TDG 2022 RISERS AND FALLERS: relief pitchers
Riser – Rank: 43 – Jonathan Loaisiga, Rank: New York Yankees (Age: 27, Previous Rank: Unranked)
There always seems to be some serious firepower in the Yank’s bullpen, it’s almost like your change-up has to be the same velocity as a league average fastball to join their ranks. I’m kidding, but Jonathon Loaisiga is a newer face in the back end of that bullpen, and he looks hungry for more responsibility. Loaisiga was picked up by the Giants way back in 2012 but started seeing major league action in 2018. He was given his largest workload of his career in 2021 and besides some injuries that sidelined him, he absolutely dominated whatever situation he was put in by the Yankees. Multi-inning reliever? Check. Wins, holds, and saves? 9, 5, and 18! All while being only 27 and just starting his career? Sign me up for his potential. The righty was neck and neck on saves with Chad Green, a much more veteran reliever in that Yankee’s bullpen which gives me hope that if Chapman goes down, or even stumbles multiple times in a row like he did last year, Loaisiga will be given a strong opportunity to prove his stuff in the most lucrative fantasy position in that bullpen.
Loaisiga was given 71 innings through 57 games pitched, he recorded a 2.17 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, 69 strikeouts, and kept the walks fairly low with only 16. We would obviously love to see an increase in the strikeout rate as it sat just below a 9 K/9. However, with his cannon of an arm, it is not hard to imagine that he can pump those numbers up after some more experience in the big leagues. The 27-year-old already has stand-alone value as he can rack up multiple different ways to get fantasy points in holds, extra innings, and the occasional save. His value has the potential to rise considerably if he can somehow finagle his way into that closer role. (Griffen Case)
Faller – Rank: 86 – Jose Alvarado, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 65)
Hey, 42 hits though 55.2 innings ain’t to shabby. But, 47 walks as well? And 7 batters hit!? Jose Alvarado was another high leverage, late-inning reliever that the Phillies utilized in 2021. Like many others in that bullpen, he struggled mightily to allow the Phillies fans go home without giving them a mini heart-attack. A lot of that late-inning stress that Alvarado provided, came from his ridiculous walk-rate and 1.600 WHIP. 100 mph sinkers are nasty, you know that if you have ever seen him pitch, just, please, limit the free passes. He had a rock-solid 11.0 K/9 in 2021 which is consistent with his career numbers, but the 4.20 ERA and 8%K-BB% ratio scare me. Over the last 3 years, which only adds up to 94.2 innings due to the shortened season and injuries, he has accumulated 80 walks! That is unsustainable to have as a high leverage bullpen guy. He showed his potential in 2018 when he limited the walks to 29 through 64 innings and posted a strong 2.39 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. But in 2021 he looked like more of a “thrower” instead of a “pitcher.”
The Phillies are in desperate need of a consistent closer, with the success that Ranger Suarez had as a starter, and Hector Neris on another team, there will still be opportunities for the 27-year-old to try his luck in those high-leverage situations. He has an amazing arm, no one can deny that, and he is still very young. There is a lot of time for him to work on his pitch location, and if he can dial it in there is a hell of a lot of upside that would come along with him. (Griffen Case)
Riser David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates, Age 27 (2021 ranking – n/a; 2022 ranking – 37)
You might be thinking I mistyped the name above for Will who is the younger brother of David who has a lot more publicity after being the 14th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants last year. Compare it to David who had a lot less written about him after being drafted 1044th overall (again no mistype) by the Padres in the 35th round out of the Patriot League in 2016. David immediately was turned into a reliever to start in his minor league career and in three year he has already accomplished what only seven other players in major league history accomplished by reaching the majors in 2018 after being drafted in the 35th round. After last year in his third season he had the highest WAR out of any of those players drafted in the 35th round with 1.2.
Last year was his first season with his hometown Pirates after being dealt by the Padres last off-season in the Joe Musgrove blockbuster trade. Making the Padres regret adding him to the deal with 77 strikeouts in 60.2 innings with a 2.23 ERA, 13 holds, 3 saves, and a 0.97 WHIP. Throughout the season he earned the opportunity to pitch in high leverage spots and after Richard Rodriguez was traded after the deadline it was just a matter of time till he got the opportunity to close games. He didn’t have many save opportunities with the Pirates not leading in many games in the second half and shared closer duty with Chris Stratton. Bednar’s pitch mix consists of a four-seam fastball that averaged 96.7 mph that ranked him in the 92nd percentile of all major league pitchers last year. Along with a buckling curve that has a sharp downward bite that averaged 78 mph, and a 90 mph splitter which cuts that led to an above league average ground ball contact even though he is known as a flyball hitter. Along with his fastball velocity steadily moving higher the last three years (95.3, 95.7, and 97 mph in 2021) while at the same time improving his control last year having 42.1% of his pitches on the edge of the zone which was also above league average. But, the most telling stat is that Bednar was in the top ten of all major league pitchers in xwOBA with 97, tying with Ryan Pressly and Raisel Iglesias last year. The only knock against Bednar will be possibly not having many save opportunities for the rebuilding Pirates. One thing of note is he is arbitration eligible after this season the cash strapped Pirates will possibly trade him if they fall out of contention to a competing team to get more hold or save opportunities. He was already in a couple trade rumors for competing teams last year before the deadline. (Ryan Fernandes)
Faller – Mark Melancon, Arizona Diamondbacks, 36 years old (2021 ranking – 42; 2022 ranking – 27)
Relief pitching in fantasy baseball can be as random as random can get with figuring out who will have a good season or not outside of the elite closers in the game. Which brings me to Mark Melancon last year. I don’t think many expected the fantasy season he was able to put together. Not since his last All-Star season in 2016 did he put up the numbers he did in saves and ERA. Ever since being in the majors Melancon has been very effective and had a couple of elite seasons as a closer even though he never was a strike-out pitcher by not having a season in which he had more than 9.28 strikeouts per 9 innings. Heavily relying on changing speeds and movement he was able to have hitters make weak contact with his four pitch mix. Last season he used a fastball and cutter that both averaged 92mph, a knuckle curve and splitter both in the mid 80s that didn’t show much of a difference in average velocity and spin from the last couple of years . Even though he had an all-star season it was his second worst season in giving up hard and barrel type contact along with his worst season in giving up walks. For a finesse pitcher it isn’t a good sign that all of these categories are going in the wrong direction. At the age of 36 you have to question if he is close to falling off that cliff relief pitchers tend to when they become ineffective with six out of his last ten appearances he gave up at least two hits and in five of those games he also gave up at least a run. Now with the Diamondbacks he won’t have the luxury of pitching in PetCo for half the season and a team with not nearly as talented right now as the Padres. All of these reasons make me believe Melancon won’t have anything close to the All-Star season he had in 2021. (Ryan Fernandes)