We’ll get to the reliever analysis, just as soon as I can chase this umpire back to Triple-A …
With Jose Valverde’s ugly peripherals finally catching up to his surface stats (4.93 FIP, 4.64 ERA), the winds of change are a-blowin’ in the Motor City. Joaquin Benoit (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 3%, CBS 13%) should be next in line, and he would be quite the coup for savvy owners who pounce early. Benoit has a gaudy 13.5 K/9 and an equally impressive 1.94 FIP, numbers that harken back to his ridiculous 2010 with the Rays. The Tigers are in win-now mode, and Papa Grande is in the final year of his contract, so there are few considerations here other than #winning. Valverde’s woes might be rooted in a back ailment that sidelined him for a week last month, but whatever the cause, Benoit is simply the superior pitcher at this point.
After an appearance as an AL-Only VP last week, Tom Wilhelmsen (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 6%, CBS 19%) graduates to stadium status with a proper save Monday night against the Angels. Hasashi Iwakuma picked up each of Seattle’s two preceding saves, but don’t chase that red herring; both came under unusual circumstances. Wilhelmsen is flying under the radar by virtue of his circuitous route to an effective Major League career (he was out of the game for a few years), but his peripherals all check out. My only concern is that trade candidate Brandon League is still lurking in the bullpen, but T-Wil could put a death grip on the job. Either way, add him and enjoy the profit.
The long man is an oft-overlooked commodity in standard fantasy leagues, but they can be of value depending on a given format’s innings and category quirks. One such hurler is Washington’s Craig Stammen (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%). The righty is an ex-starter who didn’t quite have the stuff to pitch in the rotation, but he’s adapted well to life in the ‘pen. He’s fanning plenty of batters now (9.4 K/9) to go along with what was always an above-average groundball rate and strong control (2.5 BB/9 in 273 2/3 career major league innings). Currently on pace to log about 90 innings this year, Stammen has assumed Tyler Clippard’s old role quite well, and if your league isn’t stingy with roster spots, you could consider pairing him with another excellent long man (say, Brad Lincoln) for a “two-in-one” ace.
What was supposed to be a closer platoon in Washington between Clippard and Sean Burnett (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 9%, CBS 11%) has been a one-man show in favor of Clipp. Burnett has two scoreless appearances in the past week, though, so we’ll give him one final week in this space on the off chance that Davey Johnson uses him in a matchups situation.
Last week’s long man du jour, Brad Lincoln (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 3%, CBS 15%), had one nondescript outing since his debut here last week. Why the short shrift for a supposed innings-eating long man? Because he was held in reserve for a scheduled spot start Wednesday against the Reds in Cincinnati. It marks Lincoln’s second start of the season and presents a strong chance for his owners to vulture a win before he’s returned to the ‘pen.
Jonny Venters (Yahoo! 38%, ESPN 11%, CBS 20%) appeared on the third of three consecutive days on May 30 and has since made only one outing—two-thirds of an inning Saturday. Hopefully, the much-deserved rest will do him some good, along with some better BABIP (.474) luck. If those things come together while he’s on your roster, you’ll have added a heck of a pitcher on the cheap.
Carlos Marmol (Yahoo! 38%, ESPN 26%, CBS 32%) remains on the precipice of graduating from this space based on his ownership rates, but we’ll give him one more week. In four outings since returning from the DL, he’s been pretty Marmolian: 3 2/3 innings, four walks, one hit, four strikeouts, and one earned run. I still think he’ll see some save chances if he can string together a scoreless stretch, though.
Tom Tim Collins (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 2%, CBS 6%) is about as nondescript as middle relievers come, but don’t be fooled: he’s dynamite. The second-year major eaguer, 22, is blowing away hitters to the tune of a handsome 13.5 K/9. He might be no better than fourth on Kansas City’s bullpen pecking order—he’s facing some pretty good competition in Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, and Aaron Crow—so don’t expect saves, but Collins is arguably pitching the best in that strong relief corps. If you’re looking to prop up your strikeouts-to-innings ratio, Collins makes for a good, cheap add.
In contrast to Collins, Jason Grilli (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%) is a name fantasy owners may remember. The right-hander, now a Pirate, has kicked around throughout an undistinguished major league career, but he seems to finally have found a role for himself as a power reliever (?!) at age 35. With 35 whiffs and a 1.71 ERA (2.71 FIP) through his first 21 innings, Ice Grillin’ also makes for a nice caddy if you have too many low-K starters.