With the 2013 fantasy baseball season approaching, fantasy managers might just be getting themselves familiarized with some players before their respective drafts kick off. While much focus can be given to offensive categories and hitters during draft day, relievers should certainly not be forgotten, especially for those that play with statistics such as holds. Choosing the best reliever might not seem to be overly important, but it could mean the difference between a category lost and a category gained in certain leagues.
Here are a few more relief pitchers that fantasy managers should consider when preparing for the 2013 fantasy baseball season:
5. David Hernandez - Arizona Diamondbacks
Hernandez is the heir apparent to the closer's role in Arizona and it is only a matter of time before the setup man gets to see ninth inning duties. Until J.J Putz stumbles, gets injured, or is traded, Hernandez will likely be the eighth inning reliever that will bridge the final gap to Putz.
Last season, Hernandez registered 25 holds and had six saves as he worked both the eighth and ninth inning at different points of the 2012 season. He ranked ninth in the National League in terms of holds, but his 2.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and K:BB ratio that was greater than 4:1 speak volumes about the reliever's prowess. Even though Hernandez blew six saves last season and gave up four home runs, fantasy managers should not hesitate to spend a pick on the reliever on draft day, especially if other managers start to go on a reliever binge during the middle rounds.
4. Eric O'Flaherty - Atlanta Braves
With the addition of Jordan Walden to the Atlanta Braves' bullpen, O'Flaherty might seem to be buried on the team's depth chart, but fantasy managers shouldn't be so quick to gloss over the lefty reliever.
Not only did O'Flaherty record 28 holds out of the Braves' bullpen last season, he kept his home runs allowed to a minimum as he only surrendered three gopher balls in 57.1 innings pitched. The reliever's 1.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP were also a testament to his abilities and fantasy managers should expect much of the same from O'Flaherty this year as well. Even though O'Flaherty might be overshadowed by names such as Kimbrel, Venters, and Walden, there is no reason to doubt his abilities as the reliever has been doing a fantastic job for Atlanta since the 2009 campaign. Since O'Flaherty might be somewhat down the line on Atlanta's depth chart, fantasy managers could potentially select a fine reliever that will rack up holds in the late rounds of a fantasy draft.
3. Koji Uehara - Boston Red Sox
Uehara found his groove with the Texas Rangers last year and was masterful in 36 innings pitched. After being traded to the Rangers in 2011, Uehara posted some unattractive numbers, but he rebounded last year as he posted a stellar 1.75 ERA and 0.64 WHIP.
The reliever is currently slated right behind Andrew Bailey on Boston's bullpen depth chart, so he should receive his fair share of action in the seventh or eighth inning. Depending on how well Bailey performs for Boston in 2013, Uehara might just be waiting in the wings if Boston's eighth inning man is inconsistent. While Uehara will be a long shot to take over relievers such as Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, fantasy managers should consider the fact that the reliever has impeccable control as he registered a near 15:1 K:BB ratio las year. Even though Uehara only managed to record seven holds last year, fantasy managers should certainly consider giving this reliever a look during the late rounds of their draft or on the free agent wire if nobody snags him on draft day.
2. Sean Marshall - Cincinnati Reds
With Aroldis Chapman moving into the Reds' starting rotation and Jonathan Broxton taking over the closer's role, Marshall will once again be relied upon as Cincinnati's eighth inning setup man. Last year, Marshall was setting up Chapman for the majority of the season, but he also had his share of ninth inning duties as he recorded nine saves to go along with his 22 holds.
Much like O'Flaherty, Marshall only gave up three home runs in 2012, but one of his more telling stats was his near 5:1 K:BB ratio which displayed the reliever's ability to limit his damage by not placing runners on base via a walk. Marshall's 2.51 ERA and 1.16 WHIP were also very formidable and fantasy managers should expect much of the same from the reliever for the 2013 season. While Marshall did have four blown saves last year, it would not be out of the realm of possibility to see the reliever replace Broxton if the latter does not perform well in the closer's role. Even though Marshall might be sought after by others, fantasy managers should keep their eyes on the reliever as he is perfectly capable of bridging the gap to the closer and handling ninth inning duties if asked.
1. Jason Grilli - Pittsburgh Pirates
When Joel Hanrahan was traded to the Boston Red Sox, an opportunity opened up for Grilli, and it was certainly well deserved. Grilli finished off his 2012 season with 32 holds, two saves, and a K:BB ratio that was slightly above 4:1.
While Grilli did give up quite a few home runs (seven), fantasy managers should expect the reliever to perform well for the Pirates in 2013. The Pirates' closer situation hasn't played out yet, but Grilli should be the frontrunner unless he has extremely poor showings during spring training and the early parts of the regular season. Fantasy managers should take a flyer on Grilli in the late rounds of their fantasy draft if he is still available as he can serve as a very reliable setup man if ninth inning duties do not pan out for him.