The Orioles bullpen doesn’t appear to have all of the bright flashing lights and fancy names like some of the others in the league, but there could be some fine value to be had for fantasy owners in deeper leagues that reward holds.
Surprising to many, Jim Johnson finished the 2012 season with a league-leading 51 saves and a seventh place finish in the Cy Young race. The right-hander’s success could be attributed to the increased use of the two-seamer which led to a 62.3% GB% in 71 appearances. He failed to earn the swings-and-misses (6.9% SwStr%, 15.2% K%) that most expect from a true “closer,” but he maintained more-than-reasonable ratios (2.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) and induced enough ground balls to lockdown the ninth and make him a valuable asset to those who invested. We could very well see a repeat of Johnson’s 2012 ratios and whiffs, but don’t expect 51 saves and you won’t get your heart-broken.
The Setup Guys:
Strop is a 28 year-old Dominican right-hander that profiles as a potential high-strikeout power reliever, but difficulties with control appear to be keeping him from reaching that potential. Strop tallied a 2.44 ERA (4.00 xFIP) and 1.34 WHIP in 66.1 innings on the hill in ‘12. He whiffed a fair amount of opponents (20.5% K%) but a 13.4% BB% seemed to be the culprit of the awful WHIP. Strop secured 24 holds, but for those in “net saves” leagues it’s worth noting he also blew seven save opportunities. Compromising your ratios for potential holds is risky business; proceed with caution.
Darren O’Day could very well be the polar opposite of the aforementioned Strop. O’Day concluded his twenty-twelve campaign with a 2.28 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP while fanning 26.2% of batters and surrendering free passes to just 5.3%. Additionally, the 11 holds he tallied in 67 frames last season make him the more appealing set-up man of the two in leagues that reward holds due to his stable ratios. Better safe than sorry.
Patton appears to be one of the two left-handed specialists coming out of the O’s pen in middle relief situations. He posted a fine 2.43 ERA (3.38 xFIP), struck out 21.9% of the batters he faced while surrendering walks to just 5.4% of the opposition in 55.2 frames last season. But despite the fine ratios, the southpaw earned just nine holds (11 over the last two seasons) making him less-than-relevant in even the deepest of leagues.
Luis Ayala, entering his age 35 season, appears to have extended his career by adding the cutter to his repertoire. But even with the new offering, a 2.64 ERA (3.97 xFIP) and a 1.27 WHIP while striking out just 15.9% K% of opponents last season makes the veteran virtually unownable in all formats — with the exception of former Expos-Only Leagues, of course.
Tommy Hunter is a converted starter who landed in the bullpen late in twenty-twelve. He tossed 12.2 impressive September innings yielding a 0.71 ERA (2.83 xFIP) and a 1.11 WHIP. He fanned 23.5% of the batters he faced while allowing free passes to just 3.9%. With multiple offerings that sit in the low-to-mid 90s, Hunter could be a darkhorse holds candidate for the Orioles if he continues to pitch as well as he did last September.
Like Hunter, Brian Matusz is former starter that may be on the outside-looking-in at the starting rotation. However, if he does miss out on the fourth or fifth spot, the southpaw could turn out to be a valuable asset out of the bullpen if he can repeat his late-season 2012 efforts. In 10 September/October innings out of the O’s pen, Matusz held opponents to a .091/.167/.091 triple slash with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.60 WHIP while posting a 38.9% K% and a 8.9% BB%. He could also be a darkhorse candidate for holds of the skip chooses not to use him as the long reliever.