from the fact that he is out-producing Mitch Garver. Should this continue, something closer to the Twins usual 50-50% split would not be surprising.

Toronto’s catching situation is similarly in flux. Danny Jansen has done nothing to solidify his spot, posting a mere .080 batting average thus far this season. Alejandro Kirk has not fared much better at only a .118 batting average. If either one of them gets hot, they may run away with the playing time for a while.

Last Week’s Suggestions

Nick Madrigal and Mike Tauchman.

Nick Madrigal has hit very well, with five hits in his fourteen at-bats thus far this week, a .357 batting average, accompanied by two runs and one run batted in. I can’t be disappointed with production, however, still no steals as of this writing. For Tauchman, I can only repeat the wise words of the cowboy in The Big Lebowski: “Sometimes, you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear, well, he eats you.” as Tauchman has not logged a plate appearance yet this week. Interestingly for the Yankees, Rougned Odor started three games in a row to start his time with the team, hitting a home run on Saturday off of Ray's lefty Jeffrey Springs. Odor’s talent is tantalizing, and the Yankees' offense has been anemic enough for them to keep running him out there for at least a little while longer to see if they’ve struck on anything with the player who produced 111 home runs and 52 steals between 2016 and 2019.

Tucker Barnhart, Luis Torrens and Victor Caratini

Tucker Barnhart salvaged a rough zero for six beginning to the week on Saturday when he cracked a solo home run on a two for four days. Teammate Tyler Stephenson has also seen ten plate appearances this week, and also came up big on Saturday with the winning hit. Luis Torrens had only one hit in twelve at-bats this past week, with two bases on balls, but no counting stats. The final selection, Victor Caratini looks poised to go into Sunday with only one hit and in twelve at-bats this week. Tandem-mates, Tom Murphy, and Luis Campusano are hitting only slightly better than their counterparts, however, so for now, Caratini doesn’t appear to be losing ground on plate appearances. Torrens will continue to receive a long leash. Caratini’s opportunity to solidify a strong share of the plate appearances after Austin Nola’s return, however, was not helped this week. With Nola set to begin alternate training site games, the time to stake an early claim is dwindling.

This Week’s Suggestions: Catcher Streamers

Kurt Suzuki, LAA (27% rostered)

Max Stassi’s placement on the 10-day IL on April 13 really cleared a path for some consistent plate appearances. Given that Stassi’s earliest return is April 23, Suzuki will be a strong play for the early part of next week. Texas is scheduled to start Kohei Arihara, Jordan Lyles, and Mike Foltynewicz Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with Zack Greinke opening a four-game set for Houston against the Angels.

Luis Torrens, SEA (42% rostered)

Given Torrens’ struggles this week, I am not going to be bold and suggest playing him against the Dodgers for the early part of this next week. However, I think playing him against Boston over the weekend is a smart move for your Friday roster changes in NFBC leagues. I have been on to Torrens for some time, as I see a good approach in the batter’s box, along with some still-developing power. My confidence in him is still there, especially in Boston over the weekend.

This Week’s Suggestions: Stolen Base Streamers

Rougned Odor, NYY (10% rostered)

For the reasons mentioned above: Odor’s track record and the Yankees need, I am going to be giving Odor a long look, and I suggest you do too. I am not necessarily suggesting to play Odor next week (though I find him to be a perfectly good play if needing a second baseman), I do think that he is one of the true steal upside players that have popped in any meaningful way thus far in this short season. I would not yet suggest dropping last week’s pick Nick Madrigal for him, however.

Roman Quinn, PHI (0% rostered)

If you are looking for the best rabbit available, Quinn is your guy. He has sprint speed measured this season in the 86th percentile on baseball savant and has been called the fastest player in the MLB. He is combining that with fairly regular plate appearances, or nine this week. Quinn has been an abysmal hitter, however, he may provide you with a small short-term boost in stolen bases, one of our toughest categories.