by Will Overton
In fantasy baseball the common theory is that there isn’t much use for non-closer relief pitchers. Really there are only two reasons a person owns a middle reliever or setup man. The first one is if they believe he will soon be closing and want to get a jump on everyone else in the league. The other reason is they play in a league that uses holds as a category.
My personal belief is there can be a place for non-closer relievers outside of those two areas. On the right team a middle reliever/setup man or two can help you balance things out in your rotation. For me personally I shoot for high strikeout starters on draft day which can be an issue for ratio numbers. A solid middle reliever can help balance that out if you’re struggling there.
There are a few things I look for when it comes to adding a reliever to my team. Obviously since I am trying to help balance out my ratios I want a guy with good ratios. That means I need a guy with good if not great control to keep my WHIP down. I also look for a guy who pitches quite often for his team. To really make a dent in your ratios while only throwing an inning at a time you need a guy who is going out there 3 – 4 times a week, at least. Strikeouts are just a bonus, unless you use K/9 as a category, then it’s more of a requirement.
Here are some of the non-closer relief pitchers I would be eyeing if you want a little bit of help:
Dellin Betances – New York Yankees: In the minor leagues the last couple of seasons Betances has struggled as a starter despite his blistering arsenal. He has found life as a reliever though and all of a sudden there’s talk about this guy being the closer of the future for New York. Betances has had issues in the past with control, but he’s had control so far this season and currently sports a WHIP of 0.85. Those strikeouts we talked about as a bonus, he’s got them with a 15.57 K/9 rate. The other benefit is that Betances pitches a few times a week normally and often times will go for two innings at a time too. Betances could help teams in a multitude of ways right now.
Wade Davis – Kansas City Royals: The difference between one guy as a starter and as a reliever is never as stark as it is with Wade Davis. He’s atrocious as a starter, but completely and totally lights out as a reliever. Right now Wade Davis sports a 1.61 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP with a 40:9 K/BB ratio. Davis has not allowed a run yet in the month of May, nor has he walked a single batter the whole month. As an added bonus, Davis has struck out multiple batters in 14 of his last 16 outings as well. On average Davis gets used three times a week and while not as often as Betances, Davis can go multiple innings at times too.
Juan Carlos Oviedo – Tampa Bay Rays: If you play in a league that uses holds you’ll be better off using Oviedo’s teammate and probably more stable reliever, Jake McGee. If you want someone to help you in your ratios though Oviedo is likely to give you more innings because he isn’t limited to a one inning role. So far in the month of May Oviedo has not allowed a single run to score and he has a WHIP of 0.60 for the month. The Rays seem to have a knack for finding relievers like this and Oviedo is just another example of a guy who was average elsewhere and becomes great in the Rays pen.
Drew Storen – Washington Nationals: This is a tricky one because Storen doesn’t get used as much as I’d like for him to be on my fantasy roster. On the other hand he has been the epitome of dominance out of the bullpen. Storen has made 20 trips to the mound this season and has walked just two batters all season long. Two is the also the number of total earned runs he has allowed for the season. Storen has a 1.06 ERA and 0.65 WHIP on the season. The Nationals haven’t used Storen as much as some of their other relievers, but with numbers like this they should be turning to him more and more over the next month or so. Look for Storen to get to a point where he is pitching 3 – 4 times every week.
Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies: It’s terrifying to own any Rockies pitcher, whether they are a starter or a reliever. Ottavino is on another level from everyone else on this pitching staff right now though. Ottavino has a 22:2 K/BB ratio right now and has allowed just four runs in 24 games. The more impressive Ottavino pitches the more often the Rockies are looking to him on the mound and he just keeps coming through. Ottavino could end up closing before this season is over, which is also another perk to grabbing him now and letting him work his magic on your ratios.