The calendar has flipped to September, and in roto leagues, that means many gamers are rapidly approaching innings pitched limits for the season. If you’re up against the innings limit but in the mix to gain some points in the strikeout category, every inning and punch out is of the utmost importance. The good news for those gamers is that there are low-owned relievers who are capable of helping immensely. A quartet of relievers listed below are owned in under 5% of most leagues across the industry. Missing the cut were higher owned relievers such as Shawn Kelley, Jason Grilli and Hector Neris. That trio was owned in more than 10% of leagues across the three major fantasy baseball providers.
Carl Edwards Jr. – RP – Chicago Cubs (CBS: 5%, ESPN: 1.0%, Yahoo!: 1%)
Among pitchers who’ve totaled 20 innings or more this year, Edwards Jr. ranks ninth in K% (36.1%) and tied for fourth with teammate Aroldis Chapman in SwStr% (18.2%). The righty displayed dicey control in the minors — even this year (15.5% in 25.1 innings at the Triple-A level) — but has cut his free passes down to a palatable — when paired with his gaudy punch-out rate (36.1%) and robust groundball rate (51.9%) — mark of 10.3% in 25.2 innings for the Cubs. In addition to being a great source of strikeouts, Edwards Jr. boasts a 3.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. And circling back to his monstrous strikeout rate, he ranks ninth among pitchers who’ve totaled 20 innings or more — file that innings threshold away, as I’ll be using it as cut line when I reference SwStr% and K% going forward — this year.
Bruce Rondon – RP – Detroit Tigers (CBS: 1%, ESPN: 0.3%, Yahoo! 0%)
Hold those jokes about the once assumed “closer-in-waiting.” The late-inning reliever brings a blazing fastball to the table. His average velocity of 97.7 mph with his fastball ranks fifth in the majors. He’s backing that cheddar with a frequently used slider (36.5% usage rate this year) and changeup. The results of his high-power three-pitch mix are impressive. He ranks 10th in SwStr% (16.7%) and 22nd in K% (32.3%). Like Edwards Jr., Rondon has left his spotty control in the minors issuing a walk to just 6.3% of the batters he’s faced in 24 appearances spanning 24.0 innings this season. Also, contrary to the misguided line of thinking that the harder a pitch comes in, the harder it goes out, Rondon owns just a 24.6% Hard% this year and a 25.2% Hard% in the majors. He’s almost universally available at all of the major fantasy baseball providers, and he should continue to blow away big-league hitters since his bat-missing ability supports his juicy strikeout rate.
Felipe Rivero – RP – Pittsburgh Pirates (CBS: 4%, ESPN: 3.2%, Yahoo!: 5%)
Mark Melancon’s contributions to the Bucs could live on past his 3-plus years in Pittsburgh. Rivero was received in return for Melancon, and the live-armed brings a four-pitch mix to the table that’s headlined by a fastball that sits north of 95 mph. In 16 appearances spanning 15.0 innings with his new club, Rivero owns a 0.60 ERA and 34.3% strikeout rate. For the year, he owns a 3.62 ERA and 28.2% strikeout rate. It hasn’t been all good making the move from the Nation’s capital to Pittsburgh as his walk rate has jumped from 7.4% to 16.4%, but his increase in strikeouts is accompanied by a SwStr% uptick from 14.5% to 15.3%. Rivero’s ability to miss bats is real, and he’s no LOOGY with 93 lefties faced this year and 177 righties faced.
Michael Feliz – RP – Houston Astros (CBS: 6%, ESPN: 2.2%, Yahoo!: 2%)
Feliz made two starts in the minors this year and has been developed as a starter throughout his minor league career, but a full-time bullpen role has (sort of) been a success in the majors this year. His 4.61 ERA is nothing to get amped up about, but his 2.97 FIP and 2.50 xFIP are more promising for future success. Furthermore, if you drop his first two appearances in which he allowed 10 earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched before May, his ERA drops to 3.51. Feliz is yet another hurler with a big fastball averaging 95.0 mph. He can really slow things down, though, with a slider that averagaes 82.1 mph and a changeup that averages 84.3 mph. Between the combination of his three pitches and his background of development as a starter, the Astros are comfortable allowing Feliz to throw more than one inning at a time and facing lefties and righties. In 39 appearances, Feliz has recorded more than three outs in 18 of them. Among the four relievers included in this piece, Feliz trails only Edwards Jr. in K% with a mark of 35.7%. If you’re inching close to your innings pitched threshold and in need of every strikeout you can get, add Feliz to the list of widely available relievers who can help you wrap up the season with a bang.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.