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.
Ryan Madson – Kansas City Royals
Everyone knows about the backend of the Royals bullpen and how dominant flamethrowers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland have been, which is why it’s easy for Madson to slide under the radar. Before the season, I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Madson, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, but he’s actually been pretty good so far with good ratios and strikeouts. In 18 2/3 innings, he has logged a 1.45 ERA and 0.64 WHIP with a 19-to-3 K:UBB ratio. Madson hasn’t picked up a win yet this season, but it’s bound to happen with him pitching in the middle innings for the Royals. He’s also shown the ability to pitch longer than just one inning as four of his appearances have seen him record at least four outs.
Carson Smith – Seattle Mariners
If all three of these relievers are available in your league, Smith appears to be your best bet. Smith, 25, debuted with the Mariners last September and didn’t allow a run in nine appearances while striking out 10 batters. This season, he has a 1.02 ERA and 0.62 WHIP in 17 2/3 innings with a 22-to-3 K:UBB. Smith is quickly becoming one of the nastiest setup men in the American League as he touches 97 mph with his fastball. It hasn’t been a pretty season for Fernando Rodney and Danny Farquhar so far as both are saddled with ERAs over 5.00. Smith could get a shot at some saves if that keeps up, but he’s worth having for the ratios and strikeouts alone at this point.
Zach McAllister – Cleveland Indians
It’s not just that Indians closer Cody Allen hasn’t been good so far this season, but also that McAllister has pitched very well out of the bullpen. As a reliever this year, McAllister has a 1.83 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 19 2/3 innings with a 25-to-4 K:UBB. His strikeout percentage as a reliever is 30.4 percent. McAllister is a different and more aggressive pitcher coming out of the bullpen, where he can rely on his fastball velocity a little more and his lack of command and secondary pitches isn’t as easily exposed as when he was starting. Allen escaped a jam to pick up his eighth save of the season Wednesday night, but walking multiple batters and giving up runs is no way to hold onto the closer job. I could see McAllister getting a shot at some saves eventually if this keeps up. In the meantime, he’s been a strikeout machine out of the bullpen, if you’re into that sort of thing.
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