Bullpen Banter: Is Shawn Tolleson Being Undervalued Heading Into 2016?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It seems like many owners are entering the season expecting Shawn Tolleson to falter and ultimately lose his job. How else do you justify him being the 19th relief pitcher coming off the board in NFBC formats, despite posting the following impressive 2015 line:

72.1 IP
6 Wins
35 Saves
2.99 ERA
1.15 WHIP
76 Strikeouts (9.46 K/9)
17 Walks (2.12 BB/9)
42.4% Groundball Rate
.294 BABIP

The Rangers do have a deep bullpen, with Keone Kela and Sam Dyson among those who are waiting in the wings should Tolleson slip. That said, their presence doesn’t ensure that Tolleson is going to be removed. Coming off a year in which he blew just 2 saves, there’s a lot to like.

Those who are concerned are going to point to three things:

  1. Depth of the bullpen
  2. Home runs (1.12 HR/9 in ’15)
  3. Luck (82.9% strand rate)

They are all fair points, and it’s easy to argue that he doesn’t finish the year in the role, but he also showed strikeouts, control and the fact that he can handle the pressures of the ninth inning. The final point can’t be overlooked, as we’ve seen skilled pitchers stumble when given an opportunity to close.

While the control wasn’t tremendous in 2014 (3.52 BB/9), he posted a 2.2 mark in the minors leagues (including a 2.4 over 57.1 IP at Double-A). Throw in consistency last season (halves of 1.93 and 2.31) and there’s every reason to believe he’s going to thrive there helping him to strong WHIP.

He’s also consistently shown the ability to post a strikeout per inning, with a 13.0 K/9 coming up through the minors. With a solid three pitch mix, using a fourseam fastball (67.38%), slider (13.58%) and changeup (19.03%), it makes sense that he can keep opponents honest. He has two pitches that he can use to put away hitters, with his changeup (15.49% Whiff%) and slider (17.11% Whiff%) both coming into play.

It makes sense to be nervous given the alternatives, but the stuff is there and he’s proven that he can get the job done. Invest in him with confidence, especially if you can get him as a low-end CL2/CL3 option.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, STATS

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2 comments

  1. bbboston says:

    Rotoprofessor;

    My only concern with Tolleson relates to his coach (name escapes me), who reportedly likes committees and job shared closer duties even in the playoffs last year.

    Thoughts on this issue?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      It’s a concern, but Tolleson isn’t going to be removed if he is doing the job. He went 35 for 37 last season, so it’s not like he was utilizing a committee once he was established

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