The fantasy playoffs are upon us. And while it looked like Stephen Strasburg would be the only prominent pitcher to be shut down before the season ended, that’s no longer the case. The Mets are planning to shut down rookie Matt Harvey after one more start. Harvey has been phenomenal this season, and has been a great pickup for fantasy owners. In any non-keeper leagues, his stock is sure to soar next year. Unfortunately, his absence during the fantasy playoffs is going to hurt a number of teams. And while losing Harvey is far from ideal, another pitching prospect will be making his return this week, and could have value down the stretch.
Before we look at Andrew Cashner, let’s quickly examine Harvey. If the reports are true, Harvey will face the Washington Nationals on Friday, and then be shut down. The Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball, but their offense hasn’t been a juggernaut this season. Still, their .318 wOBA ties them for 11th in the league offensively. Harvey isn’t a must-start, but owners are probably cautiously optimistic about the matchup. Once the Mets shut him down, he’ll be droppable in all non-keeper leagues. If your league doesn’t allow you to make adds once the playoffs begin, you’ll have to decide whether carrying Harvey for one start is worth it.
For Harvey owners, Cashner’s return couldn’t come at a better time. Cashner is expected to return to the Padres starting lineup Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It will also be Cashner’s first start in Petco Park. Cashner is owned in just 0.9% of ESPN leagues and 8% of Yahoo leagues, so there’s an opportunity to strike now. Cashner will be facing off against the last-place Diamondbacks in one of the best pitcher’s parks in baseball. And while the Diamondbacks offense is actually just as good as the Nationals offense, playing it Petco is a significant advantage. If you want him, it’s probably best to pick him up now, before his first start.
Cashner also has the benefit of the remainder of his starts coming in Petco. He’s set to pitch against at home against the Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants for the rest of the year. While you might be hesitant to start him against the Cardinals, Cashner should be an intriguing option against the other two teams. Cashner’s only road start the rest of the year will take place against the Diamondbacks. And while that park is a lot less friendly than Petco, it’s not a harbinger of doom for Cashner.
Taking a shot on Cashner is hardly a huge risk. If you were willing to trust in Harvey this year, you should be willing to take a shot on Cashner. Cashner was only on Baseball America’s top prospect list one season, but he has incredible stuff. Both Cashner’s fastball and slider were named as the best in the Chicago Cubs’ system in 2009. Cashner’s biggest question mark has been his ability to stay healthy. And while that’s a concern this year, you’re only relying on him for a short stretch. As he showed earlier this season, he’ll put up strong numbers when healthy.
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