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AL Relievers: Day Thirteen
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Relief Pitchers without 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.

Matt Riley109.952.054101612.2
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:L    B:L-4-4-8.4-6.9

Traded to the Rangers with Keith McDonald for Ramon Nivar at the end of camp last year, Riley unsurprisingly struggled in Texas, headed down to AAA Oklahoma by May, and then suffered elbow problems that necessitated Tommy John surgery in July. I do not expect to see him in the majors this year, and given his control problems, he did not deserve a long look even before the injury.

Matt Ginter006.171.661594935
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-4-4-6.9-2.8

Detroit dealt Steve Colyer to the Mets for Ginter at the beginning of April. Despite solid control, high hit and homer rates forced him to the minors in June. While he nicely rebounded with AAA Toledo(IL), compiling a 4.33 ERA on a 49:10 K:BB in 68.2 IP with 72 H and 9 HR over 10 GS(17G), the minor league free agent signed with Boston and therefore almost has assured himself a full year at Pawtucket. Anything more than a smattering of big league innings for Ginter would shock me.

Alan Embree217.621.4638146252
Age: 35P:L    B:L-4-4-19.5-19.5

This southpaw specialist allowed an abundance of homers and general bad luck to send his ERA skyrocketing, resulting in a late-season move to the Yankees that did not incite any overt improvement. Of course, Embree still demonstrated plenty of command, so his return to San Diego this year places him in a perfect position to reemerge as a bullpen asset. He absolutely should earn a buck or two, helping your team whenever necessary as low-risk roster filler.

Carlos Almanzar0014.403.4037105
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31P:R    B:R-4-4-6.1-6.1

Almanzar started the year very poorly, hit the DL in May, and then found an explanation for his struggles in his need for both Tommy John and nerve surgery. He also will head to the suspended list for his first ten days in the majors later this summer due to a drug policy violation. Of course, Almanzar's minor league deal with the Braves may give him the opportunity he needs to recover from these problems, so he might return as a roto asset in the second half.

Jeremy Affeldt005.261.7139295649.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:L    B:L-4-4-4.1-4.1

Few pitchers suffer from as many role changes as Affeldt, who split his first three seasons between the rotation and bullpen before finally settling into relief work last year. We therefore were not shocked at all when the Royals prepared him as a starter this spring. Despite a slow start in camp, he still owns skills that fit better in a more significant role. A rising ground-fly rate helps limit his downside, especially with Kansas City's improved infield defense, but you need to remember that Affeldt appears incapable of consistently effective work due to his Jekyll-and-Hyde role. Careful owners will wait until he moves to a more stable environment before risking more than a minimal bid on the southpaw.

Brandon League106.561.7417204235.2
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:R-4-4-8.7-4.5

Shockingly awful command dropped League from the ranks of Toronto's top prospects to bullpen fodder undeserving of a big league roster spot. He continued collapsing for AAA Syracuse(IL), where he registered a 5.71 ERA on a 35:18 K:BB in 63 IP with 78 H and 7 HR over 10 GS(19G). I suspect his changing role accounted for some of those problems, but with the Jays' rotation loaded and superior prospects on the cusp of the majors, League needs to succeed in relief to return to Toronto. Fantasy owners must wait until his effectiveness improves before risking a pick on him anywhere.

Matt Thornton005.211.6857425457
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:L    B:L-4-3-4.42.2

Only kept in the majors due to his lack of options, Thornton owns little control and only experienced his minimal success courtesy of a 9.0 K/9. A reverse platoon split further reduces his minimal value as trade bait, and considering his age and limited upside, Thornton neither appears prepared to succeed in the majors nor reasonably likely to develop into a productive pitcher as he passes 30 in September.

Steve Karsay007.061.981473621.2
Age: 33P:R    B:R-4-4-6.6-6.6

The Yankees finally severed their ties with Karsay in mid-May. He quickly signed with Texas and looked very good in the upper minors, but a combination of additional health problems and an amazingly high hit rate destroyed his qualitative stats with the Rangers. Even returning to the Indians should not result in any real rebirth for the former top set-up man due to the plethora of superior long-term options in Cleveland. He will be lucky to return to positive fantasy value at any point.

Ron Mahay016.811.7730164735.2
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34P:L    B:L-4-4-9.8-9.8

Increasing ineffectiveness resulted in a return to the minors for Mahay despite a contract extension that runs through this season. He almost certainly will not break camp with Texas, and unless he fixes the hit rate spike that destroyed his stats last year, do not expect to see him on your free agent list for any length of time. He will not contribute to successful fantasy teams in 2006.

Blaine Neal107.152.0711123522.2
Age: 27P:R    B:L-4-5-7.2-7.2

A May waiver claim allowed Neal to post awful numbers in both leagues before elbow inflammation effectively ended his season in June. Although he landed an NRI with St. Louis, the Cardinals possess plenty of depth and should not need to use the failed former relief prospect for any extended roster stint. Despite some upside in the right environment, I do not see Neal reemerging as a useful pitcher this summer.

Travis Harper406.751.5340248873.1
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R-4-4-19.6-19.6

An extremely inconsistent year lowlighted by hit and homer rate spikes left Harper with qualitative stats that appear ridiculous given his established skill set and previous success. Thankfully Tampa recognized his problems as a likely fluke and retained the veteran even while dealing Danys Baez and Lance Carter. Harper returns as the most tenured man on the pitching staff, giving himself a needed second chance to reestablish his relief credentials as he begins approaching free agency.

Kyle Snyder106.751.8119105536
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:S-4-5-9.6-5.4

The seventh player selected in 1999 returned from a season lost to injury to continue his string of ineffective campaigns in Kansas City. Snyder at least managed a 3.55 ERA on a 48:22 K:BB in 66 IP with 61 H, 3 HR, and a 1.35 G-F over 12 GS(15G) for AAA Omaha(PCL), but I cannot fathom the circumstances that would allow him to post positive fantasy value with the Royals. Do not draft him.

American League Reliever Reviews conclude tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Of the twelve ostensibly useless pitchers discussed above, only Alan Embree and perhaps Jeremy Affeldt possess any fantasy value at the moment, and even those two southpaws merit little attention until the endgame. Selecting anyone else this spring simply wastes a roster spot on a player without obvious immediate potential.

Click here to read the previous article.

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