Photo Credit: Keith Allison
I don’t know about you, but I am getting wet as hell with Opening Day right around the corner. As an aside, when the shaman pulled me out of my Mom’s vagina, he severed the umbilical cord with his teeth, and proclaimed to the members of my village that the gods had sculpted me themselves to ensure that the prophecy would be proclaimed. The divine forecast was that humanity would open their hearts and minds to middle relievers and the statistic baseball minds would soon proclaim as a hold.
Unlike most normal human beings, I simply want to push fantasy baseball to the limit and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Adding depth and additional categories incorporates a beautiful complexity to this game we love, and makes it possible for the baseball scholar to develop an advantage over his competitors. And isn’t that the point? If I wanted to gamble I would bet the ponies.
So enough bullshit, see below for a list of late-inning arms that can help you pile up holds and/or drive down your ERA and WHIP. These studs contain untapped value even in leagues that don’t use holds, especially roto leagues with innings limits and H2H’s that use K/9 or have a very low weekly minimum innings pitched.
More after the jump:
Kenny Powers Tier
Super studs for holds that are also worth owning in most roto leagues to drag down ERA and WHIP.
My boy is quite possibly the most reliable and successful eighth inning reliever in the game at this very moment. He sits at a ripe 28 years old and has posted a 2.50 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and over a strikeout per inning in his somewhat brief career thus far. While it seems like every player ever is constantly “in the best shape of my life,” I sure as hell liked hearing Pestano proclaiming just that. After putting up 36 holds in 2012, which was the second most in the league, he is primed to show up at the office and replicate that dominance. This could be the year Chris Perez implodes, and he would immediately become a top tier closer if that came to fruition.
That damned thoracic outlet syndrome got the best of Adams in 2012, but before last year’s hiccup he was the best non-closer in the world. I fully expect him to bounce back and assume the setup role for the Phillies. Expect an even K per inning, sub 1.10 WHIP and sub-2.50 ERA. Bastardo will get some late-inning action as well, but Adams is the big man in charge.
Gregerson is on his way to elite status. He cranked out 40 holds in 2010 and could have led the league last year if he didn’t have to fill in for an injured Huston Street. Luke is just another pimp who can provide strikeouts and sparkling ratios.
Ricky Vaughn Tier
Perhaps a touch less dominant than the Kenny Powers' of the world, but they more than make up for it with a dominant K/9. Slightly less appealing in non-holds leagues, but incredibly valuable in innings-limit roto formats.
Jansen is the most expensive player on this list as most people believe he will assume the closers role eventually, especially with Brandon League getting knocked around this spring. I recommend you pay even more than sticker price as Jansen is potentially the most overpowering reliever in the game. The heart issue is a bit unnerving, but if he can stay healthy you are getting insane production. The best part about Jansen’s game is his career 14.58 K/9. That is just silly.
The Yanks look like dog shit, but they will still win games and Robertson own the eighth inning. His WHIP will inch a bit higher than the guys I previously mentioned, but he will end up with a great ERA and a double-digit K/9. With Mariano Rivera being old as fuck and coming off of a major injury, there is a very good chance Robertson can vulture some saves as well.
Mr. H is another young reliever in the process of peaking. He has improved his WHIP, ERA, and K/IP every year, and put up career best numbers in 2012. The kid even took over the closer role while J.J. Putz was dealing with back issues. He is somewhat of an innings eater as well and it isn’t greedy to expect 70 innings pitched. I actually think Putz is primed for a great year, and as a result Hernandez should easily be top ten in holds. The more I think about it, I love Arizona this year and I think Hernandez will be top 5 in holds.
While Peralta is technically next in line after Fernando Rodney, McGee is a superior talent. The buzz has always been there, and 2012 will be his coming out party. After allowing a ridiculous .152 BAA in the second half of 2012, McGee will ride the wave and put together a full season of dominance. So draft this man and sign up for 55 incredibly valuable innings.
Mike Adams will control the eighth on most days, but Bastardo is a promising young reliever who the Phillies believe in. There will be enough holds to go around in Philadelphia to feed two mouths. He regressed a bit last year after a great 2011, but actually got substantially more hold opportunities. His greatest asset is his strikeout ability, posting a career best 14.02 K/9 last year. It may take another year or so before he can hit stride, but he could certainly do serious work this year.
Kenny DeNunez Tier
The super stud title eludes these relievers, but they will dominate the holds circuit and help your ERA and WHIP.
He tallied the third most holds in the game last year and posted the best numbers of his career. The issue with Boggs (if you want to call it an issue) is the world is paying top dollar nowadays with news of Jason Motte’s injury. So perhaps the juice is no longer worth the squeeze, but Motte should heal up eventually and Boggs will once again compete to be the holds master.
Eric O’Flaherty & Jonny Venters
Venters had a rough 2012 because of elbow isues and O'Flaherty took the reins behind the dominant Craig Kimbrel. While there are rumors the Braves are listening to offers for Venters, the franchise denies it and will use both of these studs in a set-up role. Venters is once again healthy and should do work this season. O’Flaherty has strung together two awesome seasons in a row and is supposedly recovered from a groin injury. The question is, who will be the top option? I expect the Bravos to ride the hot hand, but realistically they will have enough hold opportunities to go around.
Drew Storen & Tyler Clippard
The Nationals should dominate the NL East with the Braves, and these two dudes will man the eighth behind Rafael Soriano. Storen is supposedly the closer of the future, while Clippard has been a very above average innings eater for many years. I can’t confidently say who will be more valuable, but I expect both to get the job done. While Storen doesn’t have a great K rate, he is damn good and Clippard will fill the stats sheet for over 75 innings.
Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh Tier
I guarantee nothing, but the potential is there
Young and volatile, Strop finished the year off on a sour note but is the setup man behind Jim Johnson. Who knows what will happen if/when Dylan Bundy gets the call up, but Strop has a shit load of potential.
Benoit has been a steady source of holds for many years, and is locked in for 30-plus again this year. Even with Jose Valverde out of the picture, Detroit has made it clear Benoit will remain in the eighth. He isn’t quite as dominant as he once was, but you can certainly expect solid numbers out of this rock.
I admit the sample size is small, but Cook had a great 2012 and should be setting up for Grant Balfour this season. The A’s are sneaky good, and if the stars align he could put up great numbers.
Additional holds options
Well the starter experiment was an epic failure, but I don’t think Bard is done for. The Sox have been working with Bard on fixing his delivery and he has shown flashes of the pitcher we know and love this spring. He might start the year off in AAA, but I expect him to regain his stroke sooner rather than later, and the Sox might reinstall their trust in him. He pales in comparison to the rest of the gang, but I love the risk/reward. Koji Uehara and Andrew Bailey are currently slotted to man the eighth, and Bard may be a complete bust. But if you missed out and need a high-risk/high-reward option, he is your guy.