Here is a short list of relievers that had a higher xFIP than the Indians’ Vinnie Pestano last season, John Axford, Mike Adams, Jonny Venters, Glen Perkins, and Ryan Madson. That is an extremely impressive list of closers and set-up men that Pestano was, at worst, comparable with last year.
Currently, Pestano is being drafted in just 1.5% of Mock Draft Central drafts, less than Joel Peralta, Mark Melancon, Nick Masset, and Evan Meek, to name a few. This is not to say that the aforementioned are bad relievers, but they probably do not have the same fantasy value that Pestano has at this point.
While he does not have tremendous velocity or great secondary offerings, his assortment of fastball variations and a solid slurve-slider have made him an incredibly productive reliever. While he sat on his four-seam fastball 44.4% of the time according to PITCHf/x last year, his two-seamer and cutter were thrown a combined 34.6%, all of which sat between 92 and 93 mph on average. It is certainly difficult to strike batters out at a 33.6% clip with 80% of offerings being thrown at the same average speed, but the former Cal State Fullerton closer was able to do so. Pestano does not throw his slider much more frequently in two-strike counts either, throwing it on just 19.4% of two strike pitches.
Pestano’s interesting assortment aside, he generated a very good strikeout to walk ratio and a higher than average amount of fly balls without having a home run problem. His home run per fly ball rate of 8.5% sat just below the league average for relievers of 9.0%, as did his 0.73 home run per nine rate compared to the reliever average of 0.85.
Also benefiting Pestano’s value is the incumbent Indian closer, Chris Perez. As seen above, Perez’s strikeout per nine rate has plummeted while the league average rate has risen, with the same being true for his strikeout-to-walk ratio. This could partially be due to his fastball and slider both losing a mile per hour in velocity. The downward trending peripherals did not destroy Perez’s production last year, but they are a serious cause for concern entering this season.
Combine the possibility of Perez’s results imploding and Pestano’s sustaining – his minor league FIP in 2010 was below 2.00 – and you get a player that should at absolute worst be drafted as Perez’s handcuff. If an owner plans on drafting Perez for his saves, drafting Pestano for the strikeouts and safety almost makes too much sense.
I drafted Pestano in a Mock Draft Central expert draft last night in the 22nd round, three rounds after Tyler Clippard and Venters and two rounds after David Robertson. The next two relievers drafted after Pestano were Francisco Cordero and Fautino De Los Santos. That is about where I would value Pestano, though I would pick others before the two drafted behind him. Keeping Pestano in mind as a fourth reliever on draft day would be a very wise decision in standard formats, and could provide serious excess value at the tail end of a draft.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.