Unless Keanu Reeves has been working on calling signs, you won’t be able to replace Brian McCann with a player off the wire with his upside. Now that the 27-year-old Brave has had his career year derailed by an oblique injury in the middle of a marathon game, fantasy owners will be looking for replacements. Let’s take a look at some possible pickups. In tiers!
Jonathan Lucroy (38% owned in Yahoo)
Perhaps it was a dropping BABIP that has had Lucroy hitting closer to .250 over the last two months, but if batting average is important to you, he’s one of the better options available in more than half of Yahoo’s leagues. The good news is that the Milwaukee catcher has some upside left — this year. He’s showing a 21.5% strikeout rate, but also a 6.5% swinging strike rate. Last year, those numbers were 18% and 7.0% respectively. It’s possible that since his BABIP (.338) is so close to his xBABIP (.329), his batting average could even rise as his strikeout rate begins to look more like last year’s strikeout rate. His minor league strikeout rates were all much closer to 15%, so this outcome comes close to probable even. The question is his power. A .119 ISO is not going bring you McCann-like rewards. Not many batters have a ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio above 1.41 and a home-run-rate-per-fly-ball around ten percent. Chipper Jones, Dustin Pedroia, Martin Prado and Melky Cabrera do, though. The nice thing is that all of them have ISOs above average. Lucroy might run into a few more home runs in the second half.
Ramon Hernandez (23% owned in Yahoo)
Sure, you can go with the high-power, low-batting average guys like Miguel Olivo and and John Buck. Or maybe even Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has resurrected his career and is mostly playable despite a bad contact rate. Instead it’s Ramon Hernandez that gets the call here. It’s taken the 35-year-old a long time to finally put up a .300 batting average, but with a .328 xBABIP and a .303 BABIP, it might just be sustainable. The way he did it was by sacrificing his fly balls. A career low in fly ball rate along with a career high in ground-ball rate makes him a different player these days, but don’t expect that 20.4% HR/FB rate to continue. He has a 11.7% career number and his power, as measured by ISO, has been dwindling for a while. Still, even if he won’t play as much as McCann or have the same power, he won’t kill your batting average.
David Ross (1% owned in Yahoo)
Well, now you’re just screwed. Just hope he won’t be out long. Ryan Doumit‘s rehab has been moved to Triple-A, but he’s probably not back until the beginning of August. Josh Thole might be out there for you as long as you’re not in an NL-only with two catchers — don’t laugh, I am in the AL version — but the Mets catcher is all batting average because of his choked-up approach at the plate. And that approach is even limited in batting average upside. Instead, consider taking the same approach that the Braves might take and pick up Brian McCann’s replacement. If he’s out there, it’s because it’s obvious the lifetime .236/.325/.449 hitter is above his head at .293/.361/.507 so far this year. You don’t need xBABIP to know his .367 BABIP in 84 PAs is not sustainable. Ross has looked great in Atlanta mostly because he’s been limited to facing lefties, too. Interestingly enough, though, the 34-year-old righty has a .331 career wOBA against righties (.334 vs lefties). Everything but his BABIP is looks the same! Take advantage of perceived flaws and pick up the catcher with the .213 career ISO that has been hitting over .270 for the past three years.
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