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Riding the Waive: Catching Catcher Injuries

Let’s get right into the popular add/drops in fantasy leagues this week and dole out some advice on whether you should follow suit.

Popular Adds

Caleb Joseph, C, BAL (+58 percent) – Fantasy owners have had to deal with a plethora of catcher injuries early in the season, including Devin Mesoraco’s ongoing hip issues, Yan Gomes’s MCL sprain and Travis d’Arnaud’s broken hand. We’ve turned largely to Joseph, who’s raking to the tune of .333/.447/.513 with one home run and four RBI in 39 at-bats. You don’t need me to tell you that Joseph isn’t going to hit like this all year, but he’s a perfectly acceptable short-term fill-in. Just be aware that Matt Wieters is starting to catch game in extended spring training this weekend, so Joseph likely won’t be on your team for more than a few weeks.

Ender Inciarte, OF, ARI (+46 percent) – Inciarte jumped out to a smoking-hot start, hitting .405/.450/.568 in his first 10 games and causing manager Chip Hale to say he would play almost every day. We knew Inciarte would course-correct eventually, and that happened almost immediately after Hale’s news; the outfielder is just 3 for 21 over the last week. His window of fantasy relevance has likely passed, so feel free to grab another hot outfield option instead, especially one that has a more firm lock on playing time over the remainder of the season.

Zack Cozart, SS, CIN (+32 percent) – What’s gotten into Zack Cozart? The light-hitting shortstop, who had managed just four home runs in 506 at-bats last season, delivered four home runs in a four-game stretch this past week. We certainly can’t expect him to be an elite power source over a larger sample size, as the most home runs he’s hit in a major-league season is 15, and he hasn’t shown any greater power in the minors. While a move up the batting order to the No. 2 slot Thursday is intriguing, he’s a guy likely to be back on the waiver wire in the near future.

Kevin Plawecki, C, NYM (+26 percent) – Meet your new starting catcher in New York. A late first-round pick in 2012, Plawecki is considered a guy who could serve as a major-league starter behind the plate long-term. He posted batting averages north of .300 with moderate power in each of his last two minor-league seasons, and he’ll now get his first chance to test himself against major-league pitching with d’Arnaud sidelined. Like Joseph, Plawecki is a quality fill-in option with a looming expiration date. If you can’t land the Baltimore catcher, the rookie’s upside makes him a solid consolation prize.

Popular Drops

Zach McAllister, SP, CLE (-21 percent)— McAllister has been banished to the bullpen with Danny Salazar joining the rotation, and while that certainly curbs his fantasy value, he actually could work as a serviceable middle reliever in deeper leagues in his new role.

Daniel Norris, RP, TOR (-15 percent) – Norris has been going through a dead-arm phase, predictably throwing up mediocre numbers as a result. He appears to be on the tail end of those issues, and he certainly retains a nice bit of value in leagues that reward quality RP-eligible SPs.

Kyle Lohse, SP, MIL (-14 percent) – Lohse has been giving up hits in bunches, but you know the veteran is going to have fantasy value at some point this season, especially when he has a string of quality matchups on the horizon. Leave him on the waiver wire but keep an eye out for the early signs of him turning things around.

Brandon Belt, 1B, SF (-13 percent) – Belt has yet to get his bat going while dealing with a groin issues in the early part of April. He’ll eventually turn things around and provide moderate power, making him a corner-infield option worth monitoring.

Alex Avila, C, DET (-12 percent) – Avila has turned into a platoon backstop, and with the Tigers facing three straight lefties at one point over the last week, many owners decided to cut ties with the catcher as he appeared to have been benched. Avila has posted fine numbers against righties in his careers and still makes for a fine play when the Tigers have a string to right-handers on the upcoming schedule.

Chris Carter, 1B, HOU (-11 percent) – We’ve constantly banged the drum for Carter despite his awful play early in the season, as he’s one of the premier power threats in the league. He’s 3 for 7 with one home run, two RBI and two walks in his last two games; the buy-low window may be closing.

Deeper Add Recommendations

J.A. Happ, SP, SEA (18 percent owned) – Happ has done an excellent job over his first three starts thanks in large part to improved control, as he’s issued just two walks in 20 2/3 innings. As a result, he’s been able to deliver a 2.61 ERA while picking up one win. The strikeouts haven’t quite been there, but he did manage five punchouts in 7 1/3 innings in his previous start. Happ has a two-start week on the horizon against the Rangers and Astros, two teams he’s already recorded quality starts against.

Michael Saunders, OF, TOR (16 percent) – Saunders opened the season on the disabled list after undergoing knee surgery in February, and he also developed a hamstring issue during his rehab. However, he appears on the verge of making his season debut. He has 20/20 upside but will likely take a little time to get in the groove, limiting his fantasy value. Deeper league owners should act now, as he could serve as a fine fifth outfielder over the remainder of the season.

Cody Asche, 3B, PHI (14 percent) – Asche has shot out of the gate this season, batting .340/.392/.511 with two home runs in 47 at-bats. His .452 BABIP will regress severely, so don’t expect him to hit for high average all year, but he’s a perfectly fine power play. The Phillies also have third-base prospect Maikel Franco playing well in Triple-A, so owners with deeper benches could find solid 3B production all year by spending two roster spots on both Asche and Franco.

Cody Martin, SP/RP, ATL (8 percent) – Martin isn’t a guy with a clear path to saves, but he’s been used frequently by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and been mostly effective when he’s pitched. The damage against the reliever has been limited to two solo home runs, but he’s managed to deliver a 1.80 ERA and 14:2 K:BB ratio in 10 innings. Martin did a solid job as a starter in Triple-A last year, and as the Braves don’t have the strongest rotations, it’s possible he could see a look as a starter later this year, one that would come with RP-eligibility and what looks to be a strong resume in a relief role.