by Nick Hutcherson
We all know the philosophy, “Don’t pay for saves”. This column is designed to help you to identify hidden bullpen gems ahead of your fantasy drafts so you don’t necessarily have to. I am going to go through 10 players that should be on your radar, and have likely not been there in recent memory! As the season progresses I will be sure and assist you in identifying bullpen roles due to change, in an effort to keep you ahead of the curve. With that in mind, let’s get to the first five:
1) Kyle Barraclough – Miami Marlins
The first player is a personal favorite of mine. Barraclough possesses elite strikeout skills, carrying a K/0 that will hover around 14. The biggest obstacle to him reaching the elite tier of setup men and ultimately overtaking A.J Ramos in Miami is his astronomical 5.5 BB/9. The biggest complaint around the Marlins in regards to Ramos is his walk rate, which is slightly lower than Barraclough’s (right around 4.7 for his career). If Barraclough can tighten up the control and limit the walks, he is a prime candidate to breakout and find himself in line for save opportunities before the year is through.
(Rotoprofessor’s Note: The fact that Miami always feels like they are looking for a reason to replace Ramos helps Barraclough’s cause)
2) Matt Bush – Texas Rangers
Ah, Matt Bush, from top overall draft pick to prison and ultimately to the Majors. It’s a fascinating story, and if you don’t know it give it a quick internet search and enjoy the read. Now in the bullpen for the Texas Rangers, Bush would be my top choice as a handcuff behind Sam Dyson.
Dyson was sharp last year, but if he slips up expect Bush to be handed the keys to the top bullpen job. Bush only needed 17 innings of tune-up in Triple-A last season before he impressed his way onto the Rangers’ roster. He didn’t slip up once he made the jump, impressively posting an ERA under 2.5 while striking out nearly a batter an inning. It would surprise no one to see Bush make further strides in his game as he continues to rediscover the skills that once made him the top overall draft choice.
3) Joe Kelly – Boston Red Sox
Joe Kelly… JOE KELLY?! Yes, the same Joe Kelly who looked pretty bad as a starting pitcher in 2015 and again last season. However, take a look at this clip from Rotowire:
“Kelly shortened the arm action in his delivery last season when he was moved to the bullpen full time, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. After moving to the pen, Kelly had a 1.02 ERA and 1.019 WHIP, striking out 21 and walking five over 17.2 innings.”
Expect Joe Kelly to be among the non-closers finding spots on mixed league rosters this season, and in leagues as shallow as 12 teams.
4) Bruce Rondon – Detroit Tigers
The big Tigers right-hander has been the popular choice to close since 2013. Unfortunately off the field issues have prevented him from reaching his potential. The skills are there, as he is capable of posting an ERA under 3 while striking out greater than a batter an inning, plus he has shown in the minors to be capable of handling the pressure of the closer’s role. Can he keep the off the field issues in check and handle the pressure at the highest level? That remains to be seen, but the reports out of camp are positive thus far. If the aging Felix Rodriguez hits a snag, be it performance or injury-related, Rondon is the name to know in Detroit (barring the continued meteoric rise of Joe Jimenez).
5) Ryan Buchter – San Diego Padres
Currently Brandon Maurer is penciled in as the closer in San Diego, but he hasn’t shown the consistency throughout his career that we would like to see. In fact, last season he sported an ERA of 4.52, which doesn’t scream of a guy who is going to hold down the job for long. Buchter, on the other hand, was sterling last season and has been very good for the last few years in the majors and Triple-A. He posted an ERA of 2.86 through 63 innings in ‘16 while sporting a K/9 rate of 11.14. Buchter’s walk rate is a bit high at 4.43, but he kept his WHIP very low at only 1.03. He is a name to target going into your drafts and could very well be closing for the Padres in a matter of weeks.
All statistical research listed in this column has been used from Fangraphs.
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Make sure to check out our 2017 Rankings:
|Starting Pitcher||#1-20 |02/27/17|