Scheming For Relief: Rosenthal, Blevins and Delabar

Fantasy baseballers in non-holds leagues often look past middle relievers who don’t appear to be in line for saves. But these late-inning arms can provide support in the wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and even K/BB categories for those in alternative formats.

Here are three middle relievers who could help you stabilize a few categories in your standard non-holds leagues.

All ownership percentages reflect Yahoo! leagues.

Trevor Rosenthal | Cardinals | 15% – Trevor Rosenthal became a household name late last season when his rocket of an arm first went on display in the bigs. Based on this showing, industry analysts quickly pegged the fireballer as the favorite to succeed Jason Motte for ninth-inning duties in St. Louis when Motte went down with what would eventually be a torn ulnar collateral ligament. And Mike Matheny provided Rosenthal with the opportunity to do so, but he blew two saves in his first four outings, resulting in Edward Mujica’s ascension into the Cardinals’ closing role.

Despite the fact that Rosenthal may not get the nod in the ninth frame doesn’t suggest the right-hander isn’t valuable for fantasy purposes. Sure, a large portion of the 15% of leagues that own shares of Rosenthal are likely to be holds leagues where he carries the most value, but it’s time for owners in all leagues to consider adding the 23-year-old for steady production in the strikeout and ratio categories.

Rosenthal’s 30.9 K% isn’t exactly Kimbrelian, but it places him among the top 25 relievers with at least 10 innings on the hill — and it reeks of upside. His current 2.95 ERA (2.85 FIP) and 1.31 WHIP also leave a lot to be desired — especially if you’re adding him for ratio support — but it appears he’s made some strides as of late. In Rosenthal’s last six trips to the bump (5.2 IP), he’s posted a 0.00 ERA with a 0.76 WHIP and a 33% K%. Seems helpful, right? It is.

Parlay the fireballer’s recent success with the understanding that he has just 41 major league innings under his belt and he has the potential to be a future closer.

Jerry Blevins | Athletics | 4%  – Blevins, the Athletics’ 29-year-old southpaw, is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA (1.78 FIP), a 0.71 WHIP and a 27.9 K% in just over 18 innings of work. He’s missing bats and inducing weak contact at career rates — 12.5% SwStr% and 25% IFFB% respectively — meaning his stuff is either better than ever or he’s due for some regression. In addition to the spike in swings-and-misses and weak contact, Blevins has earned more fly ball outs in ‘13 (50% FB%) versus his career (43.7% FB%), but luckily, most are falling in the field of play (4.2% HR/FB — also a career best).

Blevins may get bit by the regression bug sooner-or-later, but in the meantime, allow him to provide your team with some scab wins, strikeouts and ratio support. Leaving a middle reliever like Blevins in your starting lineup is a relatively low-risk strategy to gain an edge in those categories since they pitch so few innings per week.

Steve Delabar | Blue Jays | 2% – Speaking of scab wins, Delabar is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA (2.83 FIP) and a 28.2% K%. Fantasy owners love the three scabs wins, but we can’t expect them going forward since there is a bit of luck associated with them. The downfall for the 29-year-old is an unimpressive 16.5% BB% — the root of a 1.35 WHIP — but sometimes we have to take the good with the bad. Streaming middles like Delabar in deeper rotisserie or head-to-head formats is an intriguing strategy for owners looking for a few extra strikeouts and some possible wins.

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Urban Shocker
Urban Shocker

I’d love to see a study predicting bullpen wins-while there is certainly a bit of chance, there are other factors, such as low innings pitched for starters that can relieve some of the guesswork (Rockies last year for instance).