Yorvit Torrealba | Colorado | C
True Talent: .257/.315/.385
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .254 BA, 0.1 SB
It’s kind of surprising to see any starting catcher still out there on so many waiver wires, particularly one who’s getting so much PT of late. Torrealba has supplanted Ianetta as Colorado’s regular backstop of late, even though he’s not been hitting any better (.276/.339/.356 in September). Tracy clearly must like the way Yorvit’s handling the rotation—but whatever the reason, you can pick up a few more counting stats if you need a catcher, since he’s so readily available. True Talent shows you he’s about where he should be in his ratios, making him best suited for 15-teams NL leagues. Just remember that Tracy could also change his mind back at any time, and put Ianetta back in, but he’s unlikely to do so while the team’s pushing toward the playoffs.
Rafael Betancourt | Colorado | RP/CL
YTD: 9.5 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 2.70 ERA
True Talent: 8.4 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.49 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.20 ERA
Huston Street’s not much closer to returning, and Franklin Morales has started to falter with more exposure, as I expected he might, surrendering three ER in his last two outings. Betancourt swooped in to snatch the save the second time Morales got into trouble, and could get another look, particularly if Morales struggles again. Betancourt has done far better with Colorado than he did with Cleveland, mostly by controlling his walks, dropping from 4.4 to 1.9 BB/9, and has been a very good reliever in every situation but the closer’s role in his career. Street should still be back at some point, so Betancourt’s a longshot no matter how you slice it, but saves are saves, and he might pick up one or two more. He’s still going to collect some strikeouts, too, and if True Talent sees a bit of a correction, it shouldn’t be much. As save gambles go, he’s better than most.
Ian Desmond | Washington | MIF/OF
True Talent: .225/.286/.348
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 0 Runs, 0 RBI, .216 BA, 0.1 SB
The Nats are taking a look at Ian Desmond, a mid-level prospect who’s got more leather than wood in his repertoire, though you wouldn’t know that from his YTD line. Obviously, that screams “small sample size,” representing just 18 PAs, and he’s going to slide closer to his True Talent levels the more he plays. In the minors, however, his power (.477 SLG across two levels) and improved plate approach (.51 BB/K, vs. .39 in six minor-league seasons) came together nicely this year. He also pushed his contact rate from .78 to .80, so he’s seeing the ball better and getting good wood on it, making some improvement to be expected. He averaged a bit over 20 SBs in the minors, so he’ll swipe a bag now and then, too, despite average speed. Unless he defies expectations and keeps mashing, he’s good for only part-time work down the stretch, so only the deepest of NL leagues will find any value here; similarly deep NL keeper leagues might stash him away for 2010 if they need a MIF who might prove to be a skosh above replacement level.
Billy Buckner | Arizona | SP
YTD: 7.4 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 6.79 ERA
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Buckner’s secondary stats should have led to a better ERA, but he’s given up lots of longballs (1.7 HR/9) and hits (11.9 H/9) this year, which tells you how hittable he’s been. Since returning to the bigs in September, he’s shown a sharper curve ball, which he needs to use to succeed, and has put together two good back-to-back starts, with 12 Ks vs. four BBs, two ER and 14 Hs in 13 IP. He’ll keep getting starts down the stretch, as will plenty of other Baby Snakes, so you can expect less-than-stellar defense and offense behind him. He should keep collecting Ks but could hurt your ratios, as he’s been prone to meltdowns this year, and wins could be hard to come by, too. That makes him a moderate-risk-to-moderate-reward play, something to keep in mind if you want to roll the dice with him in your deep NL league.
Kazuo Matsui | Houston | 2B
True Talent: .266/.320/.374
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, .261 BA, 0.8 SB
Kaz picked up his 2,000th career hit on Aug. 15, earning him membership into an elite Japanese baseball honor society. As often happens when players are trying to reach a milestone, Matsui was pressing to reach the mark and hit poorly. A week later, he loosened up and started on a tear that’s seen him hit .321/.360/.488 with nine extra-base hits and seven SBs in the three weeks since then. True Talent shows you he’s still short of expectations, so that hot streak might last a little while longer, and it’s important to note that five of those steals have come in the last week. Though he has occasional health issues, Matsui’s been playing in nearly every game for the past several months, and should continue to do so, barring injury. Though his TT levels peg him as a worthy addition best suited for NL-only leagues deeper than 12 teams, shallower leagues can ride him for as long as those SBs and XBHs continue.
Blake Hawksworth | St. Louis | RP
YTD: 3.9 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 2.36 ERA
True Talent: 5.2 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.96 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 4.90 ERA
Owners have given Hawksworth some love lately because of his four wins out of the ‘pen, but vulture wins (or Hawk wins?) are hard to predict. What’s easier to predict is a surge in his artificially low ERA, which has been helped by a ridiculous .236 BABIP—his FIP is 3.72, and his xFIP is 4.39. True Talent not only confirms that his ERA should rise, it shows that his shaky command is right on target, as is his lack of dominance. This is a guy who gets by on his control—he’s most often compared to Jeff Suppan, whom I covered last week—so he walks a fine line between good and bad, and one day hopes to slide into the back of the Cards’ rotation. There are relievers you can count on for strikeouts or ratio control (or both), where the occasional win or save is a bonus. Chasing vulture wins is foolish when that’s the only expected return, and that’s why Blake Hawksworth should stay on your waiver wire, no matter what league you’re in.
Luke Gregerson | San Diego | RP
YTD: 11.0 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 2.81 ERA
True Talent: 8.5 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.82 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.84 ERA
As a nice contrast to a reliever like Hawksworth, consider someone like Gregerson. Though the Punch-and-Judy Pads only managed to deliver Gregerson one relief win this season, he’s delivered them plenty of Ks and very few BBs. He’s done that throughout his short minor league career, with 10.2 K/9 in three seasons, mixing in a decent fastball with a much better slider. He’ll give back a bit of that ERA, according to True Talent (his xFIP is just 2.84), but those strikeouts should continue. And he’s much less likely to pick up many vulture wins with the Padres hitting behind him, but he’s picked up 25 holds, if your league counts that. Even if yours doesn’t, Gregerson makes a good roster addition for teams that are approaching their start/IP cap, or have already done so, NL-only league or not.
Josh Thole | New York | C
True Talent: .245/.317/.335
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .242 BA, 0.0 SB
Jerry Manuel likes Thole’s patient approach at the plate, and wants to hit him second, in front of David Wright, a good place to be. And Thole could be a good fit, as he’s shown an outstanding eye in the minors (1.06 BB/K in five seasons) and an excellent 88% contact rate. He hasn’t advanced higher than Double-A because his catching skills are still developing, but the Mets aren’t too concerned with that right now, having lost eight of their last nine games fielding their Quadruple-A squad. Expect him to play at least 60% of the time in these last few weeks, and more than that if he keeps hitting—just don’t expect him to hit for much power (.375 SLG in the minors, peaking at .427 last season). That makes him an NL-only option for deeper leagues, or for disappointed Mets fans (are there any other kind this year?) whose fantasy teams have also given up for the season.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.