AL Relief Pitcher Blurbs
Joe Nathan, RHP, TEX: Nathanâ€™s skills returned in 2012 as his 2.80 ERA and 2.76 xERA seemed a lot more indicative of the player weâ€™ve come to know over the years. The main reason was his returned control, as his 1.8 BB/9 marked the lowest of his illustrious career. Now with Mike Adams gone, the closer job is Nathanâ€™s until he fails multiple times. His leash will be plenty long.
Fernando Rodney, RHP, TB: Rodneyâ€™s season in 2012 was nothing short of a miracle. A career 4.5+ BB/9 guy, Rodneyâ€™s 2012 mark of 1.8 BB/9 and a 5.1 K/BB ratio, is one of the single greatest turnarounds in baseball history considering the previous 4 seasons contained an average K/BB of 1.4 and ERAâ€™s all over 4.00. Rodney has completely turned around his skill set and is a great repeat candidate in 2012.
Casey Janssen, RHP, TOR: For years, the advanced fantasy baseball community had been waiting for Janssen and his incredible skills to be named the closer inToronto. After a great deal of patience, Janssen notched his first full time chance at the job and he ran away with it. Janssen posted his best peripherals of his career in 2012 and even with some regression of his 9.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9, Janssen would remain an elite closer option.
Mariano Rivera, RHP, NYY: Despite season ending ACL surgery at the age of 43, Mo remains determined to depart the game on his own terms. With plans at this point to return for another season, Rivera remains a top notch closing option. However, he finally has earned a demerit in the health column and should be dropped on your draft boards accordingly. David Robertson still owns an excellent closer skill set and will always remain a threat to Rivera. If that cutter of Moâ€™s stays deadly as ever though, we like Riveraâ€™s chances in his last hurrah.
Joaquin Benoit, RHP, DET: Jose Valverde is finally out of the picture, and if Jim Leyland chooses to give the closer job to Benoit, thereâ€™s plenty of reason to put your trust in the 35-year-old setup man. Despite a 3.68 ERA in 71 innings last year, Benoitâ€™s xERA was only 3.33, as he enjoyed better peripherals than in 2011. His second half last year when he posted a 2.1 BB/9 and 9.8 K/9 was marred by an insane 27% HR/FB and 2.7 HR/9 mark which obviously wonâ€™t continue. Have faith in his steady skill set.
Chris Perez, RHP, CLE: A three-year declining save percentage from 88% in 2010 to 71% in 2012 sounds some warning bells, but the good news is that Perez has also decreased his walk rate in each of the last 5 seasons, all the way down to 2.5 BB/9 last year. Furthermore, he regained his K/9 levels of 2010 after slipping down to 5.9 K/9 in 2011, a season which had left fantasy owners skeptical. There are no such issues heading into the 2013 campaign, other than the usual one: Vinnie Pestano lies in waiting if Perez slips up.
Ryan Madson, RHP, LAA: Madson was a hot commodity in early drafts in 2012 before he blew out his elbow and went under the knife for Tommy John Surgery. He still owns the same skill set as always, but with more risk of course, coming off such a significant injury. He also has to adjust to a new league, and new environment inLos Angeles, and he may not start the season as the closer. Donâ€™t overpay for Madson, the skills are great, but the risk may not be worth the reward given the depth at closer.
Glen Perkins, LHP, MIN: Perkins can thrive in the closer role providing he has truly learned how to solve righties. Apparently the change in 2011 to the bullpen aided him in that, as his avg. against righties dropped to .259 (.386 in 2010 in 146 IP in both the minors and big leagues). He has shown 2011â€™s skill set for two straight years now though, so all he has to do is fend off fellow bullpen mate Jared Burton and he should be a valuable source of saves.
Joel Hanrahan, RHP, BOS: It remains to be seen how â€œThe Hammerâ€ will respond to the change of leagues, especially going to a division as tough as the AL East, but he needs to do more than just translate his skills over from his days as a Pirate. Hanrahanâ€™s walk rate ballooned to 5.4/9 IP last year, which is an insane number, considering he had dropped his walk rate from 4.8/9 in 2009, all the way down to 2.1/9 in 2011. Is there a hidden injury? Consider this: 1.83 ERA in 2011, career low walk rate (by far). Fastball velocity: 97 mph. All other years it was around 95-96 mph. Huge risk.
Grant Balfour, RHP, OAK: Balfour has excelled each of the past three years inOaklandandTampaBay, but last year was his first in the closer role. He performed wonderfully, posting a 10.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 (his best peripherals in albeit a small sample size) in the second half when he recorded 17 saves. Small warning signs include a decrease in BABIP against each of the past 3 years, (can that continue?), also, 4%, 11%, 5% HR/FB trend starting in 2010 raises eyebrows. Donâ€™t overpay.
