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The Cubs' pipeline keeps pumping out prospects and catcher Willson Contreras is the latest rising star to get the call. The team is set to promote the 24-year-old in time for their series opener against the Pirates on Friday.
MLB.com ranks Contreras as the No. 2 prospect in the Cubs' organization and the No. 45 prospect overall. Given his potential and the current lack of productive catchers in Fantasy, the level of interest around Contreras will be high.
Just two hours after the initial news of Contreras' promotion broke, he was already the second most-added catcher-eligible player in CBSSports.com leagues, behind Tommy Joseph. Still a day away from taking the field for the first time as a Cub, Contreras in owned in 26 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.
Fantasy owners won't be happy to know that Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, who first reported the callup, also wrote that Contreras was not going to play a prominent role in the Cubs' catching troika.
#Cubs' plan is for Contreras to gain experience, adjust to MLB environment, learn from Montero, Ross. Will be third catcher for now.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 16, 2016
Optimistic owners will focus on the words "for now." While Contreras might not play much initially, the possibility looms for him to emerge as the Cubs' primary catcher, and that would make him valuable to owners in standard mixed leagues. He has some pop in his bat, but as a ground ball hitter who makes frequent contact and sprays the ball to all fields, Contreras is a strong bet to hit for a high average. Also, since graduating from short-season ball to Class A, Contreras has increased his walk rate at every level.
Contreras does just about everything but steal (and he does have four stolen bases at Triple-A Iowa), so shouldn't that make him a No. 1 Fantasy catcher once he starts playing regularly? First of all, counting on Contreras to play enough to be one of the top 12 catchers in Fantasy at some point this season is assuming a lot, but even if that scenario plays out soon, owners should check out other catching alternatives first in one-catcher leagues. While Contreras could be a threat to contribute in several categories, questions around his playing time and transition to the majors makes him far riskier than several viable No. 1 catchers who are widely available.
That may be surprising, given the dearth of top catching talent. There are seven obvious No. 1 catchers right now: Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, Salvador Perez, Welington Castillo and Wilson Ramos. Though Yadier Molina and J.T. Realmuto don't have the power that those seven do, both are reasonable options at catcher in a points league due to their copious amounts of playing time.
If you're not using one of those nine catchers, Contreras could be a decent option, when and if he plays often. In the meantime, look into picking up one of these four catchers. All are available in at least 35 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, and each stands out among the crowd of lesser-owned catchers.
Injuries have put a damper on d'Arnaud's career, and they have particularly taken a toll on his 2016 season. He has not played since April 25 due to a strained rotator cuff, so d'Arnaud has not had an opportunity to bounce back from a difficult start to the season. According to multiple sources, his DL stint is due to end on Tuesday, so you should be able to use d'Arnaud for the coming week. Though you wouldn't know it from this season's stats, d'Arnaud is a reliable power source (25 home runs in 689 plate appearances in 2014 and 2015) who may not help with batting average but shouldn't hurt it either.
Grandal missed time early with a strained forearm, and he struggled mightily in the month of May, posting a .464 OPS. He has bounced back so far in June (.748 OPS), though he is still not hitting for the power he did in his previous two seasons. Grandal is actually displaying an even higher level of plate discipline than usual, with a 13.1 percent swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone in June (per FanGraphs). If he can start hitting for power again, Grandal could be one of the top catchers in Fantasy.
Hundley is yet another catcher who has spent considerable time on the disabled list this season, first on the 7-day concussion DL and then on the 15-day DL with a strained oblique. Last season's .301 batting average looked like an outlier, and so far, he has regressed back to a .257 mark. However, a more patient approach has led Hundley to a 16.5 percent walk rate, and he has yet to enjoy the bump in extra-base power that he experienced at Coors Field last season. There is almost certainly more power to come for Hundley, and his high on-base percentage is a welcome development.
Chirinos continues the trend of catchers who are coming back from injury. He returned from the disabled list last Thursday, after missing two months with a fractured forearm, but he has wasted little time in getting back into form. After going hitless in his first two starts, Chirinos has homered three times in his past two games. He may not play as often as Joseph, who has moved to first base, but he's a similar type of power hitter. Like Joseph, Chirinos is a flyball hitter with strong pull tendencies, so don't look to him for a decent batting average. However, Chirinos is not afraid to draw a walk, so in OBP leagues, he may be a preferable option to the Phillies' rookie.