Undervalued Relief Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball Drafts
Relief pitchers are the most difficult to get a gauge on when it comes to making predictions. Most position players are going to produce close to their career numbers by the end of the season, but relievers could skyrocket or go south in a hurry. A lot depends on how they are used throughout their breakout campaigns. Many times, a manager will overuse a hot reliever and the edge on their fastball or crispness to their breaking pitches is lost. The following pitchers have had a relatively small sample size of relief work, but they all look to have plenty of opportunity, and so each could be a solid late-round pick in your fantasy baseball drafts.
Being a mile high and trying to get hitters out has been a tough combo for pitchers, but Brothers has made it work thus far in his young career. Boasting a minuscule ERA of 1.70, his splits are a good enough (home 2.20/away 1.16) to believe he can survive in the rare air. He was death on lefties (.162), which is no surprise considering he is armed with a slider that can dive away from left-handed hitters and hit the back heel of a righty. Brothers was able to strand a high number of base runners (89%) which is mostly sustainable because of his dominant career 11+ K/9. The Rockies plan is to start with the established reliever in LaTroy Hawkins and then pick spots for Brothers to close out games. Hawkins would be fortunate to keep the job through the first half of the season, and Brothers should see the great majority of save opportunities for the Rockies.
Baltimore is hoping that they can catch lightning in a bottle and that Hunter will make a successful transition to the closer role. I think most clubs are comfortable transforming starters to relievers and even back-end guys. Starters generally possess enough stuff to get outs late in games; it is just a matter of reducing their repertoire to their two best pitches and throwing harder. Once he narrows it down, an increase in his 7.0 K/9 is likely. Hunter definitely has the goods to get it done, showcasing a fastball that can touch the upper 90s and complementary pitches that are above-average in velocity. As a converted starter, knowing that he is only facing a few hitters will allow Hunter to cut it loose a little more. Although he did not get a ton of opportunities to close 2013, he did secure 21 holds to go along with four saves. The O’s are trying to make a statement in the AL East by solidifying their roster, and they seem content going forward with Hunter. You should feel content with Hunter as a 3rd closer on your fantasy squad.
Cishek is not one of the names that you think of when it comes to solid closers. He doesn’t play for a very good team. Heck, he doesn’t even throw the ball like most pitchers do. Maybe that's why he flies under the radar, but when you put up the numbers he does it becomes apparent why the Marlins bring him in to finish the ninth. First off, he rarely allows that late-game backbreaking home run - his .39 HR/9, he is well below the league average. His .206 BAA can be partly credited to the low three-quarter arm slot that gives a very different look to the hitter, almost as if the ball is rising in some cases. Because Cishek is fairly cheap, he is in no real danger of being replaced by a more high-profile arm. The Marlins are content to wallow in mediocrity with a low payroll until the rebuilding project is near complete, and your fantasy team can benefit nicely from Cishek as a 2nd or 3rd closer.