Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Reality Check: Relievers are always a gamble

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Of the 30 relievers who were expected to close entering 2012, only 16 finished with 20 or more saves.

The leader in saves -- Jim Johnson with 51 -- was widely considered the worst of those 30. Next in line -- Fernando Rodney with 48 -- wasn't even part of that group. And if he was, he would have been universally ignored as a 35-year-old with a career 4.29 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

So naturally, he ended up being the top-ranked reliever in Head-to-Head leagues ... with a 0.60 ERA and 0.78 WHIP.

Of the top 12 closers drafted in Head-to-Head leagues, only six met the relatively low standard of finishing in the top 20. Five -- Mariano Rivera, Drew Storen, Brian Wilson, Andrew Bailey and Jordan Walden -- were good enough for 17 saves ... combined. The last of that group, Heath Bell, was so bad en route to his 19 saves that he's now in line to be a seventh-inning guy in Arizona.

I tell you this not so you'll begin to doubt our prognostication abilities, but so you'll realize just how flippin' unpredictable the relief pitcher position can be.

It's a crapshoot. A player's value is mostly dependent on whether or not he's in line for saves, and only 30 players can be in line for saves at any given time. If a team decides to make a change at closer, the player who loses the role immediately becomes worthless in standard mixed leagues, and the player who gains it is an instant stud off the waiver wire. Your hefty investment could be ruined by a manager's quick trigger -- or an injury or some other act of nature -- and if you're not the first to respond, the rewards could go to that guy who didn't even bother drafting a closer.

That's just the way it goes at the relief pitcher position. It bends the laws of Fantasy with its disregard for justice. Up is down. Down is up. The moon is made of margarine.

What a nightmare.

So as you peruse these rankings, remember to take them with a grain of salt. Don't feel like you need to be the one who drafts a top reliever at the expense of some other position, because chances are the bottom will actually be the top.

Johnson and Rodney, Class of 2012.

Top 12 relief pitchers for 2013:
1. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves
2. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds
3. Kris Medlen, SP/RP, Braves
4. Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Phillies
5. Jason Motte, RP, Cardinals
6. Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays
7. Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees
8. Joe Nathan, RP, Rangers
9. Drew Storen, RP, Nationals
10. Jim Johnson, RP, Orioles
11. Ernesto Frieri, RP, Angels
12. Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Mariners

The only two relievers who might be worth the extra dollar are Kimbrel and Chapman. Yes, the risk is the same for them as for any other reliever, but the reward isn't just a greater number of saves. Their percentages -- specifically ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate -- are in such a different class from every other reliever that they'd probably have a spot on a standard 12-team roster even if they had no chance for saves.

Some might prefer Chapman to Kimbrel, but I don't understand the logic there. Kimbrel edged Chapman in every statistical measurement but innings pitched, avoided those rough patches that Chapman endured from time to time, and has two years of closing experience instead of just one. In every way, he's safer, and in no way is he inferior. The threat of Chapman moving to the starting rotation should make the decision that much easier.

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

That's not to say a move to the starter role would ruin Chapman's Fantasy value. If that were the case, Medlen, who's now firmly entrenched as a starter, wouldn't be No. 3 on this list. Come season's end, he could conceivably be the top-ranking reliever. An elite starting pitcher easily outpaces an elite closer in standard Head-to-Head scoring, but of course, Medlen has yet to prove he's an elite starting pitcher. He has the makings of one, but Kimbrel and Chapman have slightly less potential to disappoint.

Medlen's dual eligibility also provides some context for when Kimbrel and Chapman should go off the board. Among starting pitchers, I rank Medlen 20th, so in relative terms, Kimbrel is about a Zack Greinke and Chapman a Johnny Cueto.

Moving on, the next real cause for debate is at pick No. 6, which is about as low as I'm willing to go on Rodney after the season he just had. (Kenley Jansen likely would have bumped him down a spot if the Dodgers hadn't paid $22.5 million to downgrade to Brandon League. Still fuming about that one.) Some might claim Rodney's 2012 is a fluke given his history, but judging by his dramatically improved walk rate, I'd say he's a changed pitcher. My biggest concern with him is that he'll be 36 in 2013.

Age is also a concern for the two pitchers behind them, but by now, I think we can trust Rivera and Nathan to do what they always do. Rivera I'm convinced can do it for as long as he wants. Word is he's at least considering retirement as he continues to rehabilitate his torn ACL, but as the rankings go, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For the record, no one in the Yankees organization seems to be buying it.

