Welington Castillo - C, Cubs
Fantasy players are always on the lookout for under-the-radar catchers with some upside, especially in two-catcher leagues. Castillo stands out as an overlooked and sneakily appealing option. He's playing regularly behind the plate for the Cubs and has shown promising early signs with the bat.
The 25-year-old briefly dipped his toe into the big leagues in 2010 and 2011, totaling 11 games between the two seasons, but got his first extended look last year when he played in 52 games with Chicago. He hit .265/.337/.418 with five homers and 22 RBI -- respectable numbers from a rookie backstop -- and this year with Geovany Soto out of the picture he had a clear path to the starting job.
Chicago's other catching options, Dioner Navarro and Steve Clevenger, aren't anything special, so Castillo shouldn't have a difficult time continuing to draw the lion's share of playing time as long as he produces. Thus far, he's been the Cubs' best hitter, with a .381/.409/.619 hitting line to go along with a homer and four RBI in six games. He's even swiped a base, though we shouldn't expect that to become a trend; he was 3-for-8 on stolen base attempts in 487 minor-league games.
Speed's not going to be an asset for the young catcher, but his bat does appear to be legit. Last year in Triple-A he posted an 800 OPS despite missing time with a knee injury, and he had registered double-digit homer totals in each of the three seasons prior. His plate discipline has improved noticeably over the course of his pro career.
So while we shouldn't necessarily expect him keep up at this torrid early-season pace, Castillo has what it takes to be a solid fantasy starter at catcher, particularly as the No. 2 option in a two-deep league.
Nate McLouth - OF, BAL
The days of McLouth profiling as a star-caliber player are long gone. It's been three or four years since he could have been categorized as such. Still, he's not without value and is worth a look if you're short on outfielders or dealing with injuries early in the season.
McLouth looked like he was on his way out of baseball by the time he was released by the Pirates with a 385 OPS last May. He caught on with the Orioles and finally managed to halt a downward career trend, hitting .268/.342/.435 in 55 games with the O's while tallying seven homers and going 12-for-13 on stolen bases.
Like with everything involving the 2012 Baltimore Orioles, a heavy dose of skepticism was warranted with regards to the 30-year-old outfielder's brief comeback tour. Fifty games of solid performance were hardly enough to outweigh the two-and-a-half seasons of dreck that had preceded.
But McLouth isn't slowing down, at least for now. He had a huge spring, batting .320 with four homers, nine RBI and three steals in 17 games. That was enough to earn him an early billing as Baltimore's primary left fielder; he's gotten the nod in six of the team's first eight games.
His numbers over the first handful of games have hardly been spectacular, as he's hitting just .250 with one extra-base hit (a double) but McLouth is sporting an impressive 5-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- contributing to a .379 on-base percentage -- and he's already stolen two bases on two attempts.
He hasn't topped seven homers in a season since 2009, so it remains to be seen whether the swift-footed outfielder will contribute enough power to be a real fantasy factor, but his speed is intriguing, particularly if he can keep getting on base enough to put it to use.
McLouth merits keeping an eye on. That's something we haven't been able to say in quite a while.
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