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Closing Time: Underrated Torres off to the races in 2011

Every Saturday, information heavyweights the Weekly Rundown and Closing Time join forces, a pairing equivalent to ice-cold beer and any tubed meat, to keep you covered on the present while providing a glimpse into the future. Batter up!

Every year one-hit wonders emerge from the darkest corners of the waiver wire to rock the virtual sports world. These Kajagoogoos of the diamond at first play to uproarious stadium crowds, but, after failing to match initial success, are eventually forced to work lame gigs on the park district circuit. This century alone, Richard Hidalgo, Morgan Ensberg, David Dellucci(notes) and, most recently, Mike Jacobs(notes) are just a few names who were unable to sustain top-flight productivity beyond their breakthrough campaigns.

Don't expect San Francisco's Andres Torres(notes) to follow a similar career path.

Outside Jose Bautista's(notes) 54-homer exhibition, no single output was more unforeseen than what Torres accomplished a season ago. Essentially a defensive holdover from the year before, the outfielder quickly rose through the ranks becoming an indispensable all-around producer for the World Champs. Over 139 games, the thirty-something journeyman, who failed to catch on in previous stints with the Tigers, Rangers, Cubs and Twins, sizzled, particularly in the late-summer heat. From July 1 through the end of August only six players — Bautista, Carlos Gonzalez(notes), Albert Pujols(notes), Josh Hamilton(notes), Mark Teixeira(notes) and Joey Votto(notes) — bested him in overall fantasy worth as he racked an eye-opening .297-11-38-44-9 line, an astonishing tally for a commodity who was largely useless in 409 previous big league at-bats (.232-7-36-63-15). Overall he finished as a borderline top-60 hitter in mixers.

Despite his sensational effort, most owners mislabeled Torres a flash-in-the-pan on draft day.To skeptics, his advanced age (33), marginal contact profile and lopsided K:BB splits (0.42 BB/K in '10) arrowed to disappointment. The addition of Cody Ross(notes) and spring emergence of Brandon Belt(notes) further complicated matters. Though the center-fielder's UZR was second only to Brett Gardner(notes) last year, the odds of him getting lost in the outfield shuffle was a logical conclusion. As a result, he slipped into the beer-hazy hours of most drafts, selected on average around pick No. 223 (OF59) in Yahoo! leagues. In auctions, investors tossed only a crumpled dollar at his feet ($1.30 AAV).

Activated off the DL on Tuesday and immediately slotted back into the leadoff spot by Bruce Bochy, Torres has picked up where he left off going 7-for-15 with three extra-base hits, three runs, two RBIs and a stolen base. Doing backstrokes in nearly 70-percent of free agent pools he needs to be thrown a rope in almost all competitive formats.

Yes, based on the lack of historical evidence and ballpark environment, it's probably unlikely he'll replicate his power totals from last year. And his struggles against lefties (.226 BA in '10) means he'll occasionally sit for Aaron Rowand(notes) — he did not start Saturday in Chicago against southpaw Doug Davis(notes). But make no mistake, the Puerto Rican import will contribute solidly across multiple categories, especially in runs and steals. Assuming he isn't swallowed by the injury imp, he could keep pace or outdistance (in terms of overall value) prominent names Bobby Abreu(notes), Torii Hunter(notes) and Nick Markakis(notes).

Those in the market for a dependable, well-rounded fourth outfielder or utilityman shouldn't be "Too, Shy" about grabbing the underappreciated Giant.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 403 at-bats, .274 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 68 R, 20 SB

Sleep could not repair Brandon Beachy's(notes) ailing oblique. The standout rookie was placed on the 15-day DL Saturday. He's expected to miss at least three weeks. Underage top prospect Julio Teheran(notes) appears to be the frontrunner to overtake the vacated spot. Recall, the 20-year-old was rather rocky in his big league debut May 7 in Philadelphia, lasting just 4.2 innings (3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). Though he's yielded little at the Triple-A level (1.93 ERA, 7.65 K/9, 2.87 BB/9), he's still very much a work in progress. Considering the enormous amount of pitching available in traditional shallow formats — Homer Bailey(notes), for example, is still just 33-percent owned — the rookie is nothing more than a watch worthy starter, though his upcoming matchups are mostly favorable (at Ari, at Pit, SD, at Fla, at Hou).

Closing Time: Underrated Torres off to the races in 2011 Over the pats few days, many in the industry have offered their thoughts on the legitimacy of Anibal Sanchez(notes). Because of his injury plagued past, the majority haven't cast the Marlin as must start material. However, after blanking the Nationals over eight spectacular innings (3 HA, 2 BB, 9 K), The Animal's beastly status was officially verified. Sanchez's spike in groundballs, K/9 and swinging strikes — As the Fangraphs guys pointed out earlier this week, his change is mystifying batters — are positive signs he will yield high-end SP3 numbers moving forward. Sun Life's favorable dimensions certainly doesn't hurt. Provided his surgically repaired shoulder doesn't suddenly disintegrate, he could finish with totals similar to what another Sanchez, Jonathan, accumulated last year (13 W, 3.68 ERA, 205 K).