Greg Holland, RHP, KC:Hollandowns elite skills, although his walk rate is a slight issue (4.6/9), it didnâ€™t stop him from recording 16 saves in 2012, and a 2.21 ERA during that stint as a closer. High profit potential here given his high GB rate, and high strikeout rate; beware Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, and Tim Collins though – all of whom are capable of handling the job if Holland slips up at any point. Investing in a handcuff would be wise.
Jim Johnson, RHP, BAL: Typically a closer needs a high strikeout rate to enjoy long-term sustained success; can Johnson buck the trend? His huge GB rate of over 60% and impeccable control (average 1.9 BB/9 over the past 3 seasons) are a huge help. Donâ€™t expect the Orioles to generate as many save chances for Johnson as they did last year; regression looms large on their miracle of a season in 2012. That doesnâ€™t mean Johnson is any less valuable,
Tom Wilhelmsen, RHP, SEA: One year does not a player make. While Wilhelmsen showed excellent skills in 2012, (9.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9) and a 2.50 ERA, heâ€™s still one year removed from his 6.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 season in 2011. Given the enormous disparity in the numbers, there still can be a lot of weight applied to Wilhelmsenâ€™s most recent season, but with other young options available, Wilhelmsen is best saved forALOnly leagues.
Addison Reed, RHP, CWS: With Chicago not having made a commitment to Reed until late last season, thereâ€™s still reason to believe that his leash heading into 2013 isnâ€™t as long as some fantasy players might hope. Reed looked good last year, but his spurts of ineffectiveness, combined with a very high line drive rate (24%) and high fly ball rate in a great hitters park, are cause for concern. Donâ€™t pay yet for the closer he should become, because heâ€™s got a lot more growth room before he becomes a lockdown closer.
Ernesto Frieri, RHP, LAA: Frieriâ€™s transition from the friendly confines ofPETCOParkinSan Diegoto the tough AL West went about as smoothly as the Angels couldâ€™ve hoped for. Frieri recorded his best walk rate (4.09/9 IP) of his major league career, while also recording a career high strikeout rate. As expected, his HR/9 went up in a big way, which always can cause problems when youâ€™re trying to lock down a closer role. With Ryan Madson moving into the closer role if healthy, Frieri maintains value in holds leagues, as well as a solid handcuff option for Madsonâ€™s owners.
Ryan Cook, RHP, OAK: Cook benefited from a lucky BABIP (.170) early in the season when he went on his scoreless innings streak. His peripherals during that time were awful, (a 5.6 BB/9 and 9.8 K/9, only resulting in a 1/8 K/BB ratio). He also benefited from an absurd LD ratio of 11%. However, in the second half, he flipped the script completely, as he kept his 9.8 K/9, but lowered his walk rate to 1.4/9 IP. That kind of inconsistency is not what managers look for in a closer, and Grant Balfour seems to be the better choice. Keep in mind however, if Cook can maintain his 2nd half gains, he could be a force.
Jake McGee, LHP, TB: If McGee never closes a game, he still holds a ton of value to fantasy leaguers. McGee had an incredible increase in his peripherals last season, as he registered 3.3 more K/9 than last year, while decreasing his walk rate by 1. Heâ€™s an excellent source of holds and is even worth stashing simply for his Kâ€™s, ERA, and WHIP help.
Joel Peralta, RHP, TB: Peralta had a solid season in relief for the Rays in 2012, building on what has really been a very successful three year stretch for the right hander. Peraltaâ€™s long time fly-ball issue is one of the major reasons why he has primarily been a setup man.Â He should continue that role forTampain 2013, and is a value source of holds.
Jared Burton, RHP, MIN:Burtondropped his walk rate to a career low 2.3/9 IP last season. Almost as importantly,Burtonadded a large ground ball tilt mix into his repertoire. If Perkins slips up in the closer role and or has trouble vs. righties,Burtoncould be thrust into the role and should enjoy success. Heâ€™s a strong source of holds and a sleeper closer candidate inALOnly drafts or deep mixed leagues.
Vinnie Pestano, RHP, CLE: Smooth, steady, durable, dependable: all those words describe Vinnie Pestano. Heâ€™s an excellent source of holds, ERA and WHIP help, and if Chris Perez slips up, heâ€™s a sleeper closer candidate. Heâ€™s worth drafting in any format.
David Robertson, RHP, NYY: Robertson has always been able to strike hitters out at a high rate, but last year marked his first season with a walk rate below 4.0. He has a K rate above 12.0/9 IP which makes gives him a lights out skill set. If Mariano Rivera isnâ€™t fully healthy, Robertson could be the next Craig Kimbrel. Target for holds, hope for the saves, and the Kâ€™s, ERA, and WHIP help he gives you is just gravy.
