Today we’ll be digging deep into the depths of the middle reliever player pool to identify some lesser owned middles that could positively impact your fantasy baseball team, for now. There is one exception to rule noted above, 15% owned Jean Machi, who has been off to an incredible start to the season for the San Francisco Giants. I felt obligated to toss him into today’s discussion since we haven’t talked about him yet.
All ownership percentages reflect Yahoo! leagues.
Fernando Abad | Athletics | 1%
Abad has notched the fewest wins and holds of the bunch, but his ratios and strikeouts combined make him one of the more appealing potential adds — for now. He’s allowed just one earned run and four walks in 15 appearances (14.2 IP). The .065 batting average on balls in play is not sustainable, but with the large pool of relievers available, you can simply send him to the wire when that number creeps up enough to implode those ratios that make him valuable.
Zach Duke | Brewers | 2%
Old friend alert! Former starting pitcher, Zach Duke, appears to making the best of what could be seen as a last-ditch effort to rejuvenate his career out of the Brewers’ bullpen. The southpaw isn’t exactly young anymore, but his 1.26/1.84/1.74 ERA/FIP/xFIP and 36.4% K% lead us to believe that Duke may have, in fact, resurrected his career as a middle-innings arm. Each of the aforementioned numbers are career bests for the 31-year-old, but can he keep this up? Duke’s SwStr% of 11.6% indicates at least some of the strikeouts could be here for the time being and usage out of the bullpen suggests that he could find his way to a few wins and holds down the road. Steamer isn’t totally buying into Duke’s early season success, but they’re buying bits-and-pieces. Steamer projects the veteran to finish 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA and a 8.36 K/9 in 67 appearances (65 IP), which isn’t all that bad either. Adding Zach Duke in the short-term seems to be a low-risk, medium-reward type of play. If somehow he turns back into a pumpkin, you can send him packing just like his three previous employers have. For now, simply make the add and ride the wave.
Dale Thayer | Padres | 3%
Despite the fact that Thayer isn’t likely to continue getting wins out of the Padres’ bullpen at his current pace, he’s a fine holds candidate that has some experience in the ninth-inning should some dominoes fall in San Diego. Additionally, he’s missing more bats (10.2% SwStr%) than he ever has (8.8% career SwStr%), suggesting that the spike in K% this season isn’t necessarily a fluke just yet. Thayer has tallied a strikeout in 14-of-18 appearances to date, while allowing an earned run in just one trip to the bump. Updated Steamer projections suggest that Thayer will finish the season with just four wins and a 2.68 ERA, but for those looking to add him in your leagues, you’d be doing so for the holds and strikeouts he’d bring to your squad.
Jean Machi | Giants | 15%
This is the arm that is likely owned in your holds and solds league at this point. But, with five wins, a 0.53 ERA and a 21.3% K%, is Machi becoming relevant in deeper mixed leagues? To me, he is. I’ve added him in a few places to try and benefit from those scab wins we always talk about here in this column. If by chance the Giants’ bats aren’t able to put Machi in a situation to be the winning pitcher going forward, you can still count on the righty’s ratios and strikeouts to pad your team’s weekly or season-long statistics.