February 19, 2013 posted by Chuck Anderson

National League RP Player Profiles

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Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves

Craig Kimbrel:  In 2012 Kimbrel set records for the highest K/9 and lowest FIP since 1960.  He produced 3.6 WAR in 62.2 innings.  Only relievers that exceeded 70 innings had gone over 3.2 WAR.  He lowered his walk rate from 3.79 to 2.01.  He cut his fly ball rate too and allowed the same number of home runs as he did in 2011 even though his HR/FB ratio regressed near the league average.  He will not come cheaply, and offers little profit potential at his current draft position.

Jonathan Papelbon:  He had another strong year with a K/BB over 5.00 for the fifth time in his eight-year career.  His K/9 exceeded 10.0 for the sixth consecutive year.  His ERA, FIP, xFIP, tERA, and SIERA were all under 3.00.  His HR/FB was 14.3% at home and over 10.0% overall for only the second time.

Sergio Romo:  You have to love a closer with a 1.85 BB/9 in 233.1 career innings.  His ground ball rate increased from the mid-30%s to 48.5%.  He relied heavily on his slider, throwing it 61.8% of the time.  Some feel that puts more stress on a pitcher’s arm, and Romo was sidelined with right elbow inflammation in 2011.


Jason Motte:  He hit the strike zone on 71.0% of first pitches, mostly featuring his 96.8mph fastball.  His HR/FB increased from 2.9% to 13.2%, but to his credit his ERA did not take a similar jump.  Expect the ratio to settle in the middle in 2013.  He only has 260 major league innings under his belt, but dynasty league players should be aware that he turns 31 in June.


J.J. Putz:  He has a great skill set but also has a long history of elbow trouble and will play this year at age 36.  The last time he pitched over 60 innings was 2007, and Arizona has David Hernandez, a very capable setup man, waiting in the wings.  Putz had excellent control the last two seasons, and any spike in BB/9 could be an indication of injury.


Rafael Betancourt:  He turned in his first ten save season (finishing with 31) last year at age 37.  His xFIP jumped a full run from 2.66 to 3.65.  His K/9 was down, he lost about a mile per hour off his fastball, and his slider now classifies as a curve.  He has ownable skills, but the downturn at his age is worrisome.


Rafael Soriano:  His 2.66 ERA was well under all estimates.  They all pegged him as a over 3.00 pitcher, tERA was particularly pessimistic at 4.06.  The jump to the National League should help, and Washington figures to provide plenty of save opportunities.  His GB/FB ratio is on a three-year increase.


Jason Grilli:  He found an extra gear on his fastball and threw it 72.0% of the time.  The heater induced a 13.72% whiff rate and helped Grilli post a 13.81 K/9.  He was awarded Pittsburgh’s closer’s job after the Joel Hanrahan trade.  He generated ground balls only 30.7% of the time so home runs could be his undoing if he gets unlucky.


Jon Broxton, RP, Cincinnati Reds

Jonathan Broxton:  He has a tenuous hold on the Cincinnati job.  Chapman could flounder as a starter, or Sean Marshall could take the position because he is more skilled.  Broxton still brings heat, but his 6.98 K/9 was well below average for a short reliever.  His HR/FB took a nosedive, but he also became such a ground ball pitcher that regression is not a major concern.


Huston Street:  He owns a dazzling skill set but saw disabled list time in each of the last three years.  The move to San Diego agreed with him, he had a 12.31 K/9 at Petco.  A .179 BABIP against kept his ERA under 2.00.  His skills point to one in the 2.30 – 2.50 range.


John Axford:  A 19.2% HR/FB blew up his ratios in 2012 and got him demoted for a time.  Although his BB/9 climbed to 5.06 his pitch speed, usage, whiff rate, and even GB/FB ratio was very consistent.  If he can limit the walks there is good value here.


Brandon League:  He has not struck out more than 7.0 per nine since 2009 but the Dodgers have confidence in him over Kenley Jansen.  Given the luck associated with a 60 IP sample he could hold the job all year or flame out in April.


Kenley Jansen:  A career 2.22 ERA and 14.58 K/9 were not enough to earn him ninth inning duty.  He even reduced his BB/9 from 4.36 to 3.05.  He is in a similar situation as he was last year, stuck behind a clearly inferior reliever.  With a fly ball rate near 50% he could possibly become prone to home runs.


Sean Marshall:  His raw numbers were as strong as they have been since 2010 but he fell victim to some bad timing.  Between 2010 and 2011 he had over three times as many shutdowns as meltdowns.  In 2012 the ratio was only 19/12.  There is solid value here, as Broxton is a shaky closer.


Drew Storen:  The Soriano signing pushes him to setup duty for the time being.  He had a solid year once he returned from an elbow cleanup, although his ERA was held down because he managed to prevent any home runs over 30.1 innings.  His 13.4% swinging strike rate indicates plenty of upside over 2012’s 7.12 K/9.


Carlos Marmol:  He appeared to be on the cusp of another implosion before putting up a 1.52 ERA in the second half.  His FIP post-All Star Game was 3.37.  Managers do not trust relievers that walk five batters per nine, as Marmol does even while running well.  His swinging strike rate was down to 9.1%, well off 2010’s 14.4% peak.


Frank Francisco:  He had a bone spur removed from his pitching elbow in the winter and the joint flared up in the first spring workout.  It seems improbable that he lasts the year.  His walk rate rose every season since 2009, all the way to 4.46 last year.  Hitters squared him up for line drives on 28.1% of balls in play.


Jonny Venters:  Fortunately he gets nearly four grounders for every fly ball because a 24.0% HR/FB would doom many pitchers.  Venters survived with a 3.22 ERA and 3.06 xFIP.  His 10.59 K/9 keeps him on the fantasy radar, although he only gets save chances if Craig Kimbrel is hurt.


Rex Brothers, RP, Colorado Rockies

Rex Brothers:  He saw his K/9 dip to 11.04 from 2011’s 13.06 while his BB/9 remained high at 4.92.  His swinging strike rate actually rose 2.5%, so the strikeouts could rebound.  The last time he walked less than four batters per nine was in a ten inning stop at A-ball, so expect control issues to stick with him and prove limiting.


Bobby Parnell:  He is next in line when Frank Francisco inevitably falters.  Last year Parnell’s strikeouts dropped but improved control got him to a 3.05 K/BB.  His GB/FB was over 2.50 for the second time in three seasons.  He has a 3.15 career ERA as a reliever against a 7.93 mark as a starter.


Mark Melancon:  After four awful April games he was relegated to Triple-A for two months.  Home runs remained a problem, he had a 22.2% HR/FB for the year and a 5.76 ERA in the second half.  With a career 7.97 K/9 and 2.48 K/BB he does not have fantasy value unless he is earning saves.


Jim Henderson:  He was a 29-year-old non-prospect making his big league debut but proved to be a hidden gem, striking out 13.21/9 and holding a 3.46 K/BB.  He features a 95 mph fastball, 14.9% swinging strike rate, and 65.7% first strike rate.  His ERA was 3.52, but all indicators were under 2.75.  He is a strong sleeper for saves beyond the more obvious names like Kenley Jansen or Sean Marshall.


Mike Gonzalez:  The oft-traveled lefty landed with Milwaukee.  Like many setup men he can strike out over a batter per inning but a 4.11 career BB/9 holds him back.  His HR/FB numbers starting in 2008 are 16.7%, 9.1%, 3.8%, 12.5%, and 5.7%.  Paying for last year’s 3.03 ERA is playing with fire.


Steve Cishek:  He does not feature elite strikeout or walk numbers but owns a 2.85 FIP in his Marlins career as well as a 54.2% ground ball rate.  He walked 4.10/9 last year, coming near dangerous territory.  He is drafted with the last group of closers and makes a sound investment late in drafts.


Mike Adams:  His average fastball was 93.2 mph in 2010, and only 91.3 mph in 2012.  His K/9 decreased to 7.74.  He had thoracic outlet surgery in the winter, and may get the zip back.  He is deep on Philadelphia’s depth chart, so take a wait and see approach.


Kyuji Fujikawa:  His ERA was under 3.00 every season in Japan since 2003.  The MLB experience has been kinder to Japanese relievers than starters, so be optimistic that he can approximate those numbers.  Carlos Marmol has lost his job before and Fujikawa appears to be next in line.


Luke Gregerson:  With the whiff rate on his slider back over 20% his K/9 rose from 5.50 to 9.04.  Throwing a slider 68.6% of the time is a health concern but he has not had an arm injury since 2009.  The Padres are experts at turning out good relievers and the bullpen pecking order is in constant flux.  The Dale Thayer era is proof enough of that.


Santiago Casilla:  It seems long ago, but he got first crack at saves when Brian Wilson was lost and earned 25.  Since coming to San Francisco in 2010 his ERA outperformed his xFIP by an average of 1.54 runs per year.  8.00 K/9 is not enticing enough to risk the regression whiplash.


Antonio Bastardo, RP, Philadelphia Phillies

Antonio Bastardo:  He was always strong in the strikeout department but exploded to a 14.02/9 mark last year.  His swinging strike rate did not rise, so do not project more than 12.0 for 2013.  He had a 4.33 ERA but the indicators point to one in the low to mid-3.00s.


Ryan Webb:  He never struck out more that 7.0/9 in the majors but has a 2.80 career GB/FB.  That skill makes managers comfortable in tough situations, although his High Leverege xFIP is only 4.46.  Fantasy owners should steer clear of any reliever with a 1.97 K/BB.


Jose Ceda:  He is attempting to come back from his second Tommy John operation and he never really harnessed his control in the first place.  The most promising line on his ledger is a 4.08 K/BB, 1.91 FIP effort in 2011 at Triple-A.  He could put things together this year but best to wait and make him prove it.


Wilton Lopez:  He is seemingly a good fir for Colorado, with a career 3.17 FIP and 55.9% ground ball rate.  His 6.80 K/9 limits fantasy appeal, but he will not walk many and had WHIPs of 1.06 and 1.04 in 2010 and 2012.  Philadelphia broke off trade talks as they were concerned about his elbow.


Jordan Walden:  Despite some disabled list time with a sore bicep there was little statistical chance from his stellar 2011.  His 10.83 K/9 could get a bump when he moves to the National League.  He walks too many to be dominant and is slated to pitch the sixth or seventh for Atlanta.


David Hernandez:  He was good in 2011 and downright filthy in 2012.  12.91 K/9, 4.45 K/BB, and 2.08 FIP are the highlights.  He has 63 saves + holds against nine blown saves in the last two years.  His 50.1% fly ball rate is troubling in Chase Field but he has done well limiting home runs since leaving the Orioles.


J.J. Hoover:  The youngster flashed dominant K/BB numbers in Triple-A last year but they slipped upon joining the Reds.  His 56.6% fly ball rate could be trouble in Cincinnati.  There is not obvious path to saves, so steer clear of this risk.


Ronald Belisario:  He racked up 23 holds last year and is in position to do so again.  2012’s 8.75 K/9 was the best mark of his career, but his calling card is a 60.5% ground ball rate.  His fantasy value was inflated by gaining eight wins, a repeat of which is unlikely.


Heath Bell:  He exists as a cautionary tale about signing relief pitchers in their mid-30s to big money deals.  He fastball did not lose much speed but according to pitch values it really got hammered.  There was probably some bad luck involved, but his walk and swinging strike rates are trending the wrong way.  Optimistically, he rebounds to be a league average reliever this year.


Javier Lopez:  The Giants have a knack for resurrecting pitchers, and Lopez has a 2.42 ERA since joining them.  He never cleared 2.00 K/BB in the majors and his 4.95 xFIP when facing right-handed batters limits his appeal.  He has 38 holds over the last two seasons.


Mitchell Boggs:  Bottom line, he totaled 34 holds against only three blown saves so he got results.  His 2.21 ERA was more than a run under any indicator.  He benefited from a .245 BABIP against.  That figure is somewhat stunning considering he is a ground ball pitcher and the Cardinal infield is anchored by a fossilizing Rafael Furcal.  Project an ERA in the mid-3.00s.


Edward Mujica:  St. Louis was eager to retain him after he allowed all of three runs in two months.  He walked less than 2.00 per nine each of the last four years.  His strikeout rate declined but his velocity and swinging strike rates were steady.  He is a good contributor for holds and ratios.


Tyler Clippard:  No reliever has thrown more innings over the last three seasons.  Last year’s 10.6% swinging strike rate was the lowest since he was starting games in 2009.  He occupies the third chair for saves, but is in good position for holds provided his skills do not slip.



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