I Hate Relief Pitchers
Unfortunately, every single one of the dynasty leagues that I am a part of require ‘Relief Pitcher’ as a position that has to be filled on a given roster. As an extension of that, these leagues also all have ‘saves’ as a category and almost all of them now include holds. As a dynasty league owner, this requires a certain amount (hopefully very little) of attention to be paid to relievers. In shallower leagues, the major league relievers are the focus, but in deeper leagues where the top two or three guys of each bullpen are owned in some capacity, often times owners have to turn to the minor leagues to find the next batch of relievers that will step into high-leverage situations at the big league level in order to be remain competitive. It certainly is not advisable to look at relievers in the lower levels of the minors in the same manner that you can with other positions, because of the volatility of relief pitchers in general, and it is almost certainly not a good idea to invest with regularity in relievers at any level. They should be viewed purely as a necessary evil.
Let’s look a few relievers who should be readily available in most, if not all leagues and could find themselves as back-end options in major league bullpens soon:
Trevor Gott, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Gott was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake on June 13, after making seven consecutive scoreless appearances in the Pacific Coast League, an accomplishment in itself. The former University of Kentucky closer was part of the Angels haul from the Padres in the Houston Street deal last July. Gott had a 2.83 ERA at Double-A in 2014, struck out 29 over 28 1/3 innings, but also walked five batters per nine innings. Gott started the 2015 season at Double-A again and struck out just under twenty five percent of the hitters that he faced, before getting promoted to Triple-A, where he made only those seven scoreless appearances that earned him a promotion to the majors. Gott works in the 95-98 MPH range and it’s not hard to see how he could join Cam Bedrosian and Joe Smith as a late-inning option as soon as Gott gets his feet wet in the majors and he could emerge as a closing option should Huston Street succumb to injury, which is always a distinct possibility.
Chris Withrow, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Withrow was acquired from the Dodgers in the blockbuster Juan Uribe/Alberto Callaspo deal at the end of May and the former 20th overall pick in the 2007 draft showed flashes of dominance in his rookie 2013 campaign with Los Angeles. Withrow averaged 96 MPH on his fastball, striking out batters at a 11.2 K/9 rate in 34 2/3 innings, and his 2.60 ERA as a rookie gave him the look of a solid eighth inning option for the Dodgers in the future. Withrow appeared in 20 games (striking out 28 in 21 1/3 IP) in 2014 before needing Tommy John surgery in early June. I believe the Braves acquired Withrow with the intention to give him a shot at the closer’s job at some point in 2016, and with Jim Johnson’s contract expiring after the year and Jason Grilli a prime trade candidate this season if the Braves completely fall out of the race later in the season, Withrow could enter the fray as soon as he shows that he’s healthy. Other than Mike Foltyniewicz, who is currently being developed as a starter, the Braves have a lack of power arms in the upper levels of their system that are capable of providing help to the worst bullpen in the majors, so Withrow might even see some high-leverage work this season if he comes back strong.
Pat Light, RHP, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox drafted Light with the 37th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and after developing him as a starter his first two full professional seasons, they have converted him to relief in 2015 and he has already reached Triple-A. Light started 22 games for High-A Salem in 2014 and the results weren’t pretty. A 4.67 FIP and 4.46 K/9 mark were all that the Sox needed to see to start his transition to the bullpen. The 24-year old Light was assigned to Double-A Portland to start the season, where he struck out 32 in 29 2/3 IP before making the jump to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he’s made three appearances, earning saves in two of them. The Red Sox certainly have other options like Matt Barnes ahead of Light on the organizational depth chart available to soak up high-leverage situations, but if the Red Sox decide to enter seller’s mode at some point over the summer, Light could be a beneficiary.
J.J. Jansons is a contributor to The Dynasty Guru. Be one of the first to follow him (literally) on Twitter, where you can request future topics to be covered here at TDG. Follow @jansons_jj