March 10, 2017
The -Only League Landscape
American League Relievers
We conclude our mono league series this week with a look at relief pitchers. Since this is a deep league article, we’ll focus less on each team’s closer (yes, Aroldis Chapman is good, guys) and more about the set-ups who could either get saves or possibly take the job if the primary closer falters.
Britton returns for his fourth season as Baltimore’s closer. Britton is not an elite strikeout pitcher, but his DRA was seventh best in baseball thanks to a ridiculous 80 percent ground ball rate. Britton is not signed to a long-term deal, but with an $11.4 million contract thanks to arbitration, he won’t be yanked by Buck Showalter unless there is significant slippage. This shouldn’t be much of a concern, though, as Britton only gave up multiple baserunners in back-to-back outings once in 2016. Even without high volume in strikeouts, Britton was the best reliever in AL-only, earning $28 and finishing fifth overall among all AL pitchers. In 5x5 Roto, I’m quite comfortable bidding in the $20s,
Britton’s back-ups are poor candidates for vulture saves. Both of Brach’s saves last year came in multiple inning outings when there was no save situation in the ninth. Despite O’Day’s sizeable contract, Brach’s 2016 performance puts him next in line in the unlikely event that Britton struggles or gets hurt. Brach’s numbers were glittering, although his 3.16 DRA speaks more to a solid reliever, not a spectacular one. In fantasy, Brach’s $17 season was the best year put up by a middle reliever in AL-only, beating runner-up Dan Otero by three dollars. Brach has increased his fastball velocity the last two seasons but his success is more because he has a legitimate three-pitch arsenal, something most relievers do not possess.
The Orioles rewarded O’Day’s strong performance from 2012-2015 with a four-year, $31 million contract, so naturally O’Day proceeded to have his worst season since 2011. O’Day lost part of 2016 to injury, so it is tough to merely look at his statistics and pejoratively judge his performance. O’Day earned $16 in 2015, so despite his lack of a high velocity pitch, the potential for double-digit earnings is there thanks to his deceptive, funky delivery. O’Day is the sort of reliever who is worth adding for a dollar or two at the end of your auction in the hopes that a return to his 2012-2015 form is in the offing. Mychal Givens is another alternative if Britton goes down.