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AL Relievers: Day Fourteen
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.

Jimmy Gobble105.701.7538306453.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:L    B:L-5-4-7.4-1.1

Another failed first round pick of the Royals, Gobble opened last year with a 2-7 record and a 6.48 ERA on a 45:20 K:BB in 58.1 IP with 76 H and 8 HR over 12 GS for AAA Omaha(PCL). Summoned to Kansas City when the Royals started searching for anyone capable of throwing a baseball 60'6", neither his four starts nor two-dozen relief appearances indicated any skill development. Gobble's problem lies in that he strikes out very few hitters, allows too many home runs, and therefore needs to rely on an extremely spotty defense incapable of providing the necessary support. Despite some very long-term upside, Gobble will not contribute positive fantasy value if pressed into additional service for Kansas City this summer.

Shawn Camp106.431.6728136949
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R-5-4-11.2-11.2

Camp's early struggles played an important role in the quick collapse of the Royals' bullpen. Perhaps the club's most consistent reliever in 2004, he found himself back at AAA Omaha(PCL) by the end of April, where he registered a 3.86 ERA on a 42:22 K:BB in 67.2 IP over 7 GS(21G) before earning another shot in late July. Camp actually finished the season with a respectable skill set as an unfortunate hit rate jump accounted for most of his problems. Tampa grabbed Camp after the Royals cut him in December, finally placing him in a position to succeed as a middle reliever for the Rays and reestablishing his fantasy worth as roster filler.

C.J. Wilson116.941.6930186348
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:L    B:L-5-4-14-8.3

A steady stream of groundballs keyed Wilson's rise from the California League to Arlington last summer as he posted a 1.95 G-F in the minors and an outstanding 2.68 mark with the Rangers. He quickly moved from A+ Bakersfield to AA Frisco(TL), where he compiled a 4.43 ERA on a 43:14 K:BB in 44.2 IP with 51 H and 7 HR, numbers that earned him a look in the Rangers' rotation. As a starter, Wilson horribly bombed, losing five of his six starts and allowing 29 ER in 22.2 IP, but a surprising move to the bullpen enabled him to finish the year with a 2.73 ERA on a 19:10 K:BB in 26.1 IP with 18 H and 1 HR allowed as a reliever. While we expect him to remain in that role this summer, like any Texas pitcher, he offers no upside unless he is accumulating significant quantitative value, an unlikely scenario for the young southpaw.

Juan Cruz007.441.8434223832.2
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:R    B:R-5-5-11.5-11.5

I never will forgive the Cubs for their terribly inconsistent treatment of Cruz. Once again the surprisingly young right-hander proved he deserves a big league rotation slot, overcoming injury to compile a 5-1 record and 2.40 ERA on a 90:28 K:BB in 75 IP over 13 GS with 51 H, 4 HR, and a 1.23 ERA for AAA Sacramento(PCL). Billy Beane's decision to continue starting Kirk Saarloos over Cruz stunned us, though at least we then marginally understood the Esteban Loaiza signing as a good value contract to add depth. Unfortunately, the move once more completely buries Cruz, so hopefully Beane will relent and move him somewhere with fewer starters while Cruz still has a chance to hit free agency in his prime. Ignore him in any bullpen but feel free to ante several dollars for his services as a starter.

Rob Bell108.282.1213124125
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-5-5-11.4-8.5

Anxiety issues, possibly the result of giving up seven homers in eight games, forced Bell from the majors in mid-May. He continued struggling in the minors, slipping out of the game completely by the end of the year, and still has not landed a 2006 contract. While I still see some upside in his skill set, you need to wait until he reemerges as an effective pitcher before considering him for any team.

Leo Nunez307.551.7032187353.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:R-6-5-19.6-13.3

Acquired last winter for Benito Santiago, Nunez headed to the Texas League in May after registering a 9.00 ERA on a 15:3 K:BB over 13 IP for A+ High Desert(Cal) in the early spring. Three successful appearances for Wichita somehow caught the eye of the Royals' brass, who promoted him to Kansas City in mid-May, where he remained for the rest of the season outside of a brief three-week demotion in August. Of course, Nunez never deserved the big league opportunity in the first place, and while he demonstrated decent control, none of his other skill ratios hit acceptable levels. He remains a tremendously high-risk pitcher who belongs on absolutely no fantasy teams.

Dewon Brazelton107.612.0743608771
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25P:R    B:R-11-10-26.5-18.2

Brazelton at least managed a 3.72 ERA on a 26:14 K:BB in 29 IP over 5 GS at AAA Durham(IL), but the Devil Rays always will regret selecting him third overall in 2001 instead of taking Bobby Crosby, Casey Kotchman, Aaron Heilman, or especially Mark Teixeira. Tampa only received banjo-hitting Sean Burroughs in an exchange of first round busts when effectively forced to deal Brazleton following massive off-field issues. Originally rushed to the majors by virtue of a terribly unwise major league contract, Brazelton never recovered from his initial struggles, completely imploding when moved to the bullpen by Lou Piniella. San Diego presents a perfect opportunity for a rebound, particularly since Brazelton will not need to worry about losing his roster spot given his lack of minor league options. He looks very effective this spring and may steal a rotation slot from Woody Williams, presenting you with an ideal chance to grab a potential double-digit value during the endgame.

National League Reliever Reviews begin tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Three Royals, two Rays, and a Ranger comprised the majority of the American League's least valuable corps of relievers. The one unsurprising outlier is Juan Cruz, who essentially remains an excellent starting prospect and just needs a shot on a starter-needy team to develop into a solid rotation option. Do not be afraid to spend a couple of bucks on his upside, especially if Oakland deals him by Opening Day as expected.

Click here to read the previous article.

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