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NL Relievers: Day Seven
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.

Tim Worrell114.071.4639125948.2
Age: 38P:R    B:R-1-15.15.1

Even opening the year as Billy Wagner's set-up man didn't prevent Worrell from missing most of May and June to deal with off-field issues. He returned in July and then headed to the Diamondbacks three weeks later in a deal for Matt Kata. Worrell excelled in Arizona, compiling a 2.27 ERA on a 22:9 K:BB in 31.2 IP, earning a two-year contract to return to San Francisco this season. Yet despite Tyler Walker's success as closer last summer, Worrell appears set to back up Armando Benitez this year. He appears a reasonably safe gamble to fill out your bullpen in any league, as well as virtually mandatory handcuff for Benitez owners.

Franquelis Osoria003.941.211582829.2
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R-1-23.64.4

Posting a 2.78 ERA and 9 Saves on a 35:13 K:BB in 55 IP with 63 H and 3 HR for AAA Las Vegas(PCL) earned Osoria a deserved spot in the Dodgers' bullpen. A strong camp makes him the leading candidate for the last spot on the staff, though he ranks behind Eric Gagne, Danys Baez, Yhency Brazoban, and Lance Carter, slotted at the very end of the pen. Since he therefore won't see any save opportunities and registers few strikeouts, I therefore want to see Osoria echo his 2005 stats over several appearances before even endorsing him as particularly respectable roster filler.

Brian Bruney1127.431.9851355646
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23P:R    B:R-1-1-14.3-14.3

The Diamondbacks' top relief prospect emerged as the club's closer for much of the first half, Bruney ceded the job to Greg Aquino by August and even spent two weeks in the minors prior to roster expansion. Now he appears headed back to AAA Tucson once again, so while Bruney still possesses plenty of long-term upside, he probably won't contribute in the majors this year.

Jason Christiansen605.121.5821175545.2
Age: 36P:L    B:R-1-2-1.1-1.1

The left specialist once again contributed little to the Giants, though at least the club recouped some of his cost by dealing him in late August to the Angels for Dusty Bergman and Ronnie Ray. While Christiansen marginally improved in Los Angeles, his overall performance for the year couldn't even secure him an NRI this spring. He almost certainly will remain in negative fantasy value even if he sneaks into the majors later this summer.

Jose Capellan102.871.401451715.2
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R-1-244.4

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Milwaukee for my comments on Capellan.

John Grabow204.851.3742254652
PIT Pirates4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:L    B:L-1-10.50.5

Grabow's second season as the Pirates' lefty specialist apparently couldn't convince management that he merited a larger role. Pittsburgh instead reacquired Damaso Marte to fill Mike Gonzalez's role in middle relief while Gonzalez shifts to closer. At least Grabow remains far ahead of the club's other southpaws, but he simply isn't viable as more than short-term roster filler until he either starts seeing longer outings or begins pitching in the late innings of more games.

Mike Gallo002.661.3812101820.1
HOU Astros4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:L    B:L-1-25.75.7

The Astros opted to employ John Franco as their lefty specialist for the first half before the veteran's ineffectiveness prompted Gallo's recall in July. He pitched solidly for AAA Round Rock(PCL), compiling a 3.64 ERA on a 33:20 K:BB in 54.1 IP, and then Gallos managed even better qualitative stats in the majors. Unfortunately, his limited dominance gives him no chance to emerge in a more significant role and therefore doesn't deserve a spot on any fantasy roster. Houston's addition of Trever Miller this winter also could push Gallo back into the minors for another summer.

Aquilino Lopez002.161.382271616.2
Age: 30P:R    B:R-1-15.75.7

Lopez opened the year in Las Vegas with the Dodgers, shifted to the Rockies for six weeks, and then headed to Philadelphia on waivers for the last two months of the year. The good news is that Lopez managed a respectable 4.79 ERA on a 57:10 K:BB in 56.1 IP between AAA Las Vegas(PCL) and AAA Colorado Springs(PCL), so he could contribute in the right role. He just seems a bad fit for Philly despite his success at the end of 2005. Don't trust Lopez on your team until he finds a friendlier pitching environment.

