Relievers are an extremely valuable commodity in fantasy baseball even when they aren’t finishing games. Middle relievers can provide valuable boosts to ERA, WHIP and Ks whether you’re in a rotisserie or head-to-head league. In leagues with a minimum IP for the week or for the year, middle relievers help keep those rate stats down while helping Ks rise as fantasy owners inch toward the minimum threshold. For leagues featuring holds are a category, middle relievers can be as important, or more important, than closers. This list will focus on those relievers who are first and foremost effective pitchers with a bend toward those relievers who I feel will compile the most holds. This is not a list of potential closers, although as Kenley Jansen showed last year, sometimes the best closers start out as lights out middle relievers early in the year.
Tier 1: Dependable and Filthy
1. Mark Melancon - Melancon proved last year that he can be an effective closer, but with Jason Grilli back healthy Melancon moves back into a comfortable 8th inning role. Melancon had the high K rate (25.1%) and extremely low walk rate (2.9%) of an elite closer in 2013. With his dynamic cutter that harkens back to Mariano Rivera (RIP to fantasy owners), Melancon also has an elite GB% rate (60.3%). The risk with Melancon is that he takes Jason Grilli’s closer job, but whether pitching in the 8th or 9th inning, Melancon will use his buzzsaw cutter to mow hitters down.
Now that you’ve gone through the Top 20 and Top 40 Starting Pitchers, you should have about three/four starters that you can trust putting into your lineup through the year. Now it’s all about upside, and finding those sneaky pitchers late in the draft that will bring in excellent value as year the goes on. Avoid the big names of yore, and start digging for that sleeper gold. Check out who we like to grab to solidify our rotations in 2014:
Tier 4: Trust Falls (cont.)
41. Jered Weaver - It’s really tough to rank a guy this high when you know you’re not going to touch him with a 35 foot pole. As explained in the Over/Under article, Weaver’s fastball is slower than AOL in 1996, and I expect his numbers to keep falling with it. Let someone else take him on his ‘big name status’, and be happy with yourself, because you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you. Steamer Projections: 12-11/4.05/1.25/144
We’re back with another edition of Gif of the Week, and it doesn’t get much better than this pitch.
For Week #4, let’s take a look at Tom Wilhelmson, otherwise known as ‘The Bartender’, and his physics defying Curveball to Alexei Ramirez.
Here’s where the fun begins. Continuing where we left off from the Top 20 Starting Pitchers, we’ve now entered the moment in your drafts where getting some serious value can be all the difference. Grab a late Tier 1 pitcher (SALE) + 2/3 from Tier 3 and you’ll be embracing the Fall like Sherlock (BBC references are awesome). Take a look and find who you should be targeting:
Tier 3: More depth than a Florida Sinkhole
21. Gerrit Cole – One might look at Cole and say “Golly, a 7.67 K/9 doesn’t inspire amazing confidence for 2014.” You’re right random person. But you have to look at the big picture! When Cole was called up last season, he told reporters he was ‘pitching to contact’, which explains the 3 strikeouts he totaled in his first two starts. By the end of the season, however, he racked up 34 Ks over his final four starts. Damn. Cole averaged a 96.1 MPH Fastball last year, putting him second overall for pitchers with 100+ IP (Nate Eovaldi beat him at 96.2 MPH…). Damn. Cole had only one start in 19 games where he gave up more than 3 ERs, in which he gave up 4 ERs over 5 IP. Damn. Are you on board yet? Cause you definitely should be all-aboard the Cole-train. CHOO CHOO. Steamer Projections: 11-11/3.85/1.30/156
Starting pitching can make or break teams. Having an amazing lineup of hitters is only half the battle, and if you don’t have the pitching to support you, August and September can be tough months to watch. Fortunately, this year packs a lot of young talent that is simply oozing with upside, bringing less focus to the old veterans and more emphasis on getting solid value picks. We’ll be issuing our rankings in three parts over the week, starting with our top 20 Starting Pitchers for 2014 ReDraft Leagues:
Tier 1: A Bountiful Harvest
1. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) - Everyone and their Uncle’s dog knows Kershaw is the best pitcher in fantasy baseball. And that’s exactly why I will not have him. *Sad Horn*. As we’ll discuss in our Draft Strategy articles, I’m not drafting a SP until the 4th round, since pitching is deeper than Barry White’s silky voice. If you draft Kershaw, you’ll be happy to have the best ace in the game, but you’ll be missing out on top-of-the-line hitting production, which you simply can’t find in later rounds. Steamer Projections: 14-10/3.11/1.12/196
Especially in redraft leagues, prospects are such an interesting boat. Many of them will break your heart, or at least bend it, so some managers tend to stay away, while others just can’t get enough of that oh-so-tasty upside they bring. In redrafts, long-term star potential isn’t as important as opportunity to play and ability to make a significant immediate impact. Pitchers are bumped down due to increased injury risk/volatility as well as pitch counts/innings limits. With that said, if you’re ready to take a ride on the wild side, here are the ones that you should have your eye on for the 2014 season:
1. Jose Abreu (White Sox) – It’s hard to say if Abreu is being overrated or underrated at this point. His Cuban numbers were so outrageous that he made Davenport translations sound madder than Alex Jones, but many scouts say he has “slider-bat speed” and wonder if he’ll only punish junkballers. But fortune favors the bold. He’s in a great park for a slugger, he has strong job security, and his perfect-world upside is close to Miguel Cabrera, which in fantasy, would be worth sacrificing your first-born. Pedro Alvarez at 1B is a more realistic comp, though most projection systems are more conservative on Abreu’s power. 1B is deep but he can still provide great value.
Masahiro Tanaka threw his first spring training game on Saturday, and it was a blast to watch.
It was a solid appearance and he made some high quality pitches, but it was his 0-2 Splitter to Ben Revere that screamed dirty.
For those unaware, Masahiro Tanaka threw two innings in today’s Yankee spring training game, marking the first game he’s thrown on U.S. soil. Here’s his windup in slow motion to get everyone hyped up:
If you missed the game, don’t worry. We’ve Gif’d up every single pitch he threw so you can experience his first public outing just like you were there.
We finish our outfielder rankings by concluding Tier 6 and starting to go far down the rabbit hole that is the deep position of outfielder. Check out our Top 15 Outfielders & Top 30 Outfielders, then look here, then back at the older rankings, now back here. Your top 45 Rankings are NOW MIKE TROUTS. Seriously though, check out Part 3 of our Outfield rankings and get pumped for your draft.
Tier 6: Don’t Give Your Girlfriend One of These Flawed Diamonds (cont.)
31. Starling Marte (Pirates) – Last year was a break out year for Starling Marte. The amount of steals he had, 41 last year, is hard to find with the batting average that Marte also produced. Unfortunately that batting average was coupled with a BABIP of .363 that is unsustainable. Going forward even if his BABIP regresses Marte still is a very tantalizing fantasy outfielder. He will be hitting leadoff for the Pirates and as such will be racking up the runs to go along with his HRs and steals. Steamer Projections: 12/71/51/.277/30
We continue our outfielder rankings by concluding Tier 4 and starting to go deeper into a position with incredible depth. Take a look at our Top 15 Outfielders for those who missed it, and for those who saw it, we like you too. Check out Part 2 of our Outfield rankings and get pumped for your draft.
Tier 4: Upside That’s Been Around The Block (cont.)
16. Jason Heyward (Braves) - The conclusion of Tier 4 ends with a player that is a bit of a quandary. In 2010, Heyward had one of the greatest years as a 21 year old in the history of baseball, with a RC+ of 134 and a wOBA of .377.