Metter looks at five relievers that are expected to rebound for the 2014 season.
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to their respective teams in a matter of weeks, fantasy managers must be anxiously awaiting the start of the 2014 fantasy baseball season. While some leagues might be further along than others in terms of scheduling their drafts, it is never too early to start considering some options for the upcoming campaign.
Despite the fact that some, or most, of the pitchers on the list below had sub-par 2013 campaigns by managerial standards, there is a very big chance that some of these relievers will rebound in 2014. Without further ado, here are five relievers that might just come out of the woodworks to surprise fantasy managers in this upcoming fantasy season.
Vinnie Pestano (Cleveland Indians – RP)
Many believed that Vinnie Pestano had the right pitching arsenal, composure, and pedigree necessary to become the Indians' closer. Last season put a damper on those hopes as Pestano pitched to the tune of a 4.08 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. More importantly, Pestano put up such numbers in only 37 appearances out of Cleveland's bullpen, and his six home runs allowed in such a limited time made him an option to steer clear of in nearly every fantasy format.
However, with a new season comes new hope, and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility that Pestano has a comeback campaign. Boasting a fastball, slider, and two-seam fastball, Pestano has all of the necessary tools to work himself back into being a fixture in the Cleveland bullpen. Fantasy managers might be paying attention to Cleveland relievers such as John Axford, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw, so others might be able to pluck Pestano during the late rounds of a deep draft or from their league's waiver wire.
John Axford (Cleveland Indians – RP)
John Axford might just be the ideal candidate for a rebound season in 2014 after going through a rough two-year patch with the Milwaukee Brewers. Axford pitched relatively well out of the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen last season when he made 13 appearances with the team, but the reliever will essentially be replacing Chris Perez as the Indians' closer this season.
The closer's role will be Axford's to lose as he has the most experience closing games out of all of Cleveland's relievers, and fantasy managers certainly have reason to pay attention to the pitcher. With a mid-to-high 90s fastball, and a slider and curveball to complement his blazing fast primary pitch, Axford definitely has to tools to find success in new surroundings. Even though there aren't any guarantees as to how well Axford will adjust to his new home, fantasy managers might be able to snag the reliever a bit later than other closers as many will likely avoid the pitcher until they have no other choice but to grab him.
Drew Storen (Washington Nationals – RP)
Drew Storen should be a prime candidate for a rebound season as he has now had ample time to recover from elbow surgery that he had in 2012. Of course, many can successfully argue that the reliever was ready to come back to relief duties last season, but the 2014 campaign should give fantasy managers more of a realistic view of how Storen has adapted post-surgery.
Last year, Storen pitched to the tune of a 4.52 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and allowed seven home runs in 61 2/3 innings. The Nationals' bullpen is more than formidable with relievers such as Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen serving as the bridge to Rafael Soriano, but there is little reason to doubt that Storen can return to his old form. Fantasy managers might have the best opportunity to draft Storen very late in this year's drafts or they could simply add the reliever from the free agent pool in shallower leagues.
Tom Wilhelmsen (Seattle Mariners – RP)
Danny Farquhar might be ahead of Tom Wilhelmsen on the Mariners' depth chart, but that doesn't mean that fantasy managers should discount the reliever or his ability to regain the closer's role. Wilhelmsen didn't have an awful season by any standard, but his 4.12 ERA and 1.32 WHIP were enough to axe him out of ninth inning duties for Seattle.
Despite the fact that Wilhelmsen limited damage done to his team by allowing less home runs, his walk totals went up and his strikeout totals went down. With Farquhar slated to start the season as Seattle's closer, Wilhelmsen might be a good option for managers that play with categories such as holds. However, fantasy managers should keep a very close eye on the ninth-inning situation in Seattle as Wilhelmsen could be asked to take over if Farquhar experiences any long-term struggles or inconsistencies as the Mariners' closer.
David Hernandez (Arizona Diamondbacks – RP)
Over the last couple of years, David Hernandez has been widely viewed as the heir apparent to closing duties in Arizona. While Hernandez might have been getting groomed for the role, his sub-par 2013 campaign and the addition of Addison Reed have put a halt to any hopes Hernandez might have had of inheriting ninth-inning duties this season.
Although Hernandez had a 4.48 ERA last season, what was more alarming about the reliever was the fact that he surrendered ten home runs – a total that the reliever didn't come close to reaching ever since being converted from a starting pitcher. Hernandez's strikeout totals also drastically decreased, but there is still a tremendous upside to the reliever. Even if Hernandez winds up being part of the bridge to Addison Reed, fantasy managers should still put some stock into the reliever as he could be a great option for holds and even some rogue saves.
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Previously on Fantasy Firemen by Anatoliy Metter: