The middle reliever isn’t the sexiest name on your roster, but he does carry five (or more) category potential for those in traditional leagues. One night during your head-to-head matchup you may be rewarded when he has the opportunity to pick up the scab win or he gets the save chance when the tabbed closer is given the night off. Ideally, the middle reliever will maintain a humble ERA and WHIP while posting a first-class K:BB ratio. And most importantly, the reliever you are looking to add could be the handcuff to your current closer for insurance purposes.
Over the course of the next few weeks we will delve into the depths of the bullpens to identify potential middle relief targets, specifically, those relievers who appeal to owners in leagues that reward “holds.”
Joel Peralta | RP | TB
The Rays’ bullpen was notably impressive in 2012, finishing among the best in the league in WAR, ERA, WHIP, K% and BB% as a staff. And while most of the attention surrounded closer Fernando Rodney and the phenomena that was his career year, veteran Joel Peralta quietly put together an extraordinary effort himself.
En route to his league leading 37 holds, Peralta picked up two wins, two saves and saw a spike in his SwStr% and K% (31.8%) while reducing the amount of free passes (6.4% BB%) he surrendered. But a career average 21.9 K% and a slight decline in velocity over the last three consecutive years could mean his strikeout results from ‘12 were just an anomaly.
Aberration or not, Peralta’s fair ability to strike out batters prior to ‘12 — and keep them off the bases in general (0.99 WHIP) — make him a top-tier, non-closing reliever target in holds leagues. He’s just one of the pitchers you drop into the “P” slot in your lineup — especially against lefty heavy lineups — and watch the stats accumulate.
Vinnie Pestano | RP | CLE
Entering the twenty-twelve season, fantasy baseball analysts across the interwebs and magazine stands pegged Vinnie Pestano as the Indians’ reliever who would finish the year with the most saves due to the imminent implosion of incumbent closer Chris Perez. Naturally, Perez rebounded from a poor 2011 effort — as far as the advanced metrics are concerned, anyway — and posted a career high 39 saves in 43 opportunities in addition to the improvements in velocity, xFIP, K% and BB%.
And although Perez experienced success, not all was lost for owners who took a late-round flier on Pestano. Cleveland’s set-up man finished his second full season in the Majors with 36 holds — good enough for the second most in baseball and an Indians’ club record. Pestano was able to keep his ERA (2.57) and WHIP (1.10) in the same ballpark as his 2011 campaign, but a slip in velocity seemingly lead to missing fewer bats (10.7% SwStr%, down 6.6% from ‘11) and fewer strikeouts (26.6%, down 7% from ‘11).
Despite the dip in velocity and whiffs last season, Pestano has the ability to be the best reliever in the Indians’ bullpen in 2013. He appears slated to man the eighth inning for Terry Francona, immediately making him valuable for owners in search of holds. He will likely continue to provide a healthy amount of strikeouts (for a reliever) and steady ratios for your fake team, making Pestano a top middle relief target on draft day for those in holds leagues.