April 1, 2014
Relievers are a tough commodity to value in fantasy. Their volatility and main carrying stat, saves, make it difficult to project accurate value at the season’s outset. You never quite know where a big-time reliever season will come from in a given year. Koji Uehara was given the job after Andrew Bailey was felled by injury. Kevin Gregg emerged after Carlos Marmol was undone by the Upton brothers. So what I will be doing throughout the season is keeping an eye on the reliever situations around the league and offer my thoughts on guys who are worth targeting/keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
Street is a good bet to miss some games, giving an opportunity to guys like Joaquin Benoit and Alex Torres. If you have Street and you missed out on handcuffing him with Benoit, then I suggest looking at Alex Torres, who found consistency in the bullpen. The suspect control still lingers, but his strikeout rate held at 27 percent last year for the Rays.
This isn’t an option I’m particularly fond of, as I think Lindstrom functions well as a middle-relief type but leaves something to be desired as a high-leverage reliever. He doesn’t miss enough bats (17.7 percent strikeout rate last year, 18.4 percent for his career) and works primarily off his sinker, which he uses to generate ground balls (55.6 percent grounder rate in 2013). Lindstrom is a decent stopgap, but he doesn’t present the same upside as Jones.
Ronald Belisario is another name that gets brought up regarding the closer job. He has a similar profile to Lindstrom, and while his walk rate from last year is inflated from an unusually high number of intentional walks, his strikeout rate has never been impressive enough for me to seriously consider him as a long-term solution at closer.
PECOTA doesn’t view Jones too kindly, but when you consider the player profile, I think he has an excellent chance to emerge as a top-10 closer in 2014. Jones features a 98-MPH fastball and a good slider, which is pretty much the closer starter kit in the modern game. He held opponents to a .193 average against his slider and generated 52 strikeouts with it. He posted a 28-to-8 K:BB-percentage ratio, and while the final stat line wasn’t pretty, he improved as the season went along.
If you have Lindstrom or Jones and you’re looking for some insurance, I would tend to look elsewhere before settling on a potential White Sox replacement. There are some interesting names on the roster that bear watching. Daniel Webb is on the fringes of late-inning work, as he’s shown the stuff but not quite generated the results. For now though, I would stand pat with Lindstrom/Jones and only look to guys like Belisario or Webb in emergency cases.
Edit: I've had some time to think about the Toronto situation. I previously stated that Sergio Santos is likely to relent the closer job to Casey Janssen once Janssen returns. I don't think that's the case anymore. When you look at the stuff and the results Santos produces when he's healthy, I have to wonder if there's a Wally Pipp situation going on here with the Jays job. Santos, in limited innings, struck out 31.1 percent of batters and walked only 4.4 percent. The control may be an outlier, but the strikeout rate isn't. For that reason, I think you should go heavy on Santos.
And here’s what he did last year:
The change in profile helped his walk rate, but his strikeout rate dropped as well, which typically sounds all sorts of alarms when it comes to relievers. If you’re feeling antsy about Soriano, I like Tyler Clippard, who breaks from the standard fastball-slider mold by featuring a changeup with some good action and maybe a new splitter with more bite. The knock on Clippard will be his plan of attack, in that he works up in the zone, which it leads to a lot of fly balls. Drew Storen is still hanging around on the periphery, and if his numbers after his return from the minors are to be believed, Storen will also make a strong case to be “The Guy” should Soriano falter.
I’m not the biggest believer in Soriano, so I’m keeping very close tabs on both Storen and Clippard. They aren’t worth owning quite yet, as there’s still no clear path to the job but keep an eye on the situation in Washington early.