I don’t know if I’m in the majority on this opinion, but I typically find the end of August to be a bit depressing: summer’s over, school is just around the corner, my Mets are usually well on their way to being flushed down the toilet, and all the signs of a concluding fantasy baseball season are on display. For those of us gearing up for—or already sweating out—fantasy playoffs, however, we have no choice but to remain vigilant for any and all pieces that can give us an extra edge in fantasy—even if we realize that the pickings are getting awfully slim.
Carlos Torres | New York Mets | SP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership; 0 percent ESPN; 2 percent CBS
YTD: 48.2 IP / 2.96 ERA / 6.3 K/9 / 1.3 BB/9 with 2 wins
ZiPS updated: 68 IP / 3.38 ERA / 6.5 K/9 / 2.1 BB/9 with 3 wins
“I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually,” a somber Daniel Patrick Moynihan said shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. “I guess we thought we had a little more time.”
Now, I’m not trying to equate the loss of Matt Harvey with the death of our 35th president, and as someone who comes from Irish stock, I wouldn’t begin to compare our collective obsession with baseball to the tragedies that have too often marked the emerald journey over the ages. That said, surely you can dig what I’m getting at—that to be a Mets fan is to expect, and often receive, the worst baseball fandom has to offer.
But in the fantasy baseball ecosystem, the death of one organism opens the door for another, and for the Mets, Harvey’s rotation spot will now be occupied by 30-year-old Carlos Torres, a right-hander who could offer marginal fantasy upside as the season winds down.
That’s right, “marginal” and “upside” suggest that Torres’ value isn’t especially likely to push your fantasy team ahead in the postseason, but he owns a 3.79 FIP and 1.13 WHIP (including just seven walks) at the big league level so far this year, which include three starts. (Two, against the Pirates and Braves last month, went very well; the third, an eight-run flogging at the hands of the Nationals, not so much.) In 71.1 minor league innings this season, Torres also managed to keep the baserunners under control (1.26 WHIP), but accompanied that with a nice 8.4 K/9.
We don’t have a huge major league sample size to work with this year, but a deeper look at Torres’ 2013 stat line reveals a respectable 9.2 percent swinging strike percentage and a pretty solid 68.7 percent first-strike percentage. Torres’ splits, not surprisingly, show how much he enjoys throwing at pitcher-friendly Citi Field, where hitters are batting a feeble .217 against him.
Of course, Torres is the definition of a journeyman until further notice, and he won’t get a ton of help pitching for the Mets, a team whose lost season just got a whole lot worse this week (especially after the trade that dispatched Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates), but he’s not necessarily a lost cause. In a NL-only league, Torres might be worth at least a look.
Recommendation: He’s strictly a match-up guy until proven otherwise.
Trevor Cahill | Arizona Diamondbacks | SP | 30 percent Yahoo ownership; 25 percent ESPN; 41 percent CBS
YTD: 112.2 IP / 4.39 ERA / 6.6 K/9 / 3.6 BB/9 with 5 wins
ZiPS updated: 148 IP / 4.31 ERA / 6.6 K/9 / 3.5 BB/9 with 7 wins
On draft day, the plan for every fantasy league is for every owner to remain engaged in the league throughout the fantasy baseball season, setting their lineups regularly, responding to every trade offer and, in general, helping the league stay competitive from start to finish. In reality, of course, this isn’t always the case, and by late August, the combination of fantasy baseball fatigue and the looming football season conspire to draw owners away from keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the game.
Perhaps that explains why Cahill, still just 25 years old and back to being a key member of the playoff-hopeful D-Backs, is a tad under-owned. Having lost a month and a half to a right hip contusion, Cahill has looked sharp in his three appearances since returning on Aug. 17 (which includes a four-inning relief outing), going 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.
Cahill’s strikeout and walk numbers are too mediocre to make him a sabermetric favorite, but he has a well-deserved reputation as a groundball machine, and his 57.1 percent rate this season would rank second among all qualifying major league pitchers. And although we see a troublesome 1.0 HR/9 rate in his 2013 stats—which, we should remember, are somewhat contaminated by his injury—his 15.6 percent HR/FB rate is abnormally high and is responsible for pushing down his xFIP to a not-bad 3.88. (Upon returning, Cahill allowed two dingers in his first start back against the Pirates, though he hasn’t yielded one in his last 11 innings.)
Just to be clear, Cahill is not a favorite of mine, certainly not in fantasy, though I think he’ll pick up a few wins as Arizona tries to keep its head above water in the National League Wild Card race. Even if he’ll never live up to the billing he received following his 18-8 season three years ago, if you need pitching help, he might be worth adding as fantasy crunch time gets under way.
Recommendation: I’m not biting on him yet in standard mixed leagues, but owners in 14-team leagues might consider taking a flier on him.