Darren Oâ€™ Day, RHP, BAL: Oâ€™ Day was another pitcher whose performance forBaltimorelast season was critical in their miracle run in the latter part of the season. Oâ€™ Day, who only pitched 16 innings for the Texas Rangers major league ball club, posted solid K/BB ratios in that stint, but allowed a lot of home runs. In 2008-2010, he was mostly a righty killer, but in 2012 Oâ€™ Day held lefties to a .282 wOBA (weighted on base average) and righties to a mere .254: Both numbers are spectacular. Should anything happen to Jim Johnson, he is a good bet for some saves. But for now, heâ€™s a holds guy.
Andrew Bailey, RHP, BOS: Few are better than Bailey when he is healthy, but that time frame is so often tiny during the season. With Hanrahan brought in, Bailey looks to be relegated to a setup role, but that may not happen given Hanrahanâ€™s walk troubles last season. The closer situation inBostonis one to watch very closely in spring training, because if Bailey is healthy, heâ€™s the better option.
Matt Thornton, LHP, CWS:Thorntonâ€™s 2012 season was about the same as his 2011 season, but he strikeouts for control, as he improved his walk rate by nearly a full point and dropped his strikeout rate by 1.8/9. He also added some ground balls though, which is important as ever in US Cellular. If Addison Reed struggles in the closer role,Thorntoncould get a look and he could perform admirably, but he wasnâ€™t given a shot last year when the White Sox were playing bullpen by committee, so closing aspirations should be held to a minimum for now.
Bryan Shaw, RHP, CLE: Shaw recorded 2 saves and 10 holds last season for the Diamondbacks, and pitched his way to a 3.49 ERA. Now inCleveland, he has to hope for an injury or trade to Chris Perez in order to become fantasy relevant in most leagues. His 6.22 K/9 and 3.64 BB/9 ratios will play a little better inClevelandthan they would inArizonaover the long term. For now, heâ€™s a holds guy at best.
Kelvin Herrera, RHP, KC: The 100 mph hurler had an incredible season last year forKansas City. Herreraâ€™s peripherals of an 8.22 K/9 and 2.24 BB/9 all led to a great ERA of 2.35. Furthermore, his BABIP was actually above league average (.313) which allows him a chance to thin those already miniscule numbers. Heâ€™s the closer dark-horse inKansas Cityand at the very least is a lights-out holds source.
Koji Uehara, RHP, BOS: Ueharaâ€™s move to the not so friendly confines ofTexaslast season was no match for his skill set. Uehara posted insane peripherals of 10+ K/9 and a BB/9 less than 1.0/9. Some regression in that BB/9 rate is expected, but not too much. Heâ€™s incredibly steady and his rock solid skills are also sure to translate in his move toBoston. Heâ€™s draftable in every format.
Kevin Jepsen, RHP, LAA: Jepsen had a very solid season last year forL.A.as he posted 18 holds and recorded a 3.02 ERA. His K/9 of 7.66 and BB/9 of 2.42 will lead to the same success in 2013 should those skills repeat themselves. Heâ€™s a good bet for another 20 holds or so, and more if Ryan Madson is unable to make a successful transition coming off Tommy John Surgery.
Bruce Rondon, RHP, DET: Walk right up and let us introduce Bruce Rondon to you. No, literally, walk right up. Rondonâ€™s walk rates were absurd for the level he played at in 2011, as he recorded a 7.65 BB/9 in Single-A. Things were slightly better in 2012, as it was cut to the mid-3â€™s range with (A) and (AA), but in a miniscule sample size at AAA, of 8 innings, he walked 7 batters. Yikes. Best to leave him alone until he proves something, although strangely enough heâ€™s starting off the season as the Tigers closer (on paper anyway).
Sergio Santos, RHP, TOR: After a trade from the White Sox to the Blue Jays,Santosfound himself in the closer role for a very quick portion of time thanks to a season ending injury. Now Casey Janssen is a year removed from excelling in that role and has a hammerlock on it.Santoswill provide holds and strikeouts, assuming health. Should Janssen go down with an injury, the job is probably his for the taking.
Aaron Crow, RHP, KC: To the not-so-keen observer, Crowâ€™s season last year looked worse than in 2011, given the half run ERA jump; however, Crowâ€™s peripherals were much better. Crow lowered his walk rate to 3.06 (down from 4.5 in 2011), lowered his strand rate (giving more credence to his ERA performance), all while maintaining his strikeout per inning ability. Heâ€™s another dark-horse closer candidate in a very crowded and talented Royals bullpen.
David Phelps, RHP, NYY: Phelps was excellent last season in a hybrid role that included long-relief bullpen work and making short starts. He should be in the same role again this season, and he even has starter potential should Pineda have a relapse of his return from injury. Phelps is a great endgame purchase, especially in AL-Only leagues; heâ€™ll give you strikeouts, a solid ERA, respectable WHIP, and a handful of wins (4 or 5).
