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NL Relievers: Day Ten
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.

Scott Williamson005.651.472361514.1
CH Cubs4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R-2-3-1.3-1.3

Williamson's Tommy John surgery in October of 2004 prevented him from pitching for the first three months of last season. Successful rehab outings prompted his promotion to Chicago in August, and his excellent strikeout-to-walk rate convinced the Cubs to exercise his $2M option for this year. Given Bobby Howry's apparent preference to remain in middle relief, Williamson actually might emerge as Chicago's closer if Ryan Dempster struggles, though given his injury history, don't view the veteran reliever as more than a Dollar Days option.

Edgar Gonzalez00108.0012.001220.1
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:R-2-3-4.2-4.2

An intriguing prospect heading into 2004, Gonzalez bombed in the majors that summer and spent all of 2005 reestablishing his credentials with the Diamondbacks. He registered a respectable 11-6 record and 4.37 ERA on a 116:38 K:BB in 167 IP with 185 H and 20 HR allowed for AAA Tucson(PCL), which earned him a berth on the Mexican WBC team, albeit not any sort of extended look during camp. The Diamondbacks' rotation already looks fairly full, and Dustin Nippert and Juan Cruz appear ahead of Gonzalez on the depth chart. While I still see plenty of long-term upside for the youngster, he'll need to succeed in the majors before I can prop him in 2006.

Jason Bulger105.401.90951410
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:R    B:R-2-3-0.6-0.3

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Arizona for my comments on Bulger.

Chad Fox016.752.0011888
CH Cubs4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35P:R    B:R-2-3-1.8-1.8

Another of the Cubs' relief reclamation projects, Fox lost most of 2004 to elbow problems, earned a slot at the back end of the bullpen during spring training, and then only lasted in the majors until April 26th before his elbow forced him back to the DL. Fox desperately wants to avoid a third Tommy John surgery, and although he hasn't yet undergone the operation, he also has pitched less then a total of twenty innings over the last two summers and may not play in 2006. Considering both his severe injury issues and his previous control issues even when ostensibly healthy, he longer belongs on anyone's draft list.

Adam Wainwright0013.501.500122
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R-2-3-2.1-2.1

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

Matt Kinney206.002.00361812
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-2-2-1.6-1.3

The former Twin, Brewers, and Royal landed with the Giants, spending most of the year at AAA Fresno(PCL), where he compiled a 7-8 record and a 5.21 ERA on a 110:45 K:BB in 114 IP over 19 GS with 117 H and 18 HR allowed. An abundance of homers remains his primary problem, though given his general struggles since reaching the majors, Kinney simply may peak as a AAAA starter. Back in camp with San Francisco, he appears unlikely to contribute to the big league squad this summer.

Anthony Lerew005.631.755598
ATL Braves4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:L-2-3-0.7-0.5

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Atlanta for my comments on Lerew.

C.J. Nitkowski008.102.102253.1
WAS Nationals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32P:L    B:L-2-3-1.3-1.3

Signing with the Pirates seemed a good move for the veteran southpaw right until the club traded for Damaso Marte three days later, pushing Nitkowski behind closer Mike Gonzalez, Marte, John Grabow, and probably Mike Johnson on the club's left-handed depth chart. While Nitkowski invariably will surface at some point this season, his increasing troubles in the majors, exacerbated by his control issues, leave him effectively useless for roto teams.

Hong-Chih Kuo006.751.8810555.1
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:L    B:L-2-1-1.2-1.1

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Los Angeles(N) for my comments on Kuo.

T.J. Tucker106.391.74522012.2
WAS Nationals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-2-1-2.3-2

Perhaps the Expos' primary middle reliever during their last years in Montreal, Tucker never adjusted after the move, starting the year slowly, suffering through groin problem in May, and then hitting the DL with June with an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. Recent reports suggest he easily could miss the entire season while rehabbing, so don't draft him in any league.

Wilson Alvarez105.631.581673124
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35P:L    B:L-2-3-2.1-1.4

Decent despite work with the Dodgers over the past three years, another round of shoulder injuries sidelined him for much of 2005, prompting him to retire at the end of the season. His 14-year career concludes with him owning a 102-92 record and a 3.96 ERA in 1747.2 IP, respectable marks given the abuse his arm suffered earlier in his career with the White Sox. Alvarez's defining appearance remains the no-hitter he tossed in Baltimore in his first big league start back in 1991, though the 128 pitches that achievement demanded likely contributed to his later injury issues. While his skills suggest he certainly could return to the majors, Alvarez won't reemerge as a viable fantasy option even in the unlikely event that he finds retirement sufficiently disagreeable to attempt a comeback.

