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May 12, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Bullpen

by Mike Petriello

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We all got a little spoiled last week with Vicente Padilla and Mark Melancon each suddenly ascending to fantasy relevance--it's a little thin this week as far as new closers go. Still, if you look hard enough, there are a few names of interest out there for your fantasy bullpen.

Joining the Party

David Robertson, Yankees (0.1 percent ESPN / 3 percent Yahoo)
A few weeks back, I listed David Robertson as my AL-only deep sleeper.  I suppose I could put him back in that slot again, but I’m promoting him to the big time because of two recent developments in the Yankee bullpen. First, high-priced import Rafael Soriano, a relative disappointment to this point, is headed for an MRI on his sore right elbow. Secondly, as BP’s own Jay Jaffe pointed out yesterday, Robertson has been sneaky good this year. He is not only leading American League relievers in FRA (Fair Run Average) by a healthy margin, but he has also got the highest strikeout rate of any Junior Circuit reliever at 12.15 per nine innings. There are some troubling control issues of late–six walks in his last five innings entering Wednesday–but if Soriano is out for any significant length of time, Robertson joins Joba Chamberlain in the coveted “one heartbeat away” role ahead of Mariano Rivera. That, plus the enticing strikeout rate, is enough to generate significant intrigue.

Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (0.4 percent ESPN / 4 percent Yahoo)
Like Robertson, Kenley Jansen was a deep sleeper in this space earlier this year, and also like Robertson, he is a strikeout machine helped by issues in the bullpen around him. The Dodger bullpen, already weakened by the ineffective and then injured Jonathan Broxton, lost Hong-Chih Kuo yesterday to what is being termed an “anxiety issue”. Blake Hawksworth is also out for at least the next few days with a groin strain suffered on Tuesday, with a disabled list stint not out of the question, and all of a sudden the Dodger bullpen is exceedingly thin ahead of fill-in closer Vicente Padilla.

Jansen was briefly optioned to the minors since we last spoke about him, so not much has changed. He is still a very raw pitcher, less than two years into his conversation from catcher, and he has still got a historically high strikeout rate that is offset by control issues. That might not sound like a recipe for ninth inning success, but without Broxton and Kuo, the Dodger bullpen is full of the Guerriers, Cormiers, and MacDougals of the world who can’t really miss bats. Jansen can do that, and should Padilla run into issues or be unavailable, Jansen could get some looks.

Jose Veras, Pirates (0.2 percent ESPN / 2 percent Yahoo)
No, there’s nothing wrong with Joel Hanrahan, one of my preseason favorites who has gotten off to a good start. But it is worth noting that Veras has moved into a more prominent position in the Pittsburgh bullpen in recent weeks, especially as Evan Meek struggled and then was injured. Veras has managed to cut his walk rate in half from last year while still striking out 23 in 15 2/3 innings through Wednesday, a K/BB rate of 5.8.

Sticking around

Antonio Bastardo, Phillies (2.9 percent ESPN / 6 percent Yahoo)
Antonio Bastardo may not be long for this list, as Ryan Madson has been solid in the ninth (hey, remember when he didn’t have what it took to close?) and Jose Contreras is reportedly progressing in his rehab. Even if Bastardo doesn’t get another chance to finish off a game, he has made an impression with his performance so far this year, and he has still got the third-highest swinging strike percentage of any reliever.

Saying Goodbye

Vicente Padilla, Dodgers (50.1 percent ESPN / 37 percent Yahoo)
As outlined above in the Jansen section, Vicente Padilla is the clear closer for the Dodgers now that Broxton and Kuo are each out of action. He is far from a sure thing, since his two saves this year are the only ones he has in the last ten years, but even with that fact his 50% ownership level seems low. Look for that to rise soon.

Mark Melancon, Astros (50.2 percent ESPN / 35 percent Yahoo)
I think the only one who enjoyed Mark Melancon becoming the new Houston closer more than the pitcher himself last week was me, since his inclusion in this space was published live just hours before Brandon Lyons’ injury was announced. The woeful Astros have won just two games in the week since, and Melancon has a win and a save to show for it. He is clearly the man to own there.

Darren Oliver, Rangers (5.2 percent ESPN / 9 percent Yahoo)
We always knew it would be a short engagement with Darren Oliver, as Neftali Feliz was always expected to miss just the minimum. Feliz is now securely back in his role, and Oliver’s fantasy relevance is no more.

Eduardo Sanchez, Cardinals (29.7 percent ESPN / 26 percent Yahoo)
The Cardinals actually have four relievers who have double digit ownership levels (five if you count Kyle McClellan, who is still eligible there), and the situation is still somewhat of a mess. Sanchez has the hot hand for now; just don’t forget how quickly we saw that change with Ryan Franklin and Mitchell Boggs.

******

AL Deep Value Pick

NL Deep Value Pick

Not this week, friends. I’ve really enjoyed digging deeper for some hidden gems so far, but this week I’m already featuring three guys who are owned in less than one percent of leagues. If we go any deeper than that, we’re talking high schoolers, the recently deceased, or remnants of the Diamondbacks 2010 pen. 

Mike Petriello is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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