Welcome back to “Off The Deep End”, where I will give you fantasy baseball tips on who to pick up in deeper leagues. For people who play standard leagues, drop/add columns are easy for you to find, but for those of you that love deeper leagues, advice can be harder to come by. That is where I can help. All of these players are available in 85% or more of ESPN leagues.
The column will focus on middle relievers, particularly those that can help in all leagues, not just leagues that count holds.
Will Smith, Brewers: Not to be confused with this Will Smith, the Brewers lefty has racked up an impressive 18 strikeouts in just 12.1 innings pitched. And he picked up a save when Francisco Rodriguez needed a day off. In hold leagues, he should be universally owned, as he has five in his last six appearances. Did I mention the 0.73 ERA? He can help you in all formats right now.
Jordan Walden, Braves: Craig Kimbrel probably has the longest leash of any closer on the planet right now, but that doesn’t mean Walden is without value. He has 17 strikeouts in 10.1 innings. He isn’t as much of a holds master as some of the others on this list, but you can’t pass on that kind of strikeout potential. Especially when attached to someone with a 1.74 ERA.
Tyler Thornburg, Brewers: There is a reason that the Brewers are off to such a great start, folks. Their pitching, particularly their bullpen, has been outstanding. Take Thornburg, for example. He is 3-0 with a 0.61 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched. Those kind of numbers make him valuable across all leagues.
Pat Neshek, Cardinals: Neshek and his funky motion have resurfaced in St Louis, and he is again healthy and having success. Neshek boasts a 1.42 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 12.2 innings. He hasn’t been able to get much in the way of holds or wins (three and none respectively), but if you need strikeouts, or are in a league that counts K/9, he is a valuable commodity.
Dellin Betances, Yankees: Betances has continued his hot start and now has a whopping 23 strikeouts in only 13.1 innings. Add in his 2.03 ERA, and the strikeouts won’t cost you anything in the ERA department. While the Yankees have other options should David Robertson struggle, if Betances keeps this up, he could see more innings in crunch time. That doesn’t matter if you aren’t in holds leagues though. Those strikeouts help in all formats.
Chris Withrow, Dodgers: You never hear about Withrow since Brian Wilson, Brandon League, Chris Perez, and Kenley Jansen all have experience as closers and pitch in the later innings. Withrow has managed to carve out a role in the bullpen though, and has arguably been better than everyone but Jansen, compliling a 0.71 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12.1 innings.
Cody Allen, Indians: For those of you that have owned John Axford before, you know it’s not a matter of if he will implode, but when. When the latter comes to fruition, it looks like Allen might be the guy to own. He has 16 strikeouts in 10.2 innings, to go with a 2.53 ERA, and leads the team with six holds.