Chin-hui Tsao136.551.91451611
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R-1-2-2.2-2.2

Shoulder problems delayed the start to Tsao's season, and though he enjoyed a brief run as Rockies' closer, he returned to the DL in mid-May, eventually requiring surgery to repair his torn labrum and rotator cuff. However, while he could return before the All-Star break, the emergence of Brian Fuentes at the back of Colorado's bullpen leaves Tsao in middle relief at best, rendering him useless for now in all fantasy formats.

Justin Lehr103.891.4423183234.2
MIL Brewers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-1-24.44.4

Another of the Brewers' quiet pick-ups, acquired from Oakland a winter ago with Nelson Cruz for Keith Ginter, Lehr unsurprisingly pitched solidly for AAA Nashville(PCL), compiling a 4.03 ERA on a 67:30 K:BB in 87 IP over 11 GS(26G). Yet his poor command in the majors during each of the last two seasons leaves Lehr a long way from emerging in any sort of key role in Milwaukee. Don't draft him even if he wins back his spot in the Brewers' bullpen.

Oscar Villarreal205.271.24561113.2
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23P:R    B:L-1-2-0.6-0.2

Villarreal missed much of 2004 after the Diamondbacks partially shredded his elbow by allowing him to pitch 98 innings over 86 games the previous summer. Then the combination of a slight rotator cuff and the later development of kidney stones similarly sidelined him for most of 2005. The Braves looked past the injury issues when acquiring him with Lance Cormier for Johnny Estrada, and given that Villarreal appeared healthy while pitching for Mexico in the WBC, he just might reemerge in a significant late inning role in Atlanta. However, make sure his skills rebound toward his 2003 rates before you risk employing him in any capacity.

Matt Perisho202.571.7110111314
Age: 30P:L    B:L-1-24.14.1

While Perisho posted an excellent ERA for the Marlins, his poor command led to his release in early August. He quickly signed with Boston, joined the Red Sox on September 1st, allowed an RBI double to the lone batter he faced, and then earned his release two weeks later. The Mets signed him in December, but a bad spring leaves him little hope of seeing Shea any time soon, especially given the multiple superior options present in both Flushing and Norfolk.

Brian Cooper003.061.30781517.2
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31P:R    B:R-1-24.14.5

Compiling a 4.56 ERA on an 80:54 K:BB in 136.1 IP over 21 GS(28G) for AAA Fresno(PCL) earned Cooper two weeks with the Giants in August, but his poor command pushed him back to the minors before September. Surprisingly, instead of seeking a fresh start elsewhere, he returned to San Francisco and will wait in Fresno as something like the club's tenth starting option and twelfth reliever, leaving him highly unlikely to post positive fantasy value in 2006.

Ryan Speier203.651.5810132624.2
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:R    B:R-1-23.94.5

Speier enjoyed three separate stints with the Rockies last year, but his ERA didn't reflect his unimpressive skills. At Colorado Springs(PCL) he posted a more understandable 4.99 ERA on a 45:18 K:BB in 52.1 IP with 70 H and 2 HR allowed. While his groundball tendency limits his homers, persistently high WHIPs render him nearly useless to fantasy teams. Unfortunately for Speier, his career now appears in jeopardy after the discovery of a torn labrum in his shoulder two months ago. He'll miss the entire season while rehabbing.

National League Reliever Reviews continue tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Perhaps someone like Brian Bruney, Chin-hui Tsao, or even Aquino Lopez will emerge as a late-inning option at some point in the future. I also view Jose Capellan as an excellent long-term prospect despite his uncertain current role. However, among today's pitchers, only Tim Worrell merits more than the briefest glance in 2006 drafts due to the decent possibility he'll see plenty of save opportunities on the Giants in lieu of Armando Benitez.

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