Ascending to the closer’s position takes some combination of pitching skill and opportunity. Both must be present in some quantity for a setup man to begin earning saves. Players in standard sized leagues can wait and draft Kyle Farnsworth, Grant Balfour, Matt Thornton, Frank Francisco, and Jim Johnson in the late rounds. Sean Marshall and Greg Holland are favorites to inherit recently vacated positions and are on the rise. Here are five relievers for those looking even deeper:
Adams transitioned well to Texas; in 25.2 American League innings he kept his WHIP under 1.00 and had a 5.00 K/BB against his 5.44 mark in San Diego. He has 87 combined saves and holds over the last three years and has been charged with only eight blown saves. Joe Nathan is 37 and he had Tommy John surgery in 2010. He returned in 2011 but his skills were not the same. His 3.96 xFIP was his highest since 2003 and 0.74 GB/FB lowest since 2005. His fastball was almost one mph slower than in 2009 and three mph off from 2007.
Joel Peralta (MDC Rank 329, drafted in 13.4% of leagues, under 3% in Yahoo, 0.5% in ESPN)
He pitched 49 dazzling innings with Washington in 2010 and took only the slightest step back in 2011. His fastball generates outs with Mariano Rivera-like success. Tampa pitchers are good investments as opposing hitters had a league low .265 BABIP against the Rays’ defense. Kyle Farnsworth was lights out in 2011 but he had his lowest xFIP since 2005 and his lowest BB/9 ever. At 36 will he repeat a career year? Peralta is 36 as well, but has less than half the innings pitched on his arm.
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David Hernandez (MDC Rank 366, drafted in 1.2% of leagues, under 3% in Yahoo, 1.0% in ESPN)
He was a poor starter, but has 10.4 K/9, 2.86 K/BB, and a 1.19 WHIP in 109.0 career relief IP. He has an extremely low 0.58 GB/FB ratio, but only allowed 0.66 HR/9 in two parks that give up homers very frequently. J.J. Putz has strong skills, but missed time in 2008, 2009, and 2011 because of problems with his pitching elbow.
Fautino De Los Santos (MDC Rank 461, drafted in 1.6% of leagues, under 3% in Yahoo, 0.6% in ESPN)
He has the “ceiling to close” according to his manager. The raw stuff is apparent, he brings a 95.8 mph fastball and struck out 11.6/9 in 33.1 innings. In six minor league seasons his K/9 was 11.7. His home park is very forgiving for pitchers. Oakland anointed Grant Balfour their closer well into Spring Training, a sign that they are not completely settled on bullpen roles. The rebuilding A’s could also deal Balfour’s expiring contract this summer.
Glen Perkins (MDC Rank 501, drafted in 0.5% of leagues, under 3% in Yahoo, 0.2% in ESPN)
The former starter thrived in relief last year with a 9.49 K/9 and 3.10 K/BB. His ERA, FIP, xFIP, tERA, and SIERA were all under 3.00. He posted a 1.70 GB/FB and added 2 mph to his fastball, bringing the offering to 94.0 mph. He is a southpaw, but was better when facing right-handed batters last year. Matt Capps, the incumbent, only struck out 4.66 batters per nine. His xFIP was over 4.00 for the fourth time in his six year career.
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