Last week I took a look at Jake Odorizzi as a potential sleeper candidate, so, this week, I decided to shift gears and find a buy-low candidate. Okay, yeah, you got me, I am not switching gears at all, just trying to trick you with some rewording, really. Look, my in season writing is primarily finding weekly streamers and, well, aren’t said streamers just weekly sleeper picks? They sure are, folks. So, ya know, stick with what you know. I am not going to tease this too much since, if you read the title of this post, you should already know the name of said buy low candidate. Amazingly I have managed to get this far without mentioning his name. Tough to really go much further without talking about my life so, yeah, Brandon McCarthy is the buy low candidate. There you have it and in we go!
Brandon McCarthy’s 2014 was a tale of two halves or, actually in a simpler Dickensian way, a tale of two cities. Basically the bottom line is this: Brandon (who is an excellent follow on Twitter @BMcCarthy32, btw) started the season as a Diamondback where his fantasy numbers were, well, atrocious. In 18 starts as a Diamondback in 2014, McCarthy was 3-10, with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Like I said, atrocious. Then McCarthy was traded, sending him to a new home city, New York, where he would don pinstripes as a Yankee. From there, McCarthy was a new pitcher.
As a Yankee, McCarthy excelled. Brandon made 14 starts as a Yankee, going 7-5, with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Not only were these numbers much better than his early season numbers back when he was calling the desert home, but they were just plain good in general. Now, sometimes a change of scenery is just what a person needs to turn things around, not just in baseball, but in life itself. Now before pontificating about why McCarthy was vastly better as a Yankee, let’s point out that, in some ways, he was not quite as vastly better as a Yankee as we may think.
McCarthy had a FIP of 3.82 with Arizona in 2014 which, while not spectacular, is much better than that 5.01 ERA he was posting. In fact, there was only one month in 2014 where McCarthy had a FIP over four and none where he had an xFIP over 3.05. So, it is almost, I said almost, safe to say that McCarthy was pitching much better than his numbers indicated while in Arizona. In fact, you could almost say that when he was traded he was finally pitching to his underlying numbers, albeit a bit better than those. I mean, really, you could argue nothing changed for Mr. McCarthy when he went to New York. However, most of us now know different.
The Diamondbacks steered McCarthy away from his cutter, which proved to be a brilliant decision on their part. Once McCarthy got to the Yankees they not only let him loose with his cutter, but also with his fastball. McCarthy started throwing his fastball more once he got to the Yankees and throwing it up in the zone as well. This may have been even more prevalent in his “resurgence” of sorts. Combining the fastball up with his sinker and cutter kept hitters guessing; constantly changing their eye levels. There is also the fact that McCarthy added a couple of ticks to his fastball. McCarthy threw his fastball with the highest average velocity of the past three seasons. So where does this leave us going forward?
Currently McCarthy is a free agent, so where he lands will certainly have some bearing on his value, but you still have to like the adjustments he has made and the way he is trending. Of course there is some hesitance that if he is not back with the Yankees that he will lose what he was able to do when being traded to them last summer. Look, McCarthy is a smart pitcher and should be able to remember what he did to put up the numbers he posted in pinstripes. McCarthy’s value could fluctuate a bit depending where he lands, but if he lands somewhere with a smart catcher, lookout!
Even without a smart catcher, you may want to look at McCarthy as a good buy low candidate. McCarthy may not be ace like, but he certainly could be worthy of a back-end spot in your fantasy rotation. Other than the respectable FIP and xFIP throughout, McCarthy also showed very good control. McCarthy’s K/BB was 5.30 which was good for 9th among qualified major league starters in 2014. That’s darned good in case you couldn’t piece that together. If McCarthy continues to utilize his fastball and cutter with such control, then he becomes a very good buy low option in 2015.
I would say that, despite the 2014 finish, you should still be able to get McCarthy fairly late in your drafts. I am not seeing any early 2015 rankings with him cracking the top 250 overall or top 50 starting pitchers. Granted, right now he does not have a team, but I don’t think there is much concern he will not be on a major league roster come Spring Training. McCarthy won’t necessarily get a ton of strikeouts, but I suspect he can keep that K/9 right around seven most of the time, so he won’t necessarily hurt you in the strikeout category. Wins are the biggest number that could depend on his landing spot for the start of the 2015 season, but I like him for at least 10, regardless. The ERA should hover in the mid threes with a manageable WHIP.
McCarthy could still end up being a matchup pitcher, but if I can get him as my SP6, I am very much fine with that. In fact, my bold prediction, I like Brandon to finish 2015 in the top 50-60 among starting pitchers. The boldness of this statement is magnified by just how good pitching, especially starting pitching, is right now.