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NL Relievers: Day Five
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National 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.

Jeff Fassero404.051.3560319291
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 42P:L    B:L119.712.2

The journeyman southpaw nicely rebounded from his terrible 2004 with the Rockies, demonstrating surprisingly solid skills in a variety of roles on the Giants. He re-upped with the club on a minor league deal, though while he should spend another summer in San Francisco, Fassero's combination of advanced age and limited dominance leaves him highly vulnerable to any further skill degradation. You don't want to own him on your roster if his arm begins collapsing at age 43.

Elmer Dessens103.561.2537196365.2
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33P:R    B:R121112.8

Dessens only runs into problems when forced to start, and with the Royals demonstrating no inclination to waste their best free agent pitcher in the rotation, he just might flourish if left alone in the bullpen. He owns a 2.89 ERA on a 74:24 K:BB in 103.2 IP with 101 H and 11 HR over 65 relief appearances from 2003 through 2005. Adding both a revamped infield defense and a stabilized ground-fly ratio around 1.60 to those skills leaves Dessens surprisingly little downside, making him an excellent option for anyone looking for endgame roster filler.

Blaine Boyer403.111.3033173237.2
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R108.49.4

Starting in A-ball scarcely a season ago in 2004, Boyer posted a 5.28 ERA on a 35:18 K:BB in 44.1 IP over 7 GS(14G) for AA Mississippi(SL) yet somehow dramatically improved upon his promotion to the majors. He emerged as one of the Braves' key middle relievers in the second half, though arm numbness kept him from contributing in they playoffs. Further shoulder discomfort kept him out of action for much of this spring, making him a very risky gamble for any otherwise interested owner, especially since Boyer shouldn't see any save opportunities even when healthy.

Brian Shackelford102.431.011792129.2
CIN Reds4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:L    B:L109.19.9

Shackelford finally reached the majors during his third campaign at AAA Louisville(IL) despite his unimpressive 4.96 ERA on a 21:10 K:BB in 32.2 IP last year. He pitched far better in Cincinnati, though his success didn't stop the Reds from signing Chris Hammond and therefore likely forcing Shackelford back to the minors until the inevitable injuries strike. While I like him better than many Reds' relievers due to his low walk and homer rates, Shackelford's lack of dominance similarly gives him little upside, rendering him useless to fantasy teams.

Russ Springer404.731.1954214959
HOU Astros4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36P:R    B:R111.41.4

Joining the Astros reinvigorated Springer's stalled career over the last two seasons. While he doesn't belong on anyone's fantasy roster given his non-existent upside as an aging middle reliever, Springer only needs to cut his homer rate a little to rank as respectable roster filler. I suspect he'll post a buck or two of positive fantasy value once again this year even though he'll spend the entire season on your league's free agent list.

Will Ohman202.911.2945243243.1
CH Cubs4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:L    B:L1110.810.8

A variety of arm ailments kept Ohman in the minors for the preceding three years, and after a poor spring, he again missed a chance to break camp in the majors following the acquisition of Cliff Bartosh. Of course, Bartosh's struggles quickly necessitated Ohman's return before the end of April, whereupon he quietly compiled a very nice season. His lack of options virtually insures that Ohman will remain in the Cubs' pen this summer behind Scott Eyre, making him a decent option as roster filler, albeit without any real upside.

Geoff Geary203.721.2942215458
PHI Phillies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R108.68.6

Although Geary bounced between Philadelphia and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a couple of times, his continued effectiveness demands a regular role in the majors this summer. His improving skills indicate the potential for him to develop into a late-inning option, though for now he merely seems a solid middle reliever. Like most Phillies' relievers, he won't merit much fantasy attention unless Tom Gordon falters, particularly given the presence of Arthur Rhodes as Gordon's backup.

John Foster414.151.3332192734.2
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:L    B:L103.33.3

Foster emerged as the Braves' primary lefty specialist after the release of Tom Martin, though he didn't exactly post particularly impressive skills. Recent reports of nerve damage in his elbow suggest that Foster will miss all of 2006, though even if he avoids surgery, he appears unlikely to merit any fantasy consideration unless desperate for roster filler

Scott Munter202.561.3411124038.2
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25P:R    B:R1011.312.3

Impressive control apparently allows Munter to succeed despite awful strikeout rates, but his skill set leaves him little margin for error in the majors. Elbow discomfort led to September surgery for the youngster, so while he appears decently healthy now, expect him to open the year in the minors until the Giants need reinforcements over the summer. He stands no chance of contributing as more than roster filler for your team any time soon.

Akinori Otsuka213.591.4260345562.2
SD Padres4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33P:R    B:R1110.310.3

An abrupt reversal of Otsuka's extraordinary good luck in 2004 accounted for most of an ERA spike of more than 100%. He similarly saw his record flip from 7-2 to 2-8, yet Otsuka still maintained a fairly respectable skill set. However, the Padres wisely included him in the Adam Eaton-Chris Young swap since Otsuka no longer looks like a potentially dominant late-inning option. I fully expect further qualitative erosion in Texas, rendering him fairly useless as more than a handcuff for Francisco Cordero.

Jack Taschner201.591.2419131522.2
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:L    B:L109.39.9

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: San Francisco for my comments on Taschner.

Julio Santana314.501.2649193442
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32P:R    B:R102.23.3

Following two years with Yomiuri in Japan, Santana returned to the majors, earning a promotion before the end of April and spending the next few months in the Brewers' relief corps. While elbow tendonitis sidelined him for most of the last six weeks of the season, his performance prior to the injury earned him a deal with Philadelphia, where he now appears set to break camp in the big league bullpen. The biggest problem he now faces is unforgiving CB Park, which leaves Santana little margin for error. He won't belong on any fantasy roster unless he starts seeing action in the late innings of games.

Rick White423.721.5940299075
PIT Pirates4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36P:R    B:R1011.111.1

The veteran journeyman surprisingly remained with the Pirates all season instead of moving to a contender for the stretch run. General Managers further illustrated their lack of respect for White by allowing Cincinnati to sign him for only $600K in a winter of seemingly frantic bidding for free agent pitchers. Of course, White doesn't merit that much respect due to his inconsistent effectiveness. He rarely dominates hitters, possessing a skill set particularly ill-suited for the GAB and virtually guaranteeing him a return to negative fantasy value in 2006.

Danny Kolb3115.931.8639297857.2
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30P:R    B:R10-7.2-7.2

Brewers' GM Doug Melvin leveraged Kolb perfectly, first by signing him to a minor league deal, then allowing Ned Yost to develop Kolb into a Proven Closer, and finally dealing him to the Braves last winter for the still-intriguing Jose Capellan. Kolb's lack of dominance forced him out of the closer's role in mid-May, and he spent the rest of the year as an overpaid middle reliever. Yet rather than receive his expected non-tendering by Atlanta, Kolb found himself dealt back to Milwaukee for Wes Obermueller. The erstwhile closer seemingly stands ready if Derrick Turnbow encounters any troubles, though given Melvin's mostly golden touch with relievers, I won't be surprised if he deals Turnbow, reestablishes Kolb as a reliable late-inning option, and then swaps him at the deadline for yet another young pitcher. Of course, until Kolb demonstrates improved skills or at least seems set for some save opportunities, he won't belong on anyone's fantasy roster after this disaster.

National League Reliever Reviews continue tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Middle relievers mostly occupy today's article, with Elmer Dessens and Akinori Otsuka the only two pitchers that perhaps could emerge as more significant contributors. Of course, the latter faces a very tough situation in Texas, leaving Dessens as the true sleeper here. He possesses less downside than any other Royals' reliever, which suggests he'll vulture a few wins while possibly moving into a more visible late-inning role if Kansas City's control-challenged young fireballers struggle.

Click here to read the previous article.

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