by Will Overton
One of the most under utilized positions in fantasy baseball is the relief pitcher. Long used for the sole purpose of getting saves, this is starting to shift with the trend towards valuing holds. Even if your league doesn’t use holds, non-closer relief pitchers can still be useful tools if you use them right. In some leagues I have started to utilize the last couple pitching spots on my team for middle relievers with strikeout rates and good ratios rather than rostering disposable and volatile starters that I will likely end up changing out regularly.
A solid relief pitcher who is used frequently by his team can bolster strikeout numbers while evening out your ratios. You need the right guy for the job, so here are some who I like for this role:
Adam Ottavino – Colorado Rockies: This is the prime example of the kind of guy we are looking for. Ottavino is owned in about half of leagues because he has been so good, but he should be owned in nearly 100%, whether you are all in on this strategy or not. He has 35 K in 18 IP, an ERA of 0.47 and a WHIP of 0.58, just insane numbers. Wade Davis has been lights out, so there is no real chance for Ottavino to close without an injury, but that doesn’t matter as he is a gem for fantasy teams.
Carl Edwards Jr – Chicago Cubs: Edwards has been one of the most reliable and consistent relievers for Chicago since coming up during the 2015 season. He has thrown 14.2 IP this season and has a 25/5 K:BB ratio while only allowing one run. One of the biggest perks is that he just doesn’t allow many base runners, which keeps his WHIP low while he racks up Ks. Edwards is a nice and safe option for this strategy.
Kyle Barraclough – Miami Marlins: This one is a little more risk/reward than some of the other options on this list. Barraclough has some of the most overpowering swing and miss stuff in all of baseball, which we’ve seen over the last year and is evidenced by his 15.2 K/9 rate. The issue is with the big Ks comes a little control issue and he already has 10 BB in just 13.2 IP. He isn’t letting the runs score, but he isn’t really boosting your WHIP. Just be cautioned.
Ryan Presley – Minnesota Twins: Here is one guy who wasn’t on my radar at the beginning of the season but has been earning his stripes. Presley has allowed two earned runs in his 17.2 innings of work, and he has a 24/5 K:BB ratio. He has become one of the more reliable relievers in Minnesota and is getting work about four times per week on average, which is a good amount for the purposes of a reliever in fantasy baseball. The concern is that he’s 29 and while he’s had a couple good seasons this is a big step forward, especially in Ks, and so there is a lingering concern of regression. Until it happens he’s got fantasy value.
Colin McHugh – Houston Astros: This is an interesting name for the list as McHugh is a converted starter in his first season as a reliever. He wasn’t bad as a starter, but the Astros fell into a wealth and McHugh ended up the odd man out. He has made the transition well with one earned run in 13.1 IP and he has 19 K compared to four walks. What’s been holding him back a bit is that the Astros starters go so late into games, and he isn’t getting used as much as you’d like despite the K rate being legit and his ratios being phenomenal. I personally have McHugh in a league and with just a little more use he’d be an ideal option for this strategy.
Daniel Winkler – Atlanta Braves: In a brief stint last year Winkler showed a lot of promise as a reliever, and this season he is looking like one of the better options in the league. He is already 28, but injuries have held him back over the years and delayed his entrance to the league. That said he is a strong strikeout guy with 22 K in 15.1 IP and fantastic ratios with a 0.65 WHIP and a 1.17 ERA. He may not be as recognizable of a name as others, but he has the stuff to boost your fantasy team and I think he’ll continue to get more work in.
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