Here we go. The final two months of the 2016 campaign is all that remains. For some Fantasy owners, the regular season winds up in just over a month before the playoff bracket kicks off.
In last week’s Fantasy Lookout, we talked about some cheap stolen base threats. This week, we will dig into the pitching side of things, with a particular focus on middle relievers.
The setup guys are often the forgotten segment in Fantasy Baseball, especially for those in leagues that do not count holds. This is understandable since they are not a reliable, consistent source for either saves or wins.
However, the elite middle relievers can be an invaluable asset to Fantasy teams, especially in leagues where an innings cap plays a role. They can be a large factor in helping with the ratio categories, along with a solid boost to the strikeout category.
While middle relievers may not currently be a source of saves, the right ones in the right position could be next in line. Especially with the trade deadline approaching, and with contending teams constantly looking for bullpen help, the closer hierarchy on numerous teams could look quite different in the very near future.
Elite Available Non-Closing Middle Relievers
We searched for middle relievers that had a sub-20-percent ownership tag in Yahoo leagues. In order to be elite, we determined that they had to have a K/9 of at least 10.0, an ERA less than 2.75, and a WHIP under 1.10. Since the ERA stat can be easily skewed, we made sure that they had a SIERA less than 3.00. We also used a minimum of 35 innings pitched.
Here is our list of elite non-closing middle relievers that are likely available in your league.
Addison Reed, New York Mets
Reed has flourished in the setup role with the Mets. With a career high strikeout rate coupled with a career best walk rate, Reed’s K-BB% ranks 10th among all relievers. Reed has made a concerted effort to get ahead in the count, evidenced by his 71.8-percent first pitch strike rate, which ranks third amongst relievers.
Luck has also been on his side this year, as his .250 BABIP seems a touch low given his league average batted ball profile. Reed has also compiled a 84.2-percent LOB%, which is over 10-percent above his career mark. However, even with some minor regression, Reed should continue to be an elite middle reliever through the remainder of the year.
Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Bedrosian, who has had control issues in the past, has impressively halved his walk rate when compared to his career mark entering this season. This has helped him post a K-BB% mark that ranks 24th amongst all relievers. Oh yeah, he also hasn’t allowed a run since May 31.
Bedrosian has also increased his ground ball rate by nearly 10-percent up to just over 51-percent. After you consider the struggles, injury history, and trade possibilities of current Angels relievers Joe Smith and Huston Street, you can easily envision Bedrosian being the closer for the Angels in the near future. Pick him up now for the strikeouts and ratios, and the saves could be an added bonus.
Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs
Strop has been a very consistent middle reliever over the past five years, but this year has been his best. His 2016 season has seen him post new career bests in K/9, BB/9, WHIP, and SIERA. In fact, his 24.7-percent K-BB% mark ranks as the 17th best amongst relievers.
His nastiness is proven by the fact that Strops owns the eighth best swinging strike rate with a mark of 16.5-percent. While his .193 BABIP seems low, it is hard to argue after you see his incredible batted ball profile. Strop has a 14-percent line drive rate, 60.5-percent ground ball rate, and a hard hit rate of just 25.3-percent. With such a solid track record of consistency, expect Strop to continue his solid 2016 campaign.
Tyler Thornburg, Milwaukee Brewers
Once thought of as a starter, Thornburg has settled in quite nicely as a middle reliever. With the expected jump in velocity (nearly two MPH), Thornburg’s strikeout rate has skyrocketed with a near 50-percent increase. This has helped him post the 11th best K-BB% with a mark of 26.5-percent.
With the constant talk of the Brewers in sell mode, Thornburg could soon find his way into the closer’s chair in Milwaukee. If there is a potential red flag, it has to do with his near 40-percent hard hit rate allowed. He has managed to weather the storm so far, but ideally Thornburg finds a way to lower the amount of solid contact.
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Neris was quietly solid last year and this year he has been even better. He has lowered his ERA and WHIP, while also increasing his strikeout rate. His K-BB% of 22.3-percent ranks 29th amongst all relievers.
Neris has been missing bats with regularity, as he owns the 14th best swinging strike rate with a mark of 15.8-percent. Another positive comes from his batted ball profile. Neris posted a 0.83 GB/FB mark last year and so far in 2016 he has a GB/FB ratio of 1.46. The expectation should be for Neris to maintain his status as an elite middle reliever.
Elite relievers can be extremely useful in a chase for Fantasy Baseball supremacy, even if they are not currently racking up saves. Do not overlook these middle relievers since they are gold mines, especially in leagues with an innings cap, as they provide material assistance in three roto categories. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!
Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com
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