The catcher position is normally just about survival. Unless you were willing to overpay for one of the handful of players who distinguish themselves from the heap of mediocrity, you're probably just swapping out one hot hand for the next, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
Well, it just so happens there are two prime candidates to become something more permanent -- and no, I'm not referring to recent call-up Adley Rutschman, who was near universally rostered even prior to his promotion (such is the extent of our desperation at the position). The two I'm referring to are also rookies, but much more widely available, and their actual performance has put them in a position to play more often than even the typical catcher..
The first is William Contreras, brother of the Cubs' Willson Contreras. Though only 24 percent rostered in CBS Sports leagues, he's performed so well as a backup that the Braves have begun to embrace him as a focal point in their lineup, even to the point of playing him out of position.
He got the start in left field Monday, batting second, and served as the DH Tuesday, also batting second. His contributions in both games -- two hits, including a double, in the first and a walk-off winner in the second -- have only bolstered the Braves' belief in him, no doubt. He had already clubbed six homers in just 10 games prior to Monday's start, making such high-quality contact that Statcast had him with a .319 xBA and .831 xSLG entering Tuesday.
The other is the 58 percent-rostered MJ Melendez, who has been filling in for Salvador Perez (sprained thumb). He homered Tuesday for the third time in only eight games since Perez went down, which shouldn't be surprising given that Melendez led the minors with 41 home runs last year.
He was already making occasional starts at DH even before Perez went down, and it's not like the Royals lineup is overflowing with competent hitters. Perez has begun taking hacks again and may be on the verge of returning, but Melendez has earned the right to stay in the lineup even when he does. The two could alternate between catcher and DH.
What's most exciting about Contreras and Melendez is that they don't just stand out for their productivity. The kind of roles they're in position to fill would make them near-everyday players, which would mean even more at-bats than the typical No. 1 catcher. That sort of playing-time advantage is itself enough to vault a player into the top 10 at the position, even before accounting for production.
Given how dispensable the majority of the position is, I'm already willing to rank Contreras and Melendez 11th and 12th at catcher. And if you also wanted to swap Nos. 9 and 10, Mitch Garver and Alejandro Kirk, for them, I'd be OK with it.
Let's see who else is available on the waiver wire ...
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #31 • Age: 32
Normally, I wouldn't bother with a player already rostered in more than 80 percent of leagues, but the main reason Tyler Anderson's rate is so high is because he was in line for two starts this week. I'm here to stress that he's more than just a streaming option. I was beginning to think so even before Monday's gem in which he equaled a career high with 21 swinging strikes, including 10 on his changeup. His swinging-strike rate is now at 14.8 percent, good for seventh-best in baseball, right in between Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon. It's certainly out of character for the soft-tossing lefty, and that changeup seems to be the key. By every metric, it has morphed into an elite pitch. Have the Dodgers done it again?
Clay Holmes RP
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #35 • Age: 29
A bout with Achilles tendinitis has landed longtime closer Aroldis Chapman on the IL, but the heir is apparent, having already notched four saves as an occasional fill-in for Chapman. And at this stage of Chapman's career, Clay Holmes might represent an upgrade anyway. In 46 appearances with the Yankees dating back to last year, he has a 1.06 ERA, a 0.73 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. Presumably, Chapman will reclaim the role when healthy, but there's no timetable for his return. And it's at least possible that Holmes proves so effective in the role that the Yankees decide to leave him there.
Jhoan Duran RP
MIN Minnesota • #59 • Age: 24
Holmes may already be rostered in your league given the ratio darling he's been, in which case you can turn your attention to Jhoan Duran instead. The rookie with the 103 mph fastball has recorded each of the past two saves for the Twins, notching his fourth overall Tuesday. Granted, presumed closer Emilio Pagan likely wasn't available after working two innings Sunday, but he almost certainly was when Duran was called to preserve a one-run lead Tuesday. Duran is clearly the superior pitcher, piling up strikeouts without any of the control issues Pagan has had. Pagan has also been crushed by the long ball in recent years, so his grip on the role, to the extent it even exists, is no doubt a loose one.
Aaron Ashby SP
MIL Milwaukee • #26 • Age: 24
We now know that Freddie Peralta's shoulder injury is significant enough sideline him for the next couple months at least, which means Aaron Ashby finally has some runway in the role he was born to fill. He's certainly well equipped for it anyway, boasting some of the best bat-missing ability I've ever seen for a pitcher with a 65 percent ground-ball rate. He had some lapses in velocity and control while ping-ponging between the rotation and bullpen earlier this year but has settled in nicely over his past two appearances, striking out nine without allowing a hit or walk in five innings. My guess is he never goes back to the bullpen.
PIT Pittsburgh • #59 • Age: 22
Roansy Contreras indeed joined the rotation Tuesday after getting some time to stretch out in the minors and looked solid enough on 84 pitches. He may have leaned a little too much on his fastball (57 percent) given the elite spin rates on both his slider and curveball, but the heater is a swing-and-miss offering in its own right, peaking at 98 mph. He had a 2.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 12.7 K/9 in 13 starts between Double- and Triple-A last year and showed similar swing-and-miss ability working as a long reliever earlier this season. Durability and supporting cast could both be an issue, but it's worth taking a shot at the upside.