Searching For Saves: Identifying Three Unheralded Relievers Worth Watching

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We’ve seen some relatively unknown relievers thrust into prominent roles this season, whether it’s Alex Claudio or Trevor Hildenberger or a host of other names.  Who could be the next waiver wire treasure that no one is paying attention to?  Let’s use Rotoprofessor’s RRQ scores (I lowered the requirement to 10.0 IP to capture a few more options, making 327 pitchers eligible) to try and find out.  For those who don’t remember the scoring system:

Skill Level
30-49Above Average
10-29Solid (though worth monitoring)
0-9Questionable makeup
<0High Risk For Struggles


Kevin Shackelford – Cincinnati Reds
RRQ Score – 66.60

Shackelford has thrown 13.1 IP in the Majors, so it’s obvious why he hasn’t garnered much attention as of yet.  However over his brief time in the Majors he’s put the full skill set we look for on display:

  • Strikeouts – 12.15 K/9
  • Control – 2.70 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 51.4%

It’s been a breakout campaign, as he had previously struggled to generate strikeouts.  However he owned an 11.68 K/9 at Triple-A (47.0 IP) prior to his recall and he has a highly impressive 17.1% SwStr% in the Majors.  His slider is proving to be a wipeout pitch (31.03% Whiff%), so when coupled with a fourseam fastball averaging 95.46 mph and an O-Swing% of 38.1% it’s no secret how he’s having success.

In the early stages home runs (2.70 HR/9) and bad luck (.364 BABIP) have led to a 6.08 ERA.  Don’t let that deter you, though.  The skills are there to rise into a prominent role ahead of Raisel Iglesias in short order.


James Pazos – Seattle Mariners
RRQ Score – 47.07

Pazos is a southpaw, which could factor into his rise, and the former Yankee has struggled with his control (4.12 BB/9).  It’s been especially bad against RHH, so that will be something we have to watch closely but with Edwin Diaz again taking a disastrous turn things could easily open up in the Seattle bullpen.

Pazos has always been a strong groundball pitcher (55.7% this season), and when coupled with his strikeout rate (10.31 K/9) there’s no question why he garners a strong RRQ score.  If he could get his control in order he’d look that much better, but there could be an opportunity developing based on his current skills alone.


Erik Goeddel – New York Mets
RRQ Score – 38.90

The Mets brought in A.J. Ramos at the deadline, seemingly setting up a strong 1-2 punch (along with Jeurys Familia) heading into 2018.  Outside of that, though, there is little and Goeddel has the potential to jump up and play a prominent role.

He’s seen time in the Majors over the past four seasons, but in his 19.1 IP this year he’s shown a significantly improved SwStr% (17.1%, compared to a still impressive 13.2% career mark).  His primary out pitch has been his splitter (25.51% Whiff%), and he’s paired that with strong control (3.26 BB/9).  While he isn’t an elite groundball artist (40.4%), he has done a great job of getting popups (15.8% IFFB%) which helps to offset that.

If he can maintain this type of skill set, he could emerge as the seventh inning man for the Mets and be in line for at least a few rogue save opportunities (and in ’17 he could develop into the primary right-handed setup man).

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!

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