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May 27, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Relief Pitchers

by Mike Petriello

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games '10
Relievers Throws W Sv IP H HR ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Starts Relief
Manuel Corpas RH 1 4 30.1 17 2 2.37 0.857 6.2 2.7 0.6 7.36 3.60 1.1 0 22
Will Ohman LH 0 0 15.2 10 0 0.00 1.149 9.8 4.6 0.0 7.5 4.20 0.9 0 25
Matt Thornton LH 2 1 19.0 9 0 1.89 0.684 13.3 1.9 0.0 11.3 2.50 1.2 0 19
Evan Meek RH 2 1 28.0 20 1 0.96 0.964 9.0 2.3 0.3 8.50 5.56 0.9 0 21
Carlos Villanueva RH 0 1 24.2 19 2 2.92 1.176 11.3 3.6 0.7 8.41 3.32 1.2 0 22
Drew Storen RH 1 0 5.1 2 0 1.69 0.938 8.4 5.1 0.0 8.22 3.32 1.2 0 5
Michael Wuertz RH 1 0 6.2 7 1 5.40 1.500 4.1 4.1 1.4 13.5 3.50 1.0 0 7
Subscribe to Heater: 2007-09 in Rotation 4.43 1.39 6.6 3.1 1.1  
Heater Magazine 2007-09 in Relief 3.94 1.36 7.7 3.8 0.9  

Smell You Later: There's only one man leaving the list this week, and it's for all the right reasons. Manny Corpas has been outstanding as the interim closer for Colorado, ripping off eight consecutive scoreless and walkless innings, picking up four saves in that stretch. With Huston Street still limited to bullpen sessions as he battles back from arm and groin injuries, Corpas looks secure in his job for the next few weeks at least. Fantasy players have noticed, as he's now owned in over 42% of ESPN leagues, a nice jump up from the single digit ownership he was at when he joined this list. That no longer qualifies him as a hidden value, so let's hope you jumped on board the train while you had the chance.

Welcome to the Jungle: Fun time to be an Orioles fan, isn't it? After watching Mike Gonzalez get hurt and Jim Johnson get shipped off to AAA before getting hurt himself, it looked like they had finally found a decent relief option in Alfredo Simon. Simon put together six saves and a win in his twelve appearances, most of which he spent right here on the Value Picks list (until "graduating" last week), yet now he's down as well with a strained hamstring. He was joined on the DL by yet another reliever, Koji Uehara, who had also been effective in the short time he'd been healthy.

So who's left to jog in to the Camden Yards mound in the late innings? Cla Meredith, the only other reliever with a save this year, may have gotten the shot if he hadn't been so awful over the last few weeks - allowing a run in four of his last six appearances. So in some part due to total desperation, it looks like career lefty specialist Will Ohman is going to get a crack at the job, which he's actually been angling for. As a Dodger fan who watched Ohman crash and burn last year in Los Angeles (a 5.84 ERA and more walks than strikeouts in 21 games before undergoing shoulder surgery), it's hard to find myself even typing that, though probably not as hard as it is for Oriole fans to read.

That said, it's not all bad. Now healthy, Ohman's actually been quite reliable this year, appearing in 25 games without having allowed a single run. Despite his reputation as a lefty-only guy, he's been equally effective against lefties and righties so far, allowing neither group to manage an OPS above .530. Perhaps most importantly, he has the confidence of manager Dave Trembley, who went to him to close out Oakland in the 9th on Tuesday (albeit not technically a save opportunity, as the O's were up by four at the time). As one of the only remaining Oriole relievers who is both healthy and not a disaster, Trembley may not have any other choice than to send out Ohman with a rare Oriole lead. Ohman's not the next big thing, of course, and he's likely a short-timer for the gig since both Simon and Gonzalez are expected back sometime in June. Still, he's freely available in basically every league, he'll seemingly have an opportunity to collect some saves before the other pitchers get back, and just because they come from a guy like Ohman doesn't mean they count for you any less than the ones Jonathan Broxton puts up.

Should I Stay or Should I Go: Each week, I go back and forth on Matt Thornton. Bobby Jenks has been bad, but not quite bad enough to lose his job. Meanwhile, Thornton's been outstanding (dig those gaudy WHIP and K/9 numbers), but he took a week off with elbow soreness while Jenks appeared to turn it around with four consecutive scoreless outings. Then, yesterday, Thornton threw out another scoreless inning in front of a Jenks disaster, as the big man turned a four-run cushion into a nailbiter by allowing three to cross the plate. With rumors that Jenks may be drawing interest from the Phillies and with how good Thornton's been (28 strikeouts in 19 innings, zero earned runs allowed in May), this situation is far from over, and Thornton could easily vulture some saves even if he's not named the official closer. So on the list he remains.

Evan Meek's another interesting case. How can I say a guy who is owned in only 3.8% of ESPN leagues while striking out four times as many as he's walked isn't a Value Pick? Well, because he's stuck behind Octavio Dotel, who has seven saves and a win in ten outings during an outstanding May. So we'll keep him around for another week just because he's been so good, with an eye on better opportunities for him once Dotel is inevitably traded.

Carlos Villanueva managed to nab a save in his first opportunity last week, making my inclusion of him on the Picks list look good... right up until he blew the next one (though it was hardly a disaster to allow one run in two innings that night). I wouldn't worry too much that rookie John Axford also picked up a save last week; he was only in because Villanueva and Todd Coffey were each unavailable, and as he loaded the bases while doing it, it wasn't exactly impressive. Villanueva may not be "the man" in Milwaukee just yet, and we all know that Trevor Hoffman will get another shot. But it hasn't happened yet for Hoffman, and even when it does he's got to prove his career isn't over. So until then, Villanueva has got as good a chance as anyone else up there to grab some easy saves.

Drew Storen's been in the bigs for only five games so far, but he's already proving his worth - picking up a win and a hold. He's allowed just one earned run, and there seems to be no question that the hype around him was for real. He'll be getting into important situations for the Nationals right now, with an eye on the closer's job as soon as Matt Capps falters or moves on.

Finally, we come to Michael Wuertz, who has struggled recently in allowing runs in two of his last three outings (though they were sandwiched around him picking up a win). He was so good last year that I find it hard to write him off just yet, though he may not be quite worthy of a roster spot right now. We'll give him another week to see what he can do.

Coming next week: Our first Value Picks list of June will have a recap of the performance of everyone who was on the list in May.

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

Related Content:  Matt Thornton,  The Who

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