Middle relievers are generally looked over in fantasy baseball, but they can have value, especially in AL or NL-only leagues. That is because they can offer help in ERA and WHIP and are often better picks than a back-end starting pitcher. Here is a look at 10 guys you should target when thinking of adding a middle reliever to your pitching staff:
[the_ad id=”567″]Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles – 26-year old righty Mychal Givens is a hard thrower with a sidearm delivery. He has been death to righty batters so far in his career, as they are only hitting a combined .162 with a .509 OPS against him. But, lefties have pounded him to the tune of a .317 batting average with a .885 OPS. So Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter will have to be careful in how he uses Givens. That being said, he worked in 66 games (0 starts) in his first full year with the Orioles in 2016 and he was 8-2 with a 3.13 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. He whiffed 96 batters (11.6 per nine innings) last year for the Orioles. He should vulture some wins while piling up strikeouts for the Orioles in 2017.
Chris Devenski, Houston Astros – 26-year old righty Chris Devenski wasn’t a highly thought of prospect coming into last year for the Houston Astros, but he exceeded all expectations. He doesn’t have dominating stuff, but it works better as a reliever than a starter. He can also work multiple innings like he did in his first outing this year in which he worked 4 scoreless innings without allowing a hit while whiffing 7 batters and walking only 1. Devenski worked in 48 games (5 starts) as a rookie for the Astros in 2016 and he was 4-4 with 1 save, a 2.16 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. Devenski pounds the strike zone as he only walked 20 batters (1.7 per 9 IP) while whiffing 104 batters (8.6 per 9 IP) last year. Devenski is going to vulture wins and whiff a lot of batters in 2017.
Dan Altavilla, Seattle Mariners – 24-year old righty Dan Altavilla was a 5th round pick as a starting pitcher for the Mariners. They moved him to the pen in 2016 and he excelled in Double A-ball. He pitched in 43 games (0 starts) in AA-ball for the Mariners last year and he was 7-3 with 16 saves, a 1.91 ERA, and a 1.09 WHIP. He only gave up 40 hits while whiffing 65 batters in his 56 2/3 innings in AA-ball last year. He was then called up late in the year for his first taste of the show and he continued to dominate. He pitched in 15 games (0 starts) for the Mariners last year and he was 0-0 with a 0.73 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Altavilla combines a high 90’s fastball with a nasty slider. As long as he is throwing strikes, he will help your pitching staff.
Tony Barnette, Texas Rangers – 33-year old righty Tony Barnette has a pretty interesting backstory. He was a starting pitcher in the minors with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2006-2009, without much success. He then bolted for Japan and signed with the Yakult Swallows. Barnette pitched in 206 games (15 starts) in his six years with Yakult and he was 11-19 with 97 saves, a 3.58 ERA, and a 1.26 WHIP. But what caught the Rangers’ eye was how well he pitched in 2015 in Japan. He worked in 59 games (0 starts) for Yakult in 2015 and he was 3-1 with 41 saves, a 1.29 ERA, and a 0.89 WHIP. Barnette went on to not only make the Rangers’ pitching staff last spring, but he was pretty darn good. He pitched in 53 games (0 starts) for the Rangers last year and he was 7-3 with a 2.09 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Barnette is in a prime spot in the Rangers’ pen to vulture wins like he did last year. He is the rare reliever with a bunch of quality pitches.
[the_ad id=”693″]Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks – 24-year old righty Archie Bradley was a top prospect just a couple of years ago for the Diamondbacks, but he struggled in his first two years. He was hit in the head with a line drive as a rookie in 2015, and he seemed gun shy after he returned. He pitched in 34 games (all starts) in his first two years with the Diamondbacks and he was 10-12 with a 5.18 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. He walked 4.5 batters per nine innings in his first two years in the show while whiffing 8.9 batters per nine innings. Not too impressive, right? Well, the Diamondbacks’ rotation was full this year, so they have moved Bradley to the pen. In his first game this year for the D-Backs, he showed increased velocity as his fastball went from the low 90’s to the high 90’s! Bradley worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his debut this year for the Diamondbacks while whiffing 7 batters and walking only 1. Bradley could be the latest failed starter to turn into a dominating reliever.
Mike Montgomery, Chicago Cubs – 27-year old lefty Mike Montgomery saved Game #7 of the 2016 World Series for the Cubs last year. But, he is going to be used in middle relief this year. He pitched in 49 games (7 starts) for the Mariners and Cubs last year and he was 4-5 with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He was a starting pitcher when he first came up for the Mariners in 2015, but he pitched his best ball out of the pen last year. In his 42 games out of the bullpen last year, he was 3-4 with a 2.10 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Montgomery’s fastball velocity was up as a reliever and he can work more than one inning in an outing if the Cubs need him to. He struck out 92 batters in 100 innings overall last year.
Koji Uehara, Chicago Cubs – 42-year old righty Koji Uehara has had a little problem dominating Major League hitters since coming over from Japan nine years ago. He has pitched in 390 games (12 starts) in his first 9 years in the show and he is 19-22 with 93 saves, a 2.51 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. Uehara saved 20+ games for the Boston Red Sox from 2013-2015, so if the need arises, the Cubs could use him late in games. He doesn’t have awesome stuff, but he is aggressive and he throws strikes. He is averaging 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings so far in the show and he is only allowing 6.4 hits and 1.4 walks per nine innings……so he is missing a lot of bats.
David Phelps, Miami Marlins – 30-year old righty David Phelps bounced back and forth from the rotation to the pen and back to the rotation in his first four years in the show. Last year the Marlins decided to use him in the pen and the results were outstanding. His fastball ticked up from the low 90’s to the middle to high 90’s as a reliever in 2016. Phelps pitched in 64 games (5 starts) for the Marlins last year and he was 7-6 with 4 saves, a 2.28 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP. In 86 2/3 innings, Phelps only gave up 61 hits and he whiffed 114 batters last year. Phelps will vulture wins for the Marlins again in 2017 and he will pile up the strikeouts as he can work more than an inning at a time if needed.
[the_ad id=”384″]Pat Neshek, Philadelphia Phillies – 36-year old righty Pat Neshek is just plain nasty! From 2012-2016, he pitched in 266 games (0 starts) in which he was 16-12 with 7 saves, a 2.75 ERA, and a 1.00 WHIP. Neshek has only allowed 6.9 hits and 2.1 walks per nine innings so far in his Major League career while whiffing 8.1 batters per nine. Neshek dominates right-handed batters, as they have only hit a combined .184 with a .550 OPS against him so far in his career. But, a closer look tells you that he is not a pure righty specialist despite his sidearm fastball and knee-buckling slider. Lefties have only hit .236 with a .739 OPS against him so far in his career. I look for Neshek to get a lot of work for the Phillies in 2017.
Joe Blanton, Washington Nationals – 36-year old righty Joe Blanton had to think his gig as a Major League pitcher was over after his woeful 2013 season with the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched in 28 games (20 starts) for the Angels in 2013 and he was 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. He took the 2014 season off, but he returned with a vengeance as a reliever in 2015. In his last two years, Blanton has worked in 111 games (4 starts) in which he is 14-4 with 2 saves, a 2.65 ERA, and a 1.06 WHIP. He only gave up 124 hits while whiffing 159 batters in 156 innings in 2015 and 2016. Blanton has turned into more of a junker as a reliever, as 70% of his pitches, last year were sliders, curve balls, and change-ups. The slop he was throwing made it almost impossible for batters to catch up to his low 90’s fastball. Blanton also can work more than an inning at a time and he will vulture his fair share of wins in 2017 for the Nationals.