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AL Relievers: Day Four
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Relief Pitchers with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
W = Wins.  S = Saves.  ERA = Earned Run Average (ER*9/IP).
WHIP = (Walks + Hits)/IP aka Ratio.  K = Strikeouts.  BB = Bases on Balls aka Walks.
H = Hits.  IP = Innings Pitched.  P = Pitches.  B = Bats.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider whether a pitcher qualified as a starter in Scoresheet fantasy baseball .

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.

Jason Frasor313.251.2762286774.2
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R3312.212.2

Downshifting from closing to set-up work proved particularly fortuitous for Frasor, who experienced almost across-the-board skill growth. Now he returns to the Jays to provide support for B.J. Ryan, so although we can't expect Frasor to see any save opportunities, he appears positioned for a few vultured wins. You could see another small profit if you grab him during Dollar Days.

John Wasdin344.281.2844207775.2
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33P:R    B:R332.811.6

With his 9-2 record and a 4.93 ERA on a 57:24 K:BB in 73 IP for AAA Oklahoma(PCL) apparently endearing him to Rangers' management, Wasdin returned to the majors as a surprisingly valuable swingman in Texas. While his strong flyball tendency limits his qualitative upside, solid control at least gives him a chance at positive fantasy value. Yet I just don't see him keeping his hit rate at this level for another year, so don't risk rostering Wasdin anywhere in 2006.

J.J. Putz613.601.3545235860
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R327.37.3

Putz's window of opportunity to secure the Mariners' closing job seems increasingly slim. Although he maintained or improved all his skills in his sophomore campaign, his general lack of dominance creates an opening for Rafael Soriano, Clint Nageotte, or even Jesse Foppert. Guardado seems stuck in Seattle until near the trade deadline, so while an endgame gamble on Putz might net you a future closer, his rapidly falling odds of filling that role leave you reason to specifically target him.

Troy Percival185.761.2020111925
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36P:R    B:R32-3.6-3.6

Consider this disaster the coda on Percival's surprisingly solid career. Detroit received a mere twenty-five innings for the $12M lavished on veteran last winter, and with his career almost certainly concluding as soon as he receives his last paycheck, Percival primarily provides a cautionary tale for both MLB and fantasy owners. Although Percival deserves his place in Angels' lore for helping lead them to the baseball's holy grail, he falls off the fantasy radar for good in 2006.

Octavio Dotel173.521.3716111015.1
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31P:R    B:R3122

Another of 2005's closer busts, inconsistent command doomed Dotel's season even before elbow problems necessitated Tommy John surgery in early June. Despite doctors' recommendations for rehab, he hopes that the intrusive fix will enable a more complete recovery. A one-year deal with the Yankees provides the platform for Dotel to rebound, though since he shouldn't return to full health until mid-season, expecting more than replacement-level work seems unwise. Of course, everyone in keeper leagues still should attempt to draft Dotel for a buck or two in the hope that he signs somewhere else as a closer for 2007.

Craig Dingman243.661.222493032
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31P:R    B:R223.67.4

The Tigers announced today that Dingman, who emerged as the club's most reliable middle reliever in 2005, requires surgery to fix a torn artery in his right shoulder. While he could return by mid-season, the non-existent track record of baseball players undergoing this procedure prevents even a reasonable guess at a timetable. Anticipate a lost season for the journeyman, who at least still has a few more seasons to reemerge as a valued contributor if he successful rehabs his shoulder.