Rounding out the top 12 is the sleeperific trio of Storen, Frieri and Wilhelmsen. All encountered some competition for their role in 2012, but by the end of the year, all three had put it to rest with the same kind of knockout stuff that could easily vault them to Papelbon-Motte territory in 2013. They may not be as established as some of the players behind them, but given that no pick is really safe at this position, you might as well gamble on the upside.

Some may feel like I've slighted Johnson by ranking him within that trio, but he's not getting 51 saves again. He only reached that astronomical number because the Orioles were winning a disproportionate number of close games in their miraculous march to the postseason. Reduce him to 35 saves or so, and his low strikeout rate makes him an unremarkable Fantasy reliever.

Next 12 relief pitchers for 2013:
13. J.J. Putz, RP, Diamondbacks
14. Joel Hanrahan, RP, Pirates
15. Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers
16. Rafael Soriano, RP, Yankees
17. Huston Street, RP, Padres
18. Greg Holland, RP, Royals
19. Grant Balfour, RP, Athletics
20. Chris Perez, RP, Indians
21. Glen Perkins, RP, Twins
22. Shelby Miller, RP, Cardinals
23. John Axford, RP, Brewers
24. Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays

Putz and Hanrahan could have easily ranked in the top 12. They're safe and they're good. But I feel like their potential is limited to being just good and not great. Putz's percentages are terrific, but he hasn't thrown 60 innings in a season since 2007. His potential for injury only increases now that he's on the wrong side of 35. As for Hanrahan, he's on a team that can't decide if it wants to contend or not, which makes for some uneven save totals over the course of a season. Plus, the control problems from earlier in his career showed up again in 2012.

Follow us, Like us, Join us
Want more? Join the discussion on our Facebook page and Google+ and follow us on Twitter for additional insight while interacting with a community geared toward Fantasy Baseball.

Soriano has the potential to be the biggest riser or faller at the position, depending on what happens to him this offseason. If he rejoins the Yankees to set up for Rivera, forget it. He doesn't belong in the top 24. If he signs elsewhere to serve as the closer, though, I'd be willing to bump him up to 10th on this list. Frankly, I could see it going either way. I don't suspect he'll get more on the open market -- at least per season -- than the Yankees' $13.3 million qualifying offer.

I like that Holland is low enough on this list to qualify as a sleeper still. I'm thinking the stigma of closing for the Royals will keep him there. His Papelbon-like strikeout rate has me believing he's poised for a big step forward this year. Joakim Soria isn't far enough along in his recovery from Tommy John surgery to pose a real threat.

Apart from Holland, Perkins might be my favorite "sleeper" closer. The only reason he ranks so low is because the Twins have been hesitant to commit to him in that role, presumably because he throws left-handed. They had more or less turned it over to him by the end of last year, and he did exactly what you'd expect him to do with it, posting a 1.93 ERA and 0.58 WHIP in 31 second-half appearances. Still, until their offseason is over, I'm not assuming he's the guy. Did I mention the Dodgers recently bumped Jansen for League? For shame.

Miller probably catches your attention. Of course, he'll be starting, not closing, which puts him, Ogando and Medlen in the same category. None of the other projected starting pitchers with relief pitcher eligibility -- a group that includes Dylan Bundy, Hisashi Iwakuma, Andrew Cashner and Garrett Richards, among others -- made the cut. Because starters tend to outscore closers, pitchers with dual eligibility are of great interest to Head-to-Head owners, who often target them two or three rounds earlier than they otherwise would. Miller's elite pedigree and strong September showing make him a candidate for that treatment and, in some people's estimation, an underrated option here. But Matt Moore reminded us last year why we should exercise caution when drafting those players. Just because he's pitched a dozen major-league innings doesn't mean he's a proven commodity.

Once Miller goes off the board, I'd advise picking your favorite from the rest of the bunch. Little distinguishes Axford or Janssen from Andrew Bailey, Addison Reed, Rafael Betancourt, Steve Cishek, a still-recovering Brian Wilson, or any of the other projected closers who just missed the cut. All come with some element of risk and some element of reward. I personally think Axford has a bounce-back season in him, and, as with Perkins, I'd love what Janssen brings to the table if I trusted the Blue Jays to commit to him in the role. That's me, though. To a certain extent, you just have to trust your instincts.

Want another name to consider? The Tigers have already nominated Bruce Rondon as a candidate to replace the soon-to-depart Jose Valverde. Check out his minor-league numbers and tell me you're not intrigued.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Brewers RP Brandon Kintzler to begin rehab assignment Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:41 am ET) Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler will begin a rehab assignment in the Arizona League (rookie) on Tuesday. He has been sidelined since late May due to left knee tendinitis.

