Fantasy Baseball: LIMA Part 3—Round Out Your Rotation with Bargain Relievers
In the first two parts of the LIMA strategy discussion, we highlighted what LIMA is and how it can be used effectively this season, as well as some starting pitchers that can provide great value at budget auction prices.
The final piece of the LIMA series looks at how you should go about rounding out your rotation.
One of the biggest keys to pulling off this strategy successfully is tapping the kind of setup men and middle relievers that can provide supplemental innings with a nice strikeout ratio and the kind of ERA and WHIP numbers that not only don’t hurt your overall averages, but in many cases also help to offset some of your starters' lesser outings.
Going hand in hand with that idea is targeting pitchers who are also potential closers that can be had at a bargain price. That means going deeper into the bullpens than you might normally consider doing to draft, so here are eight names to consider as middle men, setup guys and potential closers.
Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees
Despite not showing his age to date, Mariano Rivera is getting up there. He's now 41, and though he's shown no signs of slowing down, he's a DL stint away from catapulting Soriano into fantasy stardom.
In the meantime, Soriano will average around a strikeout per inning and great WHIP and ERA numbers as Rivera's setup man. He can be very valuable even if Mariano again proves to be superhuman.
Kevin Gregg, Baltimore Orioles
Kevin Gregg is far from a lock for the closer's gig in Baltimore. What he is, though, is a bargain basement saves option.
There isn't likely to be a lot of closer experience on Baltimore's Opening Day roster, and Gregg always seems to find a way into that role no matter where he begins the season. Over the last four years he's saved no fewer that 23 games in any one season, albeit for three different teams.
The WHIP and ERA numbers don't ever promise to be good, but use him for what he is—cheap saves.
Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates
Hanrahan probably has the upper hand in winning the Pirates' closer role, but be aware that Evan Meek is lurking.
Even if he winds up landing in the setup position, Hanrahan will boast enough strikeouts to prove valuable in most formats. Watch for news out of Bradenton, and trust that there is value in Hanrahan either way.
Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals
Never mind that the Nationals go into 2011 without a bona fide closer. Fantasy owners may be better off if Clippard remains in his dominant setup role and the Nationals choose not to mess with success.
Over the last two seasons Clippard has thrown 144.1 innings with a WHIP of 1.16 and an ERA under 3.00, while striking out 179. Should Clippard get the chance to close, look for the strikeouts to remain high but the WHIP and ERA to take some runs up as he faces more pressure situations.
Octavio Dotel, Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, that Octavio Dotel. Dotel has been around forever and in fact used to be a highly sought-after non-closing reliever in his glory days.
My gut says he gets a chance to close in Toronto, though there are other options there. Even if Dotel winds up in a setup or middle relief role, he still has the ability to post solid numbers—more than a strikeout per inning—and, if healthy, eat up innings and be a fantasy contributor for your staff.
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
No one is going to hit his mix of 100 mph fastballs and wicked sliders. The only question is whether he can control his own stuff.
If Chapman starts the season as a setup man, look for him to help your squad across the board, but also keep an eye on the closer situation. Francisco Cordero always seems to get the job done enough to hang on as a closer, but rarely is it pretty. A couple more falters and a solid start by Chapman could see him in the closer role by the All-Star break.
Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
It's hard not to think of David Price's rookie season when you think of Jake McGee. McGee has a big league arm, and the move to the bullpen was entirely about getting him to the big leagues as fast as possible—sounds a little like a former Rays closer turned starter, doesn't it?
McGee may not be the most experienced reliever in Rays camp, but his stuff is unquestionably the best. Here's to hoping the Rays give him a shot at the closer role and that you've got your eye on him come draft day.
Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox
Daniel Bard was one of the best, if not the best setup man in baseball last season. His stuff is absolutely electric, and he's the heir apparent to the closer role in Boston.
Jonathan Papelbon's year-to-year contract act is wearing thin on management. Factor in the blown saves from last season, and suddenly the once unhittable closer looks a little more human.
Though Bobby Jenks potentially stands in the way of saves this season, the future in Boston is Bard, and a slow start by Papelbon could force the organization's hand enough to give the future star a shot. Even without making that move, his numbers will prove an asset to your roster in 2011.
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