Top 11 SP Eligible Relievers

In what has become an annual tradition for me, I have gone a-hunting through Yahoo’s pitcher universe to find every reliever with SP eligibility. The goal is to find a few relief aces in the haystack. I used a fancy process called manual scrolling. Jeff Zimmerman was also kind enough to furnish a short list too.

The use case for starter eligible relievers is simple. In any league with an innings cap, every category is a ratio. Wins are really wins per IP. Strikeouts are really Ks per IP. Top relievers outperform most starting pitchers in both of these stats. They do so predictably with strikeouts. Wins are quite random.

For example, Randall Delgado won eight games in 70 innings – a 22 win pace. Sergio Romo won no games in 57 innings – a zero win pace (duh). In 2014, Mike Dunn won 10 games in 57 innings – a 35 win pace. You wish you hit that lottery.

Of course, relievers also post a superior ERA, WHIP, and quality arms always have a chance to become a closer. These SP/RPs won’t guarantee you a win, but they can help to buff your stat totals across all five pitcher categories.

In my experience, better options will become available during the season once teams convert more starters into relief roles. The table below includes the players I would consider rostering. This link will take you to a table of all SP/RP eligible players, sans stats. I did exclude a few particularly bad unsigned players. Anybody currently designated only as a starting pitcher is also excluded. Let’s crowd source those in the comments.

Top 11 SP/RP Eligible Relievers
Player Team Proj K/9 Proj BB/9 Proj ERA Proj WHIP
Adam Warren CHC 8.87 2.64 3.08 1.17
Joe Blanton LAD 8.85 2.01 3.01 1.12
Drew Pomeranz SD 9.5 3.07 3.08 1.19
Aaron Sanchez TOR 7.88 3.94 3.84 1.39
Brandon Finnegan CIN 8.9 3.99 3.75 1.32
Alex Colome TBR 7.89 2.72 3.56 1.24
Travis Wood CHC 8.73 3.03 3.38 1.22
Josh Collmenter ARI 5.86 2.1 4.11 1.29
Vincent Velasquez PHI 10.47 3.26 3.23 1.17
Trevor Cahill CHC 8.32 3.49 3.54 1.3
Trevor May MIN 8.72 2.64 3.48 1.21

Jeff’s list also included Joe Kelly and Mike Foltynewicz, but they don’t currently possess the dual eligibility. They’re both marked as starting pitchers by Yahoo. I think Kelly will at least get a chance out of the rotation. I have no idea what to make of Foltynewicz with his blistering velocity and terrible everything else.

Of the 11 listed above, one is not like the others. Josh Collmenter could offer some holds. It would require a weird format – probably some kind of stream-heavy H2H – for Collmenter to be a rosterable player.

Aaron Sanchez, Brandon Finnegan, Alex Colome, and Vincent Velasquez are interesting prospect-types with some major league experience. They all may be more likely to start than relieve this season. Velasquez could work his way into the ninth inning if the Phillies quickly decide he’s not a starting pitcher. He obviously has the stuff for late innings relief. Finnegan could also figure in the eighth or ninth for the Reds – mostly because the internal options are shaky. Ideally, Finnegan the reliever is probably a seventh inning guy.

Sanchez is a weird one because we’ve had a longer look at him. Entering his age 24 season, he’s displayed visibly good stuff coupled with mediocre statistics. Most telling is a career 6.8 percent whiff rate. He doesn’t seem to have the command to start or close, but there’s still plenty of time for him to improve. For now, he’s a name brand without anything to back up the hype.

I still suspect the Rays will end up using Colome as a starter but that’s a blind guess. The trade of McGee could force them to view him more as a reliever than a swing man. Out of the bullpen, he’s just a good middle innings guy rather than a relief ace. He picked up eight holds last year in just 30 relief appearances. He also blew five saves (non-ninth inning variety).

Trevor May is my favorite pitcher on this list. Improved command and better swing-and-miss stuff helped him to a 2.87 ERA as a reliever (10.63 K/9, 2.30 BB/9). As a fly ball pitcher, he’s perhaps not an ideal setup man or closer. Personally, I think he’s the second best reliever on the Twins. Closer Glen Perkins has dealt with neck injuries in each of the last two seasons. Kevin Jepsen may also be in the way of save opportunities. Or maybe he isn’t. May is the superior pitcher.

I also like Adam Warren. The former Yankee seemingly has the stuff to start. The profile reads back of the rotation, so there’s no urgency to stretch him out. As a reliever, he’s a reliable option who can work multiple innings when asked. He could be a decent source of holds on the Cubs.

Two more Cubbies made the list – Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood. Cahill had a strong 17 inning audition for Chicago last season – 2.12 ERA, 11.65 K/9, and 2.65 BB/9. Take the 14 percent swinging strike rate with a grain of salt. His change and curve performed as hyper-elite pitches in the small sample, but they’re not actually that good. Still, there’s a hint of a top reliever ceiling here if he can rekindle his recent success.

Wood was excellent once converted to relief. He had a 2.95 ERA, 11.02 K/9, and 4.19 BB/9 over 58 innings in a long relief role. His numbers as a starter were worse aside from a better walk rate. Chicago has a solid pen so I’m not sure Wood will earn many holds. He should be solid in other categories.

Drew Pomeranz is a legitimately good reliever. Teams keep trying to fit him into the starter bucket. I gather that his own preference is to start which could be affecting club decisions. He’s rather replacement level out of the rotation. As a reliever, the lefty could hold down an eighth inning gig. Last year, he posted a 2.61 ERA with 10.02 K/9 and 3.05 BB/9 in 41.2 relief innings.

Last but not least (again, that’s Collmenter) is Joe Blanton. He was a force as a spot starter and long reliever last season. He pitched to a luck neutral 2.84 ERA with 9.36 K/9 and 1.89 BB/9. He’s always been a command pitcher. In his return to relevance, Blanton featured a plus slider and change. Individually, none of his pitches stand out as fantastic. However, the ability to spot five different average or better offerings can really play up out of the bullpen. He could be sneaky important to the Dodgers’ success this year.



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DDD
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DDD

This should be called the “Wade Davis Memorial Category” or something to that effect.

Man, it was such a luxury to have him in 2014 when he had the dual eligibility and put out lights out numbers across the board. Undrafted, off the scrap heap type of pickup since he was so bad in 2013. Glorious.

cktai
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cktai

I picked up Britton instead of Davis in that same season. Davis beat him in ERA and Ks but Britton sure picked up a lot of saves.

vandyguy
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vandyguy

Speaking of Yahoo, there are four spots left in this 8pm eastern $20 “pro league” auction draft tonight.

It’s Head to Head auction, not rotisserie FYI

Good practice auction