Todd Helton(notes) may have the look of a guy who just walked off the battlefield at Antietam, but the grizzled warrior isn't ready to submit to Father Time. Turning back the clock, the resurgent veteran is again swinging the bat as though it's 2004. Against the visiting Padres he cracked his fifth homer of the season, driving in run No. 18. On pace for a .320-23-80-70 campaign, he's quietly been a very useful corner infielder in deeper mixers. His obscene 92 contact percentage, double-digit HR/FB return and .200-plus ISO suggest the 37-year-old isn't quite ready for the nursing home. Helton, only rostered in 16-percent of Yahoo! leagues, is a dependable four-cat commodity who deserves more respect.

In yet another thrilling installment of Redbirds Roulette, Dave Duncan divulged to the Post-Dispatch untamed youngster Eduardo Sanchez(notes) is officially out of the ninth-inning mix, citing inconsistent control as the reason for the demotion. Fernando Salas(notes) is expected to get the next call, but Duncan also said Mitchell Boggs(notes) remains in the conversation. If Salas, who has considerable end-game experience and strong peripherals (2.80 K/BB, 1.13 GB/FB), was recently dropped, snatch up him pronto. Boggs, too, deserves consideration in deeper mixers. One Salas slip-up and he'll likely get another crack at becoming LaRussa's primary option. As always, the situation remains fluid.

Quick Hitters: The onset of the Dominic Brown era in Philly is temporarily on hold. The top prospect is expected to miss the next 5-7 days with a sprained right thumb. Despite the setback, the June 1 over/under on his big league ETA is unchanged. … In other Brotherly Love news, Shane Victorino(notes) will likely be sidelined the next few games with strained hamstring. The Pineapple Express doesn't he'll need extended rest on the DL. Owners in weekly transaction leagues may want to find an alternative for the upcoming scoring period. … After "reassessing" the closing situation in Seattle, Eric Wedge has decided to stick with the status quo. Brandon League's(notes) 30.00 ERA apparently wasn't reason enough to give Jamey Wright(notes) a shot. Given the incumbent's short leash, Wright is still worth holding onto over the short-term. … Texas' butchered outfield suffered another loss as Julio Borbon(notes) will miss the next 15 day with hamstring injury. Endy Chavez(notes), recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, will see extensive action over the next week or two. The former Expo will likely be a fair source of cheap speed for AL-only and very deep mixed leaguers. Prior to his promotion he was a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base opportunities with the Express. …Shades of Johnny Bench, Reds backstop Ramon Hernandez(notes) continues to obliterate NL pitching. Launching two more moonshots on Saturday, he now has five homers on the season with 14 RBIs. He's also hitting a ridiculous .342. He and Ryan Hannigan have become quite the interchangeable 1-2 punch. Rotating both on the same roster in deeper formats would be genius. Combined the pair has posted a .306-7-25-21 line. …Laynce Nix has supplanted Michael Morse(notes) nicely in left for the Nationals. Including his 2-for-4 (1 SB) effort Saturday, the streaky outfielder is batting .312 with five homers and 15 RBI in just 80 at-bats. The freshly anointed cleanup man could be a surprise 20-plus HR product. Remember he reached the cheap seats 15 times over just 309 at-bats two years ago. … Widely available starter Tyson Ross(notes) (five-percent owned) tossed his fourth consecutive quality start. Over that stretch, he's logged a 1.35 ERA and 18:5 K:BB split. His graduation from the stream-only ranks is overdue. …

DOUBLE DIPPERS

For stream conscious owners who want to push the innings-pitched envelope this is the list for you. Run support, ballpark factors, historical and recent trends, opposing offenses, opposing SPs, managerial tendencies and meteorological influences are painstakingly taken into account to give you the top double dippers of each week.

Closing Time: Underrated Torres off to the races in 2011

Other AL Double Dippers: Edwin Jackson(notes), ChW (Tex, LAD), Jason Vargas(notes), Sea (Min, at SD), John Lackey(notes), Bos (Bal, ChC), Rick Porcello(notes), Det (Tor, at Pit), Matt Harrison(notes), Tex (at ChW, at Phi), Ivan Nova(notes), NYY (at TB, NYM), Carlos Carrasco(notes), Cle (at KC, Cin), Jesse Litsch(notes), Tor (at Det, Hou), Tyler Chatwood(notes), LAA (at Oak, Atl), Chris Tillman(notes), Bal (at Bos, Was), Sean O'Sullivan(notes), KC (Cle, StL), Vin Mazzaro(notes), KC (Cle, StL)

Closing Time: Underrated Torres off to the races in 2011

Other NL Double Dippers: Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), Col (SF, at Mil), Jonathan Sanchez(notes), SF (at Col, Oak), Tim Stauffer(notes), SD (at Ari, Sea), Edinson Volquez(notes), Cin (ChC, at Cle), Brett Myers(notes), Hou (at Atl, at Tor), Randy Wolf(notes), Mil (at LAD, Col), Mike Pelfrey(notes), NYM (Fla, at NYY), Clayton Richard(notes), SD (at Ari, Sea), Charlie Morton(notes), Pit (at Was, at Det), Jon Garland(notes), LAD (Mil, at ChW), Jonathan Niese, NYM (Fla, at NYY), Jake Westbrook(notes), StL (Phi, at KC), Paul Maholm(notes), Pit (at Was, Det), John Lannan(notes), Was (Pit, at Bal), Armando Galarraga(notes), Ari (SD, Min), Casey Coleman(notes), ChC (at Cin, at Bos), Clayton Mortensen(notes), Col (SF, at Mil)

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Image courtesy of US Presswire

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