Who should you be targeting for fantasy value in the bullpen?
Milwaukee keeps trying to give Trevor Hoffman chances to get his job back, and he keeps making a bad situation even worse when he does things like allow three runs in an inning to the Marlins, costing the Brewers the game. His advanced state of "being toast" brings us to the first teammate swap on the Value Picks board, as we say goodbye to Carlos Villanueva and say hello to John Axford. Villanueva didn't actually pitch that poorly while he was on the board, picking up a save the day he was added and two holds since while maintaining a high K rate, but Ken Macha clearly prefers to keep him in his set-up role and has started to give the opportunities to Axford. If you haven't jumped on him yet, now is the time, since he's picked up three saves and a win in his last four outings and is starting to gain attention in the fantasy world.
Axford's story is an interesting one, especially considering the pedigree of the man he's (currently) replacing. The 27-year-old mustachioed Canadian rookie was drafted in the 42nd round by the Reds in 2005, but didn't sign and played independent ball north of the border. He was then picked up as an amateur free agent by the Yankees for 2007, where he was so impressive that he was... released right after the season. The Brewers picked him up for 2008, and while a 4.55 ERA, 1.674 WHIP, and 6.9 BB/9 (!!) rate in High-A ball that year isn't much to speak of on its own, it's even less so when you realize he was 25, quite old for that level. Still, the Brewers must have seen something they liked, because they brought him back for 2009 and something clicked right away. A return engagement in Broward County was complete domination, striking out 14 per 9, and good work at both AA and AAA as the year progressed got him an MLB cup of coffee late in the year, where he captured his first save - a stunning rise considering where he'd been in 2008.
Mike Petriello looks at some surprisingly valuable yet available relievers in Toronto, Texas, Baltimore, and Los Angeles.
This week, Hot Spots turns to finding underappreciated value in the bullpen. You certainly don't need us to tell you that grabbing Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Broxton in your draft might have been a good idea, but there's plenty of other lesser-known arms who—by virtue of situation, talent, or both—can help you fill out your roster at the mere cost of a waiver claim. Some weeks, that's going to require us to dig pretty deep, but some weeks—like this week—the fantasy gods smile upon us by providing several injured or ineffective incumbents and sparsely-owned replacements.
Let's start in Toronto, where Kevin Gregg has never exactly been a favorite of the stats community. While many fans saw save totals of 32 and 29 in 2007 and 2008 and viewed him as a quality closer, a closer look beyond the basically meaningless saves stat showed mediocre peripherals (BB/9 between 3.9-4.9 over the last three seasons) and the xFIP numbers which would of course go along with them: 4.74, 4.59, and 4.16. We all cringed when the Cubs chose Gregg to start 2009 as the closer over the superior Carlos Marmol, and Gregg was lousy—losing the job in no small part to a 1.7 HR/9 rate.
The three powerhouse teams in baseball's strongest division jostle for control, while the bottom-est two trade places.
With the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays, the American League East has become the game's toughest division, a status only reinforced by the pair of financial heavyweights in New York and Boston. Yet while the Yankees spent nearly enough money to bail out a Wall Street investment bank this winter, the rest of the division took a much more modest approach to the free- agent market, with an average expenditure that would rank fourth among the six divisions.
Each team's got a list and is checking it twice, but not everybody gets everything they want this time of year.
As has been well-documented, the free-agent market has been extremely slow to develop; to date only 11 of the 171 players who filed for free agency have signed contracts. There is no word yet if Donald Fehr has asked Congress for a bailout.