Examining a few arms Nick missed going into the season, but who've since caught his eye.
Back in March, I went through the American League reliever landscape and identified the non-closers who were worth owning. One reliever I picked out in that article has since taken the job and run with it, which would, of course, be the Yankees Andrew Miller. Another reliever, Shawn Tolleson of the Rangers, picked up his first save of the season Wednesday night and should continue to get the opportunities there. Relievers don’t have to be the closer to have value, though, as Tolleson earned the same amount as Neftali Feliz in AL-Only leagues last year ($8), according to valuation expert Mike Gianella. Here are a few non-closer relievers who I missed before the season, but are worth a look in deep formats.
Keeping tabs on the ninth-inning situations around the league.
Blue Jays Change Closers Again
Shortly after we spoke last week, the Blue Jays yanked rookie Miguel Castro from the closer role and handed it back to Brett Cecil. Castro has been extremely inconsistent this year, flashing dominant stuff at times and looking like the 20-year-old he is at other times. Things got even worse for the youngster over the weekend as he was optioned back to Triple-A. Toronto sure is yanking around their young arm, moving him in and out of the closer role at random and now moving him off the roster entirely. Barring injury, he’ll certainly be back in the majors at some point and it wouldn’t surprise me if it came soon. As for Cecil, he’s clearly a must-own as the closer on a talented roster. He’s still striking out opponents at a nice rate, but the hard contact has been discouraging. Since he’s better than his competition, I would like to say his job should be safe for now, but the Blue Jays have been too quick with their decisions in this bullpen to be overly confident in them staying with the status quo for any period of time.
Wrapping up the series with a look at the senior circuit's fantasy-relevant setup man.
The Only-Landscape: National League Relief Pitchers
As Nick Shlain alluded to in his AL-relievers piece yesterday, as we close out The –Only League Landscape series by previewing the senior-circuit crop, we thought it would be appropriate to stray a bit from the format used in the previous articles and take a look at the bullpens on a team-by-team basis, identifying relief arms that could have fantasy relevance this year. Like Nick, I am not going to focus on closers, since we know who those will be for the most part, and we understand their greater value based on save opportunities. Instead, I would rather offer up some setup men and middle relievers who can quietly amass fantasy earnings despite the lack of fanfare surrounding them. These pitchers do have value in mono leagues, and they are always available on the cheap. So let’s go around the senior circuit and pick a few relievers from each team that could be worthy of a roster/reserve spot come draft day.
Because dynasty league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, where there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever and owners have minor league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.
Examining relievers who are worth targeting in leagues that count Holds or have innings caps.
I want to start this article by stating, clearly and in no uncertain terms, that I did not want to write this article. Bret made me do it. While on the one hand, aggressively targeting middle relievers in the early season is one of my favorite strategies for driving down my pitching ratios, projecting middle relievers before the season starts for draft day consumption is just a terrible, terrible idea. Yes, the flame-out rate is high. But just as importantly, the out-of-nowhere-hero effect is even higher. Dellin Betances? Yeah, that dude got drafted in like one percent of leagues last year. Wade Davis, Ken Giles, Brad Boxberger… none of those guys were high priority for drafters outside the deepest of leagues last spring.
Relievers come, and relievers go. How they’ll perform, nobody knows. Still, there do tend to be some traits in particular you’ll want to go after if you’re targeting guys in a Holds league. For one, there’s a significant correlation between strikeouts and the Holds leaderboards. Since accumulating Holds oftentimes depends on securing outs in high-leverage situations, this would seem to follow rather logically. Jeff Zimmermanwrote a nice piece to this effect last winter, and the basic punchline was that using past performance to predict future Holds totals is basically pointless, but that middle relievers with higher strikeout rates tend to be the best bets.