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NL Relievers: Day Six
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National 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.

Joe Borowski104.471.0827123846.1
Age: 34P:R    B:R002.62.6

Borowski appeared set to resume his duties as the Cubs' closer before a Mark Teahen liner broke his right wrist. By the time of his return in mid-May, Ryan Dempster's emergence as closer kept Borowski in middle relief, where an abundance of homers belied his otherwise solid skills. Tampa signed him following his departure from Chicago, and although he remained a middleman on the Rays, his solid work earned him a one-year deal with the rebuilt Marlins that should return Borowski to the closer's role. While he remains a risky choice due to his struggles over the past two years, he also could emerge as an excellent bargain given his previous success in the late innings. Bid into the teens with confidence if he appears the anointed closer by your draft.

Jim Mecir103.121.2934173943.1
FLO Marlins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35P:R    B:S009.69.6

Despite his relative success when healthy, Mecir retired after another injury-limited campaign. While he never owned particularly impressive skills or good control, he still eked out an eleven-year career, an impressive accomplishment given the limited mobility caused by his two club feet.

Jon Rauch203.601.1723112430
WAS Nationals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R004.95.7

The tallest pitcher in big league history continued pitching effectively for Washington until his second labrum tear sidelined him from May until September. Yes, he returned shockingly quickly from an injury that usually qualifies as career-threatening, so Rauch therefore remains an extremely risky player to own this year. Of course, his skills and overall projectability conversely continue to intrigue me to the extent that we'll target him in the majority of standard leagues. Remember that Rauch ranked as baseball's top prospect earlier this decade, so feel free to bid that second or even third dollar to grab someone with this much upside when filling out your staff.

Cal Eldred102.191.4329183537
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 37P:R    B:R0012.513.5

Heart problems sidelined the veteran for the first two months of last season, and although he pitched great upon his return, Eldred officially retired in November. Eldred finishes with an 86-74 record, 9 saves, and a 4.42 ERA in 1368 IP, a far cry from the numbers everyone expected before the Brewers allowed him to pitch 258 innings at age 25 in 1993.

Josh Hancock101.930.86511114
CIN Reds4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R015.25.5

The former Phillies' prospect missed much of the year with groin and elbow problems, though his success when healthy warranted a spot in the Reds' bullpen this year. Yet Cincinnati dumped Hancock a month ago for reporting to camp overweight, a shockingly short-sighted move considering he almost immediately signed with the Cardinals and now appears set to break camp with St. Louis. While I don't envision Hancock earning much fantasy value his summer, he at least looks like reasonable low-risk roster filler in deep leagues, which again forces me to question the Reds' rationale for releasing someone capable of immediately contributing to a far superior team.

Ray King403.381.5523164640
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31P:L    B:L0-17.67.6

Two years in St. Louis further established King's credentials as a lefty specialist, but his trade to the Rockies in December still shocked me considering the Cardinals obtained both Larry Bigbie and Aaron Miles for the reliever. King obviously loses much of his already-limited value in a Colorado bullpen set to feature southpaws Brian Fuentes and Tom Martin, and unless his command improves, he appears likely to spend the next several years in the Mike Myers region of pitchers with little utility in any fantasy league.

Anthony Reyes102.700.75124613.1
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23P:R    B:R003.74

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: St. Louis for my comments on Reyes.

Matt Belisle414.411.48592610185.2
CIN Reds4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25P:R    B:S0-15.47.7

While Belisle started a few games, he pitched far better in relief, registering a 4.09 ERA on a 42:20 K:BB in 62.2 IP over 55 G with 72 H and 5 HR allowed. He should spend 2006 in a comparable role, though given the bullpen turnover already orchestrated by new GM Wayne Krivsky, Belisle's limited upside places him at particular risk for a demotion if he starts slowly. Despite his past pedigree as a top Braves' prospect, I see no reason to invest in the youngster at this time.

Sun-Woo Kim604.901.4355219782.2
Age: 28P:R    B:R000.22.5

Yes, Kim struggled when allowed to start for the Nationals, but his departure to the Rockies via waivers in early August precipitated Washington's cattle call of starters over the balance of the year. Kim somehow pitched far better in Colorado, effectively securing a 2006 rotation spot with his work down the stretch. Unfortunately, he lacks the dominance generally associated with successful Rockies' starters, so only owners in leagues without any qualitative measurement should risk employing Kim this summer.

Jay Bergmann202.751.2721111419.2
WAS Nationals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R0-15.35.8

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Washington for my comments on Bergmann.

Mike DeJean504.481.4852306262.1
Age: 35P:R    B:R003.43.4

Extended struggles with the Mets led to DeJean's release in June, whereupon he returned to the Rockies and nearly cut his ERA in half, posting a 3.19 ERA on a 35:12 K:BB in 36.2 IP in Colorado. He unsurprisingly re-signed with the Rockies in October, possibly even positioning himself for the set-up job before the addition of Jose Mesa. Now DeJean looks like little more than another middle reliever, albeit one stuck in a situation particularly ill-suited to any lapse in concentration. Don't risk owning him anywhere.

Steve Schmoll235.011.4829224746.2
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25P:R    B:R0-1-0.50.7

Perhaps the most surprising inclusion among any Opening Day roster in 2005, Schmoll performed impressively in the majors only a year out of A-ball, even adding a respectable 4.78 ERA on a 31:13 K:BB during his 26.1 IP at AAA Las Vegas(PCL). Yet instead of allowing him to continue developing, the Dodgers dealt the sidearmer to the Mets with Duaner Sanchez for Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack, placing him among much tougher competition for bullpen slots. Hopefully Schmoll at least will take advantage of his expected demotion to continue refining his skills after his unexpected triple promotion last spring.

