2015 Fantasy Baseball: Middle Relievers to Target
Not every fantasy league has an owner that tries to utilize middle relievers heavily, but when someone does employ it, it’s often fun to watch. If executed correctly, a team can get by with just a couple starters, a couple closers, and a host of shutdown relievers. While the drafting process is over, there are still relievers that can be picked up for nothing in the free agent pool. The potential success of this strategy is largely dependent on your league’s inning’s pitched threshold. If it’s around 20 innings per week, this can be used effectively for an entire season. You may pick up a win from some of these pitchers every now and again, but they’ll mainly help in keeping your ERA and WHIP low.
Kontos isn’t going to help much in the strikeout department, but he’s used frequently by Bruce Bochy and has pitched to the tune of a 1.87 ERA and a WHIP of just 0.95. Despite a rocky 2013 season, Kontos has been dominant since being traded to the Giants. In 2012, and 2014, he posted ERA’s of 2.47 and 2.78, respectively. ZiPS has him projected for 61 innings, while Steamer has him pegged for 36. The result will likely be somewhere in the middle, as he pitched 43.2 and 55 innings in 2012 and 2013, respectively. His teammate, Sergio Romo, is the one famous for the slider, but Kontos isn’t far behind. Both feature one of the “no-dot” variety, which makes it nearly impossible to differentiate from a fastball. Romo’s steals the spotlight because of it’s frisbee nature, but Kontos’ features a sharp break, like an exaggerated cutter. Kontos has no value in the saves department, as he’s likely fifth or sixth in line for the Giants, but he’ll help with ERA and WHIP.
Madson was the man set to take over as permanent closer for the Phillies after Brad Lidge left, but a deal fell through, and Jonathan Papelbon was signed instead. Before 2015, he hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011, as he was trying to return to form since having to undergo Tommy John surgery. Now that he’s back , Madson has only added to the incredible bullpen that Ned Yost has to work with. In 16.2 innings this season, his ERA is 1.62, his WHIP 0.66, and his K/9 rate 9.72. Madson’s BABIP is an extraordinarily low .143, and while it’s something to keep an eye on, his track record helps ease any concerns. When healthy, he’s one of the best relievers in the game, and he should get a lot of opportunities with the Royals.
Before the 2015 season, Thompson had pitched just 15 combined innings from parts of 2011 and 2014. In his limited action last year, he posted an ERA of 2.45, an FIP of 2.31, and a WHIP of 1.36. Thus far in 2015, he has been even better in both ERA and WHIP, with values of 2.18 and 0.77, respectively. His K/9 is unfortunately low (5.66), but so far he’s been great in the other categories. He may be due for some regression soon, as his BABIP is .161, so if you do pick him up make sure to keep a daily eye on his performance.
While the Dodgers have had to shuffle quite a few pitchers around due to injuries, Garcia has been a bright spot thus far. In 14.1 innings this year, he has an ERA of 0.63, an FIP of 0.78, and an insane K/9 of 14.44. His walk rate is also above average at just 2.51, and his SIERA a fantastic 1.35. He’s still a rookie, and it’s too soon to make any final judgments on Garcia, but it would be foolish to not to take advantage of his incredible figures across the board. While Garcia won’t rack up save numbers (he has just one this year), he’s very valuable at the moment and should be picked up.
During the recent Pittsburgh playoff runs, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli received most of the attention placed on the bullpen, but Watson has been just as good. Since 2012 he’s posted ERA’s of 3.38, 2.39, 1.63, and 1.89, respectively. His BABIP is at a career-low, but that’s seemingly the only thing that’s out of character for Watson in 2015. His K/9 rate is a touch below what it was last season, but he’s still throwing just as hard as he was and will help out in that department.
While Rodon is a highly talked about prospect, it’s remarkable how available is. In Yahoo leagues, there’s a 50% chance that he’s in the free agent pool, and in ESPN leagues, that chance rises to 77.5%. The bright side of Rodon is the fact that while he’s slotted for a bullpen role right now, he made his starting debut over the weekend and pitched fantastically well. The White Sox rotation is currently a mess, and if it continues, Rodon would likely step in. He may have accelerated his debut considering how well he pitched on Saturday, so picking him up now would be a great decision.