Curt Schilling895.691.53872212193.1
BOS Red Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 38P:R    B:R23-12.8-1.8

While Schilling's struggles frustrated the pitcher, management, and Red Sox Nation, virtually everyone accepted his problems as the price for the Ye Olde Bloodye Sockk Game. Perhaps he should stay in the bullpen, where he racked nine saves despite a 5.18 ERA more than supported by a 27:6 K:BB in 24.1 IP with 25 H and 5 HR. However, Schilling wants to start, and with neither Josh Beckett nor Matt Clement prepared to assume the ace's mantle in Boston, his return to the rotation provides the best hope for one more last gasp from a couple of Idiots before the club finishes transitioning to the Crisp/Pedroia/Papelbon/Lester era. I unfortunately can't recommend Schilling in most leagues because his extreme notoriety generally inflates his draft price above reasonable levels. My instinct says bid in the anticipation of a rebound to his 2004 numbers with something near his 2005 IP total, however I also recognize that he appears fully recovered from his ankle problems. We'll project him at 170 innings, but given his injury history and the fact he turns forty this November, you still shouldn't push far into double digits if you want Schilling for anything more than nostalgia.

Matt J. Miller111.821.0823102229.2
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33P:R    B:R2110.110.1

One of the most underrated relievers in the game, Miller only lasted two weeks with Cleveland last April before a roster crunch exiled him to Buffalo. While he returned in May, he headed to the DL less than two months later with a forearm strain that eventually ended his season. The good news is that the Indians increasingly recognize his worth and appear assured of relying upon Miller this summer. Place him high on any list of safe pitchers capable of filling out your pitching spots during Dollar Days.

Fernando Cabrera201.471.1429112430.2
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23P:R    B:R2111.815.4

Cabrera's extended audition last summer clearly cements his role as Bob Wickman's heir apparent. Considered the team's future closer as far back as his selection in the 1999 draft, his 1.23 ERA on a 68:11 K:BB in 51.1 IP with 36 H and 3 HR over 30 G for AAA Buffalo(IL) forced Cleveland to promote him ahead of schedule. Rather than regress at all, Cabrera built on those numbers in the majors, and although the Indians' off-season actions of courting Trevor Hoffman and re-signing Wickman suggest a slower timetable for Cabrera, I can't see him remaining in middle relief past this season. Anyone in keeper leagues needs to ante several bucks for Cabrera if necessary in the near certainty that he'll head toward an extended run near $20 beginning in 2007.

Mike Myers303.131.1521133037.1
BOS Red Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36P:L    B:L216.76.7

Moving from Boston to New York just doesn't change Myers' projection significantly. He automatically remains among baseball's most volatile performers due to the comparatively small sample sizes his role generates. The lefty specialist seems certain to decline toward replacement level, however he conversely still could remain effective in his job or even post a similarly ERA if he maintains good control. Of course, the prospective variation in his stats most importantly remains a superb reason to avoid him in most fantasy formats, only paying him any attention in simulation leagues.

Scott Schoeneweis313.321.3943255457
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32P:L    B:L218.915.6

Kept in the bullpen when he belongs, Schoeneweis reemerged as a viable fantasy option despite mediocre skills. The B.J. Ryan similarly allows Toronto to keep Schoeneweis from facing all save a few right-hitters, so he could keep his ERA below 4.00 for a second straight season. Limited upside generally renders him useless, but he at least won't hurt if needed as short-term roster filler.

Jamie Walker403.701.2730134948.2
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34P:L    B:L215.35.3

Detroit's unheralded southpaw reliever contributed another season of solid stats to the Tigers' otherwise transient relief corps. A rise in the ground-fly rate of the lefty specialist nicely cut his homer rate, and although his strikeout rate also dropped to 5.6 K/9, Walker's overall excellent control nicely limited his downside. Of course, with an upside of $3-4 he doesn't belong on many fantasy rosters, but rest assured that Walker will not hurt you qualitatively whenever you require his services to complete your injury-depleted pitching staff.

American League Reliever Reviews continue tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Spending your Schilling money on sleepers like Fernando Cabrera, Octavio Dotel, and J.J. Putz could result in the addition of a couple of superb keepers to your roster. Although no one discussed above appears likely to return more than $5 on any investment save Schilling, over half of these pitchers at least rank as excellent short-term options while retaining at least some possibility of lucking into a significant late-inning role.

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