Todd Wellemeyer216.121.6732223232.1
CH Cubs4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-2-3-4.8-3.9

A lack of options seemingly required the Cubs to carry Wellemeyer rather than risk losing the hard-throwing righty on waivers, but his performance since reaching AAA Iowa in 2003 really doesn't warrant a job in a big league bullpen. Unacceptably high walk rates always accompany his lofty strikeout totals, and the fact he spends half the year starting in Iowa and the other half in Chicago's pen also probably doesn't help matters. I see no reason to gamble a roster spot on any reliever with this little apparent control.

Jonathan Broxton105.931.8322121313.2
LA Dodgers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 21P:R    B:R-2-3-1.7-1.3

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Los Angeles(N) for my comments on Broxton.

Royce Ring005.061.888101010.2
NY Mets4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:L    B:L-2-3-0.20.1

The former first rounder didn't impress New York management when employed as their lefty specialist, and his 3.26 ERA on a 26:13 K:BB in 38.2 IP over 33 G for AAA Norfolk(IL) also didn't wow anyone. While he offers far more upside than the retread lefties in Mets' camp this spring, Ring appears far closer to helping the big league club win games than positing positive value in any fantasy league. I see no reason to roster him until Ring demonstrating significant skill improvement, along with earning more than just a very limited role in the majors.

Chad Harville004.761.5436274345.1
Age: 29P:R    B:R-2-30.90.9

While Harville landed a big league deal with Tampa, his consistently poor control negates the upside of his solid strikeout rate. He therefore posts a poor WHIP, so unless he somehow emerges in the prospective closer-by-committee, avoid Harville indefinitely.

Kevin Jarvis0013.501.802333.1
STL Cardinals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 36P:R    B:L-2-2-3.5-3.4

A poor showing with the Padres in 2003 pushed Jarvis into the minors for much of the last two summers. Last year he registered an 11-6 record and 3.38 ERA on a 112:39 K:BB in 157 IP over 25 GS(26G) with 164 H and 19 HR for AAA Memphis(PCL), though he only saw one brief stint with the Cardinals. Accepting an NRI with the Diamondbacks resulted in his demotion to minor league camp two days ago, but given his skill set, Jarvis appears unlikely to succeed in Arizona upon his likely promotion later this year. Don't roster him anywhere.

Travis Hughes105.542.00881813
WAS Nationals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-2-3-1-0.6

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

Heath Bell105.591.4843135646.2
NY Mets4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-2-3-3.9-2.6

Bell only missed a spot on the Opening Day roster last year courtesy of his remaining options, which allowed the Mets to employ him as their eighth reliever throughout the summer. While he clearly needs no additional seasoning after registering a 1.69 ERA on a 27:6 K:GBB in 24.1 IP for AAA Norfolk(IL), he didn't sufficiently impress Willie Randolph to earn an automatic berth this spring and again appears in jeopardy of a demotion. However, once the Mets finally promote Bell for good, he should develop into one of their best relievers very quickly. I really like his skill set and view him as a superb FAAB target whenever New York brings him to the majors and you need to improve your qualitative foundation.

Dan Miceli105.891.7519131918.1
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35P:R    B:R-2-3-2.2-2.2

A one-year deal in Japan simply didn't work out for Miceli as Yomiuri released him less than a month into the season. He soon landed in Colorado, but a broken foot courtesy of a Michael Tucker line drive ended his season at the beginning of August. Now Miceli just might break camp as Tampa's primary closer, and if we ignore 2005 and instead examine his previous two years, his skills suggest plenty of potential in a late-inning role. Feel free to gamble several dollars if he officially wins the exclusive job prior to your draft.

John Riedling407.161.7016133427.2
FLO Marlins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30P:R    B:R-2-3-7.6-7.6

Never possessing acceptable command even during his successful campaigns in Cincinnati, Riedling pitched badly while in Florida last year, appeared basically mediocre in the minors, and even struggled with shoulder issues throughout the season. His invitation to Cardinals' camp this spring hasn't resulted in him competing for a big league roster spot, likely leaving him stuck at Memphis for the summer.

Yorman Bazardo0021.604.202251.2
FLO Marlins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 21P:R    B:R-2-4-3.4-3.4

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Seattle for my comments on Bazardo.

National League Reliever Reviews continue tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: None of today's pitchers should rank high on your draft list, but we still like Adam Wainwright and suspect he'll develop into a quality keeper by year's end, making him worth targeting as potential trade bait. We also consider Anthony Lerew a superb starting prospect and a solid late-round option in deep minor league drafts. Among the middle relievers, only Scott Williamson belongs on draft lists in most leagues, though Heath Bell ranks as the best sleeper assuming the Mets find room for him in the majors fairly soon.

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