It is time to wrap up the 2015 MLFS Relief Pitcher Rankings with the last 25 of my 100 ranked relievers. Yes, there are at least 100 relevant pitchers in MLB who could have a positive impact on your Fantasy Baseball Team’s Pitching Stats. Whether you play in a Standard 5 X 5 or a Balanced Scoring League, it is not just the 30 Closers that are currently in the role that matter. Hopefully your league rewards Holds and maybe even IRS (Inherited Runners Stranded), but even if not remember the Closer position has at least a 30% turnover rate. In 2014 there was a 30% Closer turnover before April was finished. So, bone up on your CLEWs (CLosers En Waiting) so you can own them BEFORE the guys ahead of them are demoted. As for the rest of us, we are still collecting relievers with both skills and opportunity (to pitch in high leverage situations) so we can score Holds, IRS, as well as potential future Saves.
ALERT: Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers Lights-Out Closer may miss the 1st month of the season. Damn it doesn’t take long for the Dominos to start falling. In fact the Dodgers signed Mike Adams to a Milb contract with an invite. There was initial talk of a Soriano or K-Rod signing, but it sounds like sane heads prevailed. I don’t think we’ll see Adams closing games in April but he is a great example of how you can’t ever forget about a good reliever. For EVERY member of this top 100 list there is another guy out there who should also have been on it. Adams didn’t make the cut because he has not been relevant for nearly 2 years after a litany of injuries (Labrum fraying, torn Labrum, torn Rotator Cuff, Sports Hernia, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Mid Back sprain, Biceps strain, and then Another Sports Hernia!! No, I didn’t know all that but this guy did. Daniel Brim, Dodgers Digest.
Next week I get to join the rest of our Baseball Writing Staff in focusing on a single MLB Division. I’ll spend the rest of the 2015 MLB season discussing news, trends and rumors relating to the 5 teams that make up the AL East. I hope you will join in and post your own comments on those articles in the coming weeks as I’m sure there are plenty of AL East fans with strong opinions about their teams, and I want to hear from you. Some of the topics I want to discuss in those first few weeks are:
Baltimore Orioles: Will they be able to make up for the losses of Cruz & Markakis? Will All Stars Matt Wieters, Chris Davis & Manny Machado return to form after mostly lost seasons in 2014? Will there be enough SP after Chris Tillman to make another run?
Boston Red Sox: Where will everyone play? How much will everyone play? Are there more trades coming? Are Mookie & Castillo ready for Prime Time? Who is going to lead that deep but Aceless pitching staff and will it be enough? Who will be the Closer in July, August, September?
New York Yankees: Didi Gregorious – Jeter replacement or just a good fielding young SS whose glove is more important than his stick? What is the risk involved in each Yankee returning from 2014 injury or down season; Tanaka, Sabathia, Pineda, Nova, Teixeira, McCann, Beltran, and yes, even A-Rod. And will Bettances make Yank fans forget about Mariano….er Robertson?
Tampa Rays: Why is the Rays Starting Pitching staff often called the class of the AL East even without David Price? How much will they miss Ben Zobrist and Will Myers? Can Evan Longoria get his standing as an elite 3b man back after a down year? Who is going to close?
Toronto Blue Jays: Will the power trio of Bautista, Encarnacion and Donaldson live up to its advance billing? Will Dickey and Buehrle be enough rotation leadership to make up for the lack of a real ace? Who is going to close?
But now for the final 25 RP’s of the Top 100. A moment ago I said that there was a 30% closer turnover last season before April was finished. That list of 5 AL East teams is a prime example. Baltimore has the most stable closer at this point, but he is entering only his 2nd season in the role. The Sox signed Uehara to close for two more seasons, but he couldn’t finish 2014 as the closer and has barely 30 lifetime saves. Betances will probably be a top 5 closer, but he has one save to his career. There are 5 guys in Tampa who have saved games in their careers, any one of them could end up being the closer, or maybe all of them will be. Does anyone really think Cecil will be the Toronto Closer for all of 2015?
You’ve heard me say “Closers Close” so we will start with a few former closers who could become relevant again if their troubles are behind them AND if the all important opportunity arrises.
76. Jim Henderson, RP MIL – Jon Broxton was brought in and likely has the inside edge to close. However he has not exactly been the picture of health and consistency the last few seasons. I’m a believer so i think he’ll be fine, as long as they don’t bring K-Rod back (likely out of their price range now after 2014) But, Henderson was the closer from the time John Axford lost his mojo until K-Rod found his. A bit of injury helped the “interruption”, but if Broxton falters, Henderson will be called on before Will Smith to close
77. John Axford, RP COL – “Closers Close”. His stuff is too good not to. It is just hard to take the lumps in the meantime. If you have room on the bench stash him. This is one of the premier strikeout relievers in the MLB. We have not heard the last of him. He was a lights out closer as recently as 2012. He’s admitted he was so amped to pitch for Canada in the WBC two years ago that he strained his arm (He was clocked at 98 MPH in the WBC, but only got back to 93 MPH by the end of April at which point he had a 24.00 ERA and Jim Henderson was the new closer. My only sadness is that I’ve been hyping Rex Brothers for two years now and he may not even be 3rd on a list that includes Rafael Betancourt and Adam Ottavino.
78. Rafael Betancourt, RP COL – Yeah, he used to close too.
79. Tom Wilhelmsen, RP SEA – Yup, another former, though non conventional Closer. Wilhelmsen is not an overpowering dominant pitcher but he is effective. Fernando Rodney is, well, Fernando Rodney. Sure, maybe Danny Farquhar is 1st in line if anything happens to Rodney, but don’t count out Wilhelmsen. Closers Close.
80. Ryan Cook, RP OAK – I don’t know what happened to Cook but I’ve always liked him. Two years ago he was one of my favorite kinds of relievers. I drafted him as a CLEW and he lead my team in Holds at the point Oak made him their closer. By the end of the season (in my contracts league that has fairly balanced scoring) Cook was 2nd on my team in both Holds and Saves. He may never supplant Doolittle in Oak but I think he’ll get his mojo back sooner rather than later.
81. Brandon League, RP LAD – Another non conventional former closer. League is a soft tosser. He will not score you many K’s. His contract says he’ll pitch in high leverage situations. I doubt Jansen is going anywhere but League could still rack up Holds + IRS, chipping in 28 in 2014. Plus Kenley Jansen will possibly miss the first month of the season. League just got to the point where he has an ADP for 2015. Whoda thunk that?
82. Kyuji Fujikawa, RP TEX – Yeah, I don’t know either, but he came from Japan with so much hype 2 years ago that I have to put him on this list. He is a Former Future Closer. THAT keeps him on the list. I won’t draft him but he is worth keeping an eye on. Maybe he’ll finally be healthy and we can see what he can do.
The problem with the above mentioned pitchers is that if they don’t close there is no guarantee they will give value elsewhere. I’d take my chances on Cook and Axford though. The next group of pitchers have very little chance of closing, however they have a great chance of beefing up your Holds, IRS, K’s and ratios even if they don’t close. If you play in a league with balanced scoring you will be drafting one or two of these guys in your last two rounds. No, really, you will.
83. Steve Delabar, RP TOR – For 4 years this guy was a K machine averaging over 12 K’s per 9 until 2014. A bad run that made it look like he had lost his skills got him a demotion to AAA where he finished the season. He’ll be back in 2015, bet on it. And, if May 1 rolls around and you need to generate some k’s from the pen, here’s your guy.
84. Adam Warren, RP NYY – He’s 27. He’s probably the Yankees #1 set-up man in 2015. He had a quietly damn good season in 2014. What more do you need to know?
85. Adam Ottavino, RP COL – Nothing gets me more excited than a 28 year old pitcher cutting his walk rate in half and finally getting his K rate right up near 10. Oh, and if you owned him in 2014 you got his 51 IRS + H (top 10 in MLB) Why didn’t I rank him higher? Hmmmmmm.
86. Aaron Crow, RP MIA – Nothing is more disappointing than a 28 year old pitcher increasing his walk rate and cutting his K rate nearly in half. Oh, and if you owned him in 2014 you did get his 29 H + IRS. Maybe the sun in Miami will do him some good.
87. Dale Thayer, RP SD – Thayer is a right handed lefty specialist, averaging less than 3 batters per inning. He seems to be a mainstay in SD though and could even be next in line for saves there behind Benoit. He chipped in 25 IRS + H.
88. Brian Duensing, RP MIN – Brian just turned 32. Can you believe that? Duensing has talent. Duensing is a lefty. He’ll have value.
89. Fernando Salas, RP LAA – Many have already forgotten that Salas saved 24 games for StL in 2011 after both Mitchell Boggs & Jason Motte lost the Closer Role. He logged 34 H + IRS in 2014. Huston Street tends to get hurt. Salas should be owned.
90. Mike Dunn, RP MIA – Mike Dunn scores fantasy points. He may not be the sexiest reliever out there and may never close but he gets numbers. Last season the 29 year old cut his walk rate to a new career low and had his highest K-Rate since his rookie season. You know how this makes me feel. But he also logged 10 W’s & 57 H + IRS (Top 10) with an 10.58 K Rate and an ERA right around 3.00. Why didn’t I rank him higher???? He was the 43rd highest scoring RP in MLFS Leagues in 2014.
91. AJ Ramos, RP MIA – He recently turned 28 so there is hope that he gets his walk rate down from 6.0 per 9 (which is not even MLB worthy) but AJ gets outs too. He managed 44 H + IRS, 7 Wins and over 10 K’s per inning with a 2.11 ERA in 2014. One has to believe the walks will get him unless he gets them first.
92. Zach Putnam, RP CHI – This guy may not have the best peripherals but he managed an ERA under 2.00 and had 42 IRS + H before he got a chance to close for the Sox late in the season when he amassed 6 Saves. He’s also 27.
93. Dan Otero, RP OAK – Dan was the 24th highest scoring reliever in 2014 MLFS Leagues. He’s got one of the lowest K-9’s on this list. He’s got one of the lowest Walks per 9 on this list. His score was aided by 8 Wins and 48 IRS + H. He is worth owning even if he doesn’t get a strikeout.
94. Antonio Bastardo, RP PHI – Anthony the Bastard is only 29 and contributes in H + IRS and has a very high K-rate (11.4/9). He walks far too many batters though to take the next step. Someone will have to close though once the Phills trade Papelbon.
95. Jake Diekman, RP PHI – In his age 27 season Diekman did not cut his Walk rate at all. But he was one of a hand full of relievers to notch 100 K’s. He throws gas but walks far too many. Should he get that under control he could change some of those 37 H + IRS into Saves. Besides, someone will have to close once the Phills trade Papelbon.
96. Jared Hughes, RP PIT – In 2014 at the age of 28 Hughes cut his BB rate in half. But he still has one of the lowest K-Rates in baseball so I doubt he is closing any time soon. He did chip in with 45 H+ IRS.
97. Jean Machi, RP SF – Besides his 45 H + IRS for the Giants, Jean chipped in 7 Wins and a couple of Saves. He is 33 so there is not much upside but the Giants are very loyal to their pen and Machi is the latest entrant. He should be worth owning in most formats, especially with the Giants penchant for Closers by Committee.
98. Yoervis Medina, RP SEA – Strikes out more than a batter per inning, walks too many, is only 26. He logged 35 H+ IRS plus 5 W’s and a couple Saves. He has talent and is young but may be behind Rodney, Farquhar and Furbush in Seattle, not to mention Wilhelmsen.
99. Seth Maness, RP STL – Another guy I could have ranked higher. He was one of the MLB leaders in H + IRS with 59., and also chipped in a handful of Saves and Wins. He does not have a great K rate but seldom walks any batters (11 in 80 IP) nor gives up Home Runs. He is only 26.
See yas next week when we start to disect the AL East.
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Major League Fantasy Sports: Join Ej Garr and Corey D. Roberts on Sunday March 8th from 7pm-8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers during the show at 646.915.8596. This week’s show we will be discussing the 3rd base and catcher positions for the fantasy baseball 2015 season.