January 6, 2011
Hot Spots: Relief Pitchers
We're back for 2011 with an unintentionally all-AL-East version of Hot Spots. Feel free to discuss other relievers in the comments, of course.
You'd think that since the Baltimore bullpen situation was already addressed in our last article - when Koji Uehara was re-signed - that we'd be able to move on from the Inner Harbor, right? Well, not so much. I assume you've heard by now that Alfredo Simon is suspected of murder in the Dominican Republic, thus putting his status for 2011 in jeopardy, but now they've also gone and signed former Toronto closer Kevin Gregg to a two-year, $12m deal.
Gregg was an early Value Picks hero last season after Jason Frasor stumbled out of the gate, and he put together a typical Kevin Gregg season. By that, I mean that he's a relatively mediocre pitcher - he finished 114th in WXRL, and only 3rd on his own team - yet because he racks up lot of shiny-yet-generally-meaningless saves, he's perceived as far more than he is. If Gregg had put together the exact same performance last year, yet had done so in the 8th inning and didn't get 37 saves, would he have signed an eight-figure deal? I think we all know the answer to that.
Of course, here in the world of fantasy, we do care about saves - we care a lot - so let's turn our attention back to Baltimore and try to predict who will wear the ever-important hat of "closer". While the O's do have last offseason's big prize, Mike Gonzalez, still around, his lost 2010 makes this a two horse race, at least to start. According to MLB.com's Oriole reporter Brittany Ghiroli, Uehara is the front-runner, but Gregg has been promised a chance to compete for the job. I don't think there's much question that Uehara is the superior pitcher based on his performance last year, though of course it's not often that relievers coming off of 37-save years sign big free agent deals to not close.
My guess? Gregg goes ahead of Uehara in most drafts, but if each are healthy Uehara is more productive in 2011.
I'm going to be honest here and say that as a Dodger fan, the mere mention of Octavio Dotel makes me break out in hives, seeing as how Ned Colletti foolishly burned two decent prospects in James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for 18.2 meaningless innings of Dotel down the stretch. He didn't even end the season with the team, since he was traded to Colorado in September, and now he's landed in a Toronto bullpen that just lost Gregg and earlier saw Scott Downs go to Anaheim.
Still, even as he enters his late 30s, Dotel's not without his uses. His 2010 looked more or less like every other season of his career - a lot of strikeouts (10.5/9), too many walks (4.5/9), and more homers than you'd like (1.3/9). There's signs of trouble, though; his fastball velocity declined by a full mile from 2009, and while he was very good against righties (.576 OPS), he's basically unusable against lefties (.993 OPS).
Dotel's probably best used against righty-heavy lineups due to his splits, and without runners on base due to his tendency to allow walks and homers. That's not generally the profile you want to see in a closer. But Frasor's been in Toronto since 2004 without ever fully grabbing 9th inning duties, so Dotel probably starts the year off with the gig, to hold until he falters or gets traded yet again. That's worth a late-round pick, but not much more.