Pedro Strop, RHP, BAL: Strop benefited more than anyone in theBaltimorebullpen from the pixie dust that was sprinkled on their 2012 season. Stropâ€™s pitiful peripherals (7 K/9, 5 BB/9) are only aided by his massive ground ball rate of 64%. His 2.44 ERA outpitched his xERA (expected ERA) of 3.80 thanks to a very fortunate first half strand rate of 90% and a BABIP of 22%. Stay far away.
Joakim Soria, RHP,TEX: Soria isnâ€™t expected to return from shoulder surgery until late May, but when he does return, heâ€™s could become a valuable source of holds. Expecting him to return to his former self right away is a far-fetched idea, and heâ€™s really a name to pay attention to on the waiver wire, rather than picking him up on Draft Day.
Boone Logan, LHP, NYY:Loganis primarily a lefty specialist but he has recorded identical stats against righties and lefties (AVG wise) the last two seasons. Heâ€™s a solid source of holds and even more so if Mariano Riveraâ€™s return to action doesnâ€™t go as well as the Yankees hope. Watch the walk rate carefully though, as he could kill your WHIP; (was 4.6 BB/9 last year). The further downside withLoganis that he will never get a chance to close, as heâ€™s just way too hittable (hasnâ€™t recorded a BABIP lower than 31%).
Octavio Dotel, RHP, DET: Dotelâ€™s incredible peripherals didnâ€™t perfectly align with his ERA last year thanks to his high BABIP (primarily in the first half when it was 36%). His strand rate was also an issue, and is a problematic issue at that. Dotelâ€™s strand rate has dropped each of the past 3 years. He still shreds RHB to smithereens, and because of that, heâ€™s a solid source of Kâ€™s, Holds, and WHIP.
Darren Oliver, LHP, TOR: Amazingly, Oliver has not only avoided regression at the crisp age of 39, but heâ€™s getting better. His ERA is on a five year decline; can it continue? Even if it doesnâ€™t go down from 2.06 (which it shouldnâ€™t), his rock solid skills that are anchored by his 3.5 K/BB ratio arenâ€™t going away any time soon. Heâ€™s a great endgame AL-Only selection in aTorontobullpen loaded with question marks other than at the closer position.
Sean Burnett, LHP, LAA: Burnettâ€™s transition from the NL to theALshould go smoothly as long as heâ€™s utilized properly. Burnettâ€™s AVG vs. LHB is as follows the last two seasons: .200, and .211. Against righties, he struggles. But his incredible peripherals, anchored by his 4.8 K/BB and 57% GB rate will make him a valuable LOOGY commodity in an Angels bullpen that has needed another lefty for a long time.
Joba Chamberlain, RHP, NYY: The once highly-touted pitching prospect, poised to be a starter, has settled in nicely amongst the Yankees relievers. Although his 4.35 ERA isnâ€™t representative of his 3.65 xERA last season, Chamberlainâ€™s skill set remains impeccable. His health however, eh, not so much, as heâ€™s pitched 50 total innings in the last two seasons.
Jessie Crain, RHP, CWS: Crainâ€™s ERA is on a four-year decline thanks to his five-year increasing strikeout rate and continuous decline of his BABIP. He has certainly settled into the not so friendly confines of U.S. Cellular, as his ERA over the past two seasons is an average of 2.56. Heâ€™s a solid holds choice inAL-Only
Sean Doolittle, LHP, OAK: Doolittle has shown us one season of evidence that he can be a major league pitcher after his transition from first base. It was a magical season though. In 47 innings, Doolittle knocked out a 3.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 60 Kâ€™s. A 5.5 K/BB ratio sparkles for miles, and his extreme fly-ball tendency is perfect forOakland. Draftable in the endgame in most formats. Perhaps he should consider changing his name to Sean Dooalot?
John Ely, RHP, HOU: If (AAA) success is a good stepping stone for major league success, than John Ely is sure to make a mark in this league. Ely put together a 2012 season with the Dodgers AAA affiliate that impressed renaissance Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, and for good reason. Ely had a 8.80 K/9 and 1.92 BB/9 in 162 innings last season, which led to a 3.20 ERA. If he can control his HR bugaboo in the major leagues, heâ€™s a sneaky target in the late part of the draft in deep AL-Only formats.
Daniel Bard, RHP, BOS: What in the world caused last seasonâ€™s complete and utter meltdown? A great pitcher throughout his entire young career and the starter role just completely tore him apart. After 4 years of a declining walk rate (3.0 in 2011) it spiked to 7.5/9 IP in the starter role. Furthermore, he had more walks than strikeouts! Only an injury can explain his catastrophic 2012 season. Stay away until he shows heâ€™s fixed himself.
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