Joey Eischen203.221.4630193436.1
WAS Nationals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35P:L    B:L0-17.67.6

Eischen broke his right arm at the beginning of May, costing him two months of action that left the Nationals largely bereft of lefties. While he rebounded upon his return, Eischen's limited upside again leaves him unlikely to contribute positively in any fantasy league. Deteriorating skills even make him a risky option as roster filler, so don't plan to employ him anywhere this summer.

Jeremy Accardo103.941.181692629.2
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23P:R    B:R0-13.63.6

Promoted from AA Norwich in early May to help fill the closer's void, a slow start forced Accardo back to the minors three weeks later. Now pitching for AAA Fresno(PCL), he compiled an excellent 1.95 ERA on a 30:10 K:BB in 32.1 IP with 25 H and 0 HR allowed, earning a mid-August recall that placed him in the Giants' bullpen for the last six weeks of the season. Although he isn't even guaranteed a bullpen slot right now, Accardo offers more upside than any Giants' reliever next to Armando Benitez and just might emerge as the sleeper candidate for saves if Benitez encounters further injury problems. Assuming Accardo echoes these stats this season as I expect, he'll merit a long look whenever you go hunting for free agent pitchers to supplement your roster.

Guillermo Mota224.701.4560326567
FLO Marlins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32P:R    B:R001.81.8

Few pitchers traversed a more interesting path over the past year than Mota. Beginning 2005 as the heir apparent to Armando Benitez in Florida, elbow problems quickly cost Mota any chance of seeing extended late-inning work for Jack McKeon. He reemerged as no more than a competent set-up man in the second half, and then found himself included in two of the winter's biggest deals, moving first to Boston with Josh Beckett and then Cleveland with Andy Marte. Mota now belongs to one of baseball's deepest bullpens, so although he appears unlikely to see many more save opportunities, an ERA below 3.50 and a half-dozen wins look like decent targets. He certainly won't hurt you if available during Dollar Days.

Ricky Bottalico224.541.4929194341.2
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36P:R    B:L0-122

The Brewers cut Bottalico in July, and while he signed with the Red Sox, Boston surprisingly didn't recall him in September. Bottalico only landed an NRI with the Orioles, and after an awful spring to date, he appears headed back to the minors. Don't expect him to emerge as a viable fantasy option given his declining skills and general lack of dominance.

Brian Meadows304.581.4144218474.2
PIT Pirates4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R0-13.13.1

Although essentially ranking as little more than a bullpen inning eater, Meadows seemingly deserved more than the NRI he netted from the Dodgers. Now he might not even break camp in the majors after three respectable years with the Pirates. Hopefully he'll convince the Los Angeles brass that he deserves the chance to contribute since Meadows could flourish if provided with a competent defense in a pitchers' park..

Kane Davis102.701.2011101016.2
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30P:R    B:R0-14.64.6

Davis pitched well down the stretch despite a high walk rate, rewarding the Brewers for promoting him after he posted a 2.44 ERA on an 81:23 K:BB in 62.2 IP over 45 G for AAA Nashville(PCL) last summer. However, a low hit rate accounted for much of that success, and given the past skill fluctuations exhibited by Davis, he appears unlikely to strongly echo his ERA in 2006. With shoulder problems already bothering him this spring, Davis shouldn't contribute in any significant role in the majors this season.

Glendon Rusch904.521.5711153175145.1
CH Cubs4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30P:L    B:L017.211.1

The ideal Cubs' rotation features Prior, Wood, Zambrano, Maddux, and Jerome Williams, so Rusch probably belongs in the bullpen, where he registered a 5.14 ERA and 1.86 WHIP last year on a 34:18 K:BB in 35 IP with 47 H and 4 HR. However, I highly doubt that the five veteran right-handers ever will stay healthy at the same time, leaving Rusch in the starting role where he prefers and generally prospers. He managed a 4.32 ERA on a 77:35 K:BB in 110.1 IP with 128 H and 10 HR over 19 GS in 2005, and although his decreased control worries me, Rusch will post positive value if left in the rotation. Anyone looking for wins should bid a few bucks here as long as you can reserve Rusch if his role switches again.

Danny Graves1106.522.0420205938.2
Age: 32P:R    B:R0-1-7.6-7.6

The sequence of Reds' moves that included the club cutting closer Danny Graves simply baffled me considering that allowing him to rebound on the fly while continuing to accumulate saves only would enhance his trade value by July. Instead Dan O'Brien wasted a few million dollars without receiving anything in return. Of course, Graves continued bombing with the Mets and merely landed an NRI with the Indians, giving him little chance to remain in the majors given the multitude of more established options in Cleveland. Conversely, Graves still won't merit much fantasy attention even if his solid spring continues as he sneaks onto the end of the Indians' bullpen bench.

National League Reliever Reviews continue tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Borowski's pending return to closing easily makes him the best target here, followed at a distance by Anthony Reyes, only placed here due to his lack of starts in the majors last season. However, the real sleepers here look like Jon Rauch and Jeremy Accardo. Both pitchers enter the season on the outskirts of their respective relief corps, but given the unimpressive retreads between them and their closers, don't be surprised if one of these guys reaches double-digit saves after slamming from middle relief to the back end of his bullpen.

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