Baseball HQ: Reliever Gambles

by on March 13, 2013 @ 10:50:37 PDT


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National League

There are plenty of gambles here, too, starting with wildman Carlos Marmol (RHP, CHC):

                  IP   Dom  Cmd hr/9  xERA  GB/FB  BPV
==============   ===  ==== ==== ====  ====  =====  ===
Marmol (CHC)      65  11.9  1.8  0.6  3.85  39/42   52
Fujikawa (CHC)    58  10.1  2.4  1.2  3.22   -/-    88
Chicago Cubs RP Carlos Marmol
Sour Marmolade

Marmol has the huge Dom as always. But he spit the bit in 2012 with a horrendous walk rate and lost the role temporarily, before returning and doing a credible job late in the year. Now Marmol has better competition in his own pen - Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP, CHC). Fujikawa has strong Dom and a strong Cmd to go with it. The question is whether he can prevent home runs, and a 1.2 hr/9 is skeptical.

There will be plenty of dollars spent chasing both of these quasi-closers. Fujikawa may start the year behind Marmol, but he has better skills, leaving owners who chase either one of them taking a sizeable gamble.

Brandon League (RHP, LA) has more skills than he gets credit for, with a solid Dom and strong GB/FB ratio. The risk comes from sharing the pen with Kenley Jansen (RHP, LA):

                  IP   Dom  Cmd hr/9  xERA  GB/FB  BPV
==============   ===  ==== ==== ====  ====  =====  ===
League (LA)       73   6.8  2.1  0.5  3.62  56/22   69
Jansen (LA)       58  13.2  3.5  0.6  2.87  30/49  145

Depending on how depressed League's price is, he might not be a gamble; he might end up being a bargain. But if the expectation is that he will get 30+ saves and the price rises accordingly, then he could easily disappoint. Jansen has the enormous 13.2 Dom. How big is that? Big enough to keep hr/9 under control even with a 49% flyball rate. Jansen can create a return on investment without any saves. But chances are he will get some, at the expense of League and his owners. If you don't discount League accordingly, you are taking a gamble.

The Mets may be correct to stick with flaky Frank Francisco (RHP, NYM) among the options:

                  IP   Dom  Cmd hr/9  xERA  GB/FB  BPV
==============   ===  ==== ==== ====  ====  =====  ===
Francisco (NYM)   65  10.0  2.6  1.0  3.77  36/42   89
Parnell (NYM)     73   8.1  2.5  0.5  3.35  57/24   95

Francisco has pretty solid BPIs, but he gets nicked up every single year and falls out of the closer role, then regains it, loses, regains, and so on. Owners are pretty aware at this point of Francisco's pattern. The risky player here might actually be Bobby Parnell (RHP, NYM). Parnell has shown solid skills - including a very strong 57/24 GB/FB split. Most roto owners want him to get the job. Buyers will be going an extra dollar, perhaps, anticipating that finally, Parnell will take the job and run with it. But not so fast. Terry Collins has only gone to Parnell in short bursts in the past and x-factor Brandon Lyon (RHP, NYM) has now joined the pen. This looks more like another saves mess. So make sure you discount Parnell accordingly, if you are going to gamble here.

Honorable mentions in the NL include the always homerrific Rafael Betancourt (RHP, COL) and his 48% flyball rate, Huston Street (RHP, SD) and his perpetual visits to the disabled list, and the evenly-matched Rafael Soriano and Drew Storen in Washington, where one tiny slump can have the 3.50 xERA/91 BPV Storen replace the 3.51 xERA/99 BPV Soriano for a team with its sights set on the World Series.

Next week, this column looks at endgamers - those listed on at a projected $1 or lower that are worthy of some consideration.

For definitions and benchmarks of's most-used terms, see our Glossary Primer.

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