Mike Fiers' Astros debut comes in relief effort Monday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:30 am ET) Mike Fiers had to make his Astros debut a day earlier than expected, as he pitched in relief Monday against the Rangers after starter Lance McCullers failed to make it out of the first inning.

While Fiers gave the Astros five innings in the 12-9 loss, he allowed six runs on seven hits and three walks. He had six strikeouts.

"I was happy that Fiers came in and was able to get through the majority of that game by saving some of our bullpen pieces to live to start another day," manager A.J. Hinch said, per MLB.com.

Dan Straily will be promoted from the minors to start Tuesday's game in place of Fiers.


Angels RP Huston Street picks up save Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:28 am ET) Angels pitcher Huston Street recorded the final three outs of Monday's 5-4 win over the Indians to earn his 26th save of the season.

Street allowed one hit and struck out one during the appearance. He has converted 26 of his 29 save opportunities this season.


Mariners send RP Jose Ramirez to Triple-A on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:28 am ET) The Mariners optioned reliever Jose Ramirez to Triple-A Tacoma following Monday's 8-7 win over the Rockies. Ramirez, who was acquired from the Yankees for Dustin Ackley, has not yet pitched for his new club. 

But the Mariners will opt to send him down and call up a fresh arm for the bullpen. Although, the corresponding move won't be announced until Tuesday. 


Astros' Luis Valbuena slugs 20th home run in loss on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:23 am ET) Astros infielder Luis Valbuena has recorded his first career 20-home run season, as he went 2 for 3 with a solo shot in Monday's 12-9 loss to the Rangers.

Valbuena's blast was his 20th of the year, but it also broke a 23-game homerless drought. Even with the two-hit effort, Valbuena is still batting a low .206 on the year.


Indians SP Corey Kluber gives up 10 hits in Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Indians pitcher Corey Kluber was not sharp during Monday's 5-4 loss to the Angels.

Kluber allowed five runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. He also struck out four and did not walk a batter. His biggest mistake came in the sixth inning when he gave up a two-run home run to Conor Gillaspie.

Kluber is now 6-12 with a 3.60 ERA, but he has earned a quality start in six of his last eight outings.


Angels SP Garrett Richards fans 11 in Monday's win
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Angels pitcher Garrett Richards struck out a season-high 11 batters during Monday's 5-4 win over the Indians.

Richards allowed four runs on four hits over 7 1/3 innings. He also walked three. His biggest mistake was giving up a two-run home to Yan Gomes in the first inning.

He received his 11th win of the season for his effort to break his two-game losing streak. Richards has earned a quality start in two of his last four outings.


Orioles' Chris Davis continues power surge with HR on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:11 am ET) Orioles slugger Chris Davis got his team off to a good start on Monday, as he crushed a three-run home run with one out in the first inning, en route to a 9-2 win over the A's. Davis' home run was his 27th of the year, surpassing his total of 26 from a season ago.

It was the only hit of the night for Davis, who is batting .276 with five homers and 15 RBI over his past eight games.


A's SP Jesse Chavez gets blasted by Orioles on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:08 am ET) Athletics starter Jesse Chavez was hit early and often in his outing against the Orioles on Monday. The right-hander allowed six runs on nine hits over just 3 2/3 innings. He threw 46 of 77 pitches for strikes, as the A's lost 9-2 on Monday.

Chavez (5-11) got off to a rocky start in this one, as he was down 3-0 before getting a chance to settle in. He gave up a three-run home run to Chris Davis in the very first inning. Caleb Joseph also touched up Chavez for a two-run blast in the fourth inning, as Chavez suffered his worst start of the season.

With the poor outing, Chavez's ERA rose to 3.88. He has now given up four or more runs in four of his past six starts, posting a 6.52 ERA over that stretch.


D-Backs SP Chase Anderson may make one more rehab start
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) After throwing four innings during a rehab outing in the minors Sunday, Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said pitcher Chase Anderson may need another rehab start before returning to the team, reports The Arizona Republic.

Anderson was expected to replace Zack Godley in the rotation, but Hale said he is considering using a six-man rotation.

"That would help that, just get guys extra days," Hale said. "With [Patrick Corbin] coming back from Tommy John and all our young guys starting to pile up the innings. But it's tough to do that with still keeping seven bullpen guys. We would probably have to lose a position player. That's a very tough decision to make."


 
